Writers Need Writers. #writing #amwriting #community

I need other writers.

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Sir Vincent Carrella

I met Vincent Carrella in line to register for the Napa Valley Writer’s Conference late summer 2001. We had  an immediate kinship and although we’ve not been able to see each other too frequently, we maintain that closeness. We share a great deal in terms of experience and sensibilities but our most basic connection is simply a shared desire to write–including the doubt that balances desire.

Vinny and I stay in contact through letters and social media. We follow each other’s blogs. We don’t talk as much as either of us would like. Wrapped (warped?) in our busy lives, we crave the  transmission line of the creative space.

A few days ago, we spoke on the phone for the first time in perhaps five years. Why so long a break? I don’t know. Life. But when I heard his voice, it was not simply a friend I was talking with, but someone walking the same narrow path between creative expression and creative despair. There is no need to explain doubt to a writer.

On this blog, I write about my doubt and my non-writer friends and family react to the despondency with alarm, concern, or uplifting “go-get-em” inspirational quotes. They often tell me not to take myself so seriously. I need writers like Vinny for the simple reason that they understand. Vinny and I spoke for about 45 minutes. Toward the close of our conversation, he said, “If you ever need reminding, just call me and I’ll remind you that you’re a great writer.”

Do I think of myself as a great writer? Of course not. I think of myself as a competent writer or, on my better days, a good writer (it’s amazing how brilliant the average person deems a merely competent writer), but it’s nice to know that if I’m in the midst of doubt, struggling with the fear of the blank page, there’s a writer in California willing to tell me that I’m great at my craft.

Writers need writers for that type of fleeting elevation that allows us to return to our work, to the lonely job of trying to get the words on the page to match the images in our head.

Thanks Vinny, for being one of those writers who elevates, for continuing to attempt each act of creation, for putting pen to paper despite the enormous odds against it all, and for being a part of my writing life. Here is a link to Vincent Carrella’s wonderful blog: Serpent Box.

Here is the image of his powerful novel. It will knock your socks off. You can buy it here: Amazon. or here: Powell’s

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#Writers and #Writing and #Doubt

Thomas-Mann-9397555-1-402The great Thomas Mann (pictured to the left) once said: “A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

If that be the sole definition of a writer, then I’m very much a writer.

Recently, I think posts of mine concerning my writing and/or my writing life have frightened some of my readers. My father, in particular, who saw a thread of despair in my discussions of my own work, was worried about me. Other people have told me that I need not take it so seriously, that if I laughed about it, the creative process would be easier. Still others cheer me on, telling me not to give up! I appreciate all such responses. But…

Writing for me is wrestling with doubt. I’m not James Patterson, a man whom I would suspect spends very little time doubting when he sits down to write. There are dozens of popular writers that seem happy with their craft and with their work, but my path is and has been different.  I wish I could be one of those writers–or even a writer that cranks out popular books that people actually want to read–but I cannot. That’s just the perils of my own artistic life.

In the summer of 2013, I wrote daily with a sense of wonder on a novel. I’ve written many stories and a handful of unpublished novels, but writing that novel was really the first time that I could say about the experience–“it was joyful.” That doesn’t mean that my other writing experiences were diminished, but the satisfactions of my writing life are balanced by a healthy dose of struggle. Henry James once wrote, “We work in the dark. We do what we can. We give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

If I have a modicum of success in my writing life, it is because of my doubt. I write to banish the doubt, even if only for a moment. Through this back and forth, I find my path.

#books and such on a tough #writing day.

Today has been tough on writing. The desire to write has been there. But the daily life of connections and chores has taken most of the time. Stupid time. Hate it so much. When I write these days, one of our bookshelves is in front of me. I look up and BAM–books. So many books to read. So many books I’ll never get to read. And I keep trying to add one of my own to the pile. Some days, I wish I was simply a reader. Or a writer who could write normal, marketable manuscripts.

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Doubt in this writer’s life: #doubt #writing

notebookWhenever I write about doubt in my writing life, many people say things like:

Don’t worry dude! Just keep writing!

You’re awesome! Be strong!

All writers face rejection! Just keep on keeping on!

But I’m not really looking for encouragement. This blog started as a way for me to report back to the community of New Hampshire (after the State Council on the Arts awarded me a fellowship) about the writing life and process that one particular writer went through. Well, in the spirit of honest reflection, I have to write about doubt. I don’t doubt because of rejection. I don’t doubt because of acceptance. I doubt because when I open the notebook to write, I’m almost immediately confronted with the negative voice that tries to keep me from writing. For instance, here is how it played out yesterday, slightly paraphrased from the journal entry in which I argued with myself:

I’ve failed to find a passage through the gate.

Self-publishing means mean selling, marketing, editing on my own. I am not a good editor, publisher, marketer.

I can’t imagine how to sell copies of a self published book.

I’ve missed the opportunity to do creative work on the web.

I’m old. Too old to realistically do the shit required of a self published writer.

I am afraid.

What am I afraid of? I do not think I am afraid of success. Am I afraid of RISK?

Don’t you stand in front of classes all the time and preach the necessity of RISK in artistic endeavors? What does that mean in your own life? What would Walt Whitman do?

Or perhaps the fear isn’t about traditional vs. self-publishing. Perhaps its about discovering that I’m simply not good enough, or haven’t worked hard enough, or that my creative impulse is half-baked.

Maybe.

Fear of not being good enough. Of having material not worth marketing? Maybe I don’t really believe in my work. Maybe it’s not good?

I could go on. The back and forth went for several pages more. But you get the picture. Still, this is not a call for help, or encouragement. It’s just the way that my writing life unfolds. And do you know what happened after I let Old Man Doubt into my head for a couple of hours? I got tired of listening to him. I closed the notebook in which I argue with myself, and opened the notebook in which I’m writing a new novel, and I wrote my pages.

I. WROTE. MY. PAGES.

Just like I always do.

So when I go back to teaching in the fall after a summer of writing, I can tell my students that yes, I struggled to write all summer. Every day. But I wrote.

Because that’s what writers do.

#doubt #amwriting #oldmantrouble

Trouble/You can’t fool me/I see you behind that tree…

That’s what I dealt with all day in my writing life. Trouble/Doubt. Old man doubt came to visit. I let him in the door. He was an awful guest. He said:

So, this is what you’re doing?

You spend your time writing this because?

No one will read it, of course. Think of all the books out there. The cutout bins are packed!

Besides, you aren’t that good.

I listened to him for a while until he became boring. Then I picked up my pen and kicked him out. Of course, he is a tenacious guest. He stood outside the window and shouted at me. He interrupted my concentration and my sentences suffered, but I wrote my pages and eventually he went away. I know he’ll be back again tomorrow. The jerk. This Ry Cooder song, from his great 1979 album Bop Till You Drop, sums it up pretty good.