I’ve read three books in the last couple of weeks to do with creative writing: On Writers and Writing, Margaret Atwood; The Writing Life, Annie Dillard; About Writing, Gareth L. Powell. With everything going on in my life, the only way I’m going to write is if I have a clear purpose and a plan. This is always true I suppose, but I’ve seen several plans dissolve in the face of reality, and now I’m wondering if the problem is more in why I write than how I’ll write.
Almost all writers have to work in a job and write in their precious spare time. A few have enough money saved, inherited or earned by well-paid partners to allow them to give their writing full attention—hell a tiny proportion actually survive on income from their writing!—but this is rare. Margaret Atwood points out that as writers, our time is forever split between the imaginary worlds of our stories and the physical world of family, chores, jobs and our health.
On Writers and Writing is full of wisdom. For example, she says writing is a permanent record of our talent (or lack of it), so of course it can be hard to start. Like a musical score, it is brought to life by a reader, and we each have someone inside who we are writing for, whether we know it or not. That could be a memory of a parent figure, a lover, a course tutor, or some version of God.
I realised that for me writing is a spiritual act; it’s an act of nature and an expression of myself. Magazines have editors who accept or reject stories. Creative writing courses have tutors to provide feedback. The publishing game has agents. It’s easy to give these people too much power. Publishing needs gatekeepers, but writers need to own their shit and write for themselves. Writing is a spiritual act, a soulful activity, if done with the correct attention.