“What you are aiming for is beautiful and even noble.”
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that what we are aiming for as writers is “beautiful and noble,” isn’t it? So it’s always helpful to be reminded of it. A novelist, short story writer, and teacher, Richard Bausch delivered some words of wisdom at the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference some time ago. Here are a few I found very inspiring and thought you might find helpful as well:
Read: “Swallow books, ingest them, move on.” Make it a point to read great literature from around the world.
Train yourself: Learn to work anywhere, in both “silent settings and busy places.”
Be willing: Be “open for business all the time” — and be willing to fail. It’s part of the price of being a writer.
Develop your craft: “Work harder, hour upon hour upon hour.” Cultivate consistency
in your writing habits.
Avoid expectations: “The artist who expects great rewards and complete understanding is a fool.
Dream: “Tap into a part of yourself closest to the dreaming side.” Dream the story: make it up and follow it through — then look at it with total detachment.
Be patient: “You are trying to do something that is harder to do than anything…. Accept failure as the condition of this life, this work. Only ask yourself: ‘Did I work today?'” It’s supposed to be confusing; it’s supposed to be anxiety-producing. The only question to ask yourself is ‘Did I work today?’ If the answer is yes, that’s all you need to know.”
“Did I work today?” I’m going to write this on an index card and prop it up on my desk so I’ll see it and encourage myself to say work hard enough to be able to say yes. This is the writer’s version of what my friend and mentor Rob Gilbert calls the “Pillow Test” on his Success Hotline (973.743.4690): When you put your head on your pillow, will you say “I wish I had” or “I’m glad I did” about something that matters to you?
This week, let’s ask ourselves: “Did I work today?” And write on!