My father has been a phenomenal inspiration to me in many ways. He is a talented writer. He grows ideas and imparts enthusiasm. He encourages freely but criticises fairly. He understands why stories are important – that they are the lifeblood of our imagination. But he also gave me the worst writing advice I’ve ever received. It goes like this: If you are not constantly overwhelmed with enthusiasm for writing then there is no point. Give up. He got the idea from Charles Bukowski’s poem So You Want To Be A Writer.
Well, I’m calling bullshit on that.
There are few of us so brilliant that it comes bursting out of us at all times, in spite of everything. Writing is hard work. Sometimes you cannot pick the right words. Sometimes you can’t imagine the settings, or you can’t figure out how it ends, or you don’t know what makes your characters do what they do. Sometimes if you can get anything on the page at all it is nothing but vomit.
When you first sit down to write with all of the enthusiasm and none of the skill, and you realise that the thing that was dancing so quickly in your head is now stillborn on the page, the last thing you need to hear is “if it’s not perfect and effortless, give up.”
If you’re doing it because you want to be rich and popular and sexy, don’t do it. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. That much I agree with.
But to anybody who is starting and finds that yes, it is hard, sometimes you do have to sit hunched over your typewriter, sometimes you do have to rewrite again and again to make it work, to you I say do it. Work hard, sharpen your skills, feed your imagination, drag yourself back to the keyboard over and over again if that’s what it takes to get it done. If it’s what you want to do then the joy and the words will come.