Writing Is Life, and Life Is Writing, but Not Exactly

It’s a sad fact that writing seems to be the last thing anyone expects from most writers. (I am, of course, talking here about the writing of literature, not the litany of mundane documents nearly everyone is expected to produce on a nearly daily basis.) As for literature, unless you already have an enthusiastic, established audience, or you’ve already got books published (invariably fiction or nonfiction) and they sell at a volume acceptable to your publisher, or you’ve managed to land a job at a research university, or you’ve got some abnormally encouraging people in your life, generally no one will encourage a writer to write. Day to day, the kinds of demands placed on you by employers, friends, parents, children, spouses, and other such intimates are generally anything but writing-related. And the folks who you’d hope would be most encouraging, such the publishers and editors of literary journals, are often the most discouraging. In fact, you might say one of their most important functions is to discourage those who are not serious about writing, to cull the herd of writers to a size the economy can manage.

In addition to finding a room of one’s own, one must find the time, and one must find a place in one’s own head where the household budget isn’t being calculated, the employer’s expectations aren’t being agonized over, the insults of the day aren’t being replayed, and the children’s emotional, intellectual, and physical health isn’t being diagnosed. It’s no wonder that most of the enduring literature we have was produced, to a great extent, by people who either didn’t have to worry about these things or who failed miserably at them (no doubt for the necessary lack of consideration they gave them).

Nevertheless, I remain optimistic. I believe I can be immersed in these concerns, and they can even productively inform my writing, as long as I am able to do the following three things (in no particular order): create an airtight, mental work-zone, allowing only the relevant details from other aspects of my life to spill over into the zone when I’m in it; practice big-picture thinking, getting outside of my own mind and reminding myself how tough other writers have had it throughout history, and how many were able to produce the most bizarre works out of the most mundane lives; and meditate, through running or just sitting, shutting off all thinking and recalibrating my mind (I’ve found this to be a good way to do quality assurance on my work – when you’ve snapped out of meditation, you can reevaluate your principles and goals much better, similar, on a smaller scale, to how a near-death experience tends to put your life in perspective). If I practice these mental “activities,” I don’t need encouragement. I simply clear a space in my schedule (or schedule a space) and do what I know I need to do, whether anyone else knows I need to do it or not.

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