A grave marker in a boneyard somewhere in the Tennessee mountains bears this engraving:
“HERE LIES A WRITER… AS USUAL.“
That very telling and all-too-common characterization is my favorite observation about writers. The truest quote I’ve heard attributed to a writer (don’t ask me who said it first) is this: “I hate writing—but I love having written.”
Therein resides the sum total of all obstacles to this craft—the writer’s own procrastination. Writer’s Block is a myth, an excuse bandied about by those who refuse to sit and do the work. You knock out the pages and you fix it later but you never, never, never stop writing. If you stop then you’re not a writer; you’re a slack jaw, an air biter, a bush-league bench warming bystander. In short, you’re a quitter. It ain’t tactful, what I’m saying here, and it sure ain’t kind. But it’s truthful and writers need a steady diet of truth.
It’s true that a writing life is a hard life and every time I sit down by my solitary lonesome to knock out a few paragraphs of any substance it’s a monumental struggle to come up with words that mean something to me. Every first draft is less than empty and I lean heavily on my talent and training to see me through to the deadline. Yes, I have a bit of talent and it has frequently been remarked that talent is a gift. I’d like to state for the record that, although I grant natural ability to be something of a gift, to my way of thinking, talent is predominantly a muscle and like any muscle if you do not exercise it, it will atrophy. So I write every day, some days more than others. Using my muscles builds endurance and develops craft. When I finish a piece it’s not the result of a gift but rather the natural outcome of hard work.
Demanding of myself the regular output of essays is an exercise of endurance and creativity producing weekly posts and a good deal of knuckle cramping—just what I need to run my abilities through their paces. So, as regularly as I am able, I’ll be posting essays focusing on the human condition, which is my keenest area of interest.
“Here lies a writer” indeed. Lies—as in the telling of untruths, perhaps? Read into it what you will. As long as they’re well written lies, who’s to care?