Tripped over this piece of writing advice via a recommendation from the ever helpful Nik Perring. For this post to make any sense I urge you to go read it now. Really.
A while back I posted over at Write Anything about how my own good taste managed to stop me writing for too long a time, convinced that what I was producing was a heap of shit. In that post I talk about how I wish someone had given me the advice that Ira Glass lays out in his brilliant videos about creative work.
Well I also wish I’d received Aubrey Hirsch’s writing advice back in my early twenties. Perhaps then I wouldn’t have been so convinced of my own inability to write based on my inability to produce a gleaming, brilliant first draft with minimum effort. Back then I was naive enough to think it should come easy. Easy like in the Bukowski poem ‘So You Want To Be A Writer’ that Hirsch quotes:
if it doesn't come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don't do it. unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don't do it. if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don't do it.
I can agree somewhat with the poem’s opening, that writing will come bursting out of you in spite of everything. My own writing refuses to be stopped – I’ve long since realised that I have to write, it’s just part of who I am. But that isn’t to say it will be easy. As Hirsch says:
In real life, the game is more about “Who can stay at the keyboard the longest,” “Who will keep going back to work on the tough scenes,” “Who wants it most even when it’s hard.”
Turning up at the keyboard, notebook, typewriter every day is hard. Most things worth doing are, and I would include all creative endeavours under the heading of Most Things. Hirsch’s advice to simply ‘Do it!’ is the best advice a writer can have. Enough people, like Bukowski in his poem, will tell you ‘don’t do it.’ No need to add your own voice.
I leave you with the far more eloquent and motivating words of Aubrey Hirsch:
…….most importantly, in my humble opinion, anyone who tells you “don’t do it” for any reason can go fuck himself. Writing is all about “doing it”, no matter what. The people who “do it” become writers. The people who don’t, don’t. I want to tell you: Do it.
4 Responses to Do it now.
That’s very similar to the advice I was given on my Arvon course. You have to put the hard work in. We can all have bursts of inspiration and words may well flow then, but it’s about putting the time in when the words aren’t coming easily. You have to show up and do your job. You want this? Then work for it. Writers write, they don’t just talk about it.
I do rather heart the Bukowski quote – I read it as him saying don’t write for fame, glory, money – any of that stuff, do it because you’re compelled to do so. And you know what, if you are sitting hunched over that screen and nothing’s happening, sure, walk away. Don’t torture yourself over this, it’s only writing. BUT because those words “come bursting out of you in spite of everything” you WILL be back at the computer screen, putting them down. How can you not? And if you’re not…
Hi Sara. I take you point about the Bukowski being open to interpretation. And walking away can be a good thing, gives the subconscious time to unknot the problem while doing something else. Like you say, the writer will be back at the screen before long though.
The Arvon course sounds like it was a great experience. Liked the tip you posted about not editing anything until you have 30,000 words. Will remember that as I get started on my MA novel later this academic year.
Hey, Dan. Thanks for sharing this! I’m glad it motivated you!
Hi Aubrey, thanks for stopping by. And thank you for your great post. Really touched a nerve with me as you can see. Now all I need is some way of sending a message to my twenty year old self. 🙂
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