Monday, February 27, 2012

Entry #41 - "Why Writers Don't Write"

This week I thought about why I must drag myself to the computer some days, even though spending three or four hours getting words on the page is usually a deeply satisfying experience. After a good writing day I am flying.  Everything looks more beautiful than it did and I look at the natural beauty of my world with fresh eyes. Truth is -- that I do love to write. But I have talked with my writer friends who describe the same kinds of anguish in the complex push and pull of wanting to write and actually doing it.
Photo Credit - Jan Bowman - October 2011

Now - I don’t believe in writers’ block.  I believe in persistence.  I believe that when writers put their butts in a chair and hands to a pen or computer, words will come. Not necessarily perfect words, and certainly not finished words – at least initially. And yes, most writers often toss out text that doesn’t work and that’s a little depressing. But it is an art – this writing business and some false starts are part of any creative effort.

Sometimes writers stall in their efforts out of fear that their words might bring on ridicule or yawning disinterest.  They may write too little because they think they must render every word and detail perfectly on the page. And this can slow the production of any aspiring writer. But writers must be brave people of great faith who honestly believe that what they do must be done.

Writers need to just get it down on the page and not worry about what anyone thinks, because at the early stage of the process, few people will actually see the work. Then later, revise and rewrite until the story takes on a form, a substance rich in texture and color. Unfortunately some writer friends console themselves by spending too much time and energy thinking about writing, instead of putting the words on the page.  I do this sometimes too.  I would not have written this essay were this not true for me this past week.

Clearly writing is work. Hard work. And while some days I have dreams that create powerful images and impressions that won’t let me rest until I write; other days I don’t exactly know what I’ll say until after it’s on the page.  That’s a bit unsettling and it generates fear. And it requires a degree of trust in your inner voice to get to the bottom of what needs to be said. Writing is a kind of intuitive thinking on the page.

It helps me to remember that the practice of writing has a cumulative effect. It’s the practice that counts and the knowledge generated from the actual writing experience that over time makes a difference in our skill.

Words make thoughts concrete. Writers take inarticulate thoughts and put them into a form that inspires deeper thought, that allows feelings and emotions to become whole. The act of forming words into a structure creates more thoughts.  Insight evolves from that process.  I think of this as improvisation with a computer or pen.

Albert Einstein said, “True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.”   ---from The Expanded Quotable Einstein – edited by Alice Calaprice.

Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2012 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Spring 2013 Issues of Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at:

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