Saturday, September 01, 2007

"The War of Art"

Like Charles, I don't read how-to-write books very much.

Well, I take that back. I've read more lately than I did before I was published. Not because I wanted the writing tips, but because I was looking for concise, cogent ways to talk to groups about writing. Usually, I don't find anything that I couldn't have thought up myself from my own experience, but occasionally I come across something that strikes me as particularly insightful.

I did a program on the use of detail to lend authenticity for our local Sisters In Crime annual writing conference last month, and I found some useful information in Walter Mosely's new book, This Is the Year You Write Your Novel. This is a short little step-by-step manual for someone who has never actually written a novel from beginning to end, but Mosely is a very good writer, orfcourse, and I found the whole thing rather interesting, expecially when I compared his advice to my actual real-world experience.

The very best book on writing, in my humble opinion, is a small book called The War Of Art, by one of my favorite authors, Steven Pressfield. It's not a how-to book. It's a why-to book. I mentioned in an earlier post that you have to have that block of marble before you can carve your David. Pressfield maintains that the greatest barrier to becoming a writer is the demon inside you that keeps you from actually sitting down to do it.

This quote is an excerpt from the introduction of Steven Pressfield's The War Of Art.

"Are you a born writer? ... In the end the question can only be answered by action.
Do it or don't do it.
It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don't do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet...
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got."

In the end, it doesn't really matter how many people read your contribution. I enjoy the thought that the thing I love so much to do is still a gift to the world and every being in it.

No comments: