I’m an undisciplined writer, rarely keeping to a specific writing schedule. Still, there are a few things that keep me writing regularly.
First, and perhaps foremost, writing is a bug. It’s like suffering from a chronic disease, or having worms. I can never seem to get rid of the disease entirely, because maybe there’s an underlying need, a compulsion, yearning, fixation, demand, hankering, desire, frothing-at-the-mouth obsession, but whatever it is, it is always nagging me to express itself.
I write more regularly when I am interacting with other people through correspondence, or as of late, through my connection to fellow writers at the ‘Creative Writing Study Group’.
I learned, when I was away from home, sailing in foreign waters, that writing letters to friends and relatives felt so good, a kind of therapy to overcome loneliness. I have saved my letters all the way back into the 1960’s. I have boxes of the things. Now and again I’ll pull them out to refresh my memory. It is ever a source of amazement when I discover how often the years have twisted up my recollection of past events. The letters put me back on track. Then there’s the rush of nostalgia, of course, as I re-read letters to those people who I had written to years ago, now having died or disappeared. It brings them back to life, and all of this helps me to write what I write today or tomorrow.
I’ve discovered, with old age, that feedback is incredibly useful, it is almost always helpful, and serves for me as a method to hone my writing skills, and hopefully improve upon them. I get sarcastic, even resentful reviews, but I’m an old guy, my ego is bullet proof. However, down-deep I feel I have something of a talent (whatever it might be), so honest criticism won’t defeat me, but rather feed my anxiety to be better. I personally believe that positive and honest encouragement reaps far greater rewards than being beaten down by some idea of perfection. Some writer’s simply can’t cope with abrasive criticism, no matter how constructive the critic, and I think that I would be cruel and unfeeling if I were to cut somebody’s legs from underneath. Simply put, I don’t do it.
This I-want-to-be-the-best-in-the business is horribly destructive of anybody’s creative talents. I feel that we must each strive for excellence, but within the context of our own uniqueness, not somebody else’s. When I begin to compare myself to others, I am ultimately doomed, because there is always going to be somebody who does “better” than I. But, still, I must aim for excellence.
While I do write for myself, by nature I tend to be kind of a ham and try to entertain others with what I write. At the same time, I am very self-deprecatory and unsure of my own writing abilities. Therefore, much of my particular kind of writing has taken on a tongue-in-cheek style. I’m not sure that this is the most desirable way to write (there’s a lot of tension involved), but if I can get somebody to laugh or at least be amused, then this, too, encourages me to keep on writing. I certainly don’t recommend this for others, however. It’s just something I do within the context of my own makeup. When I sit down to write I have found that what works for me is to ‘stay loose’ and learn to breathe my words onto the page.
This may go some little way toward explaining why I like to write. I will never make the mistakes as innocently egregious as those I made when I was nineteen, nor know as much as I did then, nor be so terribly concerned to get it all down at once. Nor will I ever be nineteen again, typing till four in the morning, with the letters printing as dimly as stencils on the page because I was trying not to wake anyone. I felt very important, and full of secrets, and I couldn’t sleep for hugging myself and smiling.