Sit Down, Write Passionately, and Enjoy It

Sit Down, Write Passionately, and Enjoy It
Baby marigold on our front porch. Photo by Fred Eaker

The advance for Saffron Cross arrived this week. You mean I get paid to write? This is a dream come true …

In just a few short weeks, my writing life has changed. As a first-time author, this is what I’ve learned so far:

1.  Sit down and write. To paraphrase Annie Dillard’s reminder in The Writing Life, writers must be excited enough to write, but not so excited that they cannot sit down to do it. This is a careful balance.

2. Avoid “dead writing.” Per Dr. Lucy Daniels (author, psychologist, and creator of the “Our Problems as the Roots of Our Power” seminar), you must be aware of blocks that make your writing stale and boring. Compelling memoirs are vulnerable, transparent, and alive. The creative process will unfold this kind of writing, but only if you allow it—and only if you can bear what bubbles up. You want to avoid dragging your reader through the muck of therapeutic writing, but also not restrain yourself so much so that your art is lack-luster. Time, freewriting, and good editing achieve this balance. My favorite memoirs are ones that have just enough connection to make me feel as if I’m on the journey with the author, but I won’t need psychotherapy afterward to undo the damage.

3. Lastly, “Enjoy it.” Neil Gaiman, author of The Sandman and Coraline, addressed students at the University of Arts last week and gave them six pieces of advice for the artistic process, one of which was given to him by Stephen King: “This is really great. You should enjoy it.”

“That was the hardest lesson for me, I think: to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places.”

Neil Gaiman’s Keynote Address at the University of the Arts

Like this little marigold, I’m just beginning my journey. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far: I need to simply sit down, write passionately, and enjoy it. What have you learned about the creative life?

Thanks for joining me.

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