Happy Wednesday, IWSG-ers! I'm continuing my recent IWSG trend of NOT writing about my own insecurities, but instead trying to offer some help, advice, inspiration, or wisdom. I'm not
I've been thinking a lot about courage these days. It takes courage to live true to who you are, and to work from that place of truth - and if you're a writer, to write from that place. All the time. Every day. Even when the muse doesn't show up, or when the muse does a runner and it seems as if life is hanging all of its troubles on you, and the very weight of those troubles is enough to bring you to your knees. Still, you have to find a way to live and work and write from that place of truth. You have to dig deeply inside of yourself, to the darkest and heaviest places that have both buried and birthed your strength, and dredge up the courage to keep going. It can be a savage sort of courage, fueled by anger and frustration; or a tired sort, quiet and calm and lined with steel.
I've been reading quite a lot of creative non-fiction these days, and to me, one writer stands out as exemplifying this courage, both savage and quiet: Cheryl Strayed. My first exposure to her was this essay in The Sun Magazine, and I was floored by the sheer naked honesty of that piece. It's turbo-courage.
I was so affected by that piece that I kept reading her work. As I mentioned last month, I read Wild, and then I read Tiny Beautiful Things, and it's from the second that I'm going to draw today's inspiration. The book is a collection drawn from the Rumpus's Dear Sugar advice column, in the years when Strayed wrote as anonymously as Sugar, and both letters and responses feel more like beautifully crafted personal essays than advice columns.
The first thought for today is from a letter about envy. How can we not feel jealousy when others are succeeding, garnering book deals and awards and acclaim, and we are not? Strayed writes:
"I know it’s not easy being an artist. I know the gulf between creation and commerce is so tremendously wide that it’s sometimes impossible not to feel annihilated by it. A lot of artists give up because it’s just too damn hard to go on making art in a culture that by and large does not support its artists. But the people who don’t give up are the people who find a way to believe in abundance rather than scarcity. They've taken into their hearts the idea that there is enough for all of us, that success will manifest itself in different ways for different sorts of artists, that keeping the faith is more important than cashing the check, that being genuinely happy for someone else who got something you hope to get makes you genuinely happier too."The second thought is taken from a response to letter written by a despairing young writer, who worries that she "writes like a girl" and that she'll never have any success. Strayed's response is to not write like a girl, but to write like a motherf----r. To dig up that courage and get down to work and just work. It's the thought I'll leave you with for today, but I do highly recommend you read the whole thing:
"We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce. You have limitations. You are in some ways inept. This is true of every writer...You will feel insecure and jealous. How much power you give those feelings is entirely up to you."Good luck, IWSG-ers! I believe in you.
When do you find yourself unable to write, and how do you write your way out of it? Where do you draw courage from? Who are you reading who's inspiring you these days?