I’ve spent a lot of time at Starbucks lately. It’s not the refreshing beverages I’m after; it’s time and space in which to put words on the page. I go to Starbucks to write. My entire life I’ve just written when I’ve felt like it – which, to be fair, has been often – but things are different now. I made a promise that things would be different now, and then I made a plan.
The plan: Go to Starbucks (or wherever) to write on my days off. That means I have three days a week with time especially carved out to do my thing. No excuses. No saying, “Oh, I want to go hang out with such-and-such, I can write another day.” No saying, “I’m tired and want to go to sleep.” Nope. If I’m going to make alternate plans, I will have to figure out how to make up for missing that day of writing. Even if I’m writing nothing important. Because as far as I’m concerned, it’s all important.
I’m tired of apologizing for myself. I have a college degree, I never finished graduate school, I wait tables, my house is a mess, I sometimes yell at my kids, I take medication for depression, I’ve slept through the night maybe 10 times in the last 4.5 years, I’m a writer. I will turn 34 on Friday and my writing dream is as alive as it was 20 years ago.
Some things never die, no matter how hard you may try to kill them.
The writer in me deserves to be honored and taken seriously. That means I show up and I do the work. I plow through the blocks and try to get at the sweet spot underneath. It’s awkward most of the time. I feel frustrated. Just earlier today I was driving and the words in my head were worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, and then I got here to Starbucks and I wrote the most mundane and unremarkable crap I’ve ever written.
Thankfully my computer has a delete button.
This weekend I went to a writing workshop led by none other than Cheryl Strayed. I bought myself a ticket almost immediately after the workshop was announced at the beginning of this year. I figured that my beloved Sugar probably had a thing or seven to teach me, and I was not disappointed.
Here’s a summary of what I found remarkable about what Sugar said:
Writing is about total surrender. You have to surrender to mediocrity and realize that it’s not up to you to decide if your book is brilliant or horrible or mediocre. But it is up to you to do your best.
You won’t become Faulkner by sitting around waiting to write your book. It won’t materialize out of thin air.
Keep your eye on the ball. Writing is the ball. Publication is not the ball.
Write about what it means to be human.
People will love you the way they’re able to. It’s up to you what to do with that love. (This was a huge one. It actually brought me very close to tears.)
If you haven’t written something that makes you feel uncomfortable, you probably haven’t told the whole story.
“And nothing was ever the same again” should be the invisible last line of everything you write as opposed to “And they lived happily ever after.”
Write into the grey areas, not the absolutes.
What is the question at the core of your work? Your job as a writer is to answer that question.
Writing is about revelation. Writing itself is an act of revelation.
In writing, there is no bottom. Or perhaps it’s just that there’s no top.
Take the ugly stuff and make it beautiful.