Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Writing is hard work

As a moderator for a poetry community, I am always blindsided by writers who cannot or are not willing to revise. For the most part, the poets who post their work at Wild Poetry Forum do so with an eye toward improving their work. Yet, every so often, someone will react negatively to well-considered critique and state with some pride that he or she doesn't do revisions.

That's like a musician refusing to practice.

I believe that writing is both art and craft. Perhaps the 'art' is an inborn talent. In a musician, perfect pitch or the ability to recreate what one hears. But the craft, the work of writing, for example, is a concious process. Practice, repetition, lessons, exercises, critique; all of these are essential tools for honing the art. Any art--painting, music, writing, dance.

For me, writing is both hard work and joyous play. Perhaps my strongest writing emerges when I am able to balance the two. Of late, it has been all hard work. Both the poetry and the fiction writing has been frustrating. Yet I continue to write every day. Most of what I produce will never make it past the 'bury-it-in-my-hard-drive' folder, but I don't consider any of it wasted. The discipline of consistent work is something I didn't understand ten years ago. And I have notebooks full of unfinished stories and scraps of poems to show for it. Writing was something I did when the muse inspired me. I rarely edited or revised, not wanting to somehow insult the creativity gods.

When I began to participate in internet-based poetry workshops, I had the good fortune to stumble across several skilled and generous poets. They (bless them!) saw some spark in my writing and nurtured it all the while pressing me to dig deeper and work harder.

The discipline of revision and daily practice has enabled me to complete and edit two novels in two years (and stay on track to complete novel number 3 in year 3). I am so grateful for that teaching. Even when the writing is more work than joy, I am able to move forward. I know that balance will restore itself and the words that I am currently wrestling with will soon fly across the screen.

May the New Year bring balance to your life and may your art bring you joy.

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