The trouble is that I want to write great stories. This is a problem. If I just wanted to write stories, or words, or maybe a few sentences strung together into a paragraph or two or three, then it would not be a problem. Do you see what I mean? The pressure is paralyzing. I sit myself down in the morning with my cup of coffee to do my writing, and I think to myself:
“Okay, then. Time to write a great American short story. You have one hour. GO!”
It doesn’t work. Time and time again, I find that I write:
a) nothing; or
So what’s a girl to do? Listen to Ira Glass, of course! A wonderful and wise friend of mine (you know who you are) mentioned a quote from the beloved host of This American Life. Here is the bulk of his quote, with thanks to Ira Glass and goodreads, where I found the transcribed text:
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit…We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.
It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
You can find the video of the interview here.
So there it is. You’ve just gotta fight your way through. My focus now is on cultivating what I like to call warrior’s heart. (And no, I’m not referring to the movie.) Warrior’s heart is what gets athletes up early every morning to train. It’s what gets musicians to run through their scales day after day after day. It’s what gets you from point A to point B on any crazy and impossible project that you care enough about to throw your whole heart into. Regardless of whether I am “getting anywhere” with my writing, it is very important that I cultivate a regular writing practice (which I am doing). At first, I might write crappy stories. I might actually write a lot of crappy stories. But there is a power in sitting down and working, regardless of the outcome. So, today: I cultivate warrior’s heart.