“What you write is you. And you are what you write. How you became this person is part of the writing. And the reading.”
Does it seem like I spend a lot of time writing about writing? Sometimes it seems that way to me; in fact, I worry about putting too much energy into that at the expense of my writing. I’m always telling people that the most important thing you can do is do. Or in other words if you’re a writer, write, a singer, sing, or a painter, paint.
Okay, technically speaking when I write about writing, I’m writing so that means I’m writing, but is it writing? Did you even follow that sentence let alone the tortured line of reasoning behind it?
Look at it this way; there is professional baseball and sandlot baseball. It’s the same game, but the skill set in one is substantially different than in the other. If someone like Alex Rodriguez were playing a game of sandlot instead of for the New York Yankees would he consider himself to be playing the same quality of baseball as if he were playing for his professional team?
Probably not. In fact, I would hope that he wouldn’t bring his “A” game to a pickup game with some buddies, because that would be rude. But at the same time, he wouldn’t be able to turn off his natural talents and the skills that he’s taken years to develop. He just wouldn’t be playing at the same level or with same intensity that he would under normal circumstances.
Unlike Alex, I can’t seem to be able to do that. When I’m writing, I’m writing. Each time out, I do my level best to make it the best thing I’ve ever written. The only time I seem to relax, to some extent, is writing personal letters, and even those can get pretty intense at times.
But I still feel there’s writing and then there’s writing. The distinction only exists in my head and has nothing to do with quality. I don’t differentiate while I’m working; it’s only after the fact that I will categorize something. The articles I write for the Internet, even though they can range in diversity from novel reviews to analysis of the writing process, are lumped together in one area, while my book project is considered something else altogether.
The quote at the beginning of thisarticle is from a letter from a friend of mine. He’s been making suggestions to me about things I could be writing about and to not limit myself to fiction alone. To me, the quote implies that there is no separation between you and your writing, and that everything you write not only is you but also contributes to the making of you, which in turns feeds back into your writing.
Your subject matter, no matter what it is, is as much an extension of you as your arm. To deny that is to deny yourself. Distinguishing between different areas of my writing and giving more credence to one over the other is denying who I am. A writer, like any other artist, cannot afford to be dishonest with him or herself.
Every artist’s strictly illimitable country is himself …and the artist who has played that country false has committed suicide. e.e.cummings Six Non Lectures, Little & Brown 1953.
Leaving aside Mr. Cummings’ dire warnings of self-destruction, you end up doing yourself a great disservice ignoring that advice and acting like some of your writing is less you than others. First, it cuts off a potential avenue for sales, but more importantly, you end up devaluing yourself.
If you are dismissing over half of your body of work as “not as important”, you are creating a diminished version of yourself and stifling your potential for growth. So many of us fall in love with the idea of being a novelist, we lose track of the rest of our potential.
For the last four months, I have envisioned myself as a novelist, and in doing so lost track of myself as a writer. In the last year, I have written close to four hundred articles for my blog, Blogcritics, and other online presences but do not consider myself a non-fiction writer. Doesn’t that sound a little odd to you?
One of the things I’ve been wrestling with for a while is the idea of writing about myself. I’ve never been a big fan of the memoir or the “sharing” of one’s own story. But what else have I been doing, to one extent or another over the past year, if not just that? Just the simple act of setting fingers to keyboard and writing anything can’t help but be writing about yourself.
Bits and pieces of me float to the surface of everything that I’ve written, no matter what I’ve been writing about. I have no control over that, any more than I have control over the beating of my heart. Unlike a job, which ends when you come home from work at the end of the day, being a writer never stops in as much as you never stop being yourself.
In the Hindu religion there is a term called dharma. A very simplistic translation of that term is duty, but it is more than that because it is duty to one’s specific calling in life. To follow one’s dharma is to follow the path of adhering to the truest form of your calling as possible. Be as close to the ideal of whatever it is you aspire to be.
My dharma is to adhere to the path of writing to the best of my abilities. That starts with recognising that all that I write is me, and therefore each day I set out to tell you a little bit more about me. Not from a position of ego, or to elicit a reaction, but simply as a matter of course.
I don’t actually remember when I made the conscious decision to be a writer, or even if I ever did. I think it has just evolved out of my love for reading and words. As I continue to understand my obligations as a writer, I realize the first debt I owe is to writing itself. It is what’s important, not what kind I’m doing. As long as I’m writing, and doing so to the best of my abilities, I feel like I’m giving it the respect it’s due. Writing is writing after all.