It is 11pm. The clock is ticking and after a long and busy day, the bed is loudly calling out my name. I would have succumbed to its sweet siren except I made a pact today. It was an aspiring writers pact I made with my brother in law to write 500 words everyday in the attempt to be better bloggers, and thus better writers. We both have blogs that we had guiltily abandoned over the last few (gasp!) months and our attempts to write from inspiration had long withered.
“I haven’t been inspired lately”, he said.
“I don’t think writers wait to be inspired”, I said.
At this point I was really referring to a brilliant article I had read recently, penned by the beautiful Elizabeth Gilbert of the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ fame.
“The more important virtue for a writer”, Ms. Gilbert points out, “is self-forgiveness.”
She had me at self-forgiveness.
I tend to flagellate myself pretty badly for my writing. The word ‘fraud’ comes to mind a lot during my writing process. There are so many great writers out there and how dare I, a common woman with no formal writing achievements, write. Also, I have a deep paranoia of placing commas in the wrong place in a sentence. And did I mention my strong need for privacy, thoughts included?
But I digress.
Liz (I think of her as my really cool and wise friend) continues “…your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.”
After sharing these words with my brother in law, we quickly came to the realization that we had caved into comfort; comfort in nonjudgement and in the perpetual vows of ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’. We wanted to develop better writing skills but like everything else, mastery comes after a lot of practice. To be good at something, you must do it consistently. The forgiveness part comes in when you fall short of your expectations. You may not be the world’s greatest ____ but to someone, your work may mean something. In my case, it was Haytham.
Today would have been like any other day for me. I would have gone to bed with the cloud of guilt hanging over my head, but instead I spent an extra half hour to string words into sentences; I transformed thoughts into words. I can sleep in peace. Today, I wrote.
Check out Haytham’s brilliant work over at his blog http://haythambhalo.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/five-hundred-word-pledge/. Give him some feedback and brotherly love-I am sure he will appreciate it!
Read the full excerpt of Elizabeth’s Gilbert timeless article on writing. No matter what you do professionally or recreationally, I promise you will be inspired. http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/thoughts-on-writing/