As we turn the page to a new year, I find myself thinking back to March 2, 2011, the date of my first post on this blog. At the time, my new novel, Break the Skin, was three months from its publication date, I was about to teach a graduate seminar in forms of creative nonfiction, and I must have been reading Dani Shapiro’s memoir, Devotion, because I was going to share a quote from it with my students: “It wasn’t so much that I was in search of answers. In fact, I was wary of the whole idea of answers. I wanted to climb all the way inside the questions and see what was there.” So it is today, nearly a dozen years later. My novel, The Glassmaker’s Wife, just came out, I’m about to teach a graduate workshop in creative nonfiction, I just finished reading Dani Shapiro’s gorgeous new novel, Signal Fires, and I’m still writing this blog where I try to climb all the way inside questions of craft to see what might be helpful to you.
To be honest, I never wanted to do this blog. In fact, my web designer had to talk me into it. That’s the truth, but it’s also true that as I started to make these entries, I found myself enjoying the opportunity to think more deeply about craft issues that intrigued me. I also found myself celebrating the community of writers I’ve found with those of you who’ve read my entries and who sometimes take the opportunity to share your own stories, your own thoughts, and your own concerns with me.
I’ve always said writing is a life-long apprenticeship because each project we take on requires something different from us. I’m always questioning and learning. An important part of that process is the connection I feel with other writers. We learn from one another. It also helps to know we’re not alone. Even though the world at large may not understand or even value what we do, we can take heart from the fact that there are plenty of other writers grappling with the same challenges and doubts that we are.
Encouragement from the writing community often comes from what other writers have said. Here, then, are a few of my favorite quotes, offered here with the intention of encouraging us as we move into a new year.
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot
“Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.” – Sylvia Plath
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King
“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” – William Faulkner
“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” – Octavia E. Butler
“Focus more on your desire than on your doubt, and the dream will take care of itself.”– Mark Twain
“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”– Margaret Atwood
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.’ – Neil Gaiman
As we start the new year, we should all remind ourselves that every writer has faced the same challenges, disappointments, and doubts that we do. Work is what saves us. Work quiets the naysayers. Work sweeps us up in what we love, moving words about on the page. Isak Dinesen said, “I write a little every day, without hope and without despair.” Exactly. Staying true to the journey will always takes us exactly where we’re meant to go.