We live in a noisy culture -- deliciously, horribly, overwhelmingly, fascinatingly noisy. The kind of work we do as writers and artists both arises from our lives and has to resist those circumstances, in order to happen at all. How is it possible to write poetry or fiction, to create a performance, to make a song, painting, sculpture, or collage? All day long, our email dings, our friends invite us to Facebook parties and causes, and the newsstand and TV push an image of “success” that has to do with maximum visibility and popularity, a version of junior high gone wild.
First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.
Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.
Marilyn Monroe once said, “I wasn’t the prettiest. I wasn’t the most talented. I simply wanted it more than anyone else.” And I sometimes think that I’m just one of the people who comes here every day and does it, even though I don’t feel like it, even though it’s difficult and I feel stupid and brain-dead and unequal to the task. I have days that are complete losses. It’s awful. I just sit and stare at the screen and nothing happens; hours go by and I write down a line and delete it, then write down another line and save it to delete tomorrow. And that’s it. That was the writing day. It happens, with a degree of frequency...I have known writers over the years, enormously talented, who are so self-conscious about it, who are so terrified of ever writing a bad sentence, that they can’t write anything at all. I think a certain fearlessness in the face of your own ineptitude is a useful tool.