— C.K. Williams, In Time
I put up an image on the desktop of my computer recently, of a faceless guy holding a sign that reads, “If you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen.” It’s a strange thing to realize that the only thing holding you back from getting what you want is yourself. Sometimes I need a reminder to stop bitching and get to work.
With any job, art-related or not, most of the problem really is just showing up; also known as the “sitting in a chair” obstacle that Elissa Bassist and Cheryl Strayed discuss in their email correspondence published by Creative Nonfiction.
It’s a funny and motivating read, so enjoy:
For anyone else doing National Novel Writing Month, the snow that Chicago so lovingly received Monday afternoon may have seemed like nothing compared to the shitstorm your brain has been developing over the last twelve days since beginning this “novel” we all thought was such a great idea.
You may have begun the project asking yourselves exciting questions like, Should I write in the morning or at night? Tea or coffee? Music or no music? What books should I scan for inspiration?
By now, those questions have altered a little. Do I feel like writing even half of the required words today? Should I write at work via Microsoft Outlook so it looks like I’m really busy writing emails? Should I delete my Facebook account? Was the unabomber a NaNoWriMo participant, his target the creator?
I’ve found that no other profession seems to have as many self-deprecators as writers. We’re always quick to admit that our lifestyle borders on insanity. That our work sucks. That we have problems with alcohol and caffeine. So, then, what could be more uplifting for a writer than reading about how horrible and crazy other writers are?
I found this pep talk from Nick Hornby today, and it really got my engine revving, if you know what I mean. Please enjoy these quotes I picked out with the link following at the bottom. And, to all you writers out there, don’t forget that hating yourself is (apparently) key.
"It’s a mess, the arts. Critics don’t agree with each other, readers don’t agree with critics. And real writers—if I may become definitive for a moment—change their minds about their own worth and talent somewhere between two and seven hundred times a day…
Walk into a bookshop and you will see books that you love and books that you hate, books that were written in three weeks and books that took thirty years, books that were written under the influence of drugs and alcohol, books that were written in splendid isolation, books that were written in Starbucks. Some of them were written with enormous enjoyment, some for money, some in fear and loathing and despair. The only thing they all have in common—and actually there is the odd honourable exception even to this rule—is that their authors finished them, sooner or later. How do I do it? I swear, and smoke, and hate myself for my presumption. And if any of that works for you, then I’m happy to have helped.”
Here is another letter from Tom Robbins in 2007:
"It’s a bit like being out of control and totally in charge, simultaneously. If that seems tricky, well, it’s a tricky business. Try it. It’ll drive you crazy. And you’ll love it."
-Brian Dillon, I Am Sitting in a Room
Thanks to a certain little girl named Maria for this book. http://werenotourskinofgrime.tumblr.com/
The best thing about working in a cubicle on an open floor plan, perhaps the only good thing, was overhearing the director of the press and his secretary. Garrett and Ellen.
I was still new, so I was always one of the first ones in the office, and many times I don’t think the two of them even thought anyone was there but them at 8:30. I’d hear Ellen saunter around, folding up boxes or turning on the heat, feet shuffling slow on the thin carpet. She wasn’t small or necessarily graceful, but the way she spoke with wit and charm made up for any lack of elegance.
Then here would come the director—unmistakable clunky shoes banging off the elevator—whistling old show tunes.
“Hello, Garrett,” Ellen would say every morning.
“Hello, Ellen,” he’d reply as he unlocked his office door next to her desk. I tell you, every morning it’d be like that, like they hadn’t seen each other in weeks. They were so cordial, but somehow always on the verge of busting out laughing.
“Have you seen the newspaper today?” Ellen said one morning after their greeting.
“Well your picture is in it.”
Then Garrett would laugh and laugh.
-from “Ritter Gluck,” by E.T.A. Hoffmann
I find that this quote overlaps onto all the arts, namely writing.