I like collecting quotes about writing. A while ago, I stumbled across this one from Albert Einstein: “Look deep into nature and you will begin to understand everything.”
How is that a quote about writing, you ask? Let me give you five reasons….
1. Rain will occur at exactly the worst possible time—or won’t occur, if you plan for it.
If I was looking for a good metaphor for rain, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with anything better than Covid-19. How is the coronavirus affecting your life? You’re likely working from home right now. And, if you have children, you’re attempting to keep them busy enough during the day so that they’re not killing each other or driving you crazy.
Six months ago, it was impossible to prepare for this worldwide pandemic, because it didn’t exist! And even though governments should have been much smarter about stockpiling supplies — especially masks, gloves and essential equipment like respirators — there’s a limit to what you can do in advance. Right now, we’re all wise to hunker down and try to ride out this storm. The pandemic will end and then we’ll be able to get onto the next phase of our writing lives.
2. Day always follows night.
I never used to understand fear of the night. Years ago, night was my favourite time — not just for partying but also for reading and writing. As I started to age, however, I began to understand the fear — of darkness, of the relentless quiet and of what writer Meg Wolitzer evocatively calls “death’s dress rehearsal.”
But guess what? After every night, there is always a day.
In writing, we may go through similarly dark periods — when everything we’re working on seems staid or dull or uninspired and when the work just seems too hard. Hold the faith. We all go through spots like that. Keep writing and your mood will inevitably brighten.
3. Different plants thrive in different climates.
I live in a rainforest. Here, we are surrounded by green. I often don’t notice it until I travel to, say, the desert, where the predominant colour is brown. When I return home, I almost feel as though I’ve wandered into a colour-saturated picture postcard. (Then it starts raining again and I’m less enthralled.) The plants, too, are completely different. On the wet coast, as we call it, we have ferns and salal and Douglas fir. In the desert, you have agave and cacti and palm trees.
But guess what? Writers are just as different!
Each of us is born with a natural aptitude for some aspect of writing. You may be good at description. Or telling stories. Or writing short, concrete sentences. We all have our natural strengths. Make sure you recognize yours, and play to them.
4. You will always have dandelions.
I don’t know about you, but I loathe dandelions. When we were rebuilding our house and living in a rental some years ago, our front and back yards were a sea of yellow flowers. The previous tenants hadn’t taken care of the garden so I went out every day to behead the yellow tops (to prevent the seed heads from forming) and to dig up as many by the root as I could. Somehow, they kept coming back.
Did that stop me? No way!
Writing is much the same. No matter how hard I try, I still write infelicitous phrases and clunky sentences. That doesn’t make me a bad writer. It simply means I have to edit, like everyone else in the world. No one writes a perfect first draft. We all have to pull our own dandelions, every day.
5. Flowers will bloom in the oddest places.
Surely you’ve seen photos of plants growing in concrete or rocks. They always make me think of the Dylan Thomas poem, “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.” The impetus of a flower to grow through stone never fails to impress. In a similar fashion, I know that I can write even when I don’t feel like it. With the students I coach, I encourage them to keep a writing record in which they track three things:
- The amount of time they write each day,
- The number of words they produce and, most importantly,
- Their feeling about their writing that day.
Do you know what we always discover? Feelings are irrelevant. Students can still produce 350 – 500 words in 30 minutes even on days they’re feeling crummy and completely uninspired.