We're very fortunate today to welcome another new writer, Joan He, represented by John Cusick of Folio Lit, here to the blog today to remind us all how important it is to live outside of writing.
"Living is an ability and like all abilities, it rusts when neglected"
When I first began writing seriously, I often heard one piece of advice: write everyday. Put your butt in the chair, your hands on the keyboard, and write whether you’re inspired or not. You are not a servant to your muse, but its master.
I took this advice to heart. I followed it the best I could, and when I failed (and I did fail, sometimes for days, sometimes for months) I would beat myself up about it, wondering why I couldn’t be like so and so, or why I couldn’t just hole myself up in my room and force the words out. But by falling into the guilt cycle after every unproductive spell, I ended up wasting time. Not writing time, or reading time, but living time. And now, five years into writing seriously, I’ve been trying to live again.
Or at least learning to live again. Living is an ability and like all abilities, it rusts when neglected. Over the years, as I’ve become more and more entrenched in my writing, I’ve found it easier and easier to just hole myself up in my room and stare at the screen. I’ll push people away. I’ll walk around campus, head lost in the scenes, words, and chapters that I’ve already written or have yet to write. And sometimes, by the time I resurface for air, I realize that yet another day has passed where I’ve forgotten that the best way to replenish the muse isn’t to wrestle it into submission but rather to replenish its owner.
"When we rejoice or grieve, win or lose, we live, and by living, we collect in our subconscious all threads that make the fabric of our stories"
Because while it is true that we don’t have to write what we know, we inevitably write what we know. This doesn’t mean that we’ve battled dragons or traveled back in time. Instead, it means that writing is similar to dreaming. Every face we see in our dreams is actually a face that we’ve seen—even if fleetingly—in real life. Every emotion, reaction, and decision of our beloved characters takes shape from the clay of our own experiences. And like a sponge, we are constantly absorbing experiences. Thanks to this, robots aren’t likely to replace authors in the near future. Artificial intelligence would need to gather an enormous amount of data before it’d be able to recreate the nuances of humanity, and though that day may arrive, we remain the natural experts on living. When we rejoice or grieve, win or lose, we live, and by living, we collect in our subconscious all threads that make the fabric of our stories. Ever wondered why it’s the stories that we relate to that call to us? It’s because we relate to what we’ve lived through (even if we don’t realize we’ve lived through it), and when what we’ve lived through is reflected back at us on the page, then the art strikes true and resonates.
So while the dream is to become a full time writer someday, I’m grateful that I’m currently in college majoring in something that’s not creative writing and meeting people from all different kinds of fields. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to work abroad and interact with people not of my age, all the while immersing myself in a new culture. Above all, I’m grateful that I didn’t always know I was going to be a writer. I’ve had so many chances to live a life outside my stories. Now I need to do it again.
For some writers, living happens naturally. They put on their writing hats for several hours a day and take it off after those hours pass. Others put on their writer hats and don’t take them off for extended periods of time. I’m the latter, and for me, the key to experiencing fully again lies in acknowledging that I’m not the type to write everyday. I’m an all or nothing kind of person. I will have times when I’ll breathe my story and nothing else. I will have dry spells. This perhaps will never change.