LIVING THE WRITER’S LIFE…

Living the Writer”s Life – A Complete Self-Help Guide.
by
Eric Maisel.

“…these three challenges exist…. that good writing is hard work, that emotional problems come with the territory and that only a few writers manage to pay the rent from their writing income…. “ p. 7

“It”s the greatest crap shoot on earth. You are staking your whole life on the possibility that the things you want to say will get out there into the [imagination] of your fellow human beings and ignite them, transform them, educate them, amuse them, excite them, alert them or help them pass a rainy day by the beach. Forgive me for putting it in this blasphemous way, but you are saying, ‘I will spend my life being God and creating.” Pretty nice work – but the biggest crap shoot on earth.” p. 7

“Being a writer means being existential. There are writers who aren”t very existential, but as a rule what motivates a person to write is her desire, bordering on a compulsion, to make sense of reality in a personal, idiosyncratic way.” p. 7

“Writers need to practice conscious, committed indwelling. The writer builds a bubble – a sanctified bubble, a church of consciousness, a sacred mental space – which he enters with the intention of boldly, bravely and unflinchingly communicating with himself. He is about to have an important chat himself. He is about to create. p.16

“To confront these unfortunate mental habits, a writer should: think of himself as a god, not as a bug; call himself no bad names; calm down and let the world stop; make no odious comparisons with writers who have it better, have published more, look as though they”re more talented, etc.; activate his brain, freeing neurons by the billions in the service of deepened consciousness; stay in the present, neither reliving past failures nor fine-tuning a future Nobel Prize acceptance speech; love himself; let in mystery; focus on ideas and on his work, not on himself. p. 16

“The nobility of a writer”s calling will always be rooted in two commitments difficult to observe: refusal to lie about what we know, and resistance to oppression.” Albert Camus. p. 20

“The writer has taken unto himself the former function of the priest or prophet. He presumes to order and legislate the people”s life. There is no person more arrogant than the writer.” Cornelius Register. p. 21.

“To live in the world of creation – to get into it and stay in it – to frequent it and haunt it – to think intensely and fruitfully – to woo combinations and inspirations into being by a depth and continuity of attention and meditation – this is the only thing.” Henry James. p. 21

“Feel like you can write. Write. Live. Learn about the marketplace. That”s about it.” p. 23

“… there is no substitute for holding onto the intention to write, opening yourself up to writing ideas and rushing to the computer when an idea strikes.” p. 28

“The writer signs a pact in his own blood that he will write well; then he keeps his promise.” p. 41

“The pieces you have chosen not to write today will not wither away and die. They will transform themselves out of sight and continue to exist. Hold on to them, but also let them go. The only thing present is your mission piece, the piece you are now committed to writing. Be thankful that you now have a piece into which to pour your enthusiasm.” p. 46

“Writing is part mystery and part joinery. We”re used to calling this distinction art and craft.” p. 52

“When writers say that they don”t like what they”re writing, what they really mean is that they no longer like their own ideas and arguments.” p. 56

“And this is the way a novel gets written, in ignorance, fear, sorrow, madness and a kind of psychotic happiness for the wonders being born.” Jack Kerouac. p. 57

“So, the trouble with art was not a lot different from the trouble with writing. A painting – like writing – is a problem with too many solutions and not nearly enough rules. Things have to be thought about and got through. A lot of things. Recognizing this enabled me to stay with the blank page. Staring at it or out the window is the creative process too. This it takes time is unimportant. You won”t be paid by the hour. You”ll be lucky to be paid at all. What you”re doing with all this seemingly unproductive time is convincing your muse you”re serious. Once she believes you”ll stay the course, that you want art more than life, she”ll tiptoe up behind you, drape her lanky arms around your neck and whisper in your ear. Go follow her anywhere.” From The Muses of Writing and Painting by W. Joe Innis. p. 58-9

“For Otto Rank [Anais Nin”s psychologist?], creative people are those people who come to accept the responsibilities of freedom and will themselves to make meaning.” p. 61

“Writers are people who live free, try to make sense of the world and reject just fitting in. They are the people who are compelled to ask why – the ones who”ve embarked on a lifelong meaning-seeking odyssey. They write because it is meaningful to write…. They write in order to manifest the freedom they are determined to champion.” p. 61

“… witness, outsider….” p. 64

“The typical person feels unfriendly toward ideas and what the mind can do, while the writer – and every other creative person – can”t live unless she honors her inner reality.” p. 65

“What am I going to do with my freedom?” p. 69

“… if one is possessed by them, if one gives up one”s whole being to something else, allowing oneself to be ruled by something external, one”s freedom and personal integrity are lost. In this kind of giving up or delivering oneself over, one loses one”s soul.” From Witness to the Fire: Creativity and the Veil of Addiction by Linda Schierse Leonard. p. 70

“Because a writer has seen through to the fact that there is no ultimate meaning and that all meanings are personal and transient, she may put on a good face and continue to invest meaning in her writing, but she is making this effort against a background of real meaninglessness. This background reality has the power to come forward at any moment and produce a serious existential depression.” p. 75

“The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.” Flannery O”Connor. p. 80

“Coming in second in a national novel-writing competition is like coming in second in major league sports. You”re a loser.” p. 81

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.” Erica Jong. p. 81

“I”m alphabetizing these sixty challenges and not grouping them together by topic to emphasize the fact that they interconnect and interpenetrate. p. 90-6

Addictions. Honor the power of your addiction before you even think about challenging it. Say, “Wow, you are one heck of an addiction!” Drop the idea that your addiction might be easy to eradicate and surrender to the fact that it has a real hold on you.

Concentration. Block out some time. Find a quiet place. Go there. Do some work. Stay there for hours.

Conflict. Name the conflict out loud. “I want to write but I”m scared I suck.” “I want to sell this story but I”m tired of rejection.” Always name the conflict; that helps it drain. Unnamed conflicts fester.

Discipline. Imagine that discipline can only be coaxed, not forced. Seduce a little more discipline out of yourself. Say, “Let”s just sit together by the computer, baby, you and me, and play some inner jazz. Let”s improvise.”

Rejection. Rejection only means that someone didn”t want the work. Bad things are rejected and good things are rejected. Stupid things are rejected and smart things are rejected. You can”t tell anything about the work from the fact that it”s been rejected. Look at the work again: if you still like it, try just that much harder to sell it.

Time. When we pay no attention to our writing, time speeds by and years slip away. But in the time it takes to watch a bad movie we could write eight pages of our book. So years are too short, if we aren”t writing; but hours are long, if we are.

“Recognition is everything you write for; it”s much more than the money. You want your books to be valued. It”s a basic aspiration of the serious writer.” William Kennedy. p. 98

“To write well, to write passionately, to be less inhibited, to be warmer, to be more self-critical, to recognize the power of as well as the force of lust, to write, to love.” John Cheever. p. 99

“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett. p. 101

“Honoring the writing process means stumbling but getting up, writing whole miserable books, throwing out ideas and beautiful lines that do not fit, nursing depressions and surviving depressions, living through good manias and bad manias, getting one”s work insulted (today I received an edited manuscript whose margins were peppered with “lame!”s and “flabby!”s). and a thousand other things which are inevitable parts of the process.” p. 101

“Mere mortals may want to avoid failure, but gods and writers accept that failure is their log all too frequently.” p. 102

“Books go unwritten because the writer is afraid of failing. She is afraid of disappointing herself, wasting her time and looking like an idiot.” p. 103

“… the writer has another option. They can decide to write back with whole books.” p. 104

“Some writing affirmations…” “If I grow quiet, the writing will happen…” “I will grow savage and create whole new worlds…” “I will ask great questions and provide amazing answers…” “To write to improvise. I will become jazz…” “Writing is a way to be fully human…” p. 116

“Truth is the god of the free man.” Maxim Gorky. p. 118

“Creativity is really the structuring of magic.” Ann Kent Rush. p. 118

“… writers should consider living alone a real and respectable possibility. On the other hand, a good intimate relationship is far better than living alone. “Good” is the operative word here. Only in given circumstances – given that two people have a real desire and ability to relate, that they”ve lived alone and mastered solitude, that they can protect each other”s solitude and support each other”s deep aspirations, that they”ve overcome personality deficiencies and learned to manage moods, and that they are ready to work at love because each has good reasons to do that work – will the ground exist for a good, strong, valuable intimate relationship.” p. 120-1

Relationship Quiz Answers.
1. None of the above.
2. None of the above.
3. None of the above.
4. None of the above.
5. B & C.
6. E. (But I resent the use of the qualifier “graciously.”
7. A &D.
8. A, but I would say “take genuine interest in my work.”
9. E.
10. All of the above.
11. All of the above.
12. D & E.
13. D, but more like, “you knew I smoked when you moved in. I haven”t changed.”
14. E.
15. C, but with an echo of the qualifier for No. 13.
16. A or B.
17. E, but again, I dislike the patronizing use of ‘graciously.”
18. C.
19. None of the above.
20. Pieces of C, D & E.
21. Past relationships have held elements of D & E.
22. B first, but possibly E.
23. E first, then C.
24. E.
25. C first, then E.
26. A.
27. B.
28. B.
29. D.
30. Possibly C, but what Kafka position is being referred to? p. 126-31

“Never let a domestic quarrel ruin a day”s writing. If you can”t start the next day fresh, get rid of your wife.” Mario Puzo. p. 138

“The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art.” George Bernard Shaw. p. 138

“There are many reasons why novelists write – but they all have one thing in common: a need to create an alternative world.” John Fowles. p. 160 [What “alternative” world am I trying to create? JH]

“Doing what”s wanted, adapting and staying the long haul are three elements of a writing career that any writer could sensibly focus on.” p. 161

“For a good step-by-step plan on how to write a book proposal, read Michael Larson”s How to Write a Book Proposal.” p. 170

“Read John Kremer”s 1,001 Ways to Market Your Books and keep the press”s publicity people alerted to what you have planned.” p. 171

“In a very real sense, the writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself and to satisfy himself; the publishing of his ideas, though it brings satisfaction, is a curious anticlimax.” Alfred Kazin. p. 181

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