Inspiration for my Fellow Writers
Their words have shaped my standards, grounded my dreams and encouraged me to dream bigger. Without further ado, here are the quotes that have shaped my life as a writer.
if it doesn't come bursting out of you / in spite of everything, /don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your / heart and your mind and your mouth /and your gut, /don't do it. – Charles Bukowski, from the poem “so you want to be a writer?”
Charles Bukowski was a master of finding beauty in the banal. He was tough, dirty and crude; but, in a single twist, he could arouse the delicate and tender moments of the harshest of scenes. He worked, like so many of us do, a variety of odd jobs and wrote on the side. It wasn’t until he was 49 years old that he quit his day job. Charles Bukowski was the first writer who taught me that you really can’t help being a writer, that it really isn’t about making money or making it big. It’s about tapping into a vein of expression that rushes into the world like a geyser.
A serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl. – Ernest Hemingway
During college I minored in creative writing. In workshops, my writing was received as mediocre at best. Impatient and pressured to excel in an environment of peer-based review, I produced shoddy work. All inspiration and passion had been replaced with a desperate need to be seen as a superior writer. I did what any writer with a fragile ego would do. I stopped trying to write great work and focused on editing the life out of everyone else’s work. Yes, I became a bloody owl.
I was too solemn to be serious. My need for perfection and acclaim dwarfed any commitment to actually honing my craft or finding personal expression. It took me five years to stop taking myself too seriously.
"You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like." – Phyllisa A. Whitney
I had trouble in college because I took myself too seriously, but I also failed to respect myself. Lacking confidence in my original voice and abilities, I began to doubt if I even wanted to be a writer. Any love I felt for my work was dashed when it went unnoticed. I threw all of my work in the trash, not because I thought it was subpar, but because my fellow students didn’t understand it.
As I matured, and after working as an editor, I began to see artistic expression as something that attracts criticism. Even the most vulnerable and raw forms of expression can be targeted and dismantled. Did I want to subject myself to that?
If you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that.—Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia
Last month, I came to a crisis point. I have been brainstorming for a novel, but I had reservations about committing. Could I be a writer? Did I want to be a writer? What else could I possibly be? The doubts peaked during a conversation with my fiancé. With the pressures of planning for a wedding and our future family, dedicating hours of my day to writing a novel seemed both selfish and impossible. The next day, my fiancé sent me Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech on YouTube.
Listening to that speech was a turning point for me. In a way, I already knew that a career in the arts was exploratory, but I began to see it as an adventure full of unknowns and challenges. There is an element of bravery that is demanded, as well as flexibility and humor. Making good art, which comes from a singular and original place, is the only way I can truly be myself.
I will definitely be hanging around, possibly in the Insecure Writer’s Group, as I begin writing my novel. Feel free to share your own favorite quotes or moments of epiphany.
This guest post was written by Stephanie Brooks, an avid freelance writer and advocate of higher education. She is passionate about sharing the importance of accredited online universities with those who are interested in distance learning.