Welcome back to The Writer’s Refuge, a blog where writers can find insight, inspiration, or simply a word of encouragement regarding the writing life. Thanks for stopping by again.
At the end of my first post last week (The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received–Part I), I quoted the late Andre´Dubus responding to a comment by Robert Penn Warren about how writing can seem like a complete waste of time particularly when you see no fruit for your labor. As you recall, Dubus said,” I’m sure Mr. Warren didn’t really mean that writing unsuccessful pages was a waste of time. Because whether the particular pages of a particular day are good or not, there is still you, all of you, bringing to that work and that day everything you have. And when you’re doing that, you’re a writer.”
I still can’t shake this thought—the wisdom of it, the truth in it, and the inspiration for all of us to never give up. Every writer goes through dry periods—deserts. And it doesn’t matter how accomplished we are. I recently read about a writer that had four books published in a row. The fifth one landed in the desert. And he remained unpublished for the next few years despite bringing all of himself and all of his talent, passion and commitment to his keyboard. After groping in the desert, he eventually found the path to publication again.
Unless you are a household name, this can happen. And when it happens, you will feel like anything but a writer. Which is why the powerful Dubus quote above resonates with me. Our status as writers can not be only measured by the fruit of our labor, but by the labor itself. Do we show up each day? Are we grinding it out on the keyboard? Are we writing more and worrying about publication less? Are we rebounding from rejection? Are we more concerned about craft than credits?
When we’re in the desert it helps to realize that with writing, the “process” is the “end.” Yes, we write for publication but more importantly, we write for something else; to become better writers. Again, the process is the end. And sometimes the best place to take the writing process to the next level is in the dry, lonely desert.
I was in the desert recently and I found the best way out was to write my way out. Perhaps Richard Bach said it best when he defined a professional writer. “A professional writer,” he said, “is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
Your Turn: Would you tell us how you overcame a desert experience?
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