Sunday, March 4, 2018

What makes for great writing?

What makes for great writing?

There are endless theories.

One theory is only pain makes for great writing. (The cliché of the author locked in a garret, writing till he drops dead.)

Another theory is only health makes for great writing.

Then there's the clichés about if the writer's not having fun writing, the reader's not having fun reading.

My experience is that most of my good writing has to be born somehow. It has to gestate or percolate for a while before it comes out. And yeah, I think there has to be a good deal of pain (just like in childbirth) before something amazing comes out.

It's almost like you give everything you've got—and come up with nothing. Then something takes over and gives you the ideas to write what you should be writing.

And yet, some writers write tons no matter what. That cliché is "write every day."

Maybe that's like the saying from Edward Bulwer-Lytton:
Talent does what it can. Genius does what it must.
And please, don't think I'm saying I'm a genius, but I think there's a lot in that saying.

For me, I have to get to the end of myself to be creative. Or perhaps, as Gay Hendricks writes, you could call it "going over the edge."
Self-esteem is living in such a state of creative expansion that you go over your edge every day. You are always living in wonder about whether you can do it or not. More creativity means more doubt. Yet you keep breathing, keep moving, keep creating. You breathe through the doubt and ride a bigger wave of creativity.
And for me that means going over my emotional edge every day. And that doesn't always involve writing.

To get anywhere creatively, I have to give it everything I've got. To put a spiritual angle on it, consider this from Teilhard de Chardin:
There is only one possible place for each one of us at any given moment, the one we are led to by unflagging fidelity to the natural and supernatural duties of life. At this point, which we can reach at the right moment only if we exert the maximum effort on every plane, God will reveal himself in all his plenitude.
Pretty high-falutin language, but the children's prayer gets across the same idea.
God only asks us to do our best. He will take over and finish the rest.
But the thing is, sometimes you gotta go through hell to do your best.

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