“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” ~ George Orwell
Despite Orwell’s black truth, I went in search of a webpage with directions on how to write a novel. On one site, Write A Novel, of the many helpful suggestions made to would-be writers, there was one in particular which struck me:
“If you REALLY want to finish, tell EVERYONE that you’re writing something. This way, you’ll be really embarrassed if you don’t actually finish it. Tell people to remind you to write. Nothing can get you to write faster than a bunch of people constantly asking you, ‘So are you finished yet?’”
This quote made me think of ancient times, when poets invoked muses to inspire them. The latter were not neighbours and friends: They were Deities. Incapable of guile, they were described as “having one mind, their hearts set upon song and their spirit free from care”. 1
It’s interesting that in modern times, perhaps due to the ubiquity of writers, sources, options and ‘experts’, our methods for inspiring motivation have changed dramatically. Our reliance on social media demonstrates this clearly; popular opinion and peer pressure play a larger role in people’s lives. In and of itself, this might not be a bad thing, but it can lead to the loss of individuality, and in turn, the belief that one can accomplish things without widespread consent.
Although the ‘tell everyone’ method might seem benign on the surface, to a writer, it can mean creative peril. Disseminating ideas to everyone with the intention of soliciting indirect embarrassment is a foolish suggestion; it makes my inner Hemingway sense tingle.
There’s nothing wrong with telling close friends what you hope to do, as they would more than likely offer support and encouragement, but telling everyone, in my opinion, is a bad idea.
Writing communicates ideas, but it doesn’t talk. Shakespeare said, “Talking isn’t doing. It is a kind of good deed to say well; and yet words are not deeds.” I couldn’t agree more.
Over-sharing what one aspires to accomplish (especially in matters of creativity), takes away from the energy behind it. It’s as if the potential energy of what might be is taken away by the kinetic energy of premature expression. Norman Mailer, an American writer said, “I think it’s bad to talk about one’s present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension.”
Even the most enthusiastic desire can turn lukewarm overnight. To broadcast ideas before they have had a chance to truly exist denies freedom to both the idea and the writer. It robs the mind of creative acumen by creating a false sense of accomplishment; the mind might not know the difference between the idea actualized in the real world versus that in the imagination. If expressed outwardly (to everyone), the mind might be satisfied; placated by its desire for immediate gratification.
One presents like an attention-seeking child when one makes claims that have yet no basis in reality. Like the boy who cried wolf. Orwell said, “The greatest enemy of clear language is insincerity”.
I do not claim that the ‘peer/pressure method’ to incite motivation is inappropriate in every situation. For instance, in physical competitions, it can be useful. But not by imagining oneself the butt of chiding or embarrassment. ‘Positive pressure’, like creating strong visualizations in a ruthlessly committed mind, can keep a person training (or writing) for hours.
Inspiration and creativity come from within, not without.
Henry Miller expressed this sentiment perfectly: “Most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game, or whatever, or even talking to someone you’re not vitally interested in.”
I wish to thank Meredith Kirby and the 91 others who contributed to this webpage. It gave me some great tips on how to write a novel, and also, inspired me to get clear on how I might best produce such a thing.
1. The Muses
Photo By Mary Rose – All Rights Reserved
Did you enjoy this article?
Please let the author know by leaving them a comment below!
And, subscribe to our free weekly digest!
Simply add your email below. A confirmation email will be sent to you.