“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth” (Peck 85).
Creative writing is like falling in-love. When we first write a thing, often it pours out of us like a torrent of endorphin charged passion. We are in-love. Our heart pumps. We forget to feed the cat. Nothing matters but the thing we are creating. It is a rush of pure joy. Euphoria. Life is beautiful. We want to swim in that bliss forever. And we want to tell the world. Our soul is filled to bursting with the love we feel for our story. Isn’t it marvelous? Isn’t it the most amazing thing? We can’t wait to introduce our precious new love interest to our friends, our parents, the barista down the street. And we do. We want everyone to feel as we do. Here, read this. You got to read this!
But, our friends smile in annoyed sympathy, our parents shake their heads in weary exasperation, and the barista waters down our macchiato in the hopes that we will haunt some other coffee bar. Still, we persevere. What do they know? This is great! This is the one. And, maybe it is. But the problem is, we are still in-love, and one of two things is going to happen. Either we wake up one day to look at the object of our adoration lying in bed next to us with mouth wide open snoring drool all over our favorite pillow and we say, “Oh my God, what was I thinking?” Or we see, for the first time, the deeper beauty and wonder of the individual lying nestled on our favorite pillow (which has somehow become theirs) and we ask it to marry us.
Here is where most writers cave. Just like being in-love, we don’t want to lose that loving feeling. When we fall out-of-love with our writing, often we ditch the piece. We move on to the next, and the next, always looking for that rush of bliss. But we are forever frustrated. I know. I’ve been there. You have my sympathy. Which is why I am writing this. In an age that spurns traditional relational commitment, is it any wonder creative writing has become obsessed with instant personal gratification. Yuck.
Now, falling in-love is not a bad thing. It is necessary. No one would procreate if being in-love didn’t soften the way. But in-love is just that: it functions as the means to get involved enough so that real love might bloom. Being in-love is simply the premise to real love. The thing about love, real love, is that it is not a feeling. It is work. There is just no getting around that one.
Creative writing programs are filled with the “in-love” writer. They seek fulfillment from their writing rather than seeking to fulfill their writing. And, they expect everyone to be in-love with their writing the same way they are. Once they find out they can’t make their writing do what they want, they give up, or cling to it and become a mess of frigid, neurotic sterility. There is no procreation.
Hang in there. When the in-love rush wears off – and it always does – if like is there then we are good to go. When we see all the imperfections of our writing, do we care about it? Do we like it enough to do the work real love requires? Will we vacuum, take out the trash, do the dishes, eat kale (which we hate) because our loved one likes it? Or are we going to break up and move on to someone else? And, the former is often the necessary choice. Love, real love, is, after all rare.
And so is good creative writing.
We know we got the right one when we start to see the work as its own individual thing – rather than our thing meant to fulfill our needs. Just as it is in truly loving relationships, we see the other person as a separate individual. We come to care as much about their happiness and their needs as much as we do about our own. And we like them. We like spending time with them. In fact, we’d hang with them even if we weren’t “involved”. But, most importantly, we do everything we can to make them shine.
Love your writing. Let it be what it wants to be, and find the will to extend yourself for its spiritual well-being by doing the work necessary to make it stand on its own. Without you getting in the way. You won’t be dissapointed.
Thanks for reading.
Peck, Scott. The Road Less Traveled. New York: Touchstone. 1978.