Can guidelines for young artists apply to young (and not so young) writers as well? A recent post features a short video about artist John Baldessari, narrated by Tom Waits. It end with three things Baldessari thinks young artists should know. Let’s look at how the second applies to writers:
I think this is what some writers mean when they say they have to write, that if a day goes by on which they don’t write, they feel uncomfortable.
I’m sure that’s true for some writers, but I also believe there are different levels of this kind of possession. I don’t write every day, although I guess I think about it, either in terms of a current project or a new idea, just about every day.
Maybe I have “Possession Lite.”
Perhaps if I had a higher grade of possession I’d be better known or be a better writer, but it’s been enough to allow me to be a professional writer for a long time, and I’m happy with that. So if you don’t have that total drive, don’t think that means you’re not a writer, but you have to have at least some of it.
I also think while you can’t will it, you can create the conditions that make it more likely that you’ll have it. Sometimes you have to go through a period of uncertainty before the possession comes on. Maybe it’s better not to worry about it. Just get on with writing something.
(How did the great writers of all time--Conrad, Austen, Twain, Kafka--do it? They reveal many of their secrets in my new book, Your Creative Writing Masterclass, published by Nicholas Brealey and available from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)