Letter to a New Writer
I hope you notice that I addressed you above as ‘writer’. You have started your writing journey but it can sometimes feel strange to think of yourself as a writer. I know that from my own experience. But rest assured, once you start to put pen to paper in an exploratory fashion you are a writer. And you will never stop. There may be dormant times when it will seem to you that there are no ideas coming or that your writing lacks that certain spark or shimmer, but that’s ok. Nature always allows for a rest period. It usually means that there will be a tremendous energy and fresh growth in the very near future.
Have I ever told you about Fred?* What I would like you to do is to imagine Fred as your creative side, what some people refer to as the subconscious. Fred is friendly and wants to play with you and loves it when you notice and play back. Every so often Fred throws up an idea or two – you know when you get that ‘ping’ feeling – and sometimes you decide to follow it up but at other times you don’t. Maybe it came at an inconvenient time, not when you were at your desk with your notebook or screen, but when you were doing other ‘more important’ things. But Fred gets such encouragement when you acknowledge his activity, when you take notice. It spurs him on and gives him energy. Fred knows that you are taking him seriously even when all you do is jot down the idea or the sketch roughly in your notebook. He will then continue to play with you by happily sending you the most wonderful stuff and, I must warn you, he can get very lively. Of course, there will be times when you’re not sure where these ideas might lead you or indeed if they are of any use at all. But try to trust Fred. If you ignore Fred he gets unhappy and mopes about. He loses energy, he gets listless and stops trying. He sees no point in throwing ideas and creative notions in your direction if he senses no response or excitement coming from you. The secret is to keep Fred interested and playful by acknowledging what he sends and using it and I guarantee that you will fill your notebooks with precious seeds of future work.
One other thing. You must keep practising your writing. Any longer work is an accumulation of shorter bursts of writing practice. As a writer you will have the great gift of paying attention, of regarding everything in life as grist to your creative mill. It’s an exciting journey that you must undertake for its own sake. Forget about the marketplace, literary prizes and so on, especially now at the beginning. Of course they may come to you. But your first responsibility is to your writing. Do it for pleasure, do it for satisfaction, do it for the challenge of making good work better.
Writing will change your life.
All best wishes,
* with thanks to Damon Knight who first alerted me to Fred