So, cool story.
Writer Ben Sáenz visited Union today! He’s published a couple books of poetry, as well as a few novels, selections and excerpts of which he read from. He did a little talking too, and there were a couple things he said that struck the writer in me:
“Grappling is enough…”
He made the comment that he’s realized that he’ll never understand God, but that he was content to experience God through the world He’s created. That there’s contentment to be found in pondering and trying to understand the world, and on a higher level, God, through the world. This idea can be paralleled with writing in the sense that we’re never going to understand everything in the world; our minds aren’t created to understand everything, but as people (and moreso as writers and artists of different mediums) we grapple with what know and what we don’t. To loosely quote Mr. Sáenz: if we think we understand everything about the world, we’re going to end up with some crappy writing.
Another thing he said: “If you’re a writer, you don’t want to live in a comfortable place.”
I know for a fact that I hate being out of my comfort zone. What’s so special about forcing yourself (or being forced) out of a comfort zone? Why is it necessary?
Any writer will hear the advice “write about what you know”; however, that advice has a tendency to make room (for me) to justify staying comfortable and undisturbed. Writing from what you know is a good starting place; however, if you never move past the “GO!” square, you’re not going to do well in the “game” of writing. You’re never going to expose yourself to things that may be uncomfortable or challenging… and when that happens, mediocrity happens. Inconsequential writing happens.
As much as the little voice in me protests, I’m learning that staying in comfort zones is a good way to get stuck. It’s a good way to keep your mind in a little box, safe and secure from… well, creativity. If you can’t put yourself in another person’s shoes or life, how do you expect to write something compelling? Heart-moving? I can say that, while there are a few things in my life that have proven rough, my life has been conducted in a safe environment; there are few notable experiences on which to draw from.
Or are there? All experience is experience. It needs to be valued as such. Sometimes the thought that, because my life hasn’t been hard, and because there has been relatively little drama in my life, my writing will only be mediocre and nobody will want to read it because of how boring it is. That’s what I think. But what do I know? Ben mentioned that you can’t sacrifice art for popularity; if they come in a package, that’s awesome, but if you’re going to write, do it the way you know how, and in the process of doing (aka. discipline), your personal art form, style, whatever, will be established (he didn’t say all that…paraphrase!).
All of my thoughts are starting to fall apart now, but I’ll leave you with this: all writer’s are born from discipline. It doesn’t matter how basely talented you are; you’re only going to get somewhere if you work hard and discipline yourself, devote yourself, to your calling as a writer. You may not get somewhere big, but you will get somewhere personally. Besides, in the end, what does it matter if you end up like J.K. Rowling or an unknown novelist if you’re doing what you know you’re supposed to be doing?