I’m three semesters into my MFA in Creative Writing, and I’m burned out. It’s been a tough semester. I’ve felt elated at times while brainstorming the full trajectory of my novel and writing to bring that outline to life...and then discouraged and stalled when I’ve had to revise that outline and rework those pages again and again.
Part of this discouragement, I'm sure, is because I have a hard time taking certain critiques. The more my novel seems to be becoming someone else’s work, the less I am interested in it. I no longer care about the novel, because it no longer has the heart and soul that only I can infuse into it.
Part of this discouragement, too, is that at 27 years old I am not attempting to create my masterpiece. My magnum opus. My life's purpose wrapped up in a single work. Any pressure to do so, whether actual or perceived, is a burden. It stops me in my tracks before I can even begin, cuts off any creativity with self-doubt and judgment. Do master creators start out knowing that something will be their masterpiece? Or is that something defined by the public (and often after the creator's death)?
In any case, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why people write, for whom, and with what end in mind.
I’ve been reflecting on what draws me to the writing process and who I want to be as a writer.
Most importantly, I’ve developed my own writing philosophy. It goes like this:
I don’t care about style. I don’t care about “art.” Often when people talk about style and art, there’s the undercurrent of a martyr syndrome—this parasitic idea that people must wring every drop of blood and sweat and tears from every word for that word to be worthwhile. That people must suffer for their art.
That’s utter bullshit.
People shouldn’t have to suffer for their art. People shouldn’t have to be martyrs for their writing.
The creative force is an enlivening, quickening one. It draws inspiration from everything—our pasts, our daydreams, our surroundings, our interactions. It makes meaning and then flips that meaning on its head. It’s experimental, questioning, curious. It's the inner child we're returning to after long years of separation. It’s playful. It’s play.
Not that writing should always be easy—writing can be really hard at times, and often the most exciting writing projects bring us toe-to-toe with our creative edges and then ask us to step beyond them.
And not that the subject matter of books must be light-hearted—sometimes what feels most true for us to write is an open wound. There is joy to be found in speaking our truths, in creating something that is uniquely ours, in feeling that quickening force of inspiration fill us.
I believe writing can, should be, joyful. Feeling good is a good thing. I'm not going to glorify suffering in writing.
By the way, a new novel's been begging to be written--already fully plotted, exhilarating, authentic. But I'm going to keep this novel close to my chest for now. Will it be my masterpiece? Heck if I know. It's my child, and that's all that matters. Will it push me to my limits and at times require drawing from a wound? Yes, but that's the way childbirth goes.
All I know is I'm going to enjoy the process of writing it as much as I can--to get as much life out of writing it as I give it life by writing it.