I spent this morning writing about a thousand words for nothing and nobody. That’s a lie — I spent this morning writing a thousand words for me. For a project that is only a dream right now and that may never come to exist. For a project that may please nobody else. But the thought of it pleased me, and so I gave it half a day.
"One teacher I work with advises writing a full draft of a book before showing it to anyone, so that it has a chance to come into its own before critical voices are allowed at it." This is a great and rare piece of advice. Not for everyone or every project, but worth it. It's how I've always worked without really thinking about it. A project has to go through many drafts before I can share it without getting grouchy about feedback.
After decades of wanting various things from my writing--a living, financial security, acclaim, time, leisure--I realize now the thing that I want most: to feel satisfaction simply engaging in it and to know my writing is good. I can't even tell you exactly what I mean by "good." Partly it's that it surprised me in a way that reveals something I didn't know (about writing, about myself, about life) before. Partly it's just that it tickles me. Partly it's that it has taken me someplace deeper. Of course, I'd still love to be published again, to make money, to be recognized. But all of that feels out of my control, and so I try to set that aside when I write. At this point, I'm doing the thing just to do the thing. And the more I do, the more peace it gives me.
" If I were stranded on a desert island I would still write, but I’d do it in the secret hope of someone finding my words later, next to my bones." Don't we all yearn for a bit of cultural immortality...