For those of us pursuing an artistic lifestyle, it can be tempting to romanticize our endeavors. There must be something about the frustration that sometimes comes with creating that leads us to also create a mystique around our art. Perhaps if we make things more magical, we’ll have something else to focus on rather than focussing on how we aren’t creating. We would be better served, I think, by just pressing on and getting some work done. The idea for today’s post comes from Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing, brought to you by Brainpickings. Smith says,
Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.
Personally, I don’t think that romanticizing is all bad. Sometimes romanticizing can give you a push of inspiration to get working. At least, I know that if I set up my writing area in an appealing way and tell myself that I’m going to write the next Great American Novel — even if it’s not remotely true — it pushes me to persevere. Sometimes you need to sugar coat things and trick your mind a little bit just to get yourself motivated.
What I think Zadie Smith is addressing, in particular, with her piece of advice is that you should avoid the stereotypical Hemingway type of writer’s lifestyle. Romanticizing writing and pursuing the “writer’s lifestyle” more than you actually pursue writing itself can lead to never getting any work done. Your status as a writer is not defined by how you live the “writer’s lifestyle,” but how you treat your writing and how you actually write.
Yet again — and I know I say this a lot — this all comes down to one thing. Just write!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan