Swing Your Tiller

I believe in effortless writing. I believe in it because I have experienced it. As have you. Perhaps you have not experienced it for weeks at a time, or days at a time, or even hours at a time. Perhaps only a paragraph has felt effortless, or line or two. Yet you have known it. You would not be writing if you hadn’t. The question is whether this effortlessness is an accident or something else. I decided sometime ago I wanted my writing to be as effortless as possible. I took no pleasure in effortful writing, and what’s more, I was not much impressed with the results. I felt as if I was paddling my boat against some current because I believed I knew better. It was exhausting and frequently depressing. I could only take so much noble pleasure in how hard this work was, I could only play the artistic martyr for so long before I began to hate the art.

And so I set my sights on effortlessness. This one decision had a dramatic effect. Now, resistance became information. It meant nothing other than I was paddling too hard. It did not mean I was a lousy writer, or that nothing I wrote would ever be finished, or that a better writer wouldn’t be struggling – it simply meant I needed to change my course.

This is not to say I no longer experience resistance. In fact, I am almost always off course. But when you set your sights of effortlessness you learn to adjust more quickly. Now you are on the lookout for the resistance because, in many ways, it is as useful as the effortlessness. And sometimes the resistance makes it more interesting, the way a white water rafter might seek the roughest currents.

Yes, from time to time I still tell myself a story about the resistance, about how the world is organizing itself against me. I don’t know why the world would do this, but life isn’t fair, is it? So goes the story. I tell it until I notice I have stopped telling the story I actually sat down to write, and so I swing my tiller, and seek the current once more.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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