Over the last few years my writing has become largely effortless. Wait – let me explain. I can still spend twenty minutes or more writing two sentences. I just finished a memoir that took me twelve drafts to complete, drafts that sometimes took me in vastly different directions. I often begin the day with no idea at all of what to write. But this is merely the process that is finding the story I want to tell. This is different than effort. Whenever I write, I always meet resistance. Because each story and each essay is different, I am always looking for a way I have never travelled before. How can I find that way without experimentation? If the road were marked clearly with signs, I would not be finding my way, I would not learn for myself how to tell the difference between a correct path and an incorrect path. The paths themselves are equal, just as every word is equal, just as every person is equal. The question is whether an idea, a word, or a scene belongs in the story I am wishing tell.
The only way to tell is with resistance. As soon as I begin down an incorrect path I feel resistance. Here is the moment where I get to choose writing that is effortful or effortless. If I feel the resistance, but I wish to continue down the path anyway, then I will have to exert effort. If I do not exert effort, I will by necessity stop, for that is the purpose of the resistance – to compel me to stop and find the correct path. The longer I continue down an incorrect path, the more effort I will exert, and the more I will complain to anyone who will listen about how hard writing is.
If, on the other hand, I listen to this unerring guidance, I will try another path and then another path and then another path until the way is clear of all resistance. It is very difficult to find this path if I believe that it is heroic to overcome resistance, or that effort of the kind I am describing is a virtue, is the source of my inner strength the way lifting barbells builds my muscles. In fact, this kind of effort is an expression of my only weakness – the belief that life is uninterested in my wellbeing.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.