Kings and Queens

I was talking to an author yesterday and mentioned that I write four to five of these essays a week and that I usually write them in no more than forty-five minutes because I don’t want to spend more than that writing them. He began to moan. “Writing is like pulling teeth for me,” he said. “How can you do that?” Mind you, this author has published ten books, including one and now maybe two national bestsellers, and he is a regular contributor The New York Times, the Seattle Times, as well as USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. And yet, upon hearing that I could write an essay (or blog, if you must) for an online magazine for writers in forty minutes he despaired. Just as every writer secretly fears, somehow or other he was doing it wrong.

Therein lies the secret to writing something quickly. I have made a casual career of comparing myself to others. I have compared how I look and how I talk; I have compared how I dress and what I eat; and I have certainly compared what I have written. Sometimes I appear to come out the better, sometimes I don’t. No matter, in the end I always lose. The moment I compare, I give away the only thing I was ever meant to call my own.

But while I am writing this column, as well as the weekly essay on No One Is Broken, I don’t compare. Other people’s opinions are irrelevant for that forty-five minutes. Without these phantom editors, I can’t get it wrong, because only I know if it is right. My writing is not a democracy; it is a kingdom enslaved to my curiosity. That curiosity, and my sovereign right to decree whether it has been satisfied, belongs solely to me. The work it produces, and the opinions it does or does not incite, belongs to everyone. The kingdom’s borders, however, remain intact as long as I recognize that they are the only real difference between all the other kings and queens and me.


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

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