Writing Jack London once wrote, “You can't sit around and wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
It was past two in the morning, I had to wake for work in less than six hours, but I simply couldn't bring myself to stop to read your nodes. As a child who loved to read, this was not an uncommon scenario. The node was Sid's Human Rights and Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia , and as weary as I was, I simply couldn't stop. Tramping alongside the poor, sick, and hungry, was much more alluring than turning to the confines of my bed. As I visualized running through the thick undergrowth, dying of poverty, I did not feel tired. Rather, I tasted my bitterness of how much the world generally speaking fucking "sucks" these days. For the first time, I was experiencing something rather than just reading about it. Among this, my earliest desire was to write you a thank you note.
I subsequently began to consume every genre of writing. Fiction, non-fiction, drama; books, newspapers and magazines; I read them all and started to glean ideas for what to write on my own. When I sat down to write a novel in the December of eighth grade, I could not have been more excited. I gave my parents advance notice of how I intended to dethrone Stephen King from his lofty perch. Outside my room I taped a sign with the following message: The Talented Miland is writing a famous novel. KEEP OUT! Ten minutes into writing the “famous novel” I was already frustrated; I didn't like what I was writing, and the words were coming too slowly. After thirty minutes, I regretted making such sweeping statements and posting the sign. Finally, after two hours, with only two messy pages to show for it, I quit. Every great idea I envisioned appeared distorted once scrawled on paper. The writing was repetitive and mechanical, and it lacked the piercing emotion, clarity and imagery I found in all my favorite books.
Frustrated, I bemoaned my utter lack of skill. What I wanted were intense, colorful characters, an intriguing plot, and a vivid setting; what I produced were only vague shadows of my idealized imagination. It seems ridiculous in retrospect, but my naïveté led me to believe books – the end products of a year or several years' work – could be written effortlessly.
One day, having long retired any idea of writing, much less becoming an author, I stumbled across a quote by Joseph Heller: “Every writer I know has trouble writing.” With that short statement, it finally dawned on me that no writer – not even critically acclaimed ones – begins writing quality first drafts. Everyone starts off rotten. The only characteristic that separates those who want to write and those who do write, is persistence.
When I put together my first article for E2, a voice in the back of my head taunted me relentlessly. Each word, phrase and sentence I wrote was inevitably targeted with crippling self-criticism. At many times I was on the verge of quitting just to rid myself of that painful voice - but I gripped my pen tightly and pressed forward, keeping in mind that it was only a rough draft. When I completed, it was in a deformed, sorry state. I could have stopped to save myself the embarrassment, but I was tired of being someone who says one thing and does another. With my determination redoubled, I rewrote the article. Each subsequent revision added definition and complexity to the crude original, and the article began to form. The structure, at first haphazard and inconsistent, slowly grew a shape. The words, once lackluster and uninspired, began to breathe with energy that I could hardly believe had come from me.
Although the time I spend writing has only increased, every time I sit down to do it I still face the same challenge. Before me looms the same monolith and I only have a blunt hammer to carve my way past. For an instant, I hesitate, an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and inadequacy overtakes me. The end product may flicker elusively in the distance, but I grasp the hammer anyway, and with both hands, I start to chip away. Thank you