INSPIRED: WHY I WRITE WHILE YOU PREFER GOLF – Marilyn Armstrong

Wednesday RDP – INSPIRE

A friend asked me why I do this, why I blog. So I asked her why she plays golf.

This is an evergreen post for me. I’ve modified a bit with each iteration, but it says something that’s fundamentally true about the creative process and certainly about my creative process. Writing is me. It’s the sport I play, the goal I seek. Sometimes, I need to remind myself of things I already know, so here it is, again.


We do what we do because we love it, need to do it, or both. For me, writing is like breathing. If I don’t write, I strangle on words never used. My friend needs to compete, to be active. To play golf or she will suffocate.

I can’t begin to count the number of people who have told me they want to be writers, but don’t know how. They want me to tell them how. That they asked the question makes me fairly sure they are not writers.

If you are a writer, you write. You will write and will keep writing because it is not what you do, it is what you are. It is as much a part of you as your nose or stomach.

75-FadedBooksFloatingWordsNK-004

I started writing as soon as I learned to read, which was about 45 minutes after someone handed me a reading primer. It was as if a switch had been thrown in my brain. Words felt like home.

Writing was (is) exactly the same as speaking, but takes longer. I have never minded spending the extra time. I love crafting sentences until they are just right. I love that I can go back and fix written words, that unlike words you say, you can take them back.

Raison d’être? I write because I’m a writer. Writing is how I express myself, how I interact with the world. It’s my window, my doorway, my handshake, my dreams.

If you are going to be a writer, you probably already know it. Practice will make you a better writer, can help you understand the techniques you need to build a plot and create books that publishers will buy. Writing itself is a gift.

If you have it, you know it — and most of us know it quite young.

computer gargoyle

Writers have words. They collect in your mind, waiting to be written. We have heads full of words, sentences, pronouns, adjectives, and dependent clauses.

My advice to everyone who aspires to be a writer is to write. Don’t talk about it. Do it. Whatever medium works for you. Blogging, novels, short stories, poetry. Whatever. I’d also advise you to not talk about your work until you’ve done a significant amount of writing. I can’t count the number of great ideas left on barroom floors, talked away until there was nothing left but a vague memory and a lot of empty wine glasses. Save your words to a better purpose.

Write a lot even if it’s mostly not very good. Sooner or later, you’ll find your thing. Or not.

But at least you will know you did your best, even if your best wasn’t quite up to snuff. If you don’t write, it might be a personal loss for you, but possibly, it’s the world’s loss.

You will never know how good you can be if you don’t at least give it a try.

WHY I WRITE WHILE YOU PLAY GOLF

A friend asked me why I do this, why I blog. So I asked her why she plays golf.

This is an evergreen post for me. I’ve modified a bit with each iteration, but it says something that’s fundamentally true about the creative process and certainly about my personal creative process. Writing (and also photography) are my version of sports. They really have always been, throughout my  life. With a little bit of luck, they always will be. So here it is again because sometimes, I need to remind myself of things I already know.

I feel I should point out that writing isn’t only an art. “Real writing” can also be a craft, or “non-fiction.” Books about science or technology are no less “real writing” than a novel. I know we who toil as wordsmiths who tell others how things work or how to accomplish tasks, rarely win prizes or make a best-seller list. Nonetheless, we do not need to hang our heads because we aren’t don’t create characters and plots. I doubt most fiction writers would be good at technical or science writing. Or, for that matter, news writing. It’s not something less, just something different.

If one kind of writing doesn’t work for you, try something else. If you are good with words, somewhere, there’s a place for you in the big world of writing and writers.

One last point. “Professional” means you get paid to do it. If you’d like to get paid, but haven’t yet, you aren’t a professional. It doesn’t mean you aren’t good, just that you don’t (yet) earn a living at it. It’s not a judgement; it’s a distinction.


We do what we do because we love it, need to do it, or both. For me, writing is like breathing. If I don’t write, I strangle on words never used. My friend needs to compete, to be active. To play golf or she will suffocate.

I can’t begin to count the number of people who have told me they want to be writers, but don’t know how. They want me to tell them how. That they asked the question makes me reasonably sure they aren’t writers.

If you are a writer, you write. You will write and will keep writing because it is not what you do, it is what you are. It is as much a part of you as your nose or stomach.

75-FadedBooksFloatingWordsNK-004

I started writing as soon as I learned to read, which was about 45 minutes after someone handed me a reading primer. It was as if a switch had been thrown in my brain. Words felt like home.

Writing was (is) exactly the same as speaking, but takes longer. I have never minded spending the extra time. I love crafting sentences until they are just right. I love that I can go back and fix written words, that unlike words you say, you can take them back.

Raison d’être? I write because I’m a writer. Writing is how I express myself, how I interact with the world. It’s my window, my doorway, my handshake, my dreams.

If you are going to be a writer, you probably already know it. Practice will make you a better writer, can help you understand the techniques you need to build a plot and create books that publishers will buy — but writing itself is a gift. If you have it, you know it — and most of us know it pretty young.

computer gargoyle

Writers have words. They collect in your mind, waiting to be written. We have heads full of words, sentences, pronouns, adjectives, and dependent clauses.

My advice to everyone who aspires to be a writer is to write. Don’t talk about it. Do it. Whatever medium works for you. Blogging, novels, short stories, poetry. Whatever. I’d also advise you to not talk about your work until you’ve done a significant amount of writing. I can’t count the number of great ideas left on barroom floors, talked away until there was nothing left but a vague memory and a lot of empty wine glasses. Save your words to a better purpose.

Write a lot even if it’s mostly not very good. Sooner or later, you’ll find your thing. If you don’t write, it is your personal loss, but maybe it’s the world’s loss, too.

You will never know how good you can be if you don’t try.

Source: WHY I WRITE WHILE YOU PLAY GOLF

The Online Photographer: We Need Our Audiences

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

See on theonlinephotographer.typepad.com

We Need Our Audiences

This week’s column by Ctein

I know lots of authors, artists, and singer/songwriters. When we get together we talk about the creative process in remarkably similar ways. I’ve no doubt that my feelings and reactions are not universal (everyone differs) but they cut broadly across ages, media, and genres. What we all seem to need is an outside audience.

What got me thinking on this particular path was spending a chunk of time a few years back hanging, to my serious delight, with the brilliant and talented Kathy Li (who few of you have heard of and fewer have seen, since she doesn’t have a website of her work, damn her eyes, and I’ll be getting to that). Among many talents, she’s an avid amateur photographer*. On one afternoon, she showed me a candid portrait of me she’d made that I really liked; it is very much one of the more successful efforts at capturing me that anyone has done. Perhaps only DDB and Kyle Cassidy have done better. Then she showed me an extraordinarily evocative photograph of a luminescent red tide that had me intensely staring at her itty bitty iPod Touch for minutes.

You can’t see her work, because she hasn’t bothered to put together an online gallery. She doesn’t think she’s very good. But really, how bad can someone be if they show me two photographs I like that much in one afternoon? I mean, I ain’t the ultimate arbiter of taste, but I’ve got a bit of an eye. It can’t be crap. But, nah, she doesn’t think she’s worthy.

Another friend freezes up in the face of potential sales. He’s a good photographer. Intellectually, he knows he’s a good photographer. He’s not as divorced from reality as Kathy. But when it comes to selling his stuff, he makes me look like Steve Jobs, and I am pretty bad at this, truly I am. He doesn’t even have to dither over what to offer. People have already asked for his work. He just has to put it out there. It would do his ego immeasurable good. He always has an excuse. They’re palpably stupid and illogical excuses…to everyone except him. I’m convinced that on some level, he just doesn’t feel like he’s good enough to deserve an audience. Which is bulls*$#. And irrelevant.

Most artists have good days and bad days. Mostly we have meh days. Good enough, but…. And that’s when all the doubts creep in. Oh, there are those good days. I have actually made a handful of dye transfer prints in my life that I think are perfect. 99.9% of them, not so much; I can see a wart, a flaw, in design, composition, execution, something that keeps it from being ideal. I grit my mental teeth just a bit and move on. Same with my writing. I’ve written a few columns that were effortless and as perfect as I’ll ever write. My Jim Marshall eulogy and my Photo-Fetishist columns were like that. They just sprang, full-blown, from the brow of my muse on to the screen, almost as fast as I could dictate them, and they sang. Why? I dunno, ask my Muse. Maybe her Muse inspired her. Maybe it was just the right cup of tea that morning. Or maybe the phase of the moon. Whatever, she was rockin’.

Other times, she’ll just churn out the words, and I’ll find myself writing four, maybe five, thousand words in a day, because I won’t want to be doing anything else, and they’ll be fine, but not perfect. Good enough. And sometimes it’s a horrible slog; she doesn’t want to write, and I don’t want to write, but it has to get written. Then it gets reworked and rereworked into some tolerable semblance of publishability, and off it goes.

Except for those incredibly rare shining moments, whether it’s photography or writing, it feels only good enough. That’s where it starts to go off the rails. Because any even-semi-successful artist is one of their own worst critics.

This is not a character flaw; this is not an insecurity; it is not something that can be fixed by good therapy (or drugs). It is a necessary part of our success. We need to be more critical than most our our audience, so that we can be sure of getting rid of all the warts that they would notice. That’s the way to be sure (well, hemi-demi-semi-sure) that they will enjoy the experience we’re handing them. We have to be better than them; it’s what they’re paying us for.

Consequently, those of us who toil mostly in isolation, mostly in the company of our own minds, witty and entertaining as that company may be, mostly live with our own very worst critic. We lack perspective. That can only be provided by others.

I can recall, back when I was printing Jim Marshall’s photographs, that I reached a point where I started to doubt the quality of my work. Printing the same photographs repeatedly, I became intimately familiar with every single flaw and failing they contained. It’s not that the prints were bad or anything like that, but to my eye they didn’t look terribly good. In the back of my brain there was this nagging little thought, “Gee, I can’t believe Jim is willing to pay me so much money for prints like these.” Intellectually I knew that there wasn’t anyone else likely to be able to make better prints for him, but, still, the work I was turning out wasn’t making me feel very good.

Then one of the galleries in San Francisco mounted a major retrospective of Jim’s photography, the black-and-white work being represented by platinum prints and the color, of course, by my dye transfer prints. I went to the opening and for the first time saw a substantial body of those prints in their proper venue: nicely framed, well lit, and being admired by hundreds of attendees. Suddenly, I could slip into their heads and see the prints the way they were seeing them, and I realized that, damn, I’m good. I mean really, really good! Which is what everyone else had been telling me, but I’d been losing the ability to see it for myself.

That’s why artists need audiences.

©2013 by Ctein, all rights reserved

*(Author’s note: turns out there’s also a Kathy Li who is a professional photographer in London—that’s a different one.)

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

For anyone who writes, blogs, creates … this is an insightful, well-written article to which we can all relate.

See on theonlinephotographer.typepad.com