Shaun Levin

Archive for August, 2020|Monthly archive page

The Writer Must Love

In Writing on August 31, 2020 at 8:56 am

The writer must love writing. To really and truly love the act of it, the putting of pen to paper, the making of words, typing or hand-writing. The writer must love books, maybe above all the writer must love books, these things that hold the words the writer creates, the stories, anywhere between the length of a short paragraph or 600 pages. The writer must love their own company as they write, the writer must love words, words and books and their own company as they write. The writer who loves writing forgets themselves for those minutes or hours of writing and all there is is writing. That is what love looks like. The writer must enjoy what they do and what they’re capable of doing on the page. The writer must delight in the acrobatics of their own mind. The writer must be able to make themselves laugh and cry and pause in wonder at what has suddenly appeared on the page. Those words! The writer must love them and be grateful for them for there are moments when you write, when we write that there is not just us, but some kind of apparition from the wonder of our body and our mind and our gut.

The writer must love their own writing. Maybe not every minute of the day, maybe not most of the minutes of the day, maybe for only a few minutes a day, but the writer must get a glimpse of the wonder of what they do. So wonderful to themselves. Oh, it’s nice to see your name in print and to hold a book with your name on the cover, and it’s nice to be invited to read for an audience and be asked questions about things we have written, but if that is all the writer is writing for, then they will soon be found out. The writer must write without ego. I’m not entirely sure what the ego is (note to self: research ego) but if the writer can write for the exhilaration of writing and/or the comfort of writing and/or the surprise of writing and/or the joy of writing, then the writer is writing for the right reasons.

The writer must love writing more than they love being a writer. To write is to be nothing. To write, like painting, like drawing, dancing, singing is to be nothing and yet to have glimpses of the wonder of that nothingness. To be the thing itself, the words created, the movement of pen on paper, fine, okay, fingers on keyboard, because – full disclosure – these 20 minutes are being written on a desktop in the morning, second coffee done, enjoying the morning, enjoying taking these 20 minutes as I sit at my desk with one leg on the table, my earplugs in, the mind gently blocking out everything else on my screen (quick, go to Enter Full Screen. That’s better.)… The writer must love… The writer must… What I really want to say is:

The writer must love words and what words can do.

The writer must make time to write. There is always time. I know people who get up at 5 in the morning so they can write before their kids wake up. How do they do it? I don’t know. But they do. I admire anyone who can write for those 20 or 30 minutes that their child is asleep mid-morning. I have so much time in which I don’t write. The writer must see the time in which they don’t write as necessary, too, for writing. The writer must love writing enough to turn up every day, even if for 20 minutes. The writer must find time for the thing they love, which is writing. The writer need not be full of love for the world in order to love writing. The writer need not be glamorous or reclusive or shy. The writer must have at some point in their life a glimpse into the transformative and uplifting (find a better word) power of stories, putting words on the page, and the sensation of holding a book with the fingertips of both hands.

Focus

In Writing on August 30, 2020 at 4:28 pm

The hardest thing you will ever have to do as a writer is focus (he says you, but really what he means is I), to stick with it, to turn up. There are infinite distractions, but the biggest is the resistance to turning up, staring into space, sitting on the sofa and scrolling through Facebook, for example, Instagram, for example, Twitter. All the things one can scroll though, speeding up time, procrastinating, and there is the scrolling through things you should be doing, to go or not to go for a run, a walk, a swim, to the gym, for a massage, maybe it’s time for a massage, or a café, wash the dishes, the dishes can wait, everything can wait.

Really, there is nothing more wonderful than showing up, focusing, turning up on the page, no matter what happens, no matter what you land up with, for to make words is to make noise, or more precisely, to not not-make words. The aim is to not not-make words, because that is silence and the aim is to not be silent. To write is to not-be-silent and even if we are silent in the world, to be not-silent on the page somehow alleviates the anxiety of not being not-silent in the world. The more you put on the page, the less there is to carry. See: All that in less than 7 minutes.

Just think what might happen in 20.

Don’t stress me out.

Every time you focus, you add to your body of work. Every time you focus on one thing, you make it easier to focus on another, you write your way into being a writer. It’s that simple. A page + your fingers + a pen ( = a pencil) + time + a chair. That’s what writing =s

The shift from not doing to doing. Remember that (he tells himself): writing happens when you shift from not doing to doing.

Why the resistance? There’s so much to do. It’s far. I don’t want to set out because I’ll never reach the end. It’s deep. I might drown. It’s lonely. But think how much more lonely you’ll be without it. Writing is good company. Writing says: I’ll always be here. Writing says: I’ll always have something to say. Writing says: I’ll be interesting, I promise, and when I’m not, the more you talk to me, the more interesting I’ll become. I promise. Writing says: Stick with me. Writing says: I’ll be worth it.

Don’t count the minutes or the words. Follow the line. Follow the sentence and the acrobatics of your imagination. I mean, look at some of the cool things you’ve done in the last few minutes. Keep somersaulting, doing cartwheels and back flips. Flic-flacs we used to call them. Remember that first flic-flac. And yesterday, that kid when you were crossing the road, going from Plaza de Toros onto Calle de Alcalá and him and his friend crossing towards you and he just bounced up into the air and did a somersault, his friend watching from behind, and you could feel your eyebrows lift, your eyes opening wider, and wasn’t that magic to witness that: a kid propelling himself up into the air and doing a somersault, landing and continuing to cross the zebra crossing on a Saturday afternoon.

The bullring is closed now and in the evenings you’ve been walking around it while listening to music on your ear pods. So much is closed now, not just for the summer holidays, but because of the pandemic, and too many places have fallen silent, too many people. In the face of all that, keep turning up. Focus.