I grew up writing like crazy. My Mom, a poet, encouraged me to write from the get-go. I’m told I could write my name by age 3, although I don’t know if anyone could read what I wrote. I learned to write with both hands and even with both feet. Never had the elegant cursive of my lettered ancestors, though. I was too impatient and liked to go … FAST! You should’ve seen the jagged sentences scribbled with a pencil gripped between my toes.
One sunny afternoon in October 2008 as I drove around the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Garrison Keillor came on the radio. One of his short, nap-time blurbs for NPR. He quoted another writer, Augusten Burroughs:
“The secret to being a writer is that you have to write. It’s not enough to think about writing or to study literature or plan a future life as an author. You really have to lock yourself away, alone, and get to work.”
Now that kicked me in the ass. Ow!
I pulled off to the side of the road, whipped out a little notepad of paper I kept up front between my water bottle and a cup of coffee, and began to scribble furiously.
A couple of years earlier I saw Dan Poynter present to a group of struggling Seattle authors. What a blazing performance! While his style and subject matter didn’t resonate with me, other things did. I will always remember his vivid description of himself as “always writing.”
“I’m always writing,” Dan said as if it was just plain ol’ common sense. “When I’m standing in line, I don’t wait as that’s time going to waste. So I whip out a pad and pen and start writing. When I sit down on the airplane or the train or take the bus, I pull out my pad of paper and start writing. I’m always writing.”
It echoed that corny but intensely cutting line from Alec Baldwin’s character Blake in that 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross, “Remember ABC. Always Be Closing!” Almost won Baldwin an Oscar, too, that always be closing. So, ABW, always be writing!
Garrison Keillor claims he gave up golf to spend more time writing. I instantly felt guilty for all the time I spent playing in the great outdoors. Oh, I rock climbed, hiked and camped, canoed and kayaked, backpacked and pedaled, got into alpine mountaineering, and did wild, crazy things. Like almost dying. And if I had succeeded in that I certainly wouldn’t be writing. But I had to stop beating myself up. And I did. Those adventures gave me many wonderful and sometimes terrifying things to write about…and for.
In June of 2011 Seth Godin came to Seattle and presented. While I sat there observing in awe, someone asked him how did he write and what structures did he put in place to write? Seth snorted and shook his head.
“That’s has no relevance, so I won’t answer it,” he said. “And I’ll tell you why. It because you can’t copy me or anyone else, you have to find out what works for you. If I were to tell you how I write, then you would try to imitate it. We each are unique.”
“And,” Seth went on, “I made choices. We each get to make choices. Mine was I write like a dog. I write like a dog!”
The room was silent. “I don’t wait until it’s perfect, either,” he said. “I let it go. I ship it.”
So if you desire to write, or feel compelled to write, go write. Write like a dog!
William Dudley Bass
8 August 2011
Revised 27 November 2011
NOTE: Originally published in Cultivate and Harvest, one of my earlier blogs, on 8 August 2011. Revised and re-published here.
Copyright © 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.