A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is. When I speak of writing, the image that comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or a literary tradition; it is the person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and, alone, turns inward. Amid his shadows, he builds a new world with words. This man—or this woman—may use a typewriter, or profit from the ease of a computer, or write with a pen on paper, as I do. As he writes, he may drink tea or coffee, or smoke cigarettes. From time to time, he may rise from his table to look out the window at the children playing in the street, or, if he is lucky, at trees and a view, or even at a black wall. He may write poems, or plays, or novels, as I do. But all these differences arise only after the crucial task is complete—after he has sat down at the table and patiently turned inward. To write is to transform that inward gaze into words, to study the worlds into which we pass when we retire into ourselves, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy.
As I sit at my table, for days, months, years, slowly adding words to empty pages, I feel as if I were bringing into being that other person inside me, in the same way that one might build a bridge or a dome, stone by stone. As we hold words in our hands, like stones, sensing the ways in which each is connected to the others, looking at them sometimes from afar, sometimes from very close, caressing them with our fingers and the tips of our pens, weighing them, moving them around, year in and year out, patiently and hopefully, we create new worlds.
The writer’s secret is not inspiration—for it is never clear where that comes from—but stubbornness, endurance....
The writer's secret isn't talent, either. I believe that any fairly articulate and well-read individual with a bit of imagination can learn to write--but only if that person is maniacally determined to do so. Wanting to be published "really, really bad" isn't going to get a writer anywhere if she lacks the courage necessary to sacrifice herself to the dragon--that fire-breathing, all-consuming passion to write and learn and keep writing, even after the cruelest rejections.
Perhaps some of you reading this post have already made New Year's resolutions to "get serious" about your writing in 1997. If by "getting serious" you mean joining a critique group or taking a class or attending a conference or even producing a certain number of pages each week, I'm going to risk offending you by suggesting that those are things anyone could do. They require only a little time, perhaps a bit of money, and a certain amount of discipline, but no passion. And if you're a writer without passion, I predict you're never going to set the literary world or even your own little genre on fire.
Do you have the guts to dig deeper? To expose your raw self to public inspection? Let's get back to Orhan Pamuk:
For me, to be a writer is to acknowledge the secret wounds that we carry inside us, wounds so secret that we ourselves are barely aware of them, and to patiently explore them, know them, illuminate them, own them, and make them a conscious part of our spirit and our writing.
Not all of the truths inside you will be ugly. Some of them will be beautiful. As an inspirational romance writer, I draw on both; my books' happy endings are enhanced by the suffering that precedes them. One of my secret delights is knowing that while readers may guess, they'll never know with any certainty which parts of my books are "me." My aim is to provoke readers to examine their own secrets as they read. Yes, some of you may guess correctly some of the time and learn things about me that I'd rather you didn't. But that's the chance we take when we unleash our passions--what I like to call the inner dragon--and write.
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