Had a nice talk with an old friend last night over a couple of beers in his garage, Dropkick Murphy’s playing off his usb speakers. Catching up on life, family, work and stuff, I break the conversation asking him a question he has deftly evaded in the past. “What ever happened to that book you were writing?”
I am glad I asked.
Like most new writers my friend has a voice that screams to be heard, a story pushing from within to burst onto paper. And when he sits in front of that blank paper, it stalls; teasing and tormented. I really hope I helped by saying what he was going through, while personal and emotionally connected, it is a shared connection with many who have stepped before him, and the many who will pass after. As Steven Pressfield had written, it is the War of Art, a personal journey each must traverse, and a war each must fight.
He pulled out his notebook, pages hand written and bound with a binder clip, kept secure by sheer will to not lose, by either innocent accidents or destruction by frustration. I sat nervous as he opened the pages and scanned his words looking for the right phrase. The pages lay in such a delicate fashion to the strong wind that whipped past us. If I told him my feelings he may have called me a fool, but that would not have stopped my knowing that what he held was years of work, open to the whims of nature.
We talked about writing, the craft, and what it all means. We only scratched the surface. I emparted my standard lines for being a better writer, rules I follow (to the best of my ability):
- Write, or re-write, every day. Touch your work. Put the words down. Count them.
- There to two things that will make you a better writer:
- Critique other peoples work
- Cut. Cut, cut, cut, and cut. Destroy, rebuild and cut again.
I got home that evening, refreshed from seeing an old friend. I guess that is what happens as we get older. We see less of each other. But I feel closer now, after talking of the craft of writing, and what it takes to bare your soul. It is a painful journey many take the first step on, but never finish.
Then again, I don’t know if anyone ever really finished.