Reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity called Big Magic , which all makes a huge amount of sense by the way, I had to stop and reread the section called ‘Done is better than good‘ at least three times. it really spoke to me, and to where I am in my writing right now.
You see, I have been writing all my life – at first most of it was silent, even to me, with stories occurring mainly in the landscape of my mind – but as a ‘mature aged student’ at age 31, when I went back to redo Year 12 and then onto Monash Uni for my Arts degree, my writing found a voice.
Up until then I had no idea I was a creative. Suddenly, the window was opened and creativity came in, at a reckless pace. I couldn’t turn off the tap, I was writing every day. Sometimes the window closed for a while – often I closed it myself when it was more important to earn a living – but over the past thirty years the volume of work I produced has been pretty damn amazing. I’m not commenting on the quality – just the quantity.
I was meticulous in keeping ‘hard copies’ of everything that I produced for publication. I still have them in a box in my garage – not out of vanity, but just to remind myself of my past ‘successful’ writing efforts. In my decluttering phase I also located reams of yellowing pages containing poems, short stories, a play or two that I have written over the years, as well as a few half-arsed attempts at novels. In my various external drives I found versions of some of these, and there were also forty floppy disks – the contents of many will now remain a secret as we no longer have a computer with an appropriate drive. ‘Ce ne fait rien‘, I tell myself and prepare to move on.
I am sure a lot of these stories, poems, plays etc. are of dubious quality, but something has told me that I must revisit these tomes and finish them off and publish them in some way. So, I find myself dividing my days roughly into ‘new’ and ‘old’ days. Some days I am inspired to work on a new project, and on another I regress and relive former years. It seems like the right way to go.
In her book, Gilbert says that she was not at all proud of her first novel, but she made a pact with herself to complete it and to try to not worry about the fact that it was not good. I have done this many times myself, when I was on a deadline to submit an article for a newspaper or magazine – I knew it wasn’t my best work, but it satisfied the requirements.
Gilbert also says that there is too much that is unfinished in the world and that this compelled her to complete her impoverished novel. I agree. Another thing she says is that we should not write with any expectation that others will read or like it; this is not our business (although I am not so sure about self-published writers).
So, anyway, this year is my year for finishing. This in itself will be a great personal achievement.