According to her Goodreads bio, Dorothy Parker was: “
I do not hate writing.
You will not find me among the harvesters, breathing a sigh of relief that the work is done, the fields are empty and the yields are in. Dorothy likely said what she did as a jab because some authors like the ego-boost of a book without appreciation for the pen-work. And yet, I know how muddy writing can be.
You can be a writer and still hate elements of the job. For 11 years I had a job I loved more than any other, yet some days I loathed the stresses that came with it — competing deadlines, miscommunications, budget constraints, office politics. Do you ever feel stressed by writing?
At times I can go too deep; dive into a pool without a bottom or stay under longer than I have breath. Or I bring up scenes to the surface of the page certain they are brilliant agates only to realize as they dry they are ordinary stones in need of polish. Sometimes I write with cascading emotions in mind and it reads back flat. Mostly my writing stresses emerge with revision coupled with the fact that no matter how much book knowledge one might have about writing a novel, the experience of taking on a long-term project is all hands on keys.
I love writing. I write every day. I stare at raptors circling overhead, listen to waves crackle pebbles on shore or plunge my hands into warm dishwater and think of writing. I pre-write in my head the way a gambler might count cards. It’s ongoing, quick, automatic. Writing one WIP leads to breakthroughs on another. Forcing a 99-word paragraph to summarize an essay helps me break free of a plodding structure. I often wonder if friends cringe when I comment on Facebook because I want to write something meaningful. I’m terrible at small-talk, prefering to discuss deep perspective and share observations. I want to hear from your soul, not your shallow memes of the day.
Maybe my epitaph will read, “She has finally written.” Written is past tense, done, over. I am writing, and will do so until the day I have finally written my last breath.
The reason I’m pondering my writing is due to the introspective work of preparing literary reflections for a Michigan literary artist grant; a Zion National Park Artist in Residency; a new page at Carrot Ranch called, “Support Literary Arts;” and a near-completed Patreon. The latter I’ve been developing since February, and one of the Rough Writers has taken to
nagging encouraging me to finish it. This is not easy work and could fall under the “I hate writing” category. But it’s not writing artist statements or impact essays that I don’t like; it’s my own battles with insecurity. Am I enough? No matter what the black dog might want to answer, I have to stand on affirmative ground — I am a writer. I am writing. I am enough.
Could my writing be better? You bet! We never stop improving craft. Don’t think for a moment there will come a day when rainbows fly out your fingertips and happy muses sing choruses with each page-flip of your book. Writing is grand, but writing is hard. I love to dive deep. I don’t want to have written, yet. I want to keep writing, and writing as many things as I have creative spark to craft. Completion of projects and strategy for sharing them is part of the process, but the writing, ah, the sweet writing will not stop.
A confession and a first look. Confession first — I write many projects at once and I believe it would drive other writers daffy to know my process. I began to feel self-conscious about my process, thinking maybe I was doing it “wrong.” Then I reflected on my work history and college experience. My processing pattern has been with me a long time and when I have time and space for it, I achieve spectacular results. After starting college at age 28 and taking “How to Succeed at Studies” and “Math for Dummies” classes, I graduate magna cum laude with a published honors thesis, two novels WIPS as independent studies and as co-editor of the college lit magazine. I don’t write this to boast, but to remind myself that at one point my process looked crazy because I had so many different plates spinning.
My greatest joy is that I’m writing on my own terms. If I were to focus or apply different terms, I might hate writing. And I don’t want to hate what I love.
Now for a first look at the essay that will be a part of the Support Literary Art page at Carrot Ranch. It serves a secondary purpose of providing easily grabbed content for opportunities like the Michigan grant. It’s followed by a flash fiction I wrote about the essay to show you how I often use flash in my every day writing process.
Write raw. Write on. Polish hard. Love what you do, and do what you love.
Value of Literary Art
Often we believe artistic expression flourishes in paint and piano keys. If we broaden the idea to include words as art we think of poetry. If we consider literature, the greats come to mind: Chaucer, Hemmingway, Cather. And right now, you might be debating my opinion on “the greats.”
What is literature, and can we ever define who is in and who is out? Basically, literature is written works recognized as having important or permanent value. A writer who crafts with words and attempts repeatedly to achieve that designation of value is a literary artist. Therefore literary art is the pursuit of studying and writing literature. Raw literature results from the drafts and processes of this pursuit.
Art is subjective, and we diminish its awe with containment. We also contain artists who create to please. Why do we want to please? Most likely to be successful with our art and hopefully make a living or at least a satisfying hobby. Who wants to be the family member who “scribbles atrocious poetry” or the “weird neighbor who writes until 3 a.m.”? Therefore we contain our attempts and hide away until one magical day we think our skills finally equal our imaginations.
Artists, especially writers, can feel isolated and shut-down by containment. When we express, we feel liberated. We desire to connect to others through these literary expressions. So how do we pursue our work as literary artists and not feel contained in the process? How do we grow our rawest forms of literature, take time to develop what it is we’re creating and avoid critique too early? Literary artists need safe space to practice craft, read stories by peers and discuss progression beyond skill mastery and deconstructionism.
In the beginning, Carrot Ranch was one writer’s platform. Out of a need to connect with other literary artists, the site evolved into a dynamic literary community with participants engaging at will in weekly flash fiction challenges. Carrot Ranch is a giant virtual sandbox for writers of different genres, experiences, backgrounds, interests and countries of origin. Literary artists can jam like musicians do. It’s liberating, and the safe exploration leads to breakthroughs in personal projects, new ideas and improvement in craft technique. This is a shared literary platform.
Carrot Ranch is not an exclusive writers club, such as those focused on shared goals. Exclusivity perpetuates the isolation many literary artists experience. And large social media writers groups that include more writers to connect and share links are often too large for creatively play with words and craft. The community at Carrot Ranch serves this gap, and focuses on literary art as common ground between diverse artists.
Literary artists need safe space to play with words, craft story ideas, explore characters, describe settings, investigate research, and discover what the art has to reveal. Art only reveals itself in doing and interacting. With these raw literature attempts, 99-word nuggets of creative expression opens doors that remain closed to literary artists in isolation. It allows the literary-curious to dabble in the art for fun, or gives seasoned authors a break from intense long-term literary projects.
What does literary art look like at Carrot Ranch? It’s short-form micro-fiction, for certain. It’s playful, encouraging and provocative dialog about the art created or its process of creation. The literature at Carrot Ranch includes weekly collections of flash fiction thoughtfully arranged to express and explore a topic. It also includes the works of individuals: novels of multiple genres, short stories, essays, poetry, articles, book reviews, substantial blog posts, and creative works for educators.
The greatest value in literary art is that it opens minds to unfamiliar experiences. In a divisive world full of information, it’s the word-crafters who remind us of the humanity in it all. Literary artists inspire, agitate, reveal, imagine and reflect the good and bad within us. Literary artists give meaning to life. Consider the words John Lennon wrote:
“When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
You might say literary art is the pursuit of happiness.
Literature at Carrot Ranch (99-word Version)
Words seep from behind paint and piano keys to declare art of their own. Hemmingway achieved mastery in six words. We take stabs at the canvas 99 bits at a time. We (literary artists in chorus) defeat isolation in a sandbox, jamming like John Lennon’s friends, pursuing happiness.
Carrot Ranch, a collaboration of word wrangling to craft, explore, reveal. Safe space to write without dinosaurs deconstructing early efforts or long-hidden chapters. A place where words wriggle free to crawl among brain folds, loosening shadows to dawn’s first light. Where teachers learn from 5-year olds what universal truth could be.
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Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I fail to see how John Lithgow is nagging you (said in the straightest face I can muster while giggling) 😉
You are a (really amazing) writer. You are writing (and inspiring others to write). You are (so much more than) enough.
I’m keeping a straight face, too — ha! — oops, struggling! Aw, thank you! And thanks for the encouragement!
It flowed. I read. It made sense. I read. It encouraged. I read. I thank you, Charli for these gifts. My writing has been a selection of stacked cups & saucers. Novel/Publisher, Website/Transition, Thoughts/Exhausting. There are so many things I want to get on paper. That, perhaps I should say, I need to get on paper. Ahhh, the deep breaths, the walks along the creek, the grounding. It will all flow like the water over the rocks to find its right course.
I loved this post Charli. You have expressed the feelings that I’m sure most of us have experienced. Harlen Coben said “I always think the insecurity is going to go away , but its always there. Only bad writers think they are good.” I think this is a problem we all have and even the great literary writers have written how there writing is not good enough. You, I know, are a good writer and see stories in all events that come your way. You have a way of wrangling words. George Orwell’s quote comes to mind “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist not understand.” Like you I don’t hate writing but I’d be happy to leave it in the drawer when my first draft was finished. Like you I also have numerous projects on the go but I think you will successfully finish yours. Carrot Ranch has certainly given us a place to practice the art of writing. It was brilliant how you honed your essay so successfully into 99 words. I don’t understand the patreon fully but look forward to further developments.
That’s a real shiny one there, a very special pebble.
Yeah, you can write.
Boss, your gems are showing.
Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio.
Dorothy Parker has to be the quotablist of quoters; I get what she’s saying even if like you I prefer to spend time in the present. Good that you seem to be getting more time to do what you love now there’s an element of stability creeping back into your life – I hope I’ve read that right.
A brilliant post, Charli. I am busy writing five books at the moment. I write a chapter for each book when I am inspired to write along the lines of that particular theme. They are all different, one book about living with PTSD, one about my Mother’s childhood, two about Silly Willy in different places and one about Sir Choc. I am also currently reading 5 books by different authors. Variety is the spice of life.
Love this post Charli, you are an inspiration and catalyst to so many writers. I look forward to the way you weave a story, challenge the reader, and drag us all into community. One of a kind, a raw carrot so to speak, invaluable. Write on…
The question is why are we always the hardest on ourselves? I’ve been writing (mostly) poetry and (in the last four or five years) more flash fiction for over forty five years …you’d think I would consider myself a writer by now? It helps to have encouraging words by other writers at Carrot Ranch.
Really those that don’t know me or basically only know me through my writing, because those that do (fam-damily) – live in their own worlds and only rarely step through Alice’s Mirror to join my world.
While I’ve had some contact with other literary folks that are published – they have been more protective of their own success than forward with the help of promotion of another writer. Thank you, Charli for pushing yourself because in doing so you encourage the rest of us.
You painted a beautiful painting with words. Charli, I agree with C. Jai Ferry … you are an amazing writer, a literary artist. “You are (so much more than) enough.”
Two great essays here, Charli, and as others have said you can certainly write!
I think that anything we love, feel passionate about, we can also hate from time to time – it’s just part of the intensity of our relationship with that thing. I enjoy both the writing and the having written – but neither 100% of the time – but I can’t understand those writers who say they genuinely hate the writing. It makes me wonder why they do it.
I also think it’s wise to delay the “having written” as long as you can to make that work even better. But there comes a time when we all have to accept we’ve done as much as we can and let the readers judge.
I was interested and a little perturbed by the way you seem to construe containment as a negative, rather in the way I use constraint. In psychoanalytic terms a container is that very safe space that you’re talking about, like the skin around our bodies or the glass that holds the water (as well as more obviously the therapy boundaries that enable the scary stuff to be processed).
Excited about the next steps for the ranch – although not sure I fully understand them – you are definitely following your dreams and inspiring others to join you. Long may it continue!
Great great great, Charli! One for each of the three essays (including the 99 words). I don’t know what I could possibly add to what others have said. You write. Beautifully. Clearly. With insight and wisdom. You are a writer.
I love writing. I love thinking and planning and choosing. I love rereading and rewriting and changing this bit, and leaving that bit unfinished. I write more in my head than ever makes it to paper. I love that creativity.
I had it (not writing – it) when I set myself a schedule that life’s other choices make it difficult for me to meet. I hate it when the ideas back away and go into hiding. Sometimes I can tease them out with a promise or two, but often they just turn their backs and ignore me. Joy is in capturing an idea and making it dance with life on the page. A love-hate relationship for sure. But the hate is only for what isn’t, not for what is.
I wish you success with all your plans for the Carrot Ranch. You work so hard for us. I am proud to be part of the journey. I must admit, though, that the gravel rash I experience being pulled along the ground behind you gets a little raw at times. Giddy-up!