“Write smart now, Greg,” Rick said. “You’re getting hand-written rejection slips because your stuff stands out. Knuckle down. Bring it up to the next level.”
While it was pleasant to hear such encouragement from a published writer, my heart sunk. While Rick’s words rang true, and I knew intelligence and effort were required, I despaired at what it would take to follow his advice. The next day at my desk I reached down for that something extra and found….nothing. I packed away my manuscripts and turned my attention to earning a living.
For a number of years since then I’ve made forays into writing. I’ve done some good work, yet I did so without the corresponding thrill I’d felt previously. I felt split somehow, that all of the relative ease of creativity had been replaced by hard work that I lacked the heart for. On top of working a job and meeting my financial responsibilities I felt old and weak against the demands of the page, the drive of a narrative.
I do not mean to dramatize my situation, or to elicit sympathy. What remains with me is the desire to write. It is bedrock I return to again and again; it is a way for me to be present. It is something I can’t not do.
As I return to Rick’s words, I get hints of meanings I didn’t at first discern. Perhaps writing smart is taking care of the story AND my self. It is about being present on the page AND in my life. It is about traveling with awareness from doing the dishes to writing dialog. And that kind of awareness in the midst of the activities of my life—be it writing or employment—IS knuckling down.