I spent most of my weekend immersed in family tradition (namely, baking Christmas Stollen for my Dad), and in between shuttling cookie sheets of loaves in and out of the oven, I was thinking about tradition.
We all know about writing traditions. There are entire mythologies surrounding them. The hard-bitten news reporter with the jaunty cap and the nicotine stains on his fingers, rattling away at his trusty, manual typewriter. The solitary poet lounging at an elegant desk, sunlight streaming across the page as the pen nib flits its way from word to word as a cat purrs nearby. The starving writer in an attic garret, huddled against the cold, scratching feverishly to keep up with the inspiration welling up from his frozen toes. The best-selling author excuding charm and wit while she chats with Oprah and boosts her sales by about a million percent just by being on the show.
And then there’s you and I. Sitting in (presumably) heated or air-conditioned houses, tapping away at a keyboard in front of a glowing computer screen. There might be a cup of coffee or tea nearby. A printer to spit out drafts as needed. A pile of books or magazines for reference or inspiration. A calm, loving dog or cat curled near our toes to keep us company …
… But, also, not too far away, there are kids squabbling over the television channel. A spouse who can’t find something or needs something or broke something. A phone that keeps ringing, and an e-mail inbox that keeps chanting, “You’ve got mail.” And, oops, there go the dog and cat, madly chasing each other through the house, while dinner starts to burn on the stove. The squabble has escalated into a full-blown fight, just as your computer crashes and loses your latest draft, and the printer jams, and suddenly that freezing garret sounds appealing just because it was quiet.
Yep, there’s definitely something to be said for traditions. All of these images, though–the wispy ones based in tradition as well as the nitty-gritty real-world ones–are all about a writer writing. No matter what image pops into your head when you think “Writer,” there is ultimately one and only one thing that matters. They sat down and put words on a page.
At some point, every writer has managed to block out all the day-to-day distractions long enough to focus on a story or a lesson or a perfectly-balanced phrase that they deemed worthy to share with the world. It doesn’t matter if that was done via a published book, a magazine article, an essay in the NY Times, or a blog-entry . . . all that a writer needs to do is focus on the task at hand and write.
So, what are you sitting there, reading my blog for? Not that I don’t appreciate the attention, and you’re welcome at any time, but if you want to be a writer . . . stop wasting your time on the internet and go write!