Raymond Carver said:
“Writing’s not terrible, it’s wonderful. I keep my own hours, do what I please. When I want to travel, I can. I’m doing what I most wanted to do all my life. I’m not into the agonies of creation. “
So why is it that so many writers show up at our writer’s groups with pained expressions when they talk about the craft Carver anointed as wonderful, liberating and life fulfilling?
Did they miss something?
Carver makes writing sound like a dream come true but for the majority of new writers the dream is often a nightmare and it looks like this:
“I keep rewriting and rewriting.”
“I don’t know where to start”.
“I never seem to finish anything.”
Then there is the agony masked by logistics:
“I can only write a paragraph a day because I work.”
“I have no place to write.”
“My family doesn’t understand that I want to write.”,
“I have an old computer” and the list goes on.
Raymond Carver’s casual dismissal of suffering for the sake of creation hides a life filled with obstacles that one would argue caused more than mild upsets along the writer’s path to success.
Carver’s life as a writer started out as a teenage father submitting stories for cash to help ally financial difficulties. In his own words from a Paris Review interview (1983):
“Nobody ever asked me to be a writer. But it was tough to stay alive and pay bills and put food on the table and at the same time to think of myself as a writer and to learn to write.”
Carver turned to drinking full time, abused his wife, cheated on her and finally got sober, and remarried less than two months before his death from cancer at fifty years old.
Doesn’t sound agony free to me.
The point is Raymond Carver saw writing as wonderful. He saw it as liberating and life fulfilling. Take this as a lesson in focus. Facing obstacles in a matter of fact way leaves writing a path all it’s own.
Whatever task it takes to bring your words to the page do it. Whatever excuses stop you from writing, discard them.
If people tell you that you can’t write, ignore them.
At the end of Raymond Carver’s short story Cathedral a blind man asks the narrator to close his eyes and draw a cathedral.
In the end all creation comes from the same place; the idea waiting to be born, to see the light. How difficult it is to bring that idea into the world is up to you. Avoid the agony or embrace it, either way it’s up to you, the writer to find the wonder.
It’s worth it. Writing is worth it.
QUESTION: Is there agony in your creative process?