The Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards ceremony was held a few days ago in Duluth. I attended in because my novel, Plover Landing, was nominated in the fiction category, and because it’s fun to hob nob with other writers. Although any hope of an award was futile (sniff, small sob), the event always has inspiring speakers (see last year’s blog story), and poet Barton Sutter provides entertaining emceeing.
This year’s speaker was Duluth Poet Laureate Jim Johnson, who offered a tongue-in-cheek look at the writing process. Regarding the importance of writing rituals: “The muse can only find you at the same place and same time every day. The first step in writing is to be there . . . . While you are waiting for the muse to appear, you might as well write.”
Is the writing process about hard work or inspiration? “Yes,” is Johnson’s answer. “You can’t write if your ritual doesn’t work right. Don’t skip over the details!” Then he went into a long explanation of the importance of exact paper and pen placement on the desk, having all your pencils sharpened, your computer programs updated, etc.
Is all this preparation and procrastination worth it? “Trust me,” Johnson said. “Something will happen. When it does, it’s magical. The words will come out at dream speed . . . . This is its own reward. Writing isn’t about money, awards, or publication. Sometimes we’re rewarded, sometimes not. The odds are not good.”
Basically, he was saying that writers need to trust in whatever process they’ve developed, and that the key is to persevere despite rejections from publishers or awards judges. There’s nothing better than when the words seem to come of their own accord and you get into that “flow.”
Keep flowing, my friends. Keep writing at dream speed.