The Practice of Writing

It’s the same with writing, which is a practice like any other. If I waited to be in the mood to write, I’d barely have a chapbook of material to my name. Who would ever be in the mood to write? Do marathon runners get in the mood to run? Do teachers wake up with the urge to lecture? I don’t know, but I doubt it. My guess is that it’s the very act that is generative. The doing of the thing that makes possible the desire for it. A runner suits up, stretches, begins to run. An inventor trudges down to his workroom, closing the door behind him. A writer sits in her writing space, setting aside the time to be alone with her work. Is she inspired doing it? Very possibly not. Is she distracted, bored, lonely, in need of stimulation? Oh, absolutely, without a doubt it’s hard to sit there. Who wants to sit there? Something nags at the edges of her mind. Should she make soup for dinner tonight? She’s on the verge of jumping up from her chair — in which case all will be lost — but wait. Suddenly she remembers: this is her hour (or two, or three). This is her habit, her job, her discipline. Think of a ballet dancer at the barre. Plié, elevé, battement tendu. She is practicing, because she knows there is no difference between practice and art. The practice is the art.

— Dani Shapiro, Still Writing, p. 50-51

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