What’s this? A blog post? Before noon on a Monday after vacation? With sentences? Paragraphs even?
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until
the faucet is turned on.”
But what if the water is rusty, very rusty? What if it reeks, filling the room with a pungent sulfuric miasma like the water in a cheap Florida mobile home? Is it really worth running the faucet for that?
I suppose to the man dying of thirst it wouldn’t matter a drop. But modern readers aren’t lacking in clean water or good literature. In fact, one might argue in the world of ebooks and self-publishing they are drowning in choices. So why bother writing something not worth reading? Why bother writing at all knowing that your work will likely sit on the bottom shelf like the store brand bottles in their cheap plastic, forever overshadowed by the big blue designer drinks at eye level? For this reason: even the most purified water, at some point in the water cycle, was probably pure piss. (Now there’s a pitch line for Poland Springs.)
Great writing is like that too. Some days you tap into crap. The words dribble from your pen painstakingly. You know they’ll need to be revised, refined, reworked. You may dump them down the drain altogether. But other days you hit the tap and what springs forth in a gush is pure liquid gold. You marvel at your own genius. You wonder if anyone before you has ever strung together words as wonderfully as you just did. (Clearly there was
something else in your water that morning, but it’s nice to enjoy a brief moment of grandiosity every now and then.)
And that’s why you need to come back to the faucet—daily, if possible. You need to get the water running. You need to let it flow to wash away doubt and insecurities and excuses. If you write enough, the rusty, smelly stuff that drips out every now and then won’t seem so toxic. It will be a few pages among many more which are readable, possibly even enjoyable, potentially even wonderful. And anyway, unlike with water, nobody ever died from writing (or reading) murky words.
For all the good it’s done me, that quote from Louis L’Amour has been on my writing wall for months, but it wasn’t until someone else (my mother, of course) commented on what a great quote it was that I realized it was time to act upon it. Whether it’s writing, running, or some other goal or dream, the best way to get to the end is to keep at it—one drop, one step, one word at a time. So this morning as I forced my bleary eyed-students to write—write badly, write well, just write—I forced myself to join them. Some of us produced swamp water, while others turned the tap on a Poland Spring of prose. In the long run, though, both are not only acceptable, but necessary.