Writing like a genius is no walk in the park. It requires artistic ruthlessness. It requires creative courage. It requires nerves of imaginative steel. It requires the flexibility to innovatively adapt and overcome.
It requires you to get up from your Couch of Procrastination and turn your inner-muse into a passionate daemonic genius going mach-three with its hair on fire through the fog and dust of “what being creative is supposed to mean.” It requires facing squarely the fact that you will never get the poem/novel/article exactly the way you want it, while refusing to talk yourself out of writing it. To be a genius writer is to fall in love with fallibility and then create art (perhaps even beautiful art) out of it.
The first rule of Write Club is, there is no such thing as writer’s block
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” ~Mark Twain
If you focus too much on writing that one perfect poem, article, or essay, your creativity will be stifled by thoughts of perfection. By focusing, instead, on writing all the time; by grinding through the gears of your inner-muse’s capacity toward creativity, you will learn and grow from your mistakes. You will learn new ways of writing things. You will learn less about perfection and more about craft. In short, you will slowly, systematically, fluidly, and courageously become a genius of your own.
Speaking of courage, when you sit down to write are you trying to be perfect? Are you so afraid of putting pen to paper, finger to key, that your inner-muse shrivels up and dies inside of you like a worthless organ? If so, it is time to stop trying to be perfect.
It is time to stop being afraid. It is time to write. Write badly if need be. Writing badly is the foundation for writing exceptionally. Bad writing is the compost, i.e. shit, for the garden of good writing. So let the shit flow. Just make sure you plant seeds along the way.
Writer’s block, insofar that it does exist, is nothing more than the fear of being imperfect. Get over it. You are not perfect and you never will be. You will always be fallible. You will always be prone to make mistakes. You are only human, after all. And that’s okay. You might as well have fun with the absurdity of it all. As the composer Shostakovich said to a student who complained that he couldn’t find a theme for his second movement, “Never mind the theme! Just write the movement!”
There will be enough time to devote to correcting mistakes later. In the meantime it is your duty, it is your absolute responsibility as a genius, to write and write and write. Write until there is nothing left to write, and then write some more. If you stop to correct yourself, to “notice” the imperfectness of your art, to cringe at the incorrectness of your grammar, you will kill your flow.
Flow is a Genius’s lifeblood. You might as well just stab your inner-genius in the heart than to stop and slobber over your mistakes. Don’t do it. Write! That’s it. That’s all. Just remember Mark Twain’s wisdom: “I pity the writer who writes more than he reads.” So yeah, write a lot, after having read a lot more.
The second rule of Write Club is, there is no such thing as writer’s block!
“I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver
The third rule of Write Club is, writing is about quantity not quality
“Surrender to a logic more powerful than reason.” ~ J.G. Ballard
Writing isn’t about quality, it’s about quantity. Really, this is what all art is about; from writing to painting to photography to music. If you write a thousand poems you are more likely to write a stellar piece than if you had only written ten, and definitely if you had only written one. Trial and error is key.
As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” That’s it. If you are persistent enough, and willing to improve your craft as you go along, then finding those 10,000 ways that didn’t work is more likely to lead you to the discovery of the one genius way in which it will work.
In writing, as in all art, comfort is to predictability as perfection is to paralysis. Just as practice begets precision, quantity begets quality. Art is less about what you have not done and more about what you have done. So get out there and do it. No fear!
Have you ever heard the phrase practice makes perfect? Well, forget it. It isn’t true. Practice will never make you perfect. But, it will help you realize that your full potential lies in the realm of being absolutely imperfect. It will break down comfort zones and crack mental paradigms that have you stuck in a rut. It will fine-tune you into the best possible version of yourself.
You see, it isn’t so much about talent as it is about perseverance. It isn’t so much about ability as it is about being steadfast and devoted to your art. Talent will come. Ability will manifest itself. Just focus on the art. Focus on producing the best art you can. The quality will come from the quantity. As Natalie Goldberg said, “After you have finished a piece of work, the work is then none of your business. Go on and do something else.”
Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, quotes neurologist Daniel Levitin as follows:
“In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.”
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get those ten thousand hours under your belt. No fear. No excuses. Your inner genius is waiting for you to show up, again and again, so that it can finally reveal itself as you.
The fourth rule of Write Club is, you write therefore you exist
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality doesn’t destroy you.” ~ Ray Bradbury
Everyone says they want to be the best writer they can be, right up until they realize that being the best writer they can be will rob them of their deepest held beliefs, hopes, and dreams.
It is precisely our ego’s attachment to those beliefs, hopes, and dreams that we need to let go of. That is to say, in order to even attempt to achieve those beliefs, hopes, and dreams, we must first get out of our own way. It is only when we’re out of our own way that our art can flow through us without toxic, egoic obstruction.
This requires a kind of self-resolve that is equal-parts “I don’t give a damn what people think about my writing!” and “Let’s write as clearly, concisely, and passionately as possible.” This is art done for art’s sake, a sacred devotion to creativity that nothing can stop: neither devil’s advocates, editors, nor critics –not even inner-editors or inner-critics.
You write therefore you exist is a declaration of creative independence despite a world otherwise devoid of your particular flavor of art. It’s the determination to, as Robert Bresson articulated, “make visible what, without you might perhaps never have been seen.” And then making certain that your soul-signature is there, trailblazing its way through the meaning of creativity itself.
The fifth rule of Write Club is, you write because this is what is between you and death
“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” ~ Natalie Goldberg
If the writer has gone through the motions of being Writing, having forsaken ego-attachment to a particular result, while drifting through the trial-and-error of producing quantities of art despite the sought-after holy grail of quality, then that is all well and good. Now let us set our soul’s teeth resolutely. Let us open our hearts and keep our eyes fast to the horizon.
We fly straight over our own mortality. We creatively smear out the fixed state of black & white thinking into the freed state of an imaginative middle gray. We destroy perhaps what remains of our own mortality by daring to make our own art a prism that diffracts the outdated idea of what art “should be.”
We existentially transcend our own mortality through the potential immortality of our own art. We write because it is the only thing between us and death. As John Baldassari said, “Art is about bloodymindedness.” It’s the soul’s rebellion against the mortal coil. It’s the heart’s insurgent battering against the imperfect body that houses it. It’s the mind’s revolt against being “only me” in an otherwise interdependent and infinite cosmos. As Diane Di Prima said, “The only war that matters is the war against imagination. All other wars are subsumed by it.”
So write fiercely. Write love-notes to your suffering. Write death-notes to your health. Write as if your words will only be read posthumously, if need be. For example, my articles are written as death warrants to myself in the hope that others –more courageous, intelligent, and compassionate than I am– will take over and do it better. Breathe through your writing. Cry out in your writing. Sing in your writing. Die a glorious death in your writing. And your genius will not be denied. As poet William Logan quipped, “Don’t think you’re the only bastard who ever suffered –just write as if you were.”
“”Look up here,” David Bowie sings, “I’m in heaven.” Can you imagine, to be making art like this (fearless art that both comforts and challenges) right up to the moment of your death? How do you do that? How do you BE that? To work with your death so imaginatively, in order to perfectly time out the last beats of your life? What a magnificent creature of creation, right to the end. From the beginning, this was a man who showed us how to do life differently than anyone had ever done it before, and now look how he has done death. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert