“For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that’s beyond attainment. He should always try for something that he’s never done, or that others have tried and failed then sometimes, with great good luck, he will succeed.”
Ernest Hemingway said this in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1954.
He was right then, he’s still right
Apart from the need to edit “he” into “they” to cover all genders, this is as true now as it was when Hemingway wrote the speech.
The joy of writing is in the challenge of finding out whether you can turn the bright, shiny vision in your head into something of beauty on the page or screen.
Will you succeed? Of course not. Writing is hard work. No matter how well published you are, no matter what prizes you win or how many millions of books you sell, you will never know everything about the craft. That’s what keeps it interesting.
Imagine going fishing and being sure that you would catch dinner every time you threw in a line. Where would be the challenge? Half the pleasure of fishing isn’t catching anything – it’s the joy of sitting by a riverbank, contemplating nature and your thoughts, and not really caring whether you catch something or not. I can’t tell you how often I’ve done that, knowing there was no bait left on my hook, but thinking I had the best excuse in the world to simply be.
These days I don’t fish. After volunteering in a zoo for eleven years, I came to know the fish and couldn’t put them through that. But the comparison holds true. If you bowl, would strikes be as much fun if you could score one every single time? What about cooking? Don’t the occasional failures make your successes all the sweeter?
Try something new
Writing should be an adventure. If you’re not stretching yourself by trying something new with each project, you’re missing one of the joys of the craft. In my book, The Art of Romance Writing, I say we write not because we know we can do it, but to find out IF we can do it. I’m sure that was part of the reason why J K Rowling wrote The Casual Vacancy. It certainly wasn’t for the money, with Harry Potter taking care of that side. So that leaves the challenge, and she admitted as much in an interview on ABC TV with Jennifer Byrne, that writing is something she (JK Rowling) needs to do. As I’ve said here before, writers write.
Experiment. Try a new genre. Write a short story if you usually write books. A book if you usually write short.
Play with the words. They’re not carved in stone. They can be changed. And you know what? If you get a thrill out of crafting your words, there’s a good chance your readers will too.
Friend of the National Year of Reading #NYR2012
on Twitter @valerieparv