If You Give a Writer a Word

I can’t say I’m a huge William Faulkner fan. Not being of his era or his environment, I shy away from the heavily masculine writing style of him and Hemingway, preferring the books that were never on the required reading list but have undoubtedly taught me so much more about the world around me and the people in it.

That being said, I have a Faulkner quote hanging in the top right corner of my vision as I sit at my desk, and it’s come to be something I live my life by.

Don’t be a writer, be writing. 

It’s simple. Clean lines and straightforward meaning. If you’re talking about it, if you’re running your mouth at parties or online, where it’s cool and fun and hip to talk about being an author, but not putting in the hours in your lonely bedroom/office where there’s no one around and you actually have to shut up and do the work, well, you don’t get to call yourself a writer. I give the man credit for his simplicity.

Because it’s really easy to rest on your laurels in this industry. Writing is hard and complicated and the challenges change with every passing day and sometimes it gets overwhelming and exhausting to keep holding it all together, to keep coming up with brand new stories, original and unique, with nothing but your own company to inspire you. I get it. I’ve been there.

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But half the battle is showing up and staying there, and that little quote says it all to me. Don’t pontificate, don’t pretend, don’t just fantasize, do and then you’ll be.

Part of the reason I find so much value in those few simple words is that they’re applicable outside of the writing world. Don’t talk about what you’re doing or think about what you’re doing it, be it in business, art, family or passionate, actually do it. And while I recognize that there is a measure of privilege to be found in that statement, after all, sometimes it’s not that easy to just sit down and do it for myriad reasons, returning to the idea of the active versus the passive has kept me on the right track many times.

No, Faulkner’s not my favorite. But the man was no hypocrite. He wrote and he told stories and he did what he set out to do. And on the days when it feels like the waters are getting a little rough and we all have to hold on extra tight to the reason we became writers, or whatevers, to begin with, those words are a steady, guide force. Drop the nonsense and the BS, get off your soap box, sit your butt in the chair and write. Some days, it really is that simple. ♦

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