Claiming a Charter for Tartitude

Yesterday was a hard day for me as a writer.  Do you ever have one of those days?  You know the ones, where if Writing the Lame Sentence were an Olympic event, you’d win so decisively that they’d leave you entirely alone on the winner’s podium?  And afterwards the offers of endorsement would pour in, from the George W. Bush School and Sarah Palin Foundation, no less?

Well thanks to some writerly friends of mine, I’m happy to say that my episode didn’t last long.  But it made me recall something I wrote last fall, in the Voice I class run by the fabulous Barbara Samuel O’Neal.  It was a pledge of sorts, designed to ease our collective sense of vulnerability, and when I dug it out yesterday, it still speaks to me of the  fearlessness I yearn for when I finally sit down to the blank page.

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I, _________________, hereby agree to undertake Barbara Samuel’s on-line Voice I class from ________ to ________.  I do so in an effort to gain a greater understanding of what I have to contribute to the world, specifically in the craft of writing. 

I understand this will be a difficult quest.  Along the way I will be confronted with any number of personal demons:  family ghosts I thought long-returned to the spirit world; Strunk and White, who howl their dismay at my butchery of the English language. (Is “butchery” a real word?  See how insidious the monster can be?).  I will encounter my old Aunt Agnes, who told me I’d “never amount to anything anyway, so stop puttin’ on airs, gal”, and the English teacher who said I was her first student to change the word “write” into a profanity.  All these, and more, I will endure with only a fragment of an iota of a spark of hope to sustain me along the way.
But if I persist, if will I strip off my armor and link arms with my fellow lady-knights and dance naked under the moon, I will find my way through.  I’ll grow giddy on words once again.  I will write foolish contracts for award-winning writers–whose work I didn’t dare read before this workshop because I’d be too intimidated–with no appreciable purpose other than to make her laugh.  I’ll do it just…because.   (Okay, fine.  There may be some element of avoiding housework in here as well, but I choose to see this as a call to honor my muse.)  I will laugh in the face of mine enemies. 
And what of those demons anyway?  No, they will not vanish.  They will stand mute with envy and watch me as I glide.  And someday, if I am very, very brave, and very, very wise, I might even invite them into our circle.  Imagine:  Aunt Agnes, arm-in-arm with Strunk, lecturing him on his pomposity with her breathless, gravelly voice.  Now that alone would make it all worthwhile.  
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Now I’ve decided I’d like to live up to this vision; claim it for a Magna Carta of sorts.  Goodness knows I’ll need one for the oily waters that lie ahead. 
But how about you?  Do you have a mission statement, or inspiring quotations that serve to pull you through the hard times?

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17 thoughts on “Claiming a Charter for Tartitude

  1. Hahahahaha! I have those days too. Luckily, today isn’t one of them….yet.

    My saying is very short and sweet. I like watching TMZ (my one foray into trainwreck television) and, at the very end, Harvey Levin’s little ‘Produced by’ thing has him saying “I’m a Lawyer’

    I sit down at my lap top and say “I’m a writer”.

  2. I’ve had a few weeks like that. My word count is so sad it makes me cringe.

    …Which is probably how my most recent saying, “Write, bitch!” came about. 🙂

  3. Sue, it’s only 3:30. You have *hours* for the insecurity to kick in.

    Amy, I will join you in the sucky word count finals. I am hereby somewhat, semi-committing to have a Teaser for next Tuesday, just to give me an external goal. Oh no! Wait, I just remembered: we’re going to be out of town then. My, how inconvenient. 😉

  4. Hahaha! You’re hilarious. As if you could fit on my podium. Yes, I called it mine, because you’ll notice I’m on it so often there’s a plaque with my name on it. 😉

    I love the follow-up pledge. 🙂

    I do trawl the internet to pick up pick-me-up quotes. There’s one I love… Let me see if I can’t find the one I’m thinking of to post here. 🙂

    1. Plaque! How did you manage that? Even after the third consecutive day of suckiness, I didn’t get the permanent hardware. 🙁

      Seriously, would love the quote.

  5. I FOUND IT! I’m not sure you’ll love it the way I do, but… For me it helps me find that place of calm acceptance that I must just work, work, work, and soon, eventually, I’ll have my completed piece.

    “I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.” ~ Brenda Ueland

    Other quotes I dug up in my files which have to do with rewriting and which I’m sharing so we can remember that we share the Most Lame Sentence podium with others:

    Good writing is essentially rewriting.
    — Roald Dahl

    I don’t write easily or rapidly. My first draft usually has only a few elements worth keeping.
    — Susan Sontag

    Blot out, correct, insert, refine
    Enlarge, diminish, interline;
    Be mindful, when invention fails,
    To scratch your head, and bite your nails.
    — Jonathan Swift

    I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit.
    — P. G. Wodehouse

    There is no great writing, only great rewriting.
    –Justice Brandeis

    Writing only leads to more writing.
    –Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

    There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily.
    — Anthony Trollope

    Every writer I know has trouble writing.
    — Joseph Heller

    A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
    — Thomas Mann

    Writing a novel is like making love, but it’s also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it’s like making love while having a tooth pulled.
    — Dean Koontz

    The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.
    — William Faulkner

    I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.
    — Gustave Flaubert

    Writing is so difficult that I feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.
    –Jessamyn West

    Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.
    –Stephen King

    🙂 And one more, just for fun.

    When writing a novel that’s pretty much entirely what life turns into: ‘House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.’
    — Neil Gaiman

  6. These are fabulous, Ruth! Thanks for digging them up. I’m particularly fond of the Flaubert and Gaiman ones.

    I just remembered another one of my favorites:

    “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” – Voltaire

    1. OH. THAT is brilliant. I’m cribbing it for my list of quotes. Or my lists, I should own. Wow. That’s TOTALLY my enemy. Brilliant one! 🙂 Thanks for sharing 🙂

      1. You’re most welcome to it, Ruth. If you find any great ones, please feel free to add them here too! As I said to you elsewhere, I think I’m going to make a widget of my personal post favorites, and this one will have to be in there.

        1. And more good ones from Ruth:

          “Hard writing makes easy reading.” ~ Wallace Stegner
          “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
          “Hard writing makes easy reading. Easy writing makes hard reading.” ~ William Zinsser

    1. Aw, Hilary, what would I do without you to give my ego a daily shot in the arm, huh? Particularly since this comment comes from a recently AGENTED AND SOLD WRITER.

      Hey, I have an idea: maybe you could be my first author interview. 🙂 It could give you some rat-astic skilz and exposure to, oh, maybe another three people. (That wasn’t a put down. I love you my three people!)

  7. Great post! One of these days, I hope to take a Barbara Samuels workshop. I am taking a Donald Maass (one s or two?) workshop in October — can hardly wait!

    I also love the quotes — thank you!

    I haven’t read a lot of your work, Jan, but what I’ve read was REALLY good. I don’t think you have anything to worry about!

    1. Oh, Becke, I am so jealous. Are you doing the full week one? I have both his books and they’ve taught me a lot.

      I can’t take credit for the quotes – those are mostly Ruth’s doing. However, I’m thinking of making this a sticky post, so please feel free to add.

      And thank you so much for the compliments. I’m blushing. How goes your work at present?

  8. Here’s a few more from my local RWA chapter:

    “Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from poor judgement.”
    –source unknown

    “You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done.”
    — Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager.

    “Do just once what others say you can’t and you will never pay attention to their limitations again.”
    –Arthur C. Clarke

    “What you want to do and what you can do is limited only by what you can dream.”
    –Mike Melville

    “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”
    –Wayne Gretzky.

    “You’ve got to be in it to win it.”
    –from Donna Alwaard, source unknown

    1. Here’s another two from my RWA loop:

      “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” ~~ Octavia Butler

      “I only write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired by 9 each morning.” ~~Stephen Fry

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