An Early Thursday Morning Writing Credo
Write what you don’t know about what you do know, James Galvin says. Write your affections, afflictions, and addictions. Write what always eludes you in what you love. Write the Beloved in the world, in yourself, in your enemy, in the dew, your grief, the dry creek bed. Write to return to the world the gift it gave you when you were born: the gift of a life in this place, a chance to love and witness and do some good. Write as an act of love. Love as well as you can, and write as well as you love. Write as if your writing were the trace you’ll leave, the only thanks you’ll get to give. Write as if you knew you’d die in the night.
Write, then, the way you would be loved; write the way you would be governed; write the way you’d want justice done—to yourself, but also to your lover and your children, and to the poor and disenfranchised and also to the corrupt. Write tenderly, astutely, wisely; write clear and lean and tough. Write the way you’d want to be remembered. Write, as Faulkner says, to please yourself; but make yourself very hard to please. Learn the rules before you presume to break them. Write to refute cliche and defy mediocrity. Write to resist. Write, if you can, to improve the stock of wisdom in the world; write to help.
Write to change yourself to change the way things are; write to find yourself and to find the world and the words the world needs said in your voice about now.
The struggle to improve our sentences is the struggle to improve ourselves; and, improving ourselves, we make ourselves more useful to those we love and those we should love better, and not only the humans, not merely our tribe.
Write to give form (and second, near-eternal life) to what is almost unsayable in any human heart (Henry James); in the divine comedy of being for a time alive on earth. And write what is mysterious about every little thing, and which escapes us nearly every time. Hold everything dear (John Berger), and write it down. Write as truthfully and as memorably as you can because—as Gabriel Garcia Marquez put it once—that is a writer’s duty, a writer’s “revolutionary duty”. To make sentences at least as good and clear and shapely as the story or the place, the moment or the woman or the child, the leaf, those sentences tell, and to leave the language a little better, if possible, for your having used it, than it was when you first picked it up.