I have a number of friends and acquaintances who won't or can't drink cheap coffee. Their coffee has to come from Starbucks or a high quality Espresso stand or else they can't or won't have coffee.
I like good coffee. But I make it a point to drink coffee wherever I can find it. I drink Wal-Mart coffee, Western Family coffee, Kirkland, gas station mini-mart coffee, anything and everything. That way, if I'm in a situation where premium coffee is unavailable, I'm not up a creek without a paddle and I don't suffer.
Not so long ago, when I drank quite a bit of beer, it was the same story. Yes, I enjoyed locally brewed ales. I drank a lot of Hammerhead and Terminator Stout and loved having a Fat Tire Belgian or two or three or four.
But, I never quit drinking cheap lagers. In fact, often a Budweiser or an Oly or, if I could find it, a Lucky Lager were more enjoyable because I had a history with the taste and effect of those beers. I would be drinking old drinking stories as much as drinking beer.
What does this have to do with writing?
Well, for years, my writing was hampered by my efforts to make it premium. If I wasn't writing premium prose or if I felt like I couldn't write premium prose, I didn't write. Consequently, I didn't write much at all.
In addition, I bought into the idea that writing was precious, special, a human act akin to Jesus turning water into wine. I bought into the idea of writing coming from a special part of the human psyche and that not everyone had access to that place, just like we don't always have access to premium coffees or beers. (Or, for that matter, premium food. I enjoy great food, but I also stay acquainted with Taco Bell and Zip's. I can't let myself be unable to eat anything!)
In other words, I had mystified writing. I'd deified it. Not my writing, but writing as a thing to do.
Slowly, but surely, about seven years ago, this deified idea of the magic of writing began to lose its grip.
It happened in a Yahoo chat room called "Professors Chat". I went in there and found people who wanted to talk about Shakespeare and culture and other things. In an online chat room, writing is performed spontaneously, quickly, and what one writes soon disappears.
I got into some good discussions there, and found that I wrote some pretty insightful and forceful stuff off the cuff. I was writing in a conversational way. It was ordinary. But, my writing was working and I began to carry that same principle of ordinariness over into my writing away from the chat room.
I decided that I would start regarding writing as ordinary, common, a thing to do as regularly and as unassumingly as putting on clean socks.
I took the pressure off. I started to regard writing as being like inferior coffee. My writing didn't have to be premium. It was just writing. I wasn't striking a rod against a rock and having water come out. I was just writing.
Another way of putting this is when it comes to food and coffee, and when it came to beer, I let it rip. I eat whatever food is served me, with a few exceptions, and drink whatever coffee I can find.
Letting it rip when writing is to put aside the pressure to be great. Just let it rip. Just write. If the writing moves another person, that's gravy. I can't write trying to make that happen.
Whereas I read others who have a premium writing style with flair and gifts for turning phrases and making quirky, illuminating connections, I can't worry if I'm doing that or not.
All I can do is be honest, put self-consciousness and deliberateness aside, and let it rip. If I'm awake to the world and my responses to the world, the writing will take care of itself.
It's a relief to me not to be constrained by having to have a certain kind of coffee or only a certain quality of food. It's liberating for me.
Likewise, it's been liberating to treat writing like breathing or walking. I think of it as something I do as naturally and unconsciously as seeing when my eyes are open. I don't set aside time for it. I don't need a special room. I don't create a writing environment for myself.
I just write.
The best thing that ever happened to my writing was I quit trying so hard to be good.
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