Taking Our Own Hands
Who do you write for?

Being normal is over-rated

P.G. Wodehouse's Desk by John Fisher

From Writing Still: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro (which I highly recommend):

Daphne du Maurier's Desk by John Fisher"I need to live by certain rules in order to protect my writing life. When I was starting out, I didn't understand this. A friend would call and ask me to lunch or, worse, breakfast, and I'd jump at the chance to get  away from my desk for a couple of hours and join the world of real people eating real meals. I convinced  myself that I had enough disciplin to go out for a bit and then return to my desk, perhaps even invigorated and refreshed...and then, an hour or two later, I'd discover that my work day was over....

"Our work requires us to adhere to certain rules -- not because we're rigid or self-absorbed as frustrated friends or family might secretly think -- but because it's the only way we can do it. If we are deep inside a story, we're in another world -- the world we've created -- which, for the time being, is where we need to live if we are to make it real to ourselves and, ultimately, to others.

"I used to be angry with myself for my inability to live a normal life with normal rhythms and also be a writer. But I've come to believe that normal is over-rated -- for artists, for everyone. When I was writing Devotion, all but the most essential tasks fell away. My hair got too long; I skipped my annual mammogram; the dogs' nails went unclipped; the windows didn't get cleaned; I lost touch with friends. But I took care of my family, and my book got written. That was all I could manage....

"Be a good steward to your gift. This is the first sentence on a list I keep tacked to the bulletin board in my Beatrix Potter's Desk by John Fisherstudy, an impeccable set of instructions left by the poet Jane Kenyon.

* Protect your time.
* Feed your inner life.
* Avoid too much noise.
* Read good books, have good sentences
   in your ears.

* Be by yourself as often as you can.
* Walk.
* Take the phone off the hook.
* Work regular hours.

"...Culivate solitude in your writing space, your car, at the kitchen table when the house is empty. Get your blood moving, get your feet on the earth. Your mind is not floating in space but connected to a body. Kenyon wrote this before the lure of the Internet became like crack cocaine for most writers so I would add, 'Disable the Internet.' Find a rhythm. This is wisdom from a poet who died too young. I never knew her but she has helped me as much as anyone I have ever known."

(For another writer's list of personal instructions, see Henry Miller's in this previous post.)

Arthur Ransome's Desk by John Fisher

From Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (also highly recommended):

"I had lines inside me, a string of guiding lights. I had language. Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines. What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination. I had been damaged, and a very important part of me had been destroyed -- that was my reality, the facts of my life. But on the other side of the facts was who I could be, how I could feel. And as long as I had words for that, images for that, stories for that, then I wasn't lost."

Jean Cocteau's Desk by John Fisher

The art above is by the English painter John Fisher, from his wonderful series on writers' rooms.

"Freud once suggested that a house, when summoned in a dream, represents the soul of a dreamer," says Fisher. "This is certainly true of writers, who make a profession of dreaming, and whose houses often reflect their spirit long after they have departed the premises. I’ve always been fascinated by houses where writers have lived and worked, and have made far-flung pilgrimages to many of these sites of significant dreaming. One longs to sit in these houses, to wander their dark corridors and look out of their windows, to observe their peculiar angle of vision on the outside world."