Since I just wrote a post about the importance of a writer getting out and seeing and experiencing life, I figured I had better balance it out with the imperative of a writer returning to the desk, planting butt in chair, and actually writing. After a point has been reached experience is redundant if it does not get converted into prose.
That’s one thing I didn’t grasp during my first forays out onto the road. I carried notebooks with me but seldom used them. What I should have done is use them every day. I should have written down my impressions and observations and I would have had a gold mine to draw from. As it is, when I finally opened those notebooks and read the few entries I had composed I was astonished. When I had written the material I had thought I was just scribbling; but I had been doing it in exotic places such as a hillside in Katmandu Valley, a beach in Goa, and at the edge of the West overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Cape Mendocino. I had not only written down what I saw, but also my dreams and ambitions and frustrations and references to literature that occurred to me and so on. It was powerful stuff, stuff that no one else could have written: mine, uniquely mine.
And this is the point: if I had not sat down and written it, it would never have existed.
Later, much later, I found out that this theory translated well into fiction too. I have a well of experience and emotion from which I can draw, and when I write a story it all comes out in some form or another. But I have to sit my ass down and do it.
On the road, once I caught the value of taking the time to compose I did it at any chance I had. I bought larger notebooks and filled one after the other. Those notebooks are lost, but they served their purpose: they got that fountain flowing.
For me it has always been harder to sit down and do the writing than gather material. At first, my problem was that I felt I had nothing worth saying. It was the dilemma of the shy inhibited loner not having the guts to speak up to a group. Then, when I found my voice and had no problem expressing it, I was often too busy surviving to write it down. Then, a lot of things happened and I stopped completely for a time. And now, with a wife and five sons and a six-day-a-week fulltime job, I have no doubt about my calling or the need to get the work done but very little time in which to do it.
Sometimes I long for the freedom of those days when I had all the time I needed but didn’t use it wisely. I don’t long for the days themselves or the experiences to repeat themselves – there is a time for everything, as Ecclesiastes tells us and the Byrds remind us – but just for the time in which to do what needs to be done.
So whatever ambition you pursue, whether it is writing or some other endeavor, use your time wisely. You’ll be glad you did.