Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cash Flow

If you can say that you're doing this--struggling to put words on paper day after day--for money, raise your hand.

By now--whether you've only started the process or have been writing for years--you must know that few writers can support themselves on cash flowing from their writing alone.

And if there's only a trickle of cash flow from writing stories, there's even less from blogging.

So, why do we persist?

The reason, I suspect, is that on some level we know writing isn't about cash flow.

It's about the flow of words... of finding our way into that flow... and letting the words carry us on a journey to some place we've never been before.

This flow of words is as essential as air and water to a writer's well-being. That's because the act of writing is what gives our lives meaning (whether or not we receive payment for our work). It's through our struggle with words that we discover meaning.

Listen to William Stafford, whose book, Writing the Australian Crawl, is filled with wisdom on the writing process. In one of his essays, "A Way of Writing," Stafford, a sensitive poet and writing teacher, suggests:
A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them. That is, he does not draw on a reservoir; instead, he engages in an activity that brings to him a whole succession of unforeseen stories...
Finding what we have to say, then, for Stafford and, I suspect, for most of us, comes about as a result of our receptivity to this process... of being willing to open ourselves up to what we don't yet know and cannot foresee ... until our pens begin moving across the page.

It's this notion of discovery that pulls me into the water every day, keeps me coming back to the page. And after more than a year of blogging on Wordswimmer, it's the same thing--the hope of learning something new--that draws me back to the computer each week to explore my feelings about writing and reading.

Unlike traditional journal writing, blogging offers the immediate satisfaction of sharing my weekly discoveries--if I discover anything--with other writers. And perhaps it's this ability to share and find immediate satisfaction in the act of sharing that attracts so many bloggers to this relatively new form of writing.

Blogging offers writers not only a chance to make "instant" connections, it also gives us the ability to form, if we so choose, an online community. Thanks to the internet, writers now can support each other daily (if not moment to moment), even though we may be invisible to each other, and even though we may work, for the most part, alone in our rooms.

This chance to share ideas openly--and freely--in support of one another is a valuable asset for a writer, even for someone like myself who values his privacy. By offering each other our insights into the writing process, we can help one another stay afloat when we step into the water to write each day.

Yes, we may work alone, but blogging reminds us that other swimmers can help us if we find ourselves floundering, just as we would offer help to another swimmer if he or she signaled for assistance.

Like most forms of writing, blogging doesn't require much cash flow to start or to continue, only desire, as well as a willingness to open one's heart each time we put words on the screen for others to read. Each post--this one included--feels like I'm sending a letter to friends (even if many of Wordswimmer's readers are people who I've never met).

Amazingly, each guest writer who has contributed to Wordswimmer over the past year has done so generously because, I suspect, each understands how a simple act of generosity can influence his or her own ability to write.

At its heart writing isn't about cash flow; it's about word flow. The more open-hearted and generous a writer is with his or her words, the more words will flow through him or her to others. That's the presumption here at Wordswimmer, anyway.

It seems counter-intuitive, I know. Most writers fear that examining the process too closely will deplete their well of words; their stories will run dry. But, no, it's just the opposite.

Generosity--and gratitude--are keys to writing. The simple act of sharing insights into our process helps each of us gain a better understanding of the craft. By helping other writers, we end up helping ourselves.

It's a circle, of sorts. Just as we take the time to help other writers learn their craft, the writers who we help can help still more writers, who, in turn, can help others bring more stories into the world.

We're all part of an invisible circle... swimming in a sea of words... together. You have only to open your heart to join the circle. Once you leap into the water, you'll be amazed at what you see that you hadn't seen before.

If you share your thoughts and feelings about writing (and reading), you'll find in time that your generosity will change the way that you feel about writing... and that will, in turn, change the way that you write.

Even more importantly, you may discover that writing for the sake of writing is where the true reward is to be found.

2 comments:

jo'r said...

Bruce, it’s a good 'ringing-up-the-register' as we approach the end of another year. I admire the audacity of some young writers who shun the “safe” professions and take on marginal jobs, just to keep their main energies for writing. Others, like me, do what writing they can while pursuing a safer career and throw themselves into writing in later years. Either way, while working the marginal job, or after the safer job, writing is that great discovery process you so aptly describe, and is a grand reward for either of the other cash flow decisions. A lot of it may depend on the circumstances one sees and experiences while growing up. However, if I never make another cent, the fulfillment from each new day of writing is far and away enough for me. Receiving a free copy as full payment for my published story in a literary journal is still a great feeling of accomplishment.

Carrie Jones said...

Bruce,

Your blogs are so beautiful. This one... it's a keeper.
Thank you for it.

-Carrie