Emily Temple of lithub.com gathered together a list of “20 Pieces of Writing Advice from William Faulkner,” and today I would like to share one which stands out for me.
“The only rule I have is to quit while it’s still hot. Never write yourself out. Always quit when it’s going good. Then it’s easier to take it up again. If you exhaust yourself, then you’ll get into a dead spell, and you have trouble with it. It’s–what’s the saying–leave them while you’re looking good.”from a 1957 q&a with University of Writing Students
Curated by Emily Temple for Literary Hub
I have been plugging away at Chapter 13 of my novel for the past two weeks, after a very long dry spell (thanks to my kids’s summer break from school), and this advice is something I feel in my bones when I work. It is the strangest thing how a creative task, like writing a novel, is rooted so deeply in intuition. My brain and my body feel when it is time to stop working, and just like Faulkner says, if I do not listen, the energy–the fervor–it sort of dries up, temporarily.
Likewise, I find that the story itself is like a hot spring. My soul is the magma and it brews these ideas, and they simmer and steam until my spirit cannot contain them anymore, and they must erupt, and they do so through my pen onto a notebook or fingers clicking at the keys of my laptop. I do not create the story; it generates from deep within me, and the only way to save myself from scalding is to let it flow.
I’ve one final thought about the intuitive nature of writing–of creating–and it occurs to me often when I am scribbling down ideas–the skeletons of future scenes. The images come to me. I visualize the events unfolding, and like the gush of heated water pressing through the sediments of earth’s mantle, the drive of the characters penetrates my consciousness. While specific to their story–the particular context of the characters–I perceive glimmers–hints, if you will–of the import of this specific tale to the scope of contemporary global civilization, and I am flooded with emotion because this story I am telling is so much bigger than me.
That is why it must be told.