Love what you write

The people who run the late Ray Bradbury’s Facebook page posted this quote the other day:

“Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”

Mr. Bradbury made a lot of sense. When I write about people and thoughts and dogs I love (OK, I was a cat man first, so cats, too), the words scamper across the page like a feline chasing a pesky ball filled with tinkle bells, and when the writing feels like a chore or an obligation, the words trickle out like blood from a turnip after the longest drought Mars has ever seen.

And then there’s that fatal desire to make sure the words are crafted “just right” — whittling them to perfection in your mind before applying fingers to writing implement. The balance between caring about what you write and taking care to get it right is not really a balance at all, and yet it is — you want to say what you mean and mean what you say — but if you get all tangled up in saying it, you end up not saying anything.

Sometimes in the still of morning, you just have to write whatever is spilling from your soul and sort it all out later. In fact, that’s sound advice any time of day. It pays to set your fingers free to say whatever your mind wants to say.

Case in point: When I was scribbling that last paragraph, my impulse was to write “sound advice,” but I paused. “What is the right word here?” I thought. “Sound advice? Not-unsound advice? Not-bad advice?” I finally wrote “not-bad advice,” and in hindsight, when it was time to post this little bit, I ended up deciding my first impulse was the best.

Bottom line: Write only what you love, and love what you write. Somebody very wise said that once. or twice.

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