Spend it, Shoot It, Play It, Lose It

Updated: Jun 19



Morning by Agnes Martin


I've been percolating on how to better formulate the whirl of words that seem to endlessly spool in my brain. I can't seem to write enough to clear the benign chatter and get down to the meaty, dripping heart of the writing I feel lurking in the back somewhere.


My writing has felt flat and inane. Sentences I thought hummed with heart are repeatedly rejected and on re-reading, I see how lacklustre they are. 


Part of me begins to think I should quit. Just stop writing, not once and for all, but at least for a while. To save my creative impulses and store them up, ready to crack them like oyster shells and find a potential precious pearl or two at some later date. It's a weird feeling to have this sense there is something 'better' I should be reaching for, and not knowing how to get there. 


This is not the first time I've pondered my writing efforts. These thoughts seem to stretch beyond foundational imposter syndrome and into something hardier. In these moments, I like to remember Annie Dillard's words:


"One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."

There is a comfort here that perhaps the mediocrity of my current writing is helping me wade through the mud to find that deeper narrative. I know what good writing is, what great writing is, and I know the writing I aspire to. I just can't do it, yet.


​Our abilities, the ways we can grow, and our creativity are not fixed.


"You can't use up creativity" as Maya Angelou says.


So, I'll spend it. Shoot it. Play it. Lose it. Let it all out and accept the messy, imperfect, benign, and occasionally bland offerings my brain can muster. 


I often tell my students that no matter what it is they aspire to, they must find a starting point and begin.


Sometimes we just have to keep beginning. 

Copyright © 2020 Elaine Mead | Coffee&Books

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