when it comes to great writing: don’t force it

Colm Toibin talks about Mothers and Sons at the  Edinburgh International Book Festival 21/8/2007





I try to blog at least twice a week. Some weeks I don’t follow through—then I beat myself up about it. But when I force myself to write—the writing is shallow and painful to read. When  I force myself to write, the words scrape the surface. They pick and choose the intention and eventually pass it, completely avoiding the intent, leaving me with a page of worthless words with no definition, no meaning or bulk.

When the words don’t sound right, I find writing inspiration in simple ways: through other’s words,  or other forms of art. The best form of inspiration is from meeting an author whose writing has inspired me. The simple act of meeting these living legends is fodder for my work, giving me a shove back onto the path I strayed from when life took over.

Throughout my writing career, I met authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Anne Lamott, Paul Theroux, Harry Shearer, Beth Finke and several local authors. Most recently, I listened to Colm Toibin speak at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago. Whether I meet these authors face to face or listen to them speak during a writing event, I am forever inspired. I don’t idolize them or compare my work to theirs. I take with me a snippet of advice or suggestion that teaches me something. Listening to them speak solidifies their work—it makes them more human. In turn, when I return my focus on the writing task at hand, it gives me a brief elated moment that I too, can call myself an author.


A few things I learned from Colm Toibin:

Force determines failure.

Find the truth under the news stories and events.

Get a sense of character voices from what is underneath.

Necessity of restraint.

Sharp detail.

Story=natural breath


This week, I’m working on writing from within, without forcing myself to write strictly  because it’s part of my routine. I’m not waiting around for inspiration but using the inspiration I already found as a stepping stone to work on my current projects—researching and working under the surface to find a deeper meaning to write the inner truth.


Do you find you force yourself to complete projects? What inspires you to stay focused?

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