“What?” you may be asking? Or maybe just, “that was rude.” Nah. This was Helen Simpson’s translation of the French phrase, faire et se taire. It’s her encouragement to become a better writer.
I was having a conversation with a friend last night and we were talking about a difficult conversation that he has coming up. He was nervous, for various reasons, and wasn’t super excited about having it, but knew he eventually had to shut up and get on with it, or else he would be stuck in this misery business forever. He wouldn’t progress.
Anne Lamott has similar advice in her (excellent) book, Bird by Bird. In it she has various chapters on how writers produce content, and usually translates it into some pretty good life advice as well. Included are chapters like “shitty first drafts,” where she suggests that one of the keys to overcoming writers block is to just keep writing, even if you know it’s bad. You can come back and clean it up later. She also suggests creating your own mini-deadlines, or using a very small picture frame to write within, so that you aren’t overwhelmed with the entire blank page that is in front of you–just fill up the frame.
What almost all of these have in common, and what I’ve talked about here, is that in order to grow as a writer, and as a human being, you generally have to write, or just do it. You can’t progress as a musician without practicing. You don’t learn how to ride a two-wheel bicycle without taking the training wheels off. You don’t get a job unless you apply. And you don’t become a better writer without writing (and reading, too)
If you’re anything like me, you may often find that life, or your writing, feels overwhelming. But you don’t eat an elephant all at once. You eat it one bite at a time, bit by bit, bird by bird. So you might as well shut up, and get on with it.