In recent years, I've found that some of the workshops I most enjoy are ones that are openly dedicated to writing and storymaking, and I'm now devoting more time in my events schedule to "Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming" (7 days in Costa Rica in February, 5 days in the foothills of the Cascades in June) and "The Healing Power of Story" (a weekend on San Francisco Bay in January, and another in Cincinnati in June).
Writing, like anything else you want to do well, is a practice. Having something you really want to say is important, but it may never come through without a practice that supports delivery. I thought I would share, as a New Year's gift, some of the elements of practice that work for this writer.
A WRITER'S WAY
1. Show Up. Make time to write something EVERY DAY. What writers do is write.
2. Warm Up. Journaling and writing email letters - as long as they are real letters, not just office stuff - are excellent ways to start working those writing muscles, and material you can rework in a story or essay may just pop up.
3. Set a Time Limit (until you are on a roll and simply can't stop). 30 minutes is great. So you can't finish something in half an hour - even greater, because then next time you sit down you don't have to start with a blank page.
4. Sideline the Editor and Avoid Feedback Felons. Don't judge or evaluate what you are writing until it's done. And do not let others play editor or critic - avoid Feedback Felons (anyone who gives you less than positive encouragement or saddles you with wrong or premature expectations or is simply jealous because you are creating and they are not).
5. Keep Your Fingers Walking. Don't agonize over trying to perfect any part of what you are writing until you have sketched out the whole thing.
6. Relax - and Pay Attention. The flow state is one of relaxed attention, or attentive relaxation. You are stretching yourself, and your ability to receive and bring through, without forcing anything on the level of the control freak in the ego. If you're stuck, put on some music, take a shower or a swim - getting in flow with water always helps - take a walk for five unscheduled minutes and see what the world gives you.
7. Gag the Demon of Expectations. You want fame and fortune from this, or at least some respect from your friends? Fine. But don't let your expectations damn your performance. Write for the heck of it, have a good time doing this for its own sake.
8. Put Yourself Where the Big Story Can Grab You. Writing, at its core, is about releasing a story. Never forget that the Big story is hunting YOU. The whole art of telling it is to keep moving - further and further from the tame and settled lands - until you get deep enough into the bush for the Big story to jump on you. Then everything will be different, and fabulous.
9. Remember Your Writing Partner. You may have various writing partners, but right now I am talking about the big one, the creative spirit the Romans called the genius. The more you are willing to give yourself to your writing for its own sake, to dare something new, the closer you draw this guiding power and its limitless energy.
10. If You Must Work to Deadline, Make Sure It's an All-But-Impossible Deadline. Our genius loves us best - and helps us most - when we take on the greatest challenges, and play the game hardest.