Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Writer's Way

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 some of the elements of practice that work for this writer.


1. Show Up. Make time to write something EVERY DAY. What writers do is write.

2. Borrow Habits That Worked for You in Other Areas of Life. As you look over your personal history, do you find you were most productive when working regular hours, among other people? Or when you were solitary, seeking to fulfill an assignment under deadline? Apply the habits that worked before to your writing practice.

3. Keep a Journal. This is essential practice for any well-lived life, not only a writing life. This is a place for you to commune with your Self, compose your personal encyclopedia of symbols, store quotes and ideas, and gather the raw materials for what may become a script or story.

4. Warm Up. Journaling, blogging, writing literate Facebook posts or  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. 

5. 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 the next time you sit down you don't have to start with a blank page. I have a 15-minute "hourglass" on my desk. I find I am often amazed by how much I can get down in a quarter hour.

6. 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).

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

Photo: RM in Yeats' tower, Thoor Ballylee, in County Galway.


Libby Bloodgood said...

Synchronicity at work, Robert. I ,as of 2 days ago have started jotting down flashes of inspired words and scenes that look to me as poetry. Then just about 20 minutes before I read this, a flashback to an event when I was 18, running through hard crusted snow up to me knees in bare feet and night gown - to save a life. I now go to my laptop!

valerie said...

Thank you , great info!! Love the pix!

Julie Cade said...

Thanks for this great list of actions. I especially like the idea of being where the Big Story can catch me, or I can catch It.This place is an inner space and can be supported by a personally relevant external setting.

Ann Frazier West said...

Thank you for these great guidelines, Robert. I got stuck on #7 and realized that's where I need to pay attention at this point. Thank you, too, for creating your author/book site and for being such a wonderful and accessible mentor for many of us!

manho valentine said...

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