Saturday, August 10, 2019

A Writer's Way

I read somewhere that William Faulkner was persuaded, late in life to give a writer's work shop at his alma mater, Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi. He turned up and said to packed classroom, "So you want to write." Nods and cries of assent. "Then write," the great novelist told them. And he turned on his heel and went home.

I have often thought that Faulkner got this pretty much right. However, when I consider what works for me, and try to offer some counsel to others, I notice that there is a little more that may be said, although I start pretty much where Faulkner left off.

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

2. Journal! I am certain, after publishing 25 books, that my journal is the most important book I will ever write, and one of the most important I will ever read. The act of keeping a journal is a workout for the writing muscles. It frees you from inhibitions if you make this your secret book and write in it without concern for consequences and the opinions or others. You'll find that a dream report, an observation of something seen in the street, a snatch of overheard conversation or a quote from another author that sparked something from you will give you starter dough for your own compositions and even a first draft.

3.Read! As much as possible, all over the gamut. Notice which genres call you most strongly. Maybe one or more of them is you natural genre, or maybe it's pure entertainment or a way of escape,though it could prove to be both. Borges, the master of gnomic, gnostic tales of the fantastic and surreal, loved traditional detective stories - and also borrowed from their puzzle forms in some of his fiction. I am creatively triggered in my own writers by authors who tackle themes (in fiction or nonfiction) that have appeal strongly to me, but delivered flawed work.This gives me confidence to enter that field in the hope I can do better.

4. Set a Time Limit (until you are on a roll and simply can't stop). I have a quarter-hour glass,whose blue sand runs out after 15 minutes. I use this often in the approach run to producing a new book.And I actually try to get up from my desk after 15 minutes. This often means stopping in mid-paragraph. Fine.When I return to my text, I don't have to face a blank page.I know exactly where to pick up.

5. Sideline the Editor. Don't judge or evaluate a draft until it's done. And do not let others play editor or critic. 

6. Avoid Feedback Felons. Stay away from 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. Your dreams can take you there.

11. Entertain Your Genius. You may have various writing partners, but the one that matters is 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. And that changes everything.

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.


Maria C Montesano said...

Thank you, Mr Moss, for this writing advice.

Patricia said...

Thank you Robert
The encouragement is timely for me. I have finished a novel and have run foul of listening too much to people who do not appreciate the effort. I know there is some cleaning up to do and now I feel, know I can go back to it.
I often read the blog and find it just right for what I'm needing at the time. It is a long time since I did a workshop with you in Stroud, UK. The memories are still strong. Thank you for your dedication to the Dreaming.
Patricia from Oz