This post starts the new year for me. The writing journey begins at the behest of an individuals attitude, and attitude can be an important distinction between a writer and someone who dreams of writing.
WHAT MAKES A WRITER
Every writer is a writer because they have decided to pursue that practice. The path is not always easy, inspired, or free-flowing, yet it begins with the choice to define yourself a certain way. Each human has the capability to be a writer. We each perform most of the tasks required of a writer every day that we are alive. Dreams, memories, anecdotes, observations, stories are the currency with which writer engages the world.
DOUBT IS TORTURE
Natalie Goldberg has a chapter in Writing Down the Bones entitled “Doubt Is Torture” in which she describes a zen master’s advice to a creative about to begin a journey of creative expression. Three characteristics stick out for me from the story as requirements for this type of journey, the type of journey one who dreams of being a writer must take to be a writer. She must avoid self-doubt and believe in herself(attitude), she must fully commit to the journey, and she must persist through the obstacles. If any of those things are missing, the journey cannot bring about the desired result.
WORDS HAVE POWER
Writers love words and intuitively understand the power that words have over our minds. Using words that harbor self-doubt and sustain a fear of commitment to your dreams will keep you stuck in your status quo. C. Hope Clark writes an article that articulates some of the “excuse” words we use that hold us back from pursuing dreams of being a writer. The words you use shape your world, influencing what you expect, what you see, what you do, and what others expect/see/do in relation to you.
Listen when you talk about being a writer (or on other topics, if you’re interested) for excuse words like “but,” “if,” “just,” and “only.” Someone who “just writes sometimes” is intentionally limiting herself with her own words. Liberate yourself from these words. Correct yourself when you use them. Try it: “I am a writer, therefore, I make time to write.”
When you’re ready to commit, find the appropriate level of commitment. Some of us have busy lives and may not be able to find time to write everyday. When you’ready, though, you’ll find a way to make time for your passion. Wake up half an hour earlier, watch less TV, cut back your working hours. It’s up to you. The goal, though, is to give some time every day to this goal of being a writer.
Try to include two activities each day. First, clear the clutter of your mind. Morning pages, mind dump, let out your anxieties and your garbage. Second, get to what you really want to write. Morning pages alone can be good for training yourself to show up at the page and to fill it, but those practices only provide a small fraction of the pleasure that comes with writing.
As Julia Cameron suggests in The Artist’s Way, our writer is like a child. The part of us who wants to create has all the sensitivities and delicacy of a child, and creativity is play. To be able to play, we must feel safe. Adults often operate while carrying the weight of many traumas and pains, and these threats interefere with that inner child’s willingness to come out and play.
Here’s an activity, inspired by Julia Cameron, to help begin to regain a sense of safety from which to write. On a sheet of paper, write this statement ten times, and as you do, listen for the voices that will inevitably crop up in objection: “I am a brilliant, prolific, creative writer.” As you complete your repetitions, begin to follow the voices in your head. Write these objections down as a stream of consciousness for a few minutes. Don’t censor them or obstruct them. Capture them. Keep writing for 3-5 minutes or more. Then, turn these fears and pains around.
Make them a positive statement that will erase the fear. “You’re terrible at grammar” might become “I understand the basics of grammar and use the rules effectively to express myself.” These positive statements need not be “true,” but they may communicate something you wish to be true. Create a list of at least five, starting with a version of “I am a brilliant, prolific, creative writer.” Repeat them to yourself everyday for at least the next week. You can repeat this exercise anytime you feel the inner child needs some reassurance and positive reinforcement.
Be a writer. Make the time for your practice. Give yourself over to it. If it helps, be a bad ass about it, a Bogie tough guy, and deliver up the iron to your obstacles. Get your writer-child out in the word-box building wordsculptures. Revel in the glory of words.