“What’s it like to write? What goes through your mind when you’re writing? I mean, do you use people you know and places you’ve been to and then just think stuff up?” As a writer, I’m asked these questions. After I share how it is that I derive my stories and poems, I explain that every creative goes about the process differently. Some have lots of rituals, so they make outlines and do research. Others fly by the seat of their pants. “Real writing comes from the whole body. You want to get in there, live from there, not some idea…” says Natalie Goldberg, author of Wild Mind, Living the Writer’s Life. She goes on to offer ways in which we can get out of the conscious mind and begin to get in touch with the physical body. I’m one of those writers who handwrite nearly everything. For me, and Goldberg agrees, it’s a physical process. My voice that creates handwritten words is different from the one that creates my blog posts, which are usually typed directly into the computer. As a yoga practitioner and instructor, I can tell the difference when I create from my mind and when I’m able to “feel” what my characters feel, how they think, how they move (yes, sometimes I mimic their movements, certainly their facial expressions). I think I’m able to do this in part because of my knowledge of my own proprioception and the connection I feel with any creative pursuits I engage in because I use my whole body.
“Generating your own writing subjects is a true sign that you are becoming your own writer.” Journalists do this, as do novelists, essayists, even chefs and painters. Using prompts can begin the process, take us a little bit down the path of creativity, but to continue on our own, to really expand who we are and peek at, maybe make friends with, our shadow self, we need to generate our own ideas. This, I think, is our Muse talking specifically to us. There is nothing wrong with using prompts, making a painting from a photograph, or gaining inspiration from a famous chef’s desserts. But eventually, if what we do we call our own, it needs to come from inside us.
How do we get better at writing? The same way we improve at any task that we attempt: practice. Then we’re able to look at where we started, what turns we made, where we tried something different or new. We begin to examine our thoughts, the ones we captured and interpreted in our writing or creative projects. “Somehow in seeing the movement of your mind through writing, you become less attached to your thoughts, less critical of them. We have to accept ourselves in order to write. Now, not one of us does that fully; few of us do it even halfway…The process of writing is an activity that teaches us about acceptance.” That includes acceptance about our past, our shadow selves, those embarrassing moments, or the ones we wish we could do over. Acceptance begins with awareness, and writing, really all forms of creativity, help us look inside ourselves. It’s important to note here that we don’t “look” in order to judge or criticize or keep ourselves up all night rethinking, rehashing, second-guessing. None of that is productive or useful. What’s in the past cannot be redone, but that doesn’t mean that reflection can’t provide insight and afford us the chance to learn something about ourselves. It’s with a kind eye and gentle hand and open mind that we review our past work, our rantings or idea lists or attempts in our journals or past stories or painted over canvasses in order to grow. And in order to grow, we must accept.
The more I write, the more I see myself growing as an author. Some of the things I’ve written have been from prompts, others just keep banging on the inside of my skull until I let them out. To view a few, visit my website: www.myjoyenterprises.com
How often do you view your past work, and accept where you were then, and where you are now?
Question for you Michele – I love that you write by hand, but when I do that, I feel like I’m wasting valuable time backtracking to type everything, when I could be moving ahead with the piece. What’s your perspective on this?
Hi KellyZ, thanks for reading my post! A great question. I happen to have a friend who can read my handwriting, so she types for me. Often there are little errors because sometimes I can’t write fast enough to get down all the details, so she does the first “edit”. When I get my stories back from her, it’s like reading something new. I’ve been away from it long enough that I have “fresh eyes” to begin edits and rewrites. It’s not unusual for me to go through my entire manuscripts 9 or more times during this process! However, I do handwrite my poems and then I type those myself because my friend won’t know what I want in regards to stanzas and line breaks, as I don’t always put those in when I’m writing them on paper. I don’t view it as backtracking. I think of it as reflecting on what I’ve written and beginning the editing phase. I just think better when I’m doing creative things when I handwrite. If it’s an email or my blogs, I do those right on screen. However, I’ve been writing my blogs ahead of time, saving them as a Word doc, and then reviewing before I publish them. Same idea I guess, at least the part about reviewing. Hope this helps!
It does! Especially the perspective of
reflecting rather than backtracking. Thanks so much for your reply!
You’re welcome 🙂