Dear Writers, carriers of story, crafters of words, metaphorical creatures, wild ones,
For 2019, how about we give a load of stuff up? Let’s bring THE END to the things that aren’t serving our writing. It’s easier to do it together, don’t you think?
Let’s give up the idea we are aren’t good writers, or that what we’re saying isn’t worth saying. That one doesn’t have a leg to stand on. As human beings we default into storytelling whenever we’re not involved in an immediate task (i.e. most of the time). Telling stories rebalances our nervous systems. Telling stories will have saved your emotional/physical life countless times, there’s no way you don’t know how to do it.
Let’s give up the idea that we might be writing the ‘wrong story’ and should have chosen another one. The stories we tell aren’t chosen by our small thinking self. Rather, those decisions are made largely unconsciously, by the wisdom of our whole organism. You can do what you like to persuade yourself that you’ve decided what to write, but in the end you were only ever following anyway. (So what we should really talk about is about how to be a better follower to birth the story we need to tell.)
Let’s give up the idea that we have to be ‘tortured souls’ sitting isolated in our rooms. We can choose be a victim of our ‘out of control’ creativity, but I suggest not bothering. True, that way we fend people off, and thereby guard our private, immersive space, but we’ll die sooner too, and that’s not fun. And if it’s an excuse to drink wine you’re after (i.e a writer is a tortured soul who has to drink), well, forget the message and just enjoy the drinking.
Storytelling isn’t torture. It’s health giving. It gives life. It makes everything interesting and connects us with everything. Sounds more fun doesn’t it? So let’s go with that, and find more straightforward ways to guard our space, our aloneness. That way we keep the quality of play and aliveness in what we write.
Let’s give up the idea that we’re ‘blocked’, because we’re not. It’s a cup half-full/cup half-empty thing. I prefer to regard it as just the ideas composting. The ‘block’ is the dam behind which the inspirational, powerful words build. Sometimes that takes much, much longer than we’d like, but so be it. That book isn’t all you are, is it? So do something else for a week, a month, a decade. Bake cakes, or become a social worker. Until it’s time. Until it’s ready. You’ll never convince me that your ‘block’ wasn’t a necessary part of the process.
Oh, and then let’s go one stage further and give up the idea that there’s a such a thing as block. You give the something that is working its way happily through your system a name with those sorts of negative connotations and you’ll embed it. So don’t go there. Politely say good morning to it and move on. Don’t feed it. Don’t become a victim of it.
And I hate to point it out, but ‘flow’ doesn’t exist either of course. There’s only the moment by moment connection with the page. So while we’re at it, let’s give up the idea that the writing is ‘flowing’ too. Why set up that bench mark for ourselves? We only get attached to it, and then are disappointed when it’s not the same next time. It’s never the same twice.
What shall we give up next? How about the idea that writing is ‘hard’ or ‘difficult’? That’s always been a big one for me, perhaps for you too? Writing isn’t hard. Writing requires that we apply our self to the task at hand, that we play and create, but that’s not the same thing. We can become fixated on the idea that it’s ‘hard’ because society tells us that the harder we work, the more we produce, and therefore more valuable we are. When we want to be loved, we ‘work harder’, equating it with higher yield. The problem is that there’s not necessarily a direct correlation. It can sometimes be that working harder leads to lower yield, and less writing of quality.
And then, are you ready for the biggest challenge of all? Let’s give up the idea ‘I’m a writer’, with all the baggage, expectations, hopes and fear that that brings. If we don’t tie up our identity with being a writer, it will go better, you’ll see. Your value as human begin is not dependent on it. Or on what you produce. If you never write another word, I’ll still think you’re great. (And then of course, liberated from the responsibility you’ll write many more, and much better words.)
In fact, this year, let’s give up all ideas about writing, in favour of just doing it.
It’s not that we shouldn’t name and communicate fleeting experiences in the moment, so the above radical resolutions are a little tongue in cheek. But writing isn’t really innately or wholly blocked or flowing, easy or hard, Writing just is. And the just is-ness is many different things in many different moments, moving through at various speeds, always evolving, always changing to best serve our needs. Staying open to the changes, following the word animal as it scampers hither and thither, that’s what allows us to put the aliveness on the page.
Let’s work less hard, listen more, take note where our energy rises, and go there. Let’s allow in play, curiosity, imagination, the senses, the body…all those things that we don’t normally value because they’re not serious enough, or because we fear them. Our writing will be all the better for it, trust me.
Let’s make contact with the materials, with every part of our being: the smell of the room, the sound of the keys or pencil, the taste of the air, the touch of the smooth paper. Let’s listen for the story that jostles at our elbow, roars to be heard, snuffles as it turns over in sleep somewhere deep inside us.
Let’s know the feelings it evokes in the body: the heat and the chill, the contractions, the expansions. Let’s contact the emotions, not being afraid to walk alongside our narrator/character/our self as the story rises from us, to fall from our lips or be stamped on the page.
Let’s not force anything, or abandon ourselves or our words when we touch an edge of discomfort.
Instead, let’s walk alongside, recording their story. Because they ask us to. Because who wants to live with a whole world trapped inside, and all those emotions unexpressed.
Liberate the story you need to tell.
This is THE BEGINNING…