Write. Because That’s What You Do

 

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I am sitting at my desk with a large baked potato in front of my iPad. I am eating before writing or perhaps I am thinking and eating before I am writing. My back hurts. My brain is tired from working eight hours at my day job but I am here right now for a regular writing session.

I have projects to work on so I have no excuse not to write. And I know if I don’t make use of this time, it will be gone and I will have lost the opportunity to do what I enjoy: to write.

It doesn’t always come easily and I don’t always feel inspired. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. I can write the worst junk out there and it will be better than if I went and cleaned the bathroom. If I give myself a choice like that, writing wins out.

According to writer, Jennifer Egan:

“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. You can’t write regularly and well. One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”

Well I’ve eaten my potato so it’s time to sit down and write whatever I can. The worst or the best. It doesn’t matter. It will pay off. I will feel good spending the time doing what I love And the words and ideas I am looking for will come either tonight or maybe while I am out walking or doing something else. That’s the thing about inspiration. It strikes at the oddest of times.

Whether it does now or later, I will show up to write now. Showing up to write is like stoking the fire.

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it. ” —Neil Gaiman

Now go write.

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Don’t Want Everyone to Read It

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Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgement difficult.    

—Hippocrates (460-400 B.C.)

A woman in my class once told me that she was unhappy that her classmates. She said that they did not understand her writing.

“It never happened. It was fiction.  They just don’t get me,” she said.

It reminded me of my own critique classes where I got a whole gamut of different responses to a single piece of writing. Some people said a metaphor was great while others said it was cliche and I could do better.

Who do I believe?

A long time ago I came across some words of advice by a writer. It makes complete sense when dealing with a critique of your writing.

Essentially the writer advised , “don’t want everyone to read it.”

We are all from different backgrounds and have many different life experiences.

We also have different tastes.

What you write will not appeal to everyone. Not everyone who reads your work will understand it, and not everyone will like it.

But that’s OK.

Any comments made constructively and respectfully can be helpful to a writer. In the end, the writer gets to decide what to do with those comments.

It doesn’t mean that you should stop writing or that you are a bad writer.

The most important thing we can do is to be brave enough to write our stories and  to write what’s in our heart. The more we write,  the better we get.  That’s what counts.

Our words will also connect to someone.  But only if we write them.

Always believe that writing matters.

Writing Is Not Foolish

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I hear those voices in my head almost everyday. You don’t have time to write. There are more important things you need to do with your time. You are no good.  What do you have to say?

Why bother?

But today I decided that these words will have no effect on me.

Why?  Well, it’s April Fools Day!

When the words try to return tomorrow, I will remember what  my mother used to say, “April Fool’s past. You’re the biggest fool at last.”

Those negative voices do not serve me and are not real unless I let them in. They are truly the fool.

So I will continue to write and invite in my muse. Fill myself with what makes me creative and happy.

I hope you will also leave the fool behind when you write. There is no room for negative voices interrupting what you love to do, today or tomorrow.

But since it is April Fool’s Day, I cannot let the day go by without a good joke:

 

What do you have when you throw books into the ocean?

ANSWER:  A Title Wave

Write on!

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Open Mic Community

 

 

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I hosted an open mic last week for a friend. It was called Chalk Talk Narrative. The theme was family and the art of brevity.

First I read a few of my stories. Then I asked the group to compose their own six-word memoir after reading several examples from the book, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Famous & Obscure Writers. Edited by Smith Magazine.

A group of about 10 people sat around a long table Everyone shared their six-word memoir and then read a few pieces of their own writing.

What was special about the evening was not that I was able to read a few of my pieces to an audience but that this small group of people, (some strangers) gathered together for an evening of listening to each other’s words.

A student of mine read a piece he wrote in class about his eyes. Initially he did not think the piece was good enough to read. Yet everyone loved it. His courage to read and the response was what he needed. Without each other, we can be our own harshest critic which can cause us to shut down our words for fear that it is just no good. The Open Mic gives the writer the encouragement to keep writing and that is worth it.

An Open Mic creates community. The people around the table that night were all different ages and from a wide variety of backgrounds, expressing their deepest self, but also willing to pause long enough in their busy lives to listen.

And perhaps make a small difference in one writer’s life.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

DO IT. WRITE

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I bought this button at a flea marked many years ago. I still like its simple message.

There is nothing special or elaborate about writing.  It doesn’t take any expensive equipment and it can be done almost anywhere.

Yet some days may go by and nothing will be written. Life will get in the way.  I think to myself I need to write about this when I have more time.  But if I am not careful it will fade away.

There have been times when I have looked back at my journals  for a specific event and found out sadly that I did not take the time to write about it in detail or even at all.

I think to myself, why didn’t I write about that?

My life is in the details of my everyday world.  I need to make space to write about it as much as I can.

No one will put that pen in my hand.  There is no ceremony or recognition banquet to go to after I take the time to write.  No one cares if I write or not.

But writing is important to me.

That’s why I keep this button.

Just do it.  Write.

MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”

 –Neil Gaiman
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There are a ton of books, blogs and classes out there with advice on how you should write.

Sure it’s interesting to hear what other successful writers do but in the end it’s not about them.

It’s about YOU.

What I think is important about writing and creativity is that you do it your way.

Writing practice on any given day is like anything you practice. Some days are good but other days not so much.  Why you like to write comes from inside you.

Find the structure, the books, the rituals, and the reasons you like to write and use them to better yourself.

You are a unique and creative individual who has his/her own light that needs to shine.

Consider writing as a practice that you enjoy and want to do.  Lower our expectations.

I also believe writing comes from a healthy curiosity and a playful mood.   We never tell a child how to play. Likewise, we need to give ourselves freedom to explore our own creativity.

HAVE FUN!!

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If we think that in order to be a real writer that we have to sit down in a chair for eight hours a day when we genuinely don’t like to work that way and ignore the things that bring us joy, we destroy our own confidence, creativity and willingness to grow as a writer,  in our own time.

Inspiration goes where attention flows.

The basic definition of a writer is someone who writes.

How you do it is up to you.

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FOCAI

There’s so much out there in this world eating up my time, getting my attention. SO much to read, so much to see, so much to experiment with, so much to learn, so much to do and also so much to write.

Yesterday I was enjoying a sunny morning in my study writing, reading and sorting through old work. And mumbling to myself as I went.  ‘I forgot about this. I need to get back at this story. Oh this was a good idea.’           On and on I went.

I soon started to get frustrated with myself.

What have I been doing with my time all these years?

Look at how much I want to do and how little time there is!

I found a story idea that I wanted to expand. I found some postcards to color. I discovered a book to read on my book shelf.

And then there’s my long list of emails with newsletters  full of inspiration every day for me to read.

Today would also be a perfect day to walk in the woods or by the river.

FOCAI: The plural meaning of focus.

Every where I turn I see abundance. I see new discoveries and wonderful experiences waiting for me and I see even more stories to write.

When will I find time?

The most appropriate answer for me is to focus.

Focus on today. What fills my spirit? What do I want to do now?

The most important thing I can do is to continue to live my creative life, moment to moment. Let go of the distractions that do not serve me now.

Today my room is a well of inspiration. I need not be frustrated.

Stay focused on the joy of what I am doing and that well will never go dry.

And there’s plenty of time to enjoy everything.
Focus

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The Library of Babel.     Artist: Douglas Argue

Writing in an Itsy Bitsy Notebook

When I was a teenager, I carried around a tiny notebook to write down my thoughts, ideas, poems, and stories. I bought a bunch of these notebooks at Woolworth’s. They were only about 3” x 3”in size and were spiral bound with a picture of a wild animal like a fox or deer on the cover. They were perfect because I could write really really small and take it everywhere I went. I could capture everything that happened in my teenage day.

I also felt these tiny notebooks were very inconspicuous. I could write without drawing
attention to myself or like in the case of my nephew David, my tiny notebook was not as easy to steal. I also didn’t want others to know that I liked to write.

Why?

I was embarrassed. I felt it was a nerdy thing to do as a teenager like listening to Wayne Newton albums (although I did that too). Real writers, I told myself were supposed to have this successful quality about them. You just couldn’t pick up the pen and put down words unless you were already a successful novelist.

Then if people saw you writing, they might ask if you had been published or if you were writing that “Great American Novel”  because isn’t that the goal of all writers? I often felt on the defensive and a little embarrassed to be impersonating a writer. Who was I but a 17-year old kid? I wasn’t allowed to be a writer, yet. So I hid my little notebook.

But that changed.

I’ve graduated into writing in journals of all shapes and sizes and I write everywhere and I don’t care. My nephew also does not care about reading my journal. In fact I believe 99.9 % of the world could care less about what I am writing unless I was writing about them and then maybe they might care a little. And just try reading my handwriting now!

I no longer care if people know I write. And sometimes I still get the the silly questions about where I have published and if I was working on that Great American Novel.

Writing is a practice. Writing helps me make sense of my life. Writing is so much more than just trying to get published. It goes deeper than that.

It’s a part of who I am. It’s what I do.

And it’s what more and more people should do too.

Write!

It’s worth every itsy bitsy notebook I’ve bought.

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A Space of One’s Own

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I am fortunate. I have my own room on the second floor of my house where I write. It is small but with built in bookcases and full of light. Two windows face east and three more face south. From this room, I can watch everything from the neighborhood to the wildlife around me. If feels like I am in my own treehouse.

Last year I was not happy with the way my room looked. It was messy and I was tired of the furnishings.

It has to be creative. After all I will be writing there, I told myself as if the room itself gave me my inspiration.

So I redecorated. I painted, bought a desk, hung new art on the wall. It looks nice. I like it but…

It came to me that no matter what I did to my room, it would still be messy if I was truly working. Paper drafts thrown in one corner. Art projects in other piles. It is really part of the creative process.

Which brings me back to the purpose of the room. Whether the room is messy or that “perfect studio” in my mind, it is the place where I write. And that is what I must do.

And really, I don’t need a special place to write in. At times, I write in coffeeshops, libraries, on buses, and in parks. Often the creative muse shows up when I least expect it and not always in my spiffy new writing room. I am reminded of Stephen King writing Carrie on his kitchen table.

What I need to remember is not that I have a room of my own.  All I really need is a pen and a piece of paper and the space to write wherever and whenever I can.

Let the words fall as they may.

And to listen to that small but persistent voice that keeps whispering in my ear, “ Write, Robin. Just write.”

 

 

More or Less

 

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On this last weekend of 2017, the Minnesota meteorologists on the news are telling me to look forward to 90 continuous hours of subzero weather. Too cold to go out, I have this glorious weekend of “unplanned time” ahead of me.

I plan on using this indoor time for creativity.

Writer, Brenda Ueland,  in her classic book,  If You Want to Write, said, “…So you see, imagination needs moodling —long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling, and puttering.”

The words moodling, dawdling, puttering  all make me happy.  They are fun words. Words that we are not encouraged to really think about doing today.

“Idling! How dare you be idle!  There are groceries to buy, floors to mop, clothes to wash!”

For imagination to strike or allow to surface, puttering is a necessary technique.

I know time is not wasted when I dawdle.  When I start going through my piles, drawers, boxes. I know I will find things I had forgotten about. And I know I will strike gold.  Ideas, stories, and words will start appearing.  New connections will be made.

And I will wonder, “Why haven’t I done this more?”

But that answer is way too easy.  Busyness is a product of our culture.

Perhaps in 2018, I will declare more days to puttering without having an excuse like the weather.