The Big White Open Page

“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”  -Barbara Kingsolver

 

I just joined a health club and today I went in to do some of the things the personal trainer suggested. I told myself I didn’t need to do it all. I just needed to show up and do what I could.

Baby steps.

I got to the club early feeling a little out of place thinking everyone will be watching me.  The woman behind the desk took my photo because  I was new.  There were a few earlier risers there this morning. I knew they were regulars. They had their club designed workout clothes, sweaty towels, their wireless headphones. I was a newbie. I forgot my headphones and towel. I was still trying to figure out the equipment and how to lock my locker.   

But that’s ok.   Because I showed up. I know what I need to do.

With National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) coming up in November, I am in challenge mode. But it’s important for me to remember that I am not in competition with anyone. No one likes to be a beginner and with writing it feels like that almost all the time.  I am facing that bright white sheet of paper each time I sit down to write. How I get myself there is the trick. (Just like the health club). 

This year NaNoWriMo may be a good way to challenge myself and to recognize I am not alone in this journey.  But whatever I do or don’t do daily should never be because I am trying to compete with someone else.  

This writing thing.   I do it for me.

 

 

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Being Mindful. Being Present

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Rene Magritte —The False Mirror

 

Dr. Henry Emmons, a psychiatrist,  spoke at a conference I attended last week.  He ended his talk telling the audience what the secret was to happiness and longevity.

 He said, “Be mindful of the present moment.”

Mindfulness feeds into our everyday life and especially into writing.

Creator of the Mindfulness Based-Stress Reduction Program (MSBR), Jon Kabit-Zinn, said, “Writing can be an incredible mindfulness practice.”

My best writing sessions are when I am present with pen and paper in hand. I am centered and open as I write.

But when I ramp up my brain about other random things like, “don’t forget to do this or that, and don’t forget about that thing.” Then my brain starts to overload. It is like  hot oil shooting out of a pan. It has nowhere to go except all over the stove, the floor, and my arm. 

OUCH!  And Damnit! 

We don’t need to be jumping around like Mexican jumping beans with our distracted thoughts corrupting our writing time.  Or acting like my dog, Bailey, chasing every squirrel she sees or doesn’t see because she’s so programmed to just go when she hears the word, Squirrel!  

That’s kind of like our mind.

 And there are a lot of squirrels (aka distractions-checking email, googling information, answering a text) taking our attention.

When I practice settling into this moment. My mind slows down. 

I smell the lilacs outside my window.

I see the animal figures in the clouds.

It calms my heart. I can see the way into my imagination and get into the task of what I am writing.

And that is all that matters.

Writing about your life can be enjoyable and bring a deep satisfaction.  When I  experience life  in the present and take the time to write about it, life becomes fuller and I become more creative. 

Sometimes when I read old journals and see that I have skimmed or neglected much of the detail around that time, I get a little sad. I may still have the memory but I neglected to write about it in the present moment. I skirted around it or did not take the time to see the details.  As if it was just not important enough. As if my life is boring.

Jon Kabit-Zinn also said, “When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting.”

Being present is about taking notice of your life.

Today at work I watched construction workers tear apart the street below my office window. I felt like my 15 month old grandson watching these huge bulldozers doing amazing things.

When you write, there is no reason to hurry, and no other place you need to go. 

So feel the breeze on your face, float with the clouds above, and smell the lilacs. 

Be there and wherever you are  ….

Write!

 

Word Care

 

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Words are not always cooperative.  Are they?   They remain invisible, unstable, uncooperative or stale.  My editor self says,  “you are so boring.”

Why do I write?

Author, Julia Cameron,  said in her book, The Right to Write that writers should write …  “because it is human nature to write.  Writing claims our world.”

She also said, to paraphrase,  that our own inspiration connects us to something larger than ourselves allowing ourselves to live with greater optimism.

As a writer, there is always something to do. Writing, editing, researching, learning Scrivener. 

Sometimes  my brain does not want to think about it anymore. If I show up regularly to write I know that some days are easier than others. I also know that NOT feeling like writing is no excuse to not writing.

Yet what can I do to keep the creative faucet open when things seem a little too dry?

Some days it could be just eating a lemon poppyseed muffin. Or walking my dog,  or maybe three pages of ranting on the way the words are not working today.

The thing about feeling stuck when writing is that it is only temporary.  The moment you think you will never be able to write another word is when the faucet starts running uncontrollably. Something that reminds me of a scene from a Supernatural episode.  Like when the bathtub water starts to boil.   Eerie but exciting.

That’s the thing about creativity. It appears when you least expect it. But It’s not like it went anywhere. It’s more that you finally allowed that time portal to open so you could jump in.

Sometimes opening that door to your muse is nothing more than allowing yourself the gifts of living and embracing the wonderful world you are writing about. 

Take a nice long walk, read a book,  taste a piece of dark chocolate and drink a cup of Chai, go to the art museum. Don’t feel guilty about it.  Because after a break, you will get back to the chair and write whatever you can – good or bad.

Because that’s what you do.   You write.

Engaging in the world is  part of the process. 

Julia Cameron calls it a Writer’s Date. But for me it’s living a creative life. Engaging intimately in what I want to write about: my world.  It builds on the knowledge I’ve gathered already  and deepens what it means for me to be a human but also to be me.

Not Just Another Thing I Have To Do

 

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I think writer Brenda Ueland had it right.

She said, “The imagination needs moodling,–long, inefficient happy idling, dawdling and puttering. ”

It’s all about play and slowing down.

Writing is enjoyable. Even during a long dry spell. Even when the words feel heavy and meaningless.  Even during these times, it is important to remember that I do like to write. 

When I don’t rush.  When I slow down like I do for any mindful activity like walking or meditating. When I slow down to let the words fall good or bad on my page. 

Writing is joyful.

In my Developing a Writing Habit class, I tell students to think of writing as not just one more thing you have to do. It’s what you choose to do. It’s what you want to do.

Writing is about exploring, expressing and playing.  Writing is about making discoveries, solving problems, creating new worlds, and feeling a whole spectrum of emotions.

Never make it seem like it’s just a chore that you need to do or you’ll never do it.

Yes, there will be times when it’s frustrating and difficult and you won’t feel like doing it.

 But hang in there just a little longer and things will change.

They always do.  

And when it does the magic of writing will return.

As Sherlock Holmes once said to Watson, “The game is afoot.”

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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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

Appreciation for Inspiration and Good Old Words of Advice

Inspiration is a gemstone It’s dynamite. It is power and possibility.
And it is there for all of us.

Where to find it? It can be sneaky.

The good news is that inspiration abounds! I am always on the lookout.

One way I become inspired is by others. I appreciate the people sharing both their advice and encouragement. They have helped me along my own creative path. People who know that generating the positive and to promote the possible is what it’s all about. Inspiring others has a domino effect. It’s all about positive energy. And I am all for that.
Attention goes where energy flows.

Inspiration given by others may be just what you need to get that poem started or that book finally finished.

So here are a few people worth checking out:

Pam Grout is author of several books including Esquared and the newly released Art & Soul Reloaded. Her blog is all about possibilities and accentuating the positive. Read it when you are and are NOT down in the dumps.
Bane of Your Resistance Rosanne’s blog covers topics like writers resistance and brain science. Her book, Around the Writer’s Block is worth a read.
Hope C. Clark’s Funds for Writers newsletter is another positive resource for advice and lists markets looking for your writing. The newsletter has been on Writer’s Digest list of 101 Best Websites for Writers since 2000.
Author, Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite children’s authors. She can tell a good story to an adult as well as a child. Follow her warm and fresh posts on facebook.
There are many others I haven’t mentioned and my list will continue to grow. But for now I hope you will check them out when you need some inspiration or a new perspective.

 

 

 

Robin Dyson is a Minnesota published writer. She teaches writing in her community and enjoys flash fiction, memoir and poetry. Currently she is working on a memoir about her sisters. She enjoys everything quirky. Her new book, Mrs. Claus, came out just in time for the holidays on Amazon.