“I don’t know, I had this session with a psychic the other day and she/he said I should be writing.”
Well, of course they did. Are they going to say “You should be coaching a basketball team” or “working on a construction crew” or “designing an aerodynamically advanced motor vehicle for the 21st century?”
No, because that’s not safe for psychics. Writing is a shoe-in because the skill sets are already in place. And the way to make anyone think they have a special calling is to appeal to the belief that we all have a special calling. Maybe we do and maybe we don’t, but I say, don’t wait for a psychic. If you want to write something…anything…there’s nothing stopping you. But if you want to learn how to do it and the principles to sustain you beyond that first blush of inspiration and keep you in motion, that’s when you can begin make a relationship with practice.
Storytelling is an activity we all engage in quite naturally and writing is another way of elevating that activity in a more permanent and public way. Maybe that’s the part that psychics don’t say. After all, how romantic would it be to hear “I’m sensing here is that you need to be having the experience of re-writing” or “recognizing passive verbs,” even “kill your sweethearts.” I don’t think that would make you pick up the phone. Still, those are some of the various elements that constitute practice and practice is the engine that drives excellence.
A word about practice: As Ray Bradbury points out in his delicious and juicy ZEN AND THE ART OF FICTION, a marathon runner has the impulse to run, but wouldn’t try it without training for months and months. A surgeon may have the impulse to operate but who would sign up on his impulse alone—and live to tell the tale?
If you want to write, you don’t need a psychic to tell you; it’s something you already know.
My blog comments promise only incidentally, to be about writing. “How to” or “Why” and certainly not ever, “Why aren’t you?” don’t really interest me. What interests me is “process” and how to recognize it in our daily lives and mine it for our creativity.
For example, I spent the better part of my career as an actress. But way before that, when I was a girl, my parents raced greyhounds for a living so I grew up in the backseat of a car going from dog track to dog track through the 40s and 50s all across America. Then, when I landed in New York I was one of those nicely fortunate actors who didn’t have to take another job. I had been on Broadway, off-Broadway, I lived on a houseboat off City Island in the Bronx for five years, (don’t ask) then moved back to Manhattan on the upper West Side. During these years I worked on television and radio. I gave dinner parties. My boys went to school… grew up. I had been a wife, (twice,) a mother, (twice,) I had divorced (twice,). Made a little money, then didn’t, then did. I moved to Los Angeles just in time to watch the acting jobs thin out under me. But I had, and was living this big far flung life. Writing was how I could see what I was thinking—on paper.
Continue reading “Practice Makes Process”
“If you are going to be a writer, there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you are not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you. What you really need at the beginning is somebody to let you know the effort is real.”
When someone asks what I do, I resist saying that I teach people how to write. They already know how. What I do is show how and why it works. I demonstrate how to see what’s on the page, listen to what you have written and why patience counts even when it feels uncomfortable. I prove that writing gets better with practice. I make a place where together we can see why some things work and why some don’t. I help bludgeon away adverbs and overblown adjectives. I show why verbs matter, why clichés aren’t your best friends, why behavior and dialogue need each other and how writing with your senses connects with the reader. If this sounds like editing, it’s because it is and that’s the closest I can come to a definition. Continue reading “Ingredients”
To get surprised, and mostly…
because you can.
Writing is a common human activity subject to all the judgments and misconceptions we hold about what makes “art.” Don’t forget, it is people who make art. Regular people, like you and like me. Continue reading “Why write?”