Craft,  Creativity

Why Write At All?

I’d love to be one of those writers who are successful and bask in their glory without having to write a word. Wait? There isn’t such a thing? If it weren’t for the writing, this job would be easier. 

Some days I have no trouble getting down what I want to say or describing the dream I had, or my strong opinions about my co-worker’s parenting choices, but some days. Ugh. I can’t formulate a sentence describing how difficult this is.

I just don’t know what to write. 

Fortunately, more successful writers than me have a solution for this problem: 

Natalie Goldberg said in Writing Down The Bones, p. 35. “Don’t “make” your mind do anything. Simply step out of the way and record your thoughts as they roll through you. Writing practice softens the heart and mind, helps to keep us flexible so that rigid distinctions between apples and milk, tigers and celery, disappear. We can step through moons right into bears. You will take leaps naturally if you follow your thoughts because the mind spontaneously takes great leaps.”

What do these natural leaps look like? I guess it’s where my imagination takes over; it looks like stepping “through moons right into bears”. I think that as I grow in confidence as a writer, I’ll find it easier and easier to leap from one image to another without concern for logic. A truly creative person puts aside what’s expected and what “makes sense”. Instead, they never stop asking “what if?” and connecting ideas that no one would have ever tried.

Julian Cameron said in The Artist’s Way, p. 21, “When we work at our art, we dip into the well of our experience and scoop out images. Because we do this, we need to learn how to put images back. How do we fill this well? We feed it images. Art is an artist-brain pursuit. The artist brain is our image brain, home, and haven to our best creative impulses. The artist brain cannot be reached — or triggered — effectively by words alone. The artist brain is the sensory brain: sight and sound, smell and taste, touch. These re the elements of magic, and magic is the elemental stuff of art.”

So maybe writing isn’t that bad.  As I begin to write, I should probably ask myself a million times, what do I write about? The answer, really, is anything. If I am thinking like a writer, everything is fair game, what I have experienced and what I pull out of your imagination. 

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Additionally,  as I get in the habit of regular writing, my present situation could be full of inspiration. I should look around at my neighborhood, community, town, and region. There are interesting people to watch, odd landmarks, scenic opportunities and histories that could be the seeds of a rich story. Even if I think that familiarity truly breeds contempt, it’s likely I’m not looking closely enough from the point of view of a writer. If I overlook these things around me, I could be missing a great description, an intriguing setting, or a secret that would seem fascinating to someone else. 

Brenda Ueland wrote in If You Want to Write: “I learned from them that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic, striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude.” (P.49)

Okay, now I’m convinced. If I’m going to be a writer, there’s no substitute for picking up a pencil or putting my hands on the keyboard. 

She continues on p. 140,  “It has shown me that writing is talking, thinking on paper. And the more impulsive and immediate the writing the closer it is to the thinking, which it should be. 

It has made me like writing. For years it was the most boring, dreaded, and effortful thing to do — doubt impeded, ego-inflated. 

It has shown me more and more what I am — what to discard in myself and what to respect and love.”

I’m convinced. Now excuse me while I set my timer and write for 10 minutes. 

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.