“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” ~ Allen Ginsberg
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. ~ Henry David Thoreau
There have been quite a few podcasts, periscopes, etc., telling people “how to become a better writer.” I’ve listened to a few and they’ve left out the most important things a writer needs to know. The only thing these “experts” have discussed were “apps” to make writing easier. I thought that to be a writer, you had to write.
An app does not make the writing process easier. If an app could do this, we would all be writers. Of course, Stephen King would also be killing us off in his books and Hemingway would be rolling over in his grave.
Writing is not easy. There are days writing is torture. Yet we sit down and write, and then we write some more. We write because we have to write. When we’re happy with our writing, we take a moment and breathe a sigh of relief. It’s a vicious cycle.
Reading is also part of the writing process. If you don’t read, or don’t have time, it is time to stop writing. Reading helps writers develop the skills, or as King calls it, the toolbox, we need to become better writers.
An app will never give us the skills we need to be a better writer. The only thing we can do is sit down and write. When we’re done writing, we write some more, and we keep writing every single day.
I haven’t been writing every day and my own writing has suffered. The tools in my toolbox are rusty. I am a writer and I need to take my own advice.
“The moment a writer knows how to achieve a certain effect, the method must be abandoned. Effects repeated become false, mannered. The writer’s style is his doppelgänger, an apparition that the writer must never trust to do his work for him.”
~ Joy Williams
Basic are essential to life. They’re also essential to looking good, but that’s a piece for a different blog. I’m doing a lot of thinking about the basics of writing and the fact that writing requires coming multiple physical and mental process in one concerted effort to convey information and ideas.
I really started thinking about this when I saw a comment from a friend on Facebook who shared that an editor from a web content mill said they write for a “post literate society.” Might I add it was also was said on stage during the largest blogging conference in the world, BlogHer.
I can’t stop writing that phrase, mainly because I don’t think I have the language necessary to discuss “post literate” intelligently. Well I have a few choice words, but they’re not ladylike. What does that mean for writers? Those of us whose most dangerous weapons are our pens, and hopefully a healthy dash of acerbic wit. I’ll be quiet honest with you, it was my hope that with all of hype around Harper Lee’s “Go Set A Watchman” that people would indeed discover the joy of walking into a bookstore and opening the pages of a book. That they would take the time to smell the ink, paper, dust, and all of the other heady, erotic scents founds in these bastions of intellect and they would start to read.
Instead they were all looking at their smart phones. Parents weren’t reading in the children’s area while their kids picked out books, they were on Facebook. (Have I bummed you out yet?) What do we do, we the writers mulling about in this post literate society who are still trudging and toiling away in the hopes of one day achieving what every writer wants more than anything: a place in the Dewey Decimal system.
I have no idea. For now, for me, I’m going back to basics and starting with a small list. 1. Read 2. Write every day, even if it’s crap 3. Journal 4. Remind myself that I’m not Proust, nor e.e. cummings 5. Walk — To get out of my world and into another 6. Drink water — I’m pretty sure I replaced my blood with coffee some time ago 7. Breathe
“Her favorite game was golf because its essential principles consisted of a stick, a small ball, and a state of mind.” Harper Lee, Go Set A Watchman
I’ve been sitting at my professional site for an hour waiting for the words to come. I’m … blank. Blank is not a good thing and certainly not where I want to be, nor what I need.
But I am.
I’m not sure when it started, but being blank when you’re a writer means there is just — nothing. My thoughts have escaped me and I can quite literally sit for hours, looking out the window, doing nothing. It’s like white noise, but worse. I wish it were some sort of Zen meditative state, but instead there is nothing but emptiness and that makes me feel incredibly lonely. The loneliness is palpable.
Writers throughout time have been driven mad by this feeling. I’m pretty sure it’s what has caused them go down the path of destruction and self-harm. While I can promise I am not on that path (my husband is a great support) it does make me wonder about all of the writer’s we’ve read biographical information about and their lives off the pages they wrote.
But am I blank, or am I lonely. Is is the blank feeling causing the feeling of loneliness? Or is it the loneliness causing the blankness? I don’t know.
At this point, I don’t even know if I have it in me to feel it out and think it all through and that frightens me. Sitting here, typing these characters on the screen, some of the feelings I have are coming out, and I’ll carry on with them as long as they here.
In another world, off of this blog I’ve had for a decade or so, I’m what you call a “real blogger.” But I’m not really a real blogger. Because I’m a writer. And bloggers don’t like hearing that you’re not a blogger, you’re a writer. It is who I am. My name is Lisa and I am a writer.
I had a much deeper thought on that, but had to stop and take it out. That’s not material for the internet, but for my journal. Social media may also have something to do with how I feel. I could care less about promoting myself online, because I am very tired of the barrage of advertisements thrown my way in the form of 140 characters or less. While it’s necessary for the paid work I do, I’m also bombarded with sadness and other people’s problems. As someone who is a textbook empath, I feel everything. And I’m pretty sure I am completely drained.
So I come back here, to you, old faithful, and I talk about the art, craft, and feelings centered around writing. For now, that is all I need. I’m thankful you’re here.