Writing is an unexplained energy that flows through us all. I’m not the slight bit religious or sentimental, however I’ve come to realize that writing is a rhythm and a desire for us to plunge ourselves into the consciousness of something unseen. Think of the Greek symbol of infinity (a numerical eight pushed on its side). This is what I think of when people blame the Muse, some other entity, or situation for their work. When we write, and whatever it is…we’re accessing a constant rhythm. Sometimes we might scribble down something terrible, and other times, a masterpiece.
I’m a chaos addict. When I first grabbed a book and explored poetry, metaphors of Ted Hughes, and the mythology of Yeats entranced me. Like anything, learning to write came as a challenge. After much criticism, and some confusion I liked what I saw. The reason being, after enough exposure and plenty practice, you learn to internalize the craft. I like to think that all good writing has three critical components: exposure, practice, and mentorship.
Exposing the Animal
Starting off as a writer is a sign that you’re learning to listen to the inside of your own psyche. It’s tricky and exhausting, but the first time you’re seized by the characters of a novel, or the images of a poet…it becomes hard to let go. A writer needs as much of this as possible. I’ve always loved books because they’re the cheapest form of entertainment. (If you disagree, try and turn off your TV for a month or two and watch your habits change.) When I take out a library book the fine is 20 cents a day. An overdue DVD or a month’s subscription for satellite TV is considerably larger.
So start to expose your brain, with something else that the general public isn’t trying. Secondhand book stores are often my retreat to explore other people’s lives, and the words that have gone before them. Also don’t just limit this to books. Join clubs and societies that think along the same wavelength you do. You don’t always have to pay to have an experience.
Writing is also fairly cost-effective. Paper is widely used and a pen or pencil isn’t going to break your piggy bank either. The Harry Potter series was started on a bunch of serviettes. People are generally scared to start something that might burn up their wallets. I’m placing an emphasis of money because it has little to do with starting out. If you can find a surface that enjoys a pen…you’re half way there. I first kept a journal, and then went on to put together school exercise books labeled Writing 1, Writing 2, Writing 3, and so on. Writing means getting a pen, paper, and an undisturbed part of the house to practice.
It’s just scribbling. Nothing makes sense at first and doesn’t always have to either. Keep it as a mental note to get down and do. I sometimes like to go and sit out in a park, and wait for a usual person (who is poem-worthy) to come along. The South African poet, Kobus Moolman calls it ‘bum discipline’ and this is exactly it.
Find an admirer. Even if it’s a lover looking into your eyes, and listening to the words you sculpt. If you’ve scribbled enough, someone is bound to listen to you, and find you interesting. Writing is as common as any other pursuit. If you can do it, chances are, a million other people are also trying it out is fairly high. There are also people prepared to help make your words stronger and original. Taking advice can be very hard at first, but once you do, bouncing back is easier.
Why the fuss?
It’s there a point in breaking everything down into a category? I like to think so. When you’re suffering from Writer’s Block, your emphasis is just on writing and you may need to change your stimuli. If you’re feeling bad for not writing enough, you’re still busy exposing yourself and waiting for the penny to drop. We may feel like we’re stuck in a pattern, and just repeating ourselves. If so, then you need to get a friend to give some advice.
I’m sure from time-to-time you’ve heard the clichéd hermit writer, who’s socially illiterate and avoids the public. This craft does tend to lean towards introversion. Any editor will tell you an award-winning novel that takes 2-3 days to read, has probably taken the same amount of time (in years) to reach you. This covers the birth of the idea, until the final copy is laid to rest on the shelf.
However tempting the backstage work becomes, the best writers are activists. Seasoned writers become the exposure that new and naïve writers seek out. In this country alone, the number of voices exceeds the amount of fingers I have to type this.
My advice would be to seek them out, and become exposed.