Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Thoughts

My first thought is where the heck did the week go? My second thought is that I have managed to write three days in a row on two different projects. That's got to be a good week!
My friend Tracey recently posted on writing in the zone, how it feels when the words zing along and everything seems so easy. And how rare that can be. A writer writes no matter what, and waiting for the zone is guaranteed to end up in no writing at all.

I've been reading a new acquisition this week - Creativity for Life by Eric Maisel. I had enjoyed his A Writer's Paris so much that I wanted to read another by him. This one is a lot more complex and deep. So much so that I can only read a few pages at a time, then I have to go away and think about it. But today I was reading about the artist's personality, and the factors which go into it. Under Discipline, he talks about leading all-day workshops for writers who are blocked, and how these people can come and write for a whole day with him when previously they haven't been able to write a word.

What causes the block to disappear? Is it the man up the front giving them permission to write? Or ordering them to write? Maisel asks the question - if the gap between being blocked and writing is so small that it goes in a few moments, why does it seem so insurmountable at other times? I think it often comes back to the title of that section - Discipline. If you discipline yourself to write, you will write. You won't write until you can convince yourself that sitting and doing is all that is necessary. Just sit and write. Anything. And when you are writing and thinking every word is awful, keep writing. It's amazing how persisting for ten more minutes will move you into that writing space that may not be the zone, but will be writing that satisfies you (maybe even because you did not give up).

In the Weekend Australian magazine there were two interesting articles. The first was on Joan Didion, the writer, who said some wonderful things including this: No one ever reads as passionately as a 12-year-old. Critic John Leonard said about her writing: She seems almost Japanese in what she can leave out and still have us know it's there. It's almost poetic. That made me want to read her books.

The second article was on comedians, and whether the best ones are those who have terrible childhoods, are depressive or have personality disorders. The writer, Oliver James, quotes a number of famous comedians with these pathologies to back up his claim. He says the urge to create humour stems from using it as a defence in childhood, and later on, against criticism, abuse and low self-esteem. I've read similar claims about children's writers - that they are somehow caught between being grown-up and being back in a certain period of childhood that was either traumatic or holds great memories. The key can often be to imagine yourself back then, at ten or twelve or fifteen, and be able to recreate it on the page. Food for thought.


Kristi Holl said...

Great article, Sherryl! What you said about discipline being stronger than an urge to block is true, even if we don't like to admit it. I've always told myself I could never work on a rough draft on an airplane or a noisy place--I've tried to, but "blocked" many times and then gave up. But last Friday I wanted to finish a rough draft of a novel so badly before I left for my conference, but I didn't make it, even with writing 6,000 words a day. So I took along pen and paper, and yes, I found I could write in the airplane and in the airport waiting areas--because I was determined to finish it. I got the rough draft of the book done before I arrived at the conference. There goes another excuse out the window! (And that last hour or so, I was definitely in the zone.)

Sherryl said...

That's fantastic to hear. How many times do we hear (and tell ourselves) that the key to writing is perseverance? And yet we still have to prove it to ourselves over and over. I plugged away for three days on a revision last week, feeling despondent that I couldn't seem to get a grip on it, then on the fourth day, it all fell into place and away I went!