Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Professional Writing students talk ...

This year, our Diploma nonfiction students were set a task - write about five things you've learned about writing. In other words, a listicle. I think they make interesting reading! So I'm posting a few (with their permission). The answers are not always what you expect ... :-)

FROM PETER DEWAR

Five things I've learnt about writing. Funny, could say the same about meditation
Recently, I wrote about meditation - have been thinking about it ever since. And now, as I open my
eyes, groan and untangle my creaking legs, it strikes me: meditation and writing share much in
common.

Skip the light fandango
Before formal study, I imagined writing simply a matter of tapping into a well of creativity. In no
time, I'd, 'skip the light fandango, doing cartwheels across the floor'. Meditation, or so I mistakenly
once thought, involved endless encounters with the numinous. In reality, meditation and writing are
mundane, hard-work. Think sitting down and laying bricks. Don't say you weren't warned: a sore
back and frustration are more likely than finding God or muse.

Practice
Thankfully, both activities improve with practice. Words, sentences and ideas begin to flow if
writing is routine. Practise meditation daily, and body and mind become softer.

Yes, there are moments ... ignore them
It does happen. There are pieces of my writing, possibly just a sentence, that still move me. And
there have been occasions when I've ended meditation feeling renewed as the world seemed to pulse
with wonder. Life-long meditators call this an obstacle. The writer's reminder to avoid attachmentgoes something like this: 'round the corner from feeling puffed-up with pride about an article, or the number of Facebook Likes, is the next piece. And as I've discovered, there's an even-money chance, it'll be shit.

Going La-La
Agonising over every word - or, for the zillionth time - returning to the sensation of breathing takes
its toll. Both meditation and writing fail if they're reduced to a military-style exercise. Going La-
La helps. Tackling a short story - even better, a poem - enlivens my professional writing. When
meditation grows mundane, I listen to a podcast. 'Meditation for loneliness'. 'Chakra meditation'.
Don't you just love hippies; even the titles have me laughing.

Then why do it?
There's a reason why I meditate - and write. My life is better off for it. Both attend to my thoughts
and emotions. And, believe it or not, both boost confidence. Cliched, I know: introspection and
quietness build self-trust. And a deep appreciation of life.
I'll continue to complain about sore knees and embarrassing writing that doesn't work. Stop
meditation or writing? I couldn't, even if I tried.