Self, Writing

inspiration for writers (and why writing is scarier than halloween)

Just thought I should let y’all know that over at brain pickings, Maria has put together a compilation of posts featuring writing advice.

I need to hear a lot of these today, as I’m getting back to work on a piece I had given up on a while back. I’m still (verrrrrrrrry slowly) working through The Artist’s Way, and the last chapter talked about the self-sabotage many recovering artists face. The road to recovery, Julia reminds us, is frightening. It means we can no longer hold on to the excuses we used to keep us from facing the vulnerability inherent in making art. Once we get close to the ledge, it gets windy and cold. That’s why so many artists take one or two steps towards creating something great and then shelve the project for no real reason.

Months ago, I gave an essay I’m writing about a situation at my alma mater to my writing mentor. She took the time to give it a helpful critique and asked me to send it to her again. I never did. I made some of the changes, got busy, started making excuses about how disappointed she’d be in how late I was getting back to her, and then just sort of pushed it out of my mind. It haunted me, that I had let her efforts and mine go to waste. She believed in me; why couldn’t I? Still, I couldn’t bring myself to work again.

But now that I realize this is an actual thing for other writers, a silly, avoidable avoidance tactic, I don’t want to let it go. I want to see this project through: even if it’s hard, and even if at the end I still suspect that it sucks, and even if I don’t end up sending it around.

But it IS fricking scary. I have been so ashamed of myself for pushing this project away for so long that I’m having trouble even opening the file to look at it. Just thinking about loading Microsoft Word, my chest tightens and my hands feel shaky. What’s with this anxiety? It’s a dumb essay. It is utterly meaningless in the world of things, in the world of my daily life. I have written so many school papers that my fingers should be cracked and bloody. And yet. The idea of writing a VOLUNTARY and (gulp) CREATIVE project to completion is powerful and nerve-wracking because it signifies a step towards commitment to being a writer.

So here’s to being brave, friends.

P.S. Unrelatedly, M and T are insisting I go as a manta ray for Halloween, and I was refusing on the grounds of impossibility, but then I saw this:

 

Bllaaargghhhdljbfasdjhbofsadlbhdalvsbsda that’s an amazing costume and I would be way happier than that kid if i had a mom to make that for me.

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Observations, Self, Spirituality, Writing

introducing: an advice column!

Writing on this blog and working my way through The Artist’s Way have been helping me figure what it means to be a writer. I used to believe only novelists counted as writers. People who wrote poems were poets, people who wrote for newspapers were journalists, and people who wrote online were bloggers (and hacks). The esteemed title of “writer” could only apply to those who dealt in that fearsome world of Real Literature, aka Books with Long Ass Stories aka Novels.

Except that the novel was originally considered dumb and low-class anyway. And I barely read novels anymore, making them feel less relevant. Also, if I didn’t write–in my journal, here, or in my writing notebook– I would feel lost. I wouldn’t be able to process my life– writing things down is part of my identity. Besides, isn’t writing just putting words on stuff? And I put a lot of words! And this one time I was even paid to do it! So damnit, I’m a writer!

One of the writing forms I used to poo-poo especially was that of the advice column. When I was struggling with my writing identity in college, a friend recommended I read “Dear Sugar” at The Rumpus— which I recommend you do also– and I thought it was heavy-handed, flowery, and superfluous. The advice column is not an art form, I maintained. Advice is what you dish out over a second bottle of wine, and only when your friend asks for it. It’s sloppy, honest, personal, loaded, off-the-cuff– and oh wait. That sounds like fun!

I guess every advice column ever will be compared to Dear Sugar’s. In case you live somewhere very far away from the writing world (bless you) its author was the real-life main character of the movie Wild (read the book of the same name. Way better, way inspiring.) But instead of comparing mine to hers, I’m going to focus on giving my own advice, in my own way, and I hope to never mention Sugar again except as unrelated to this.

THAT ALL BEING SAID!

I’m starting an advice column.

I get asked for advice sort of a lot in real life (hahahahahahahahahaha no) (well kind of) (more like lots of people tell me their problems and then I give unsolicited advice). And I’m going to transfer some of these questions to written format and answer them here.

Or you can also send me your own: mwant1390 at gmail dot com.

Pretty please? Let’s do this together.

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Self, Spirituality, Writing

the artist’s way.

Have any of you used this book before?

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(Also, have any of you struggled when typing the word “artist’s”? I misspelled it like five times. No? Just me? Ok then.)

I heard of Julia Cameron through her book The Writing Diet, which I picked up on the bargain shelf at Barnes and Noble back in the early 2000’s. I’d been struggling with disordered eating for several years and was desperate for anything to break me out of my funk.

That book was both helpful and not. Julia, bless her heart, is a lunatic.

No sugar, she advised. Absolutely none. She was ahead of the clean eating bandwagon. But the relapses she admitted to having– splitting a dessert at a restaurant with friends–apparently led to major regret and sugar hangovers. If clean eating meant I would get sick every time I ate a dessert– nay, SHARED a dessert– I wanted no part of it. Still, I tried. I lasted less than a day.

However, she also plugged her signature strategies, Morning Pages and Artist Dates. Cornerstones of the emotional healing required to resolve eating issues, Morning Pages and Artist Dates were the one techniques she said were non negotiable.

So they were the one thing I didn’t try. I didn’t lose any weight.

Fast forward to now, when a dear creative friend of mine, Nandita, invited me to join her in working through Julia’s best known work, The Artist’s Way. I prepared myself for lots of pseudo-spirituality and anecdotal evidence and admonitions to move to New Mexico, where people just get it. 

And now I’m on chapter 6, admittedly far behind in the schedule Nandita and I set, and I have to say, it’s working!

I’ll be writing about it more in depth later, but for now I’ll say that the major theme I’m taking away is that we live in an abundant universe where God is waiting and eager to bless us a thousand times more than we can imagine. He’s extravagant. He’s effervescent.

“We have tried to be sensible– as though we have any proof at all that God is sensible,” Julia writes.

OH MY GOD, I felt like shouting. HE’S TOTALLY NOT! THANK YOU FOR SAYING THAT! BECAUSE THAT HAS BEEN MY MAJOR CRITIQUE OF CHRISTIANITY!

‘There is not one pink flower, or even fifty pink flowers, but hundreds. This creator looks suspiciously like someone who might just send us support for our creative ventures.” And you know what? As soon as I started working my way through this book, I landed my first ever paid writing gig. And while it’s not panning out the way I thought, it was enough to encourage me to seek out other paid writing gigs.

(SO, LOL, hire me! Kidding. Well, not, I’m not, but, ya know.)

So the universe does seem to be encouraging me creatively. Thank you, Julia. Thanks for being so woo-woo you. I’m curious: have you used this book, or Julia’s others? What’d you think? 

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