“On one block I see the windows through which scores of young women once leapt to their deaths, fire driving them from factory floor to the cool of the open air…someone else who remembers place white roses on the sidewalk (Brooks, In the City).”
In my attempt to be more mindful of the world around me and document at least one daily observation in my notebooks I have discovered two things:
a) its surprising that I have any oral hygiene at all because I seem unable to remember to do things any more than about once a week, and
b) when I do actually follow this writing regime, it is pretty rewarding.
I feel more aware, more grounded, more alert, and suddenly appreciative of the richness around me—a way of being that immediately brings to mind Colette Brook’s In the City: Random Acts of Awareness. In the City incorporates snippets of dialogue, newspaper headlines, and unconnected events to give a meandering, yet hypnotizing glimpse into the many stories taking place around her, and in doing so, offering a powerful example of what can be created simply by the act of paying attention.
Posted in About writing, Uncategorized | Tagged book review, books, Colette brooks, creativity, in the city, inspiration, New York, writing | Leave a Comment »
Mounting phone bills. That bitchy friend who raised her eyebrows when I announced was going to be a Great Novelist in grade ten. Pure fatigue.
Though I call it Writer’s Block, the forces keeping my from sitting down at the computer and working on my manuscript are more akin to a mosh pit of baby hippos than a single object with smooth sides and 90 degree angles.
The good news is that according to Lynn Coady, winner of the 2013 Giller Prize, sometimes all it takes to battle through the tangle of demands and doubt that keeps us from writing, is some pixie dust.
Speaking on the genisis of her award-winning collection, Hellgoing, Coady explained that, “after the Giller nomination in 2011, [she] thought – ‘Gotta get a book out there, you have to capitalize on that momentum’… and had writer’s block, and…felt really stuck… but [she] was writing short stories and [she] was having fun with them…, so [she] thought, we’ll just throw these all together and we’ll see what happens (source)’”
Smile. Find that spark. And then use the bastard to burn down the rest of that creative-constricting jungle.
Yes, I think I will give that try.
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Apparently I have the attention span of a month-old shih tzu. Despite making a pledge to be more present, I only managed to reign my mind in to the moment for all of about 37 seconds over the course of two weeks.
Pathetic, I know. And yet despite its brevity, I did manage to get something out of the experience—and that is a reminder of the power of observation. Forcing myself to focus on the world around me, made me notice things I don’t normally. Like the way the ground I was riding on looked like a sucked-on jawbreaker. Or the lingering taste of coffee in my mouth. The cold wetness pressing against my cheeks. It all made me think of a Van Gogh quote I read the other day in Brenda’ Uelands book on writing.
“When I see young painters come and draw from memory , and then haphazardly smear on whatever they like also from memory, –then keep it at a distance and put on a very mysterious, gloomy face to find out what in Heaven’s name it may look like, and at last and finally make something from it, always from memory—it sometimes disgusts me (p20-21).”
Master-painter snobbery aside, I think part of what Van Gogh was trying to get across was the importance of observing reality, and creating art directly from that reality–in other words, taking those real sensate details and impressions and using them in a manuscript. Of course I will probably need to write them down somewhere, considering the limited capacity of my little dog brain. So here goes, my next challenge is to bring a notebook with me for the next two weeks and jot down one description, detail, of bit of dialogue, from the world around me per day.
Posted in About writing | Tagged book, brenda uleland, creativity, mindfulness, painting, van gogh, writing | 4 Comments »
I have been carrying some pretty heavy writer guilt around lately—and I don’t mean heavy as an office water cooler, I’m talking heavy as-an-Assembly-on-Drunk-Driving, plus the whole damn Mulligan delivery truck.
Despite managing to spend plenty of time getting all wet and sandy with my three-year-old, several months have passed and I still haven’t produced a single paragraph for my latest YA manuscript. What kind of aspiring writer doesn’t even write? A bad one, I figured, a weak one, a doomed to-fail-one…that is till I read this passage in Brenda Ueland‘s, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit.
According to Ueland, not writing is actually okay–necessary even–so long as we allow our minds time to wander and explore and observe the now, instead of filling them up with the chatter of daily chores, Groupon deals, and work deadlines. As she explains, “the imagination needs moodling,–long, in-efficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering…For what we write today slipped into our souls some other day when we were alone and doing nothing (pages 33- 36).”
So maybe I don’t need to feel guilty for neglecting my project lately. Of course, I do need to get to it sooner than later but maybe doing nothing–in a thoughtful, pondering way–has been exactly what my writing work, and my writing self, has needed.
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It happened again. Despite so many pinky-swear-sealed promises that I would most definitely and certainly get back to my manuscript and write a WHOLE chapter this week, I didn’t even manage to power up my laptop.
I need help. Luckily, I found some in the form of Brenda Ueland’s book, If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit. My mom lent it to me, and though I was a little dismayed by the abundance of references to things I have never read like Tolstoi and Blake…and the Ten Commandments (perhaps I should be moving beyond redit and zombie romance novels), Ueland’s book is filled with all kinds of useful and inspiring reflections. Like this one: “Creative power flourishes only when I am living in the present.”
As someone who is almost always mentally tabulating all of the of things I need to do to make life happen—perhaps that is the problem. Maybe in order to get back into the creative flow, I need to start by getting back to the now. Worth a shot…after all how hard can it be?
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Photo by spcbrass
“Anyone who’s ever quit smoking knows that feeling. And that’s me if I don’t get to write. It feels like I’m jonesing.” Douglas Coupland
I used to think writer’s block was for wimps. For people that lacked the willpower to sit down at the computer and just get to it, and frankly, probably weren’t meant to be writers in the first place. I have recently become one of those wimps.
For just over a month now, I have not worked on my manuscript and having been feeling very shitty about it, a fact which has infused my reluctance with a thick layer of guilt and caused me to actually start FEARING my laptop. Today, however, I finally decided to confront the situation–and my Toshiba and try to figure out where I went wrong.
Though I still am not yet over my wall, I think I am starting to understand where it came from.
Somewhere between trying to get a job and signing a mortgage, and updating banking information and managing an overflowing basket of really annoying but important tasks, that thing I once loved to do has become Yet Another Item to be ticked off the list.
Though I’m not sure how yet, I think if I really I want to get through this block, I need to re-discover what it is I love about writing, and what it is in turn that makes me a writer.
Posted in About writing, Uncategorized | Tagged creativity, douglas coupland, inspiration, writers block, writing | 10 Comments »
Craig’s List made me cry today. And it’s all my fault.
I normally confine my job searches on said site to the admin/office assistant range, however today I made the mistake of browsing all sorts of interesting positions–psychiatric nurse, veterinarian, deep water fishing guide–that I am totally NOT qualified for. It was like window shopping at Holt and Renfrew only instead of a sparkly black Gucci dress that I would probably never have a chance to wear anyway, a dozen different professions so much more exciting and interesting than my own dangled just out of reach before me. And I couldn’t help but wonder…What the Hell am I Doing with my Life again?
I am a writer. That was, and still is my choice. And just because I’m not there yet, it doesn’t mean I won’t ever be. Thanks for the reminder Alice.
Posted in About writing | Tagged alice munro, books, creativity, inspiration, nobel prize, writing | 2 Comments »