Notes from a Writing Conversation: Part One

Blog Note: Beginning Monday, October 19, we will begin posting select writing exercises from The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life on our sister blog, 366writing.wordpress.com.

Enjoyed an hour live on Abstract Illusions Radio last night with host Jennifer Hillman, conversing about the wonderful world of writing and some of its most beneficial applications. Jen and I discussed a number of topics that touched upon the many different professional and personal uses of writing and story:

Journaling: A caller discussed her desire to re-start a journal. I carried it from there to note the three biggest reasons why all writers (and everyone, for that matter) should journal daily, if possible:

1) To get thoughts, feelings, observations, perceptions and experiences on paper. You never know what seeds of future stories, poems, essays, books or lessons lie within everyday words.

2) To plumb our life circumstances or situations, for both reflection and inner healing. Journals are safe havens; by writing deeply about what concerns us, we can uncover solutions, release sources of suffering and reclaim pieces of ourselves.

3) To experiment with new forms and types of writing, or to make test-runs of poems, essays and stories.

Writing the Iceberg: I pointed out one of the core challenges of all writers – to not become too cerebral or intellectual in their work, unless they are academic or topical non-fiction authors. Good writing should reflect life – a combination of emotions, deeper feelings, thoughts, sensory perceptions, actions and responses. Remember that the mind encompasses the entire body and all of your cells – and that, by opening to heart and body rhythms, you actually open huge vaults of memories, experiences and feelings that deepen and enrich stories. Think of your mind as an iceberg: The brain is the tip, while the entire body is the 90% that is often “submerged.” Which would you rather have available when you write? As poet Li-Young Lee said, “We have six trillion potential stories inside us – one for each cell.”

Writing Universal Truths: The goal of personal, introspective writing such as memoirs, poetry and personal essays is to utilize our experiences to arrive at deeper truths, common to all. By doing so, we experience personal discovery and, perhaps, transformative moments, while also creating “familiar” moments for the readers. These are the “A-ha!” moments we experience when reading well-crafted novels, memoirs and other works. Always seek to write so deeply that you shed the veneer of your own personality and tap something much more universal, sacred, primal.

With the Heart Comes Voice: What happens when we try to sing if our heart’s not into the song or the performance? Our voices tend to sound jerky, constricted. The same with good writing. Try to write not so much from the mind, but from the heart. By writing with depth and feeling, we can sharpen our authentic voice, that mixture of style, rhythm, resonance and presence that is our unquestionable imprint on the printed page. Drive voice with your heart. Turn your mind into a willing servant, pulling the words and structure you need to craft the piece, but not directing it.

There’s more to come from our conversation…

Final note: My friend, author/editor/photographer and Cherokee language teacher Brian Wilkes, reminded me on Facebook that, in the Cherokee calendar, we are entering a most auspicious year: Noquis’equa, the Year of the Big Star. The Year of Venus. This is a year of rapid reversals and big change. Here’s to creating some big change in all our lives with a year of great writing!

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