My Writing Life
"Writing is one of the ways I participate in transformation."-Toni Cade Bambara
When I started to write seriously, I would read stories about how other people approached their writing life. Famous authors such as Maya Angelou, Octavia Butler, and Ernest Hemingway cultivated different writing practices. Angelou chose to write her books in a hotel room near her home. Butler declared the vision for her writing career by writing it on the back cover of a notebook and Hemingway crafted his stories by standing as he typed.
Initially while reading about these authors, I began to think that I needed to figure out how to be like them. But the idea of trying to mold myself to be like someone else did not sit right with me. For some people, they can write every day for a set amount of hours. Others are able to solely focus on one writing project at a time until completion. Then there are the writers who maintain strict writing rituals from sitting in a specific chair, writing at a specific time to using a specific pen and paper.
But I did not resemble anyone I was reading about in books or online because my writing style is unique to me. To an outsider looking in it may appear that my writing practice is haphazard and sometimes it feels that way, but underneath the perceived chaos, there is a rhythm and a flow that exists. I write from a very intuitive place; motivated and inspired by where I am, what I am feeling at any given moment in my life and what is most bubbling up inside of me demanding to be expressed.
I do not have a preference when it comes to writing materials because I can use a pen and a notebook to write with just as much ease as typing directly on the computer or my phone. Sometimes a simple scrap piece of paper is all I need in order to take the words that are forming in my mind and create something worth reading.
When it comes to creating time to write, my schedule is in concert with the rhythm and flow of my life. There are days when I am able to devote several uninterrupted hours to writing because there are no pressing matters demanding my time and attention. But most days due to how my life is set up; a full-time job, kids and other responsibilities, I manage to write in the small moments of time that open up for me as I move about my day. Sometimes I am focused solely on one project; other times I am mixing things up by working on different writing projects simultaneously.
By understanding the type of writer I am, I write from a place of strength without feeling the need to be like anyone else. I value the importance of paying attention to what stories, essays, and poems that want to be expressed on any given day. I follow through with them until I am left with no more words to write. Paying attention to what I think, feel, and need and listening to my inner voice is the foundation of my writing life.
So you could imagine the joy I experienced when I came across Julia Cameron's book, The Right to Write. As I leaned against the bookshelf in the library, I was immediately taken in by the words on the page. The first couple of chapters were validation for the unique way I had crafted my writing life. Below are a few points from Cameron's book that resonated deeply with me.
Cameron writes that you do not have to find time but instead you create it. For many people, this may include designating specific days or hours and scheduling it on your calendar. I choose to make time to write by always being prepared. Everywhere I go, I carry pens and a journal for the moments when I need to capture any thoughts or ideas.
Another point from the book that I agreed with is that struggling to come up with something to write about is unnecessary. Cameron says there are stories already available to us and that we just need to pay attention to what is inside of us waiting to be told. When we pay attention and are engaged with our lives we will find the stories to write.
During the times I find myself struggling to write, it usually means I'm not listening. My process for writing begins with an outline in my mind, figuring out what I want to say before the first words are ever written. If the message I want to share is not coming together, I put what I'm working on to the side. Sentences that don't want to form, are a signal to me that it is not time to write the particular story, poem or essay. Instead, I will work on something else unit it's time for me to come back to that particular piece which could be a few hours, days, weeks or months.
In her book, Cameron talks about the importance of letting go of control. There comes a point where we have to relinquish control of the story, poem, blog post or whatever we are creating. The stories we are trying to craft already know exactly how they are to be told and as the writer we have to be flexible and willing to move in flow with what is wanting to take shape. More often than not, what we are writing will not end up how we initially imagined it, but instead, it will show up on the page how it is supposed to be.
This also goes back to the idea of listening and paying attention to what is wanting to come through us. I've been working on a story for a few years. The writing process on this particular piece has been slow because the characters and their stories are constantly speaking to me, letting me know how they want their stories to unfold. I do not rush the process, I just move in the direction that the characters and storylines lead me.
The last point that Cameron makes is about the importance of learning not to focus on perfection. As a writer, we will have plenty of rough drafts and opportunities to improve upon them, but the primary goal is to get what you need to say out. Just write. Don’t concern yourself with grammar and punctuation marks in the early stages but know that edits and proofreading will come later.
As a writer, it's important to find an approach to writing that works best for you. Your approach will be different from mine and both of our approaches will be different from the next person. This is okay because it's not important to try to fit into some predetermined idea of how a writer should work on their craft. In the end what matters most is that you create a writing life that honors who you are, your unique perspective and your gift for communicating with words.
If you are a writer or involved in other creative endeavors I would love to hear from you about how you approach your craft, email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
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