Journaling exercise: confronting whatever is keeping you from writing, in writing

So, as I mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve got some personal issues going on at the moment that held up my writing for a while. Basically, I wrote no new fiction for three weeks, and very little of anything else printable, which for some people sounds like nothing, but for me was pretty traumatic. About half the time, my brain felt like mush. The other part of the time, I felt anxious and stressed-out — which is not a state in which I can be very creative. I spent inordinate amounts of time alternating between staring at blank Word Docs and spacing out in front of article after article instead of writing anything of my own.

Anyway, one day last week, I was feeling particularly stressed out and recalled something I’d read about before about “writing away stress.” Continue reading

Seeing the world through a writer’s eyes

I’ve been thinking a little bit more about my theme of a couple posts ago, “how to be funny.”

jester

A good jester will find humor in any situation, not just those that are obviously funny.

One of the steps to writing funny is seeing funny all around you. You can look at almost any situation and find something funny in it if you relax and try to experience it through calm, judgment-free observation.

A few months ago, someone (it might have been Erika Dreifus) pointed out this opinion piece by Silas House in the N.Y. Times:

We are a people who are forever moving, who do not have enough hours in the day, but while we are trying our best to be parents and partners, employees and caregivers, we must also remain writers.

There is no way to learn how to do this except by simply doing it. We must use every moment we can to think about the piece of writing at hand, to see the world through the point of view of our characters, to learn everything we can that serves the writing. We must notice details around us, while also blocking diversions and keeping our thought processes focused on our current poem, essay or book.

This way of being must be something that we have to turn off instead of actively turn on. It must be the way we live our lives.

Some people take this kind of remote observation a bit far. Silas House argues that the majority of a writer’s mind should be working on literary pursuits at any given time. I’d disagree. I try to turn this part of my brain off on Shabbat, during conversations with loved ones, and on date night, too. The key is not to remove yourself entirely from life around you, but to be able to see it calmly with a portion of your mind at will.

But that doesn’t mean that when on a stroll with my kids and I’m admiring your garden that I’m not noting which flowers are in bloom at this season so I can work them into the setting of my work in progress.

There’s a story Continue reading