Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Sneaky Way to Bring Joy Back to Your Writing

Albert Camus said a wonderful thing about why we write or paint or dance or make music: "A person's life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art, or love, or passionate work, those one or two images in the presence of which his heart first opened."

Many readers emailed or posted their reactions to the balance of practice and love in the writing life.  One, a creative buddy, shared her efforts with a writing project that has flatlined.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Does Practice Make Perfect--Or Even Contribute Significantly to Your Writing Goals?

It's gardening time in New England--despite the 20 degree weather we had last week that left my kale seedlings gasping--and I'm spending a lot of time out there. Soon my weekly teaching schedule will pick up again, leaving me little time to sit in the sun, so I'm getting my fingernails filthy now.

Gardening for me is a lot like writing. Both take tons of practice, trial and error, failure and misery. Both have some magnificent moments. If you're not into gardening, forgive this analogy, but for me plants and soil have taught me a lot about the practice of writing. The patience I need, the forgiveness of my own big bloopers, the times when I want to chuck it all and go work at McDonalds (not really).

I began gardening because three of my grandparents had the bug. My grandfather lived in Nyack, NY, right on the Hudson and he grew raspberry bushes and roses in a boxwood maze and flowers I could never hope to identify. We were both early risers. When I would visit, I could peer out my dormer window from bed and see him walking in the garden, so I'd get dressed fast and go out to join him. The raspberries were his precious spot. He pondered them like I ponder a chapter, scene, character.

My grandfather taught me to go slow with creating. It worked well to put in time, both fingernail filthy time (digging into the soil, feeling it, working it with your hands) and pondering time.

So that leads us to this week's topic: practice. Does it really make writing perfect? How does it contribute to real writing goals?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Small Steps for Continual Improvement--Work on Your Book-in-Progress

In my attempt to understand the balances and imbalances of the creative life, I've signed up for some e-newsletters. One of my favorites is The Introvert Energizer, written by coach Nancy Okerlund.
I met Nancy at one of my writing classes. She makes a study of the way introverts move through challenges, how they can live with more joy.

Since many of us writers have a rich inner life, maybe even think of ourselves as deeper-than-the-average bear, perhaps even consider we are more introvert than extrovert, Nancy's words often bring illumination to the journey of writing a book.
Small Steps--Kaizen
The Introvert Energizer's latest issue discusses the Japanese theory of "kaizen." Nancy calls it "small steps for continual improvement." I love this idea, because I'm a really a turtle disguised as a speedy rabbit. I wanted to mull over the concept of "kaizen" as it relates to my current book-in-struggle.