Neil Gaiman is going to help me with this one because he is going to effectively be my guest blogger last Saturday.
We are going to talk about the core element of writing - WRITING! Before we can worry about style, plot, subject, narrative, character, your unique voice, editing, or sharing, you must begin putting pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard. Or crayon to napkin. Consciously and with discipline.
I like the metaphor of textile manufacturing. Whether you aspire to create a breath-taking ballgown, sharply tailored suit, stylish jeans, winsome blazer, provocative lingerie, or practical anorak, you cannot begin without fabric. For example, once cotton is harvested, it goes through the ginning process where dirt, leaves, and stems are removed. Compressed and transported, the bales are opened ("fluffed"), scutched (seeds removed), carded, combed, drawn, spun, and plied before being dyed or printed then cut and sewn into clothing. At several stages, impurities are removed from the fibres and a higher quality fabric results from further processing. However, before we can envision a resulting garment, we need to practice harvesting raw fibre and working it into fabric.
In service of this, we are going to practice 3 strategies this week. Before we worry too much about building muscles, we are going to get into the routine of exercise.
1. Write. Each Day. Every Day.
The mental gymnastics we can put ourselves through in order to avoid writing can be incredible. As Neil Gaiman says, we like to imagine that little elves will do the work for us, finishing or beginning.
We need to take the drama out of the act of writing. Set a timer for five minutes each day this week and write without pause. If you don't know what to write about, pick something from your day (or the one before) and start there. Or write about what it's like to write in that moment. If your mind wanders into another association, follow it there. If your mind gets stuck on an image or word, stay with it, repeat it, add another element to it. There is no way to "mess this up" as long as your pen (or finger, or crayon) is moving.
2. Write. Then Do Everything Else.
We are going to practice discipline. Start the day with your new five-minute habit, or start the major portion of your day (if coffee must come first). After this week, you may choose to put longer writing sessions at a different time of day, but finding a few minutes to start your day this week should not be a major disruption.
It helps to have a ritual around writing - a favourite pen, a fancy notebook, a lit candle, a cup of tea. Pick ONE thing this week that you will use as your ritual element on which to anchor this habit. Otherwise, an involved ritual will become yet another escape and delay tactic. Then, know what you are going to do when you are done writing. Have something that you desire to get done slated for after your writing practice (a delicious breakfast perhaps, or a big X on your calendar to celebrate that you wrote today)!
3. Write Something After Doing Nothing
Commencing day three and for the remainder of the week, add a three-minute conscious daydream beforehand. Set the timer for three minutes to simply. This is not meditation but active daydreaming. It takes practice:
- Take a deep breath.
- Feel your body in the chair.
- Think about your day. Think about the weather. Think about that annoying neighbour.
- Let your mind wander undirected for three minutes.
- Then set the timer for five minutes and write.
We will check in next week!
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