I’ve been struggling lately with this writing commitment. I missed several days last week, with hardly a reason. Some days, I feel pulled in other directions, away from this chair. There are times when I feel like whatever I have to say is small and unimportant, when doubts and insecurities silence me. Sometimes, it’s the topic that eludes me.
I like it when the direction of my writing comes to me as I type the words, stream-of-conscious style. It’s fun when revelations, memories and insights appear to me at almost the same instant that they appear on the page. “Where did that come from,” I wonder, with amazement, and say “thank you” to the air, where the words seem to have come from.
To write from an outline seems too much like an assignment. I’ve had enough of that! And yet, I want to write. This morning, I re-read a few of my older posts. Sometimes that helps to get the creative juices flowing. Then, I read several blogs by others, who’s writing I admire. That often gives me food for thought, and sometimes spurs a post in response.
In fact, today my friend Kathy, who writes her Lake Superior Spirit blog from the woods of Michigan’s upper peninsula, wrote about missed perceptions, inspired by a post titled “Missed Perception,” by Pam whose blog is roughwighting. Both women are wonderful writers in general, and these pieces – about chance encounters on a plane – are both excellent. I was tempted to write my own story about a long-ago plane ride. Not today, though.
I’ve had a couple writing ideas working around in my mind for a few weeks, now. One is about the rules of my house. The other regards my beautiful granddaughter, who just recently turned eighteen years old. Not today.
I have four drafts started and saved. I opened each of them, to see if I’d find inspiration there. One is titled “Ice Cream.” That can definitely wait until warmer weather! Another is the start of a “Time-out for Art” piece. I’m not sure if the work I was writing about still exists, or if it has changed beyond recognition. It may not be something I want to discuss anymore. Certainly not today. The others show promise, and – some other day – I will finish them.
I have a dozen books – maybe more – on writing. Some, like Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and Bill Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors, are designed for finessing what is written, rather than for inspiration. Stephen King’s On Writing and Michael Chabon’s Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands tell how they did it, which can be helpful, but doesn’t get me writing today.
I have, in the past, pulled suggestions from Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away: the Practice of Writing Memoir, Josip Novakovich’s Fiction Writer’s Workshop and Elizabeth Berg’s Escaping into the Open for writing material. Some of their ideas are quite fascinating, and get my mind churning.
Goldberg has lots of 10-minute writing exercises: “What can you give up knowing?” “What have you held onto too long?” “Where did you come from? How did you escape?” Novakovich hands out assignments (“Create a character without relying on anybody you have known or seen. You might consult an astrological chart.”) with an objective (to learn how to work from an idea, rather than a real-life precedent, in making up a character) and a means of checking your success.
Berg offers thought-provoking scenarios as jumping-off points for writing: “What transpires as you stand before the monkey cage at the zoo?” “Demonstrate great wrath in a person by describing only the way he or she is smoking a cigarette. Now great fear. Now sorrow.” She also offers some encouraging words for the place I am in right now: “Next time you feel stuck, celebrate. You are being given an important opportunity.”
With that, I am setting aside my writing for this day, and going in search of other opportunities.