Much has been said about how to be a writer.
Here is a short list of books about it. These span ideas from daily tips or general philosophies about being a writer. There are ideas of stepping completely away from the written word as way to begin, or as a mode to find more meaning and healing in your life. There are Buddhist practices, and then the whole alchemy of grabbing an idea before it heads out into the universe for somebody else to write it down. These are all great pieces and each wil provide many portals for your entry inside the writer's room.
The Artist’s Way - Julia Cameron
Deep Writing - Eric Maisel
Writing Down the Bones - Natalie Goldberg
The Writing Life - Anne Dillard
The Weekend Novelist - Robert Ray
Writing as a Way of Healing - Louise DeSalvo
Living Color - Natalie Goldberg
The Sound of Paper - Julia Cameron
The Writer’s Journey - Christopher Vogler
Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert
The great and prolific writer William Stafford was quoted as saying:
“The field of writing will never be crowded – not because people can’t do important work, but because they don’t think they can.”
I know for me, even though I felt I had some talent as a writer, I didn’t really settle into it until I was about 70. I wrote a poem here and there for celebrations and events, I wrote some prose pieces about my early family life, but they were just enough to not starve my writer self out of the idea of being who she was. Some might say those long years were wasted time, but I think of them rather as things that I needed to experience of life. (Some training programs for Jungian therapists will not consider applicants younger than 50 for the same reasons.) I needed to survive things, I needed to win, lose, have a career, marry, divorce, travel, sit with death, be a therapist and then fall into retirement as graciously as bear on a jet ski, crashing, bumbling, rolling, skidding to a stop just short of the tree that would take me out. But the truth is there was a point where I gave myself permission. My bucket list actually preceded my ability to be in the poet/writer’s seat.
I think for all of us there is a handle or a series of buttons that we need to find before that door shoves in and we can sit in the writer’s chair. It comes with being able to sustain our deepest thoughts, fears, ideas, and follow where they take us. For me the stopper was fear based. Not fear of doing it badly. I knew that was possible if not a certainty at times, but that didn’t worry me so much, I knew there was good stuff coming as well. It was some internal knowledge that once I let go into that arena, I would be like a kid on the slide at the park, I would just be going where it took me, where it plopped me out on the sand. I had to be willing to let it happen. The places you get to with the keyboard, paintbrush or pencil in hand is not predictable, nor do you want it to be. Believe this: that what you think you should be writing will not very interesting to many people. The really good stuff comes when we go down a path we haven’t even seen before. And here is the thing, traveling there is not a round trip ticket. You will end up somewhere else.
So what may be the hardest thing is letting go of how we think it will be and being willing to follow something that in this moment you cannot even see.
When you do that, both you and your readers will know it immediately. I suspect this state of suspended willingness, lives in meditation, prayer, and every peak moment experienced in the world to date.
So, the act of being willing is a little tricky to describe. It lives in the space between looking and waiting, between reverence and play, between specificity and illusion, between attending and floating. I’m just now liking the word suspended that I wrote a second ago. Like a suspense movie, like waiting for something to drop, like an unlimited advent calendar of little windows waiting to be popped open. A poised, balanced, hovering place. There, I have just about used up my thesaurus listings for the process. I think you get it.
Once you get used to entering this zone, it can be fun, maybe a little addictive. And also, easier to trust. Good writing out there!