Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Learning to Write

I ran across a reference to Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. It sounded interesting, so I got a Nook copy. It's a book on breaking through creative blocks. I guess that's as good a way of describing it as any: part 12-step program, part self-psychoanalysis and part the practice of writing. It makes me uneasy, because Cameron talks about God a lot. However, I've been playing with the book, trying some of the exercises.

One exercise is to write three pages every morning, without planning or revising. Just get words on paper. I have found this very hard. Mostly I write, "I have nothing to say." Of course, I don't have a writer's block, and if I am writing, I want to be writing my current story. Though I could write more. I figure the exercise is to get one in the habit of writing. Maybe I need that.

The next exercise I like: make an artist's date with oneself, a block of time to go out alone to do something that feeds the creative impulse. So I went walking along the river last week. I'm thinking of going to museums, attending concerts. None of these require company.

Another exercise is pick five careers you'd like for yourself. I picked paleontolgist, bird watcher, traveler, poet and social thinker. I do three of the five, to one extent or another. I could do the fourth -- traveling. Nothing holds me back. The fifth -- paleontologist -- is a dream. I don't really want to be somewhere in the desert with blazing heat and no bathrooms, digging up fossils. And I don't want to be sitting in a museum somewhere, using a dental pick and a toothbrush to free bones from their matrices. I like reading and thinking about paleontology.

I guess another dream career would be union organizing. But I've tried organizing. I'm terrible at it.

Maybe it would be easier to write.

I also started rereading Natalie Goldberg's Long, Quiet Highway, which is about writing and Zen practice; and I got the Nook version of her how-to book about writing, Writing Down the Bones.

Why am I doing this? Maybe I will learn something.


Douglas Hulick said...

I've been a big fan of Stephen Pressfield's "The War of Art" ever since a friend first turned me on to it. It talks about attitudes of the writer and overcoming resistance (but it works for any creative endeavor). It's short & easy to read, with each section no more than a couple of pages long at most. What I like best is that I can go back to it every six months or so, and it can still kicks me in the pants and get me in gear.

There's no writing exercises in this book, which is part of why I like it (I've never cared much for writing exercises for the most part). It's not a book about writing; it's a book about being a writer.

He also talks about spirituality in relation to the art of creating in the last third of the book, which I can take or leave. It's the first two thirds that tend to grab me by the collar anyhow.

Douglas Hulick said...

Oops. Make that "SteVen Pressfield."

tate hallaway said...

Books about writing always make me anxious. I usually give up on them after a chapter and go write.