I’ve finally found a groove of writing that fits me. It’s taken years to settle into it. I feel silly posting it here, except it seems that so many people who write are obsessed with knowing how other people write. Me too. It’s as if, by knowing the steps Writers take, the magic will dust its sparkles across my body and I’ll produce sentences that are equally sublime. Turns out that’s a fairy tale. I’ve always loved fairy tales; I won’t easily let them go, but the stark truth is that each writer must find what works best for them…and it takes a lot of trial and error. Well, continual trial and error. Like, forever. That’s part of it.
The steps that work for me, and why. Part 1.
It’s essential I wake early in the morning and write for an hour and half. Sometimes I can squeeze two hours in, seldom three, before my job-job demands begin for the day. I can’t manage the 5 am wake up seven days a week because I need to catch up on sleep one or two mornings, but I do manage it five days a week. I think this is pretty good.
There are two reasons (am I so obsessed with numbers? It appears I am.) the early waking helps me write. The obvious first is that I write knowing no one in my family will interrupt me. I write undisturbed and focused for the brief time allotted. This may seem trivial, but for a mother and wife, the waking hours that fill the rest of the day are always “on call”. I am able to defend my morning space if someone wakes early and ventures to start a conversation…they will retreat and let me alone most of the time. But any other time, my defense of writing time is ignored, even if—ha ha, when—I become a spitting bitch With an iron will and gritted teeth (and it appears, a heady list of clichés) I tell myself I chose these paths in my life too: wife, mother. I do want it all. And a lonely cabin in the woods, by a lake, with decent wifi, where “someone” delivers breakfast in a basket and a gin and tonic at 4 in the afternoon. In fairy tales one can dream.
This segues nicely into my second, more important, reason for rising before dawn to begin writing. My brain remains asleep, closer to a dream state than a waking one. It is easier for me to access my subconscious this way…the place where imagery is strangest, and the juxtaposition of disparate words move to the page unquestioned. My inner critic sleeps on while my inner dancer prances. It is not unusual for me to re-read in the afternoon what I wrote in the morning and not recognise a word or thought that is there. Often, it’s a discovery. “Later day” writing always sees me tinkering a perfectionism that dulls the shine, completely rubs the magic away. Stories rise out of our subconscious…our bodies are trying to communicate something to us. There is a deeper knowledge there that requires patient practice to fish it out.
I write by hand, in a notebook. I used to write stories and prose directly on the computer and use my notebook for journaling by hand…but I discovered my thoughts are freer when I write by hand. I also discovered that when I type on the keyboard and watch the text laid down on the page, I read and re-read and re-read the sentences and paragraphs and I can’t help myself correcting them and forcing patterns prematurely (I’ll return to this idea shortly). In contrast, when I write by hand, I never stop my progress on the page to read what I have written. Instead, I keep my pen moving and the ideas and images in my brain rise out of the murk steadily and easily. I think there is something to this, the fine motor skill associated with forming letters with one’s fingers, the drawing of squiggleys, and some association with cognition. Steiner, the founder of Waldorf schools, used to have his students knit while learning lessons as he believed the small movement of fingers aided memory. I’m looking into it…subject for a different post. For me, the reading and correcting on the computer is a disruption to the creative writing process. It’s taken me a long time to understand this.
I write with a pen instead of a pencil. Unless it’s poetry. Poetry generation is always done with a pencil and never stays within the lines…it just doesn’t. I allow myself the use of an eraser with poetry. For prose and reflection, I write with a pen…a pen that feels good in my hand and doesn’t drag too much on the page…this helps relieve finger and hand fatigue…very real if you haven’t practiced handwriting. And I have a rule that I’m not to cross things out, if I can help it. All words count. And this permits a complete freedom in the generation of material. Handwriting speed seems to match my thinking speed. Or, maybe it slows my thinking speed so that my attention is improved. Most people prefer to type on a computer because it is fastest for getting their thoughts down. But I need to slow my thoughts. A pen helps. I’ll stop here for now. I hadn’t realised writing about my writing would take up so much space. I’ll post part 2 in the weeks to come.