Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A writing life triumvirate (Beyond the Words - 1)

It's a new year and I've been scanning the writing how-to books on my shelves for a shot of inspiration. I am drawn, as I have been at other times, to Beyond the Words: The Three Untapped Sources of Creative Fulfillment for Writers by Bonni Goldberg. I've read this book before and reread parts of it, so I know it's good. It's the one I'm choosing for these early days of 2011. I'm going to read it slowly and  use the blog as a place to make notes and think out loud about what it says to me about my writing life.

I'd be delighted if you read along. Of course I'd love your input too: comments are always open.

Bonni's thesis is that there are three things that are often overlooked but end up being essential to a fulfilling writing life.

"1. Percolation — the process that takes place before a first draft takes shape
2. Revision  — the writer's role after the initial draft.
3. Going Public
a writer's mission once the writing is done" p. 3.

She goes on to expand on why those things are important. Here are some bits that I've highlighted from Chapter 1:

"The reason to cultivate percolation, revision, and going public is really to support your relationship with your writing so that it's dynamic rather than frustrating or depleting" p. 6.

"When aspects of our Writing Self are out of alignment, our relationship to writing gets clogged up by our doubts, fears, frustrations, complaints, and confession. Until we develop our personal set of tools for restoring flow to the creative process, all these issues diminish not only our respect for our writing but our ability to do it"
p. 8.

She talks about how these three things can help writers get unblocked and move onward in their work:
"We don't get stuck in our obstacles because we're stupid or clumsy or bad writers. We get stuck because our focus has narrowed. Having lost sight of the whole writing process, we neglect crucial aspects of it — percolation, revision and going public. ....What I notice is that much of what people perceive as obstacles and stoppages is due to being out of alignment with either the percolation, rewriting, or the public aspects of their Writing Self. If you give too much or not enough energy to one or more of them, then the flow of the writing process is disturbed and a blockage occurs.

....Every time I experience the onset of a blockage, if I look at my relationship with percolation, rewriting and going public, I usually find one of them is out of sync, causing my Writing Self grief"
p. 8-9.

My thoughts:
  • I probably need to be more aware of these three aspects of my writing life. If they're equally important, as Bonni suggests, then they're like three legs of a stool which will totter and fall if one or more legs isn't there or strong. When I'm feeling blocked or blah writing-wise, one of the things I'm going to start looking for is imbalance in these three.
  • I wonder how the internet has impacted this trio. For example, it's easy to get hooked on the adrenaline spikes of internet immediacy — comments, blog traffic stats, facebooking, twitter are all so stimulating I, at least, have to be very strict in limiting myself with these things for my mind to settle into a relaxed and receptive percolate mode.
Going public is now easy — too easy? Do I do it as thoughtfully and deliberately as I used to? Does it carry the same weight as it did before online life, when in order to go public I had to actually tuck something into an envelope and send it off with a stamp? 

I'll be blogging more quotes and thoughts from this book in the days ahead.

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