Defining a "perfect" distraction
Perfection is one of the most, well, perfect writing distractions. It is well suited for the creative person shaping and molding. After all, don't we all want something we create to be perfect?
How many of us write a draft, only to find ourselves stuck over a word, a phrase or the perfect shade of ink. We're seeking, searching for something perfect.
One of the elements in improving our own writing is to move past some of the distractions that crop up. Wrestling with perfection seems to work against what we truly want to do.
But what is
perfection, really? Who dictates what is perfect?
One of my graduate school professors discussed The Great Gatsby
as the perfect novel.
I have some perfect
novels in a desk drawer, but a few literary agents didn't think them so perfect.The Great Gatsby
, my professor explained, may be perfect, but it is a flawed perfection because no writing can be absolutely flawless.
That's what keeps me at my computer tapping away or taking hours to scratch out my ideas in my notebooks. The search for perfection, even with some marred facets. Do I think I'll attain perfection in my writing? I don't know.
I do know that I won't let it get in the way of my sitting down to write. How about you? What are your biggest internal distractions when you look at the blank page in front of you?Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.
Labels: Elizabeth King Humphrey, the process, writing practice
Pushing past...and getting to the good stuff
Recently, when I was working to finish revisions on a long project I started thinking about how a writer sometimes need to push past an area of revision or of writing that isn't working. Just getting to the next page, paragraph, sentence or word can help bring clarity to what the writer is working toward.
But what happens when nothing is coming? When you just can't think about it anymore?
Often what works for me when I'm stuck within a piece of writing is to stop in the middle of the process and to give myself some distance from that particular piece.
But I don't move away from my computer. I pick up another piece of writing. One I've been procrastinating getting into and start working with it. Ideally my first project is, let's say, nonfiction and the second project is completely different, perhaps fiction or poetry or corporate writing.
I find the change in the projects can be refreshing to my brain. The shift in gears helps me delve back into a project I've been putting off, whereas my brain also gets a different workout for a while.
In the end, I feel productive, regardless of how many words actually stay on the page and in the draft. That peace of mind, knowing that I've continued working, helps me return to the first project with less resistance.What helps you to push past resistance in your writing?Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach, who wishes she viewed a a lush forest from her writing window. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.
Labels: Elizabeth King Humphrey, procrastination, the process
As a writer, what battles are you fighting?
"The picture that looks as if it were done without an effort may have been a perfect battlefield in its making."
Robert Henri from The Art Spirit
This quotation comes at an excellent time for me. I've just witnessed a plasterer put the final touches on a couple large holes in our home's 1916 walls. Almost 10 years of living in this home, we've been working on many remodeling projects and the plastering helps to move us to complete one of the last big ones.
Except we asked the plasterer to finish his work rough. It was difficult, he told me, because he was accustomed to make everything "smooth as glass." But our walls are the old, rough plaster. Make them smooth and they will look out of place to the rest of our home. We were asking the plasterer to do something he was unaccustomed to doing, but a technique he knew how to do because of his experience. Smooth or rough, the end result hides the cracks and the "battlefield" beneath it.
Do you ever read someone's work and wonder about how many drafts it took to get to the rough or smooth finish the author was after? Do you ever wonder what "battles" needed to be fought in order to achieve the effortless read you enjoyed? Then look to your own work. What are you fighting when you fight the "battles"? Are you able to achieve the desired, perhaps, effortless results--rough or smooth? Or is the battle still being fought among the words as you try to finish your work? Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places. After writing this blog, Elizabeth plans to stare at the walls to watch the paint and plaster dry. Literally.
Labels: craft of writing, Elizabeth King Humphrey, the process
Your (Christmas tree) fiction process
As many writers have pointed out, sticking to a routine and writing every day at a set time and letting yourself just write makes you more apt to come into contact with your inner self, your unconscious self.
In the spirit of the holidays, is your self--as it is set out on the page--a spare, seemingly unloved, basic Christmas tree with a few lights and fewer ornaments? Or are you one of those Christmas tree loaded with colorful blinking lights and enough ornaments to have sent Charlie Brown's petite Christmas tree into a state of shock? Or do you find yourself to be a cross-section of both, depending on the day or time of day?
For me, I find that I tend to edit as I write, ending up with a basic tree with a few ornaments. Fortunately, I think my inner editor replaces my inner critic. Generally, I spend time formulating in my head and then getting the idea on the page, but often I hesitate over the keys, contemplating the word before I press each letter. Thinking twice as I begin a sentence, visualizing where it will take me.
I had a professor who, if I remember correctly, characterized fiction writers in two groups based on drafts' needs: putter-inners and taker-outers. I'm a putter-inner. I write the bare bones and need to put-in more, decorating each bough with more ornaments or tinsel as I review each draft. Frequently, when I end up with a spare tree of a fiction piece, I sometimes envy the taker-outers. Although they need to take out, their tree is lushly decorated.
So, are you a putter-inner or a taker-outer?Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places. She is looking forward to sharing the Peanuts' Christmas special with her kids, as well as the Heat Miser song.
Labels: daily writing, Elizabeth King Humphrey, fiction, the process
Surrounded by paper...and computer keyboards
We've all been there, looking for the magic bullet of writing. Even though I've studied writing and been a reader my entire life, I think: If only I write with this pen on that notebook, I'll have a best-selling novel. My desk overflows with the fun notebooks I've picked up, in my quest for the "right" one that will inspire me to tell a story. I purchase pens that I've seen other writers use. Perhaps I've been using the wrong tools, I tell myself.
I'm fascinated with how some of writers still take pen to paper, writing longhand until their thousand-page manuscript is finished. One successful novelist told me that he wrote while feeding his infant, legal pad and pen propped between baby and bottle. With three kids, I've never quite managed that, but I have dabbled. One writer told me of his use of index cards. Shortly thereafter, I am clearing out the office supply store of its stock of legal pads and index cards. Sketches and words flow over the notepads and stray pieces of paper. But the stories remain on the pages and my computer screen remains blank because, I think, the novelists haven't worked that way. They have sold his books while I have not.
Finally, it dawns on me that instead of basing my end result on what anyone else does, I need to embrace that the notepads and scraps of paper are a part of my process. I collect the notes I've made on one project or another and create a notebook for each novel idea. When the pieces of paper overwhelm or take over my desk, I then turn to my trusty keyboard. But before I get to that point, I doodle, sketch or write plot overviews in a funky notebook picked up in a SoHo paper shop are part of my craft.
The paper and notebooks I choose become a part of my storytelling process. The story of a small boy won't appear in my flowery notebook, which, instead contains the story skeleton about romance, love and longing. But neither of them seems to come alive with just a cursor blinking at me. They need the love and support of my taking the time to play in the beginning and embrace the organic nature of a story--including the notebook as a vehicle.
Now, as a separate issue, I need to work on that success thing, which won't take the pens or notebooks of anyone else. Just me.Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at CoastalCarolinaMoms.com and TheWriteElizabeth.com, where she contemplates finding creativity in everyday places She is getting ready to dive into another fun fiction project, notebook in hand.
Labels: craft of writing, creative writing, Elizabeth King Humphrey, the process
Loving the Sport
by Marcia Peterson
Actor Bradley Whitford (The West Wing
) gave a commencement speech at the University Wisconsin a couple of years ago, which provides some good Monday morning motivation. The first of his basic principles for a successful life, is this:
"Fall in love with the process and the results will follow. You've got to want to act more than you want to be an actor. You've got to want to do whatever you want to do more than you want to be whatever you want to be, want to write more than you want to be a writer, want to heal more than you want to be a doctor, want to teach more than you want to be a teacher, want to serve more than you want to be a politician. Life is too challenging for external rewards to sustain us. The joy is in the journey."
As I thought about his message, I recalled hearing similar advice. In a San Francisco lecture a few years ago, bestselling author Anne Patchett said, "We need to start thinking of writing as an essential joy, not as a road that will lead us to something but a road that we take pleasure in for its own sake."
More high achievers, in various fields, say the same thing. Olympic athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee once said, "'The medals don’t mean anything and the glory doesn't last. It's all about your happiness. The rewards are going to come, but my happiness is just loving the sport and having fun performing." The musician Sting, upon accepting an award, once stated, "Music is its own reward."
Writing is its own reward. Remember why you love to write, and enjoy doing your work today!
Labels: joy, Marcia Peterson, the process, writing inspiration