Here I blog about writing, editing, reading, books, submissions, freelancing, getting published (and rejected), journalism, revisions, life after the MFA, teaching writing, and living the writer's life. Welcome. BUT -- if you are a writer: Write first, read blogs second.




Monday, October 8, 2012

Writing Gods: Give me this day my Daily Brief.


In the online Boot Camp I run --  for writers who are a bit stuck or otherwise need a little push (or giant cattle prod) to get writing again -- I send out a Daily Boot Camp Brief, six mornings a week. It may be a writing-related quote, a bit of advice about something I learned (often the hard way), or a re-interpretation of some tried-and-true writing wisdom.

I've run this class a half-dozen times in the past few years, and while it would make things easier for me to re-use the same Daily Briefs each time, except for a few I truly love and can't bear not repeating, I don't. I come up with new ones each day, each time I run the class.

Partly it's because for the six weeks of the course, I like knowing there's an expectation that I must get up on 36 mornings and create a new Brief; each morning I must either write, find, comment on, or research and pass along, something new.

It's a daily discipline for me, and frankly, if I can't do this small creative task each and every day, then how can I ask the writers in the class to be faithful to whatever regular writing routine they are hard at work developing for themselves (which may or may not be a daily routineduring those six weeks? 

Occasionally I see a theme developing in what I have to say each morning and once I see the pattern, it often points me toward something in my own writing life that needs attention but which I didn't notice before. Other times, I am either happy merely to share something that works for me, or to draw attention to what another writer has to say.

Here are a few from the past four weeks of Boot Camp:

Ø  There's nothing worse than writing something you think is good only to read it over the next day and realize it's not so good. Oh yes, there is something worse: NOT writing it at all.  You can do something with not-so-hot writing. The blank page?  Not so much.

Ø  If you're not reading, you're not writing.

Ø  A documentary I saw on PBS titled, "Who Does She Think She Is?", follows three women artists. They talk about how challenging it was to carve out time for art in addition to being mothers and wives, and in the face of the lack of support and recognition. One said, "I stopped feeling guilty and selfish when I saw the work developing."  That really hit me, and I realized it was true for me too. But the thing is, it takes time for the work to develop.

Ø  "Accepting that your first draft will be your worst draft can be extremely liberating. It's all right to sound like a jerk at this state…nobody's looking…Later when you revise, you can agonize over the details and cut out the embarrassments. In the meantime, nothing is too ridiculous for a first draft." – from WordsFail Me, by Patricia T. O'Connor.  

And this one, written after I attended a family wedding:

Ø  Although I extol the benefits of keeping a tiny notebook on hand and sneaking off to make notes and record ideas no matter what, there are times when it's more interesting, and of course, social, to just let it all wash over you and observe, participate, stay in the moment. Sometimes you lose some thoughts and ideas. Oh well. But other times things simmer in your brain and heart, and something new and maybe even richer is waiting when you do get that chance, later, when you are home and in your sweats, on the couch and can scribble. Life first, writing second.
  
What if you had to write, or find for yourself, a daily writing brief, a few words to get you going if you were stuck or needed a bit of motivation?  What might you say or pass on?





3 comments:

fullsoulahead.com said...

Life first, writing second. Thanks for the reminder.

I saw a video recently of Stephen King and he said (paraphrased) NOT to keep a notebook to jot things down. He said it immortalizes bad ideas. The good ones will stick or come back to you.

kario said...

There are always ideas in there, whether you recognize them or not. I have found inspiration in that pop song that keeps playing in my head on an endless loop by stopping to pay attention to the lyrics. I have taken a moment to really watch the cat clean herself or the dog's feet twitch in some dream state only he understands. Sometimes it takes just a few minutes of paying exquisite, absolute attention to the background in your life to inspire you.

Amy Morgan said...

Life first. Writing Second. I sure needed to hear that today - thanks for the reminder. I tihnk the same applies to pictures and wrote a piece a long time ago about not losing "the moment" for the sake of the photo. Sometimes you just need to live it 100 (in REAL time).