I am heading to a week’s training in the Amherst Writers and Artists writing workshop method. Aka the Pat Schneider workshop method. We’ll be working with Schneider’s book Writing Alone and with Others. I cannot recommend this highly enough! Buy it today if you can! The “Five Essential Affirmations” she articulates in this text resonate deeply with me:
1. Everyone has a strong, unique voice.
2. Everyone is born with creative genius.
3. Writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level.
4. The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writers original voice or artistic self-esteem.
5. A writer is someone who writes.
Ah. That last one. A writer is someone who writes.
I am afraid I have not been writing. I have been fussing with stuff in my house, liberating books and tchotchkes to create a clear writing space.
I have not been writing. I have been telling myself everything else is more important than my writing: the college visits for the older son, the dog walks, the volunteer work for my faith community, the exercise to whittle the extra five pounds from my belly.
I have not been writing for a couple of months, since I gave a very rough (as in, splintery!) draft of a story to a writers group without a clear request for the type of feedback that would be most supportive for my writing.
Unsurprisingly, the feedback was uneven; there were positive and negative responses. Somewhat surprisingly, the less-than-positive responses really got under my skin. I ranted and raged and cried and whimpered my way through Julia Cameron‘s recommended three longhand “Morning Pages” for a couple of weeks. Then for another couple of weeks I donned the TaskMasterLesley hat in my Morning Pages: you know full well how to handle this! Buck up! But I can’t, I whined, scrawling my heart’s distress across the pages. I just can’t write anymore. I’m dried up. I’m barren. I’m a wasteland.
You can imagine the gaping abyss of terror that my squirrel brain has come up with. In fact, if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you are probably overly familiar with my squirrel brain.
But this morning, seven weeks since that critique, my Morning Pages delivered me to a new place. My squirrel brain … bored me. When it started its high-pitched chatter, today I simply noted: h’mm, there’s that squirrel, desperate for nuts. And I strode forward past the tree it perched in. I did not engage in a loud chattery chirrupy shouting match while flicking my tail in wild anxiety and circling the tree trunk like a maniac.
I wound up in a clearing wherein I laid out a plan for how to find the sandpaper to begin to smooth my story’s splinters. And furthermore, the Morning Pages said, look at how much you’ve written! You’ve written your Morning Pages every day. It’s whiney writing, non-brilliant writing, repetitive writing, prosaic writing.
But it’s writing.
How the pages of not-writing deliver us into the writing. I’m so glad you found your clearing, Les. Have fun this week. We will miss you on Thursday!
Excellent. Nothing more to say.
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I’ve been in Ghana, West Africa for about 8 weeks, but you’ve convinced me to give Morning Pages another go! Thanks. I found you through a WP interview with a volunteer forum contributor.
Morning pages continue to surprise me with their effectiveness — especially when I remember that I don’t “have” to write about anything in particular, so some days I doodle a poem, some days I complain, some days I count my blessings. I hope you find yourself re-invigorated!
“I don’t “have” to write about anything in particular”. . . I think you hit on the secret to their effectiveness. They give us the freedom of a little mental breathing space. Glad I found you here on WP Lesley!