In my exploration of the craft of writing, and in investigating how others engage in the process of creating, I came across Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind, Living the Writer’s Life. There are many ideas that she presents, suggestions she makes, that either I have done or agree with.
“All good writing comes from the body and is a physical experience.” She writes this in response to the preference she might have of handwriting vs. composing her work on a computer. She states that a computer will work fine, but for the writer to be prepared for a different voice than one that emerges when one writes by hand. There are some writers that swear that writing by computer elicits the exact same thoughts as writing by hand. I’m with Goldberg. There’s a distinct difference. The connection of brain-arm-hand-pen is very different from brain-arm-fingers-keyboard. I prefer to write by hand. Play with it yourself, see if recognize the difference, see if there’s an ease one way or the other.
Though writing, like all art, can be cathartic, here Goldberg doesn’t equate writing to therapy, and in fact winces when people make the comparison. I think that when we write stuff comes out that otherwise might remain dormant. “It’s not therapy; it’s the root of literature, direct connection with your mind.” And yet, through all the studying we’ve done starting in elementary school and continuing through doctorates, isn’t literature an expression of the human condition? War, love, loss, family, evil, hate, regret, revenge, survival, hope…all manifestations of the struggle of mankind, all represented in the genre “literary”.
“That if you let go in your writing, you naturally go for the jugular over and over until you clean out unfinished business.” And isn’t this what therapy is supposed to do? Maybe if all the “unfinished business” was cleaned out, then we wouldn’t have to develop, consciously or unconsciously, coping skills to deal with all the stuff that we drag around with us, stuff we pay therapists to tell us how to deal with. Many times I’ve read successful author’s advice to “go to the compost pile”, to “write about your parents and your childhood”, to “write what you know”, even if what we know is painful and horrible, or beautiful and lovely. These same authors agree that “going for the jugular” is the only way to write. To bleed, to tell a story from the heart, to write what’s in our veins is the only way that our words are genuine.
Along with going for the grit, “If you want to write, you have to be willing to be disturbed.” To do any type of art in a robotic, unfeeling way is a lie. If we think we can write about our happiest day or our worst moment, and not be moved from our contentment of the present moment, then we’re mistaken. For a song to be written, a painting to be painted, an instrument to be played, a dance to be danced, a photograph to be taken, or a story to be written the creator must be willing to be moved. They must be willing have emotions rise up, stir them up, and spill them out using their medium. That is honest work, honest art. If one wishes to live their life undisturbed, then one should steer clear of creating.
My willingness to be disturbed, to go for the heart of issues, through the connection with my mind, all of which was handwritten before being typed into a computer, can be viewed here: www.myjoyenterprises.com
What’s your preference, computer or pen and paper? Have you created without using the heart?