“Writing is not an enigma. It is a sport. Apply what you know of tennis, football, or swimming to your writing. I think we Americans are afraid of writing because we are afraid of the loss of control of the mind that writing entails. We are afraid of the unknown, of our own darkness. We don’t need to be.” Practice, get a coach, play with others, study the craft. If we do those things, then writing, or any kind of creative work, is like a sport. I agree with Natalie Goldberg, author of Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, on how to think about writing. I also agree with her, somewhat, that Americans are “afraid of the loss of control of the mind that writing entails”. For some, this is true. There are many pieces that comprise each human being. Some of those pieces are dark and scary. Others are bright and compassionate. But I think there’s a great many Americans, people of all nationalities, that have no problem with a “loss of control”. If that weren’t the case, then drugs and alcohol wouldn’t entice, hold, and claim as many lives as they do. Perhaps she means the loss of control that comes from the courage it takes to look into, and then travel to, those shadowed places that each of us has.
How does one go about the act of writing, or any creative endeavor? There are as many roads to get there as there are creative folk who play with the Muse. “Concentration does not mean squeezing your brain tight, but rather relaxing it and bypassing the editor.” Like her analogy of writing to sports, concentration is needed if we’re to improve at anything. In my work with students, they often tell me that they will “study harder” in order to pass a class. When I ask what they means, they can’t articulate it, can’t say what actions they’ll do in order to “study harder”, but I get the same picture as Goldberg’s description of “squeezing your brain tight”. To get whatever we’re studying to stick in the brain longer than a nanosecond, we need to concentrate. But that concentration produces better results if we relax, soften, and breathe instead of hold the breath and keep the body and thoughts tight. It’s the same with creating. The flow of ideas from the Muse comes when the channels are open, not when they’re constricted.
What do we do when we decide that this creative path is something that enhances our lives, something that we can give to ourselves and others? We declare it. “I am a writer.” I am a chef, a photographer, a painter, a sculptor, a dancer, a musician. “Over time, the image in your mind and the reality will become one, if you continue to practice.” The key to anything that we do with precision, with grace, with joy, with ease, and with confidence, is to practice. Some professionals say to keep quiet what we want to declare ourselves to be. I think that if we say what we are, it doesn’t define us, but instead gives us permission to play that role. Others say to speak it aloud in order to hold ourselves accountable. I think that if we send the words out into the world it’s to give voice to what makes us happy. Practice reinforces what we feel we are, what we say we are, what we make ourselves become.
It was seven years ago that I declared myself a writer. I practiced. I looked into the shadow part of my psyche, relaxed in concentration, and allowed my wild mind to show me all the wonders it had been holding, waiting for me to be courageous enough to lose a little control. The results can be seen on my website: www.myjoyenterprises.com
Have you declared yourself a writer? Have you used concentration during practice? What were the results?
***Note: I named my last post incorrectly. It should have been “Part 9” instead of “Part 10”. To keep my readers from confusion, I’m continuing on with the numbering. It reminds me of a story I read from a literature anthology text about a train yard. One of the workers was paid to paint the train cars and number them. The owner wasn’t a nice man, so the employee decided to play a practical joke. He purposely skipped a number while painting consecutive train cars. The next day, when inspecting the night’s work, the owner realized that the cars were numbered in order, except for one. The owner was convinced that someone had stolen a car! While I know that no one has stolen my “Part 9” blog post, I thought sharing this story might bring you a smile 🙂