I think writing happens differently for each person. Just like painting or pottery or making music is an individual process and practice. Always when I write fiction, sometimes when I create poetry, I write as fast as I can to capture the images on the movie screen in my head. There are many conferences that I’ve attended where, although I appreciate the information that the authors are sharing, the process of their writing doesn’t apply to me. And that’s okay. I enjoy their enthusiasm and sometimes I feel inspired, or intimidated, but what others are doing or by reading their art. The latter is the way it is for me with Natalie Goldberg. Her exercises for writing practice are ones I can do. She doesn’t tell writers how to write, but instead points out guideposts. It’s up to each writer to use her suggestions or not, and therefore create their own voice and style. And because I think what she writes applies to all creatives, I’m sharing her words and my thoughts about them in the previous post, and the next several.
“Style requires digesting who we are. It comes from the inside. It doesn’t mean I write like Flannery O’Connor or Willa Cather, but I have fully digested their work, and on top of this or with this, I have fully digested my life . . . all the things that make me. Then what I write will be imbued with me, will have my style.” This harkens back to the first writerly advice ever given: write what you know. But we can only write about ourselves if we have digested, or reflected/analyzed/composted, every conscious aspect of who we are and the roles we play in life. An author’s style is like their voice. The words they choose, how they construct sentences, what their paragraphs and poems or short stories look like, and even the topics of their writings. Our experiences, and how we interpret them, color our perspectives and dictate what we do and how we respond to events. It’s our style, our way of being.
“It takes time to find a true form of yourself. And even then, once you find it, you have to push your edges. You can’t get too comfortable. We have to work continually to keep our snake spine straight.” Whether in writing or in life, I believe this to be the case. Once we’re comfortable, we figure out how we write, what our style is, what gets in the way of creating, but if we don’t push the edges, try something new or tough or strange or hard, then we become stagnant. We quit learning and growing. We become complacent, and that too shows up in our creativity. Sometimes, even just the challenge to write every day in a journal may be all it takes to keep our ‘snake spine straight’.
Creating, delving into who we are and how we got here, requires that we gather up the courage to make ourselves vulnerable and then begin poking holes in our bubble of comfort. But whether we challenge ourselves every day or hang back in the safety zone, “As you go along you make up reasons to do what you want. There’s open space. Enter it.” Part of me believes that there’s nothing new under the sun. As writers, we all read each other and that puts a spin on the stories we tell. What we experience influences us, and that influence flavors what we create. It’s not good or bad, it’s just how the Muse floats us ideas. What we write and how we go about writing it are our ‘reasons’. There’s lots of open space to fill with whatever we create. A universal full, or empty, depending on the way you look at it. So take what makes you, what you’ve digested that makes you who you are, and allow your style to come from that.
I have some short stories on my website that are indicative of what makes me. Visit at: www.myjoyenterprises.com
What is your style? Have you ever pushed the edges of your creativity? What was the result?