I want to make sure my clients and readers have the best support, advice and strategies for writing. Therefore, it's not enough to draw on my own experiences and those of the individuals I have counseled.
I must reach beyond. This week I am reading How to Finish Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day by Joan Bolker, ED.D.
She is actually trained to help folks with writing issues. How cool! I'll be sharing a few things I'm getting from her book in the coming days.
Everyone has her own writing style!
I love that she does not say greater writers all do "thus and such." She says you can write in toothpaste in the closet if that works-- only if that works.
The main piece of standard advice, though, is that all writers are working daily. Yes, that means even this holiday weekend.
Bolker has found that it is better to work a little everyday than trying to do writing binges. Or, trying to write after a full day of work.
Writing Reward Versus Writing Punishment
Many times writers beat themselves up for not meeting goals. She has found after working with thousands of folks that rewards work better than punishment.
For years, I have been setting up writing rewards!
It works really well for me. This fall, I wouldn't let myself buy a high-end blender (smoothie/soup/hummus maker) until I submitted my article. It meant waiting two extra months. It arrived last night! I'm now searching for anything I can liquefy... (a potential writing distraction..ha ha)
To motivate me for the next sweep of work, I've picked another reward...It's big enough to motivate me. Why not give it a try? Think of a goal in your writing, pick a reward and then don't give it to yourself until you achieve it. (Warning: avoid regular food goals-- it's too easy to gain weight while writing)
For the first few days after the Paris attacks, I didn't want to write any more. At least not for the moment.
At the Center for Narrative and Conflict Resolution we often discuss how violence, while itself a speech act, often works to silence its victims and its observers. There is something about violence that seems, perhaps because it is an unspoken act, that seems to reach into ones mouth and steal words.
Emotions swirl. Primal emotions of revenge and ire bubble up from the gut to the throat easily. Somehow, they seem to get stuck right there. I feel them stuck somewhere in the inside of my cheeks. When I touch that spot where despair hits my conscious mind and responsible mouth, my eyes well up.
I feel heat, nausea, and water in my eyes. But there are no real "thoughts" in that experience. There is just raw wonder. Not inspired wonder, but the kind of wonder that pulls you look towards Hades and Dante's Inferno not toward heaven or the Divine Comedy.
Walk Inside That Pain
I want to close off. Wake up, watch the stars dissolve as the sunrises and fill up my bird-feeder and forget.
This week, however, I'm haunted by another poet as much as by the events that have taken place in Paris, St. Petersburg, Beirut, Baghdad and now Mali.
The poet, whose name I'll add when I find the reference, warned that we all have a door we will not walk through. He warns, however, if we never dare to enter, we will simply rearrange the furniture in the rooms that do not scare us.
The thought of rearranging furniture for a lifetime seems like some kind of hell or at least purgatory.
The French word for purgatory is similar to the English word, though fare more onomatopoeic. By this I mean the word sounds far more like the experience in French -- purgatoire
Writing Our Way Through the Purgatoire of Violence
Those who have read Anne Lamott's delicious book on writing may well remember her sentiment to the effect, "I either had to start writing or kill myself." When she said it, it sounded hilarious. That is her gift.
I'm wondering if writing, speaking even when the words seem to be tucked in the heart, under the liver and behind the eyes is worth the effort. It at least gets us around the purgatoire of rearranging furniture.
At our Town Hall Meeting on the recent events at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Professor Rich Rubenstein encouraged participants to admit "areas of uncertainty."
That's a way of saying, you can talk, write or even just make a weird noise even if you have no solution. Your efforts at speaking are in and of themselves a response to violence.
Most of the people with whom I work worry about not having enough time.
Correction...every person I coach worries about not having enough time to complete their writing project.
This made me wonder...is it really true that no one has enough time or do we just use time pressure to motivate us into action?
As scholar of narrative, I pay very close attention to how people "story" themselves and their lives.
There is a narrative of time scarcity that flies around like a bat loose in a barn. Everybody below screaming, Time scarcity! Time scarcity!"
When you think about how much time it took to write a book just 30 years ago before laptops and personal computers, then you wonder...can it really be true? Is time missing?
I'm encouraging people (myself included) to consider the possibility that we actually have all the time we need. Assume that we are in the perfect place in our projects and everything is on schedule. Then START!
Stoic Theory of Time
The stoic philosophers thought a great deal about time. They did not see time as something real but rather "incorporeal" and always relative to something else.
They understood its flexibility. Their model allowed them to consider that an entire year as the present.
The point of all this is that time can be warped. You can think of five minutes that felt like an eternity (physical pain often) and a summer vacation that went by in a flash.
Given time's incorporeal nature and warping ability, why not assume that whatever we have is enough?
So let's all take a deep breath, sit down and start.
Sarah Federman, PhD