Just like athletes, musicians, and performers, writing improves with practice. Often, writing improves ONLY with practice. Are you practicing? Are you cultivating a writing practice? If so, you have seen for yourself how keeping your writing muscle limber has improved your prose.
We are born as writers.
We will die as writers.
We are wholly dedicated to the life of writing.
(Warning: this video contains blood. Should I mention the people munching too?)
(Now that’s a life dedicated to writing…)
Writers write until the day they die. Nothing can contain or stop the wild words in their hearts. Writing makes up the core of a writer’s existence — its in their blood, in the very breath of their life.
We have ink in our veins and pens for fingers. Words flow effortlessly through our brains and onto paper. A habit that is uncontrollable, unbreakable, untamable.
Imaginations illuminate our worlds, a never ending cinema in our minds. Stories eternally unfurl from a reel and we must share the script with the Universe. Through the written form, we bring new realities to life.
Yes, there are days when we are in a slump. There are days when the words are in a traffic jam and we can’t even spell them out. There are even days when we think that the words have completely disappeared, but in reality, they never abandoned us. They are always there, just sometimes hiding in the dark recesses of our minds… watching, waiting, building up for the pivotal moment of release.
When blocked, we must find that spark and light the fuse to burst the dam. Force the flood of words back into our lives. Read poetry, take a hike, sing a tune, drink a coffee, do cartwheels, or go bungee jumping. Do something exhilarating to invite the muse and turn on the flow of words.
Writers always persevere. Keep positive and keep productive because writers can’t ever stop writing. Our brains won’t allow us. The words won’t allow us.
When the day comes that we finally do stop writing, that’s the day we die.
Write until you die… or are eaten by Titans.
Remaining open to creativity might be the hardest thing to do in traditional education today, but most of us, at some point in our lives, feel that tapping on our shoulder. Honoring our creative nature is, in my mind, the best form of self care we can do.
How has your view of creative pursuits changed since you left high school? Did you remain creative or was it something you returned to as an adult?
A writing practice (or creative practice of any sort–I use the words interchangeably) involves intentionally setting aside regular time—a routine—for creative work. Forming the habit of showing up takes away the idea that one must feel ready to create or “be in the mood.”
Isn’t it better to be in the mood?
Plenty of writers, especially early on, feel they must be in the mood or have the urge before they can sit down and write. While that’s nice to have, it’s not necessary. Writing isn’t just an art, it’s a craft, and craftsmen work at their craft regularly. Creative work is fostered by routine (and often results in inspiration or the right mood). No more asking yourself “should I write today?” If you set aside the time, you write. It may not be stellar work, but that will come.
A creative practice is like meditation or exercise. There’s resistance. There’s the excuse of no time. But regular routine breaks down the resistance until your practice is just an ingrained part of your life. Your mind and body learn to switch gears more readily as well.
Can I only write when scheduled?
We may write outside of our scheduled time as well, and that’s fine. The creative work happens both inside and outside of routine, but the busier your life is, the more a routine will help you to get words on the page.
Think of a writing practice as “showing up” to do the work. Think of it as a mindful way to honor your creative side and your desire to write. Self-care. Personal development. It is all of these things.
Where did this idea come from?
I was first exposed to the idea of a writing practice by Natalie Goldberg in her book Writing Down the Bones. The principles were restated and reinforced by Julia Cameron in The Right to Write. Since then, I’ve run across the term in every art form as well as yoga, prayer, exercise, and more. One explanation I heard was “a practice is intention.” And that’s also true. If you are interested in creating a writing life for yourself, I recommend both of these books along with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
For many of us, writing is a lifestyle as much as a calling or passion. We didn’t get there overnight. We created a writing practice and stuck with it. We became practitioners.
So how do I develop a writing practice?
- Write routinely. I’m a proponent of daily writing, but everyone is different. Whether it’s Sunday afternoon, fifteen minutes before work, or thirty minutes after the kids are in bed, make it regular and stick with it. (And start on time. The dishes and other things will wait.)
- If you aren’t working on a project, use a writing prompt, write an essay, do a character sketch. Use various writing exercises if you like, from timed writing to stream-of-consciousness writing.
- Tell yourself that you are worth it until you believe it. Honoring your creative drive is healthy, not selfish.
- Get an accountability partner. Tell a trusted friend what you are doing and ask them to both encourage you and check in to see how you are doing with your practice.
- If you naturally rebel against structure, keep your routine fluid. Perhaps set a quota to meet on a weekly basis or plan thirty minutes sometime before bed. It’s less ideal but I have confidence you will grow into a routine that suits you.
Why do I need a creative practice?
The moodiest, unhappiest people I’ve ever met were artists of one sort or another who were not making time for their art. I was this person for half a year. Creativity is an integral part of who we are. Ignoring it is akin to depriving our senses. If you are already creating regularly, that’s great! Keep it up. If you aren’t, develop your own practice. If you need help, let me know and I will come alongside you until you are under way.
Do you cultivate a writing practice? If so, how has it helped you creatively? If not, can you see yourself starting one?
It is amazing how one spark of life can impact the lives millions. And when that spark disappears, humanity reacts in the most beautiful way–by honoring and remembering its existance. This week the world lost one of the most brilliant and magical artists of all time. This week we said “until next time” to the Goblin King, to Ziggy Stardust, to the dream weaving David Bowie.
I think everybody who picks up a guitar or puts pen to paper has something in his system, in his self that he wants to express to others and have them understand… – David Bowie, Interview with Today, 1993
Most only know Bowie as a talented musician and actor. The pioneer of glam rock with his abstract style and non-conventional influences. What many don’t realize is that he was also an enigmatic writer and avid reader. He’s long contemplated writing for theater and was said to read up to a book a day.
One of the most facinating things I feel that Bowie left for us is his list of 100 “must read” books. The list spans a vast array of literary influences and genres, fictions and non-fictions, biographies and memiors. From Anthony Burgess to John Cage to Jack Kerouac, the vast list is as unique and diverse as Bowie himself.
David Bowie’s 100 recommended books: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/music-news/10347410/David-Bowie-reveals-his-favourite-100-books.html
A tale of a man who loved books: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/david-bowie-the-man-who-loved-books/
David Bowie lit up imaginations in once cold, dark minds. He brought us to worlds and dreams that many wish we could have conceived ourselves. Magic flowed around the world, sparked by his creative genius. They say that when you die, your soul joins the stars and shines brightly upon the Earth. David Bowie’s star is one that shines the brightest as his creativity and influence breathed a new life into the realm of art, music, and writing.
Shine on, you brilliant star. The world is forever changed because of your spark.