Sunday, 18 November 2007

Why Write?

In Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke writes: "Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: Must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity..." (First letter, Vintage edition, translated by Stephen Mitchell).
I was perusing some blogs last night, and came across one
in which the writer is talking about Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way". I too have done morning pages for many years, up until I moved back to Canada in 2001. With various break from writing them in those years, but at that time I always returned to them. For those who have not encountered her books, Julia writes about creativity, and how to free yourself from what holds you back so you can be as fully creative as you want to be. I found the Artist's Way (as I wrote in a comment to the above blogger) that I found "The Artist's Way" very useful for uncovering my hidden wounds regarding my creativity, and what was holding me back in my writing. I am still uncovering the latter, as I struggle to finish my first full-length novel, the one I've been writing for over 10 years now. Writing the morning pages helped me to see I had plenty to say, and I had no problems writing 3 pages a day! But I couldn't write about writing, I had to write about my day and my complaints, (according to her guidelines) and I found eventually that I could either write in my pages, or later in my regular journal, OR I could write my book each day, but I couldn't do both at once. Julia must have found that the stresses in her life were interfering with her writing. It has taken me until this year to finally realize that if I don't write creatively, I start to feel at odds with my life. I have to write. If I write, I feel a deeper peace with myself and the world, I am content. If I don't write, I start getting short-tempered, and it grows until I am unbearable to be near, until I finally write again. So I have had to decided that it doesn't matter if what I write is crappy, or banal, or boring (though I hope it is not!) - my usual reasons for stopping what I am working on - I have to write. And not in my journal, but creatively. So, in the deep dark of my night, my answer to Rainer Rilke's question do you have to write? is yes, I do.
So my current writing mentor is Walter Mosley's "This Year You Write Your Novel." This book has aided me immensely in getting over the mental blocks I put up to writing, which have to do with expressing myself creatively. Which I discovered doing Julia Cameron's morning pages! The only way through the block is go through it. So after a 4 week halt in writing my novel, on Thursday I set the alarm clock early enough and started writing again. I keep "This Year You Write Your Novel" on my bedside table, and I dip into it every night before I go to sleep. So I start my day with writing, and I end my day with thinking about writing. In between, as he says, becuase I am writing every day, the book - chapter - scene I am working on, or story I am telling (depending where I am with the story) sit with me, and through the day pops into my head. Both he and Stephen King in "On Writing" say that the most important thing to do is write everyday. Even on weekends, during holidays - even Christmas morning, even on holidays - write every day. I still struggle to write on the weekends, and am coming up to Christmas, so we'll see how I do then! In the meantime, I am three-quarters of the
way through my book, I estimate, of the first draft. I've been working on this draft since last May, writing about 1 page a day. As I wrote earlier, I have worked on many drafts of this book, never getting this far, although one year I cam close. I have never been happy with how it progressed, never happy with how I was writing it or where I ended up because it seemed I got side-tracked the further I got into my book. Part of the problem is I don't have an outline, but I have never been able to keep to an outline. Even in university when writing papers I could never write from an outline. I preferred to have an idea, make notes and find quotes, and then write it. I have scenes in my head for my book and I know roughly where I will end up, and what happens to the characters. Though I find I am still too restricted in my thinking/characters, and all the others want a say, too! so my first draft will be a first draft, my building block, and from there I can expand. This feels so good to be able to say at last, about my writing! I am writing!
Now if I can turn the dratted tv off more often so I can get more read......still working on "Cadillac Jukebox" by James Lee Burke, it is more interesting now but it seems to be taking a long time to read. I have so many books to read by Christmas - my From the Stacks list, plus two I just picked up, "The Night Country" by Stewart O'Nan and "The Safe-Keeper's Secret" by Sharon Shinn. Yes, I know the From the Stacks Challenge was supposed to keep me from buying more books! But I figure reading books from my bookshelves helps me feel virtuous because I am reading what I have, and I have to add more so my pile doesn't get too empty. Another blogger I read last night, - see her blog on From the Stacks, - as the butterflies she describes on not having anything to read - ie the TBR pile is getting smaller when we read from it - describes perfectly well why I went out and bought two more books after picking five from the TBR pile!! Now to read them all! And hurry up January - hurry up Christmas - there are so many new books from favourite authors waiting upstairs! I've given them to my LSS to wrap up so I can't peek at them any more! so I will finish James lee Burke today so I can get started onto one of my books on From the Stacks Challenge. All the housework is done - we had my friend and her new boyfriend over for dinner last night, so yesterday was housecleaning and so today is FREE to read!!! When the kids let me, that is.....this blog has been interrupted countless times already and my LSS asked my I was writing it this early in the day (I normally do it after they are in bed). I said it was nice to work on this when I am awake, for once! I only have to take my walk today - there is leftovers for lunch, and dinner is trying out the new Indian curries from President's Choice line, so I don't even have to take a break to make meals! Hurrah!!! It's Susan's reading day!! may you all find time to read today too, Gentle Readers!

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