Daily writing is a Herculean task. My mind has not rested since March 1st when the Two Writing Teachers set the Slice of Life Writing Challenge in motion. I spend my days rummaging about for a worthy topic – readying myself to receive inspiration from even the most inconspicuous moments of my day. Before drifting off to sleep, I search the corners of my mind for tiny morsels that may have been overlooked. Still nothing, I wake up wondering, and the cycle repeats.
Empty-headed, yet determined to uncover a topic, I combed through a multitude of books on the craft of writing at the bookstore. An hour or two elapsed as I stood on tired feet leafing through hundreds of pages – skimming content for answers. Instead of finding answers, I found others, well-known others, that understand my pain.
When flicking through Bird by Bird, I discovered Anne Lamott feels the same way I do about writing. It was if she crawled inside my thoughts and took up residence,
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve thought that there was something noble and mysterious about writing, about people who could do it well, who could create a world as if they were little gods or sorcerers. All my life I’ve felt that there was something magical about people who could get into other people’s minds and skin, who could take people like me out of ourselves and then back to ourselves.”
I read on. Lamott talks about writers carrying around wonderful ideas, but when “they sit down and write one sentence and see with horror that it is a bad one…every major form of mental illness from which they suffer surfaces, leaping out of the water like trout – the delusions, hypochondria, the grandiosity, the self-loathing, the inability to track one thought to completion…” I can relate to this. I believe Lamott and I are going to become good friends. She is one I can commiserate with.
Before I decide to surrender, giving in to the insecurities writing evokes, Lamott consoles me by telling me all good writing starts bad. Right. I have that step down.
She also stresses that despite your disdain over the outcome of your attempts, you MUST keep writing. Every day. Every day at the same time to train your subconscious to produce. Lamott warns that this routine isn’t without its challenges. She even goes as far as to suggest arming yourself with a machete to hack away all the negative voices that will crowd your mind preventing you from producing beautiful prose.
Others shared their war stories with writing with me and offered sage advice…
Bonnie Friedman, Writing Past Dark
Rebecca McClanahan, Word Painting: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively
Siri Husvedt, Living Thinking, Looking
Phillip Lopate, To Show and To Tell
Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away
I didn’t find a list of topics, but I did find kindred spirits and new beginnings. I packed their suitcases and took them home with me.
Here’s to developing daily writing rituals armed with a machete.