Writing as a lifetime relationship – it’s no McDonald’s burger

I’ve always read a lot. I started at school reading mostly romantic novels and later on progressed to self-help books in between a steady stream of Terry Pratchett fantasies and crime novels. I scaled down a bit when I noticed my eyes didn’t appreciate the constant pressure and I realised that I used reading as an avoidance mechanism.

Anyhow, depending on your choice of reading material you might find yourself thinking that you could have written the story better or you might think that you could never write as good. And as a result stop writing all together.

But instead of this type of black or white thinking about writing, I’ve since realised that writing means different things to different people. For some, it may be to tell stories and play around with language. For others, writing may be the instrument used to expose the truth and mobilise people to action. For some, it is the tool to express their innermost thoughts in skilfully crafted poems. For others, it is a way of manipulating others to buy things they don’t need. Most of us think of writing in terms of books, plays, newspapers, dramas and volumes of poetry.

These things are good and well. But they are fleeting. Natalie Goldberg argues in Writing down the Bones that we should have a larger vision for writing. Writing is a lifetime relationship, she says and writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate. Writing then becomes a way in which to know yourself better. Explore yourself and your life.

Goldberg suggests that one practises writing. Write every day. Give yourself five minutes a day. Or more. And just write whatever comes up. No punctuation necessary. Spelling mistakes allowed. No editing and rethinking and reworking. Just get it down. It need not be perfect. You need not know what you are going to write beforehand. Just write.

Writing is not a McDonald’s hamburger. The cooking is slow, and in the beginning you are not sure whether a roast or a banquet or a lamb chop will be the result. – Natalie Goldberg


Second fiddle-itis vs offering my contribution whether I think it makes a difference or not

Unbelievable the number of stuff I can find to do to prevent me from actually sitting on my butt and finishing this blog. Oh! To face that empty space where I don’t know what I’m going to write/paint/create … The battle of the blank page/canvass.

I’ve just made myself two ponytails, after French plaiting from the top and then from the bottom and making a variety of hair styles …

I also battle with “second fiddle-itis”, I think. It’s Ben and Ros Zander’s term (The art of possibility) for “the habit of thinking you make no difference”. So why bother? In one of the chapters they argue that if we think of the world in a competitive frame of mind, there is automatically a winning and a losing side. However, when you use a contributing framework, there is no other side. You are giving/contributing what you can and as such are making a difference even though you may not understand how or why.

So here is what I contribute today. Take it or leave it. 🙂

The more I read about writing, the more I get the impression that the creative process behind writing is similar to painting and making collages. And the crucial aspect is to show up. The stories/collages/art pretty much make themselves once you get past the plaiting of the hair, the cleaning of the toilet, the reorganising of the desk, another cup of coffee…

I don’t often show up for any type of creative process these days. I don’t find the time. But to rephrase Stephen King (On Writing): “How many JAG and CSI reruns does it take to make one South African life complete?” [*hanging my head in embarrassment*] Watching television seems to gobble up time as fast as the wink of an eye. Talk about wasted time.

Steven Pressfield (The War of Art) calls the watching of television and finding other stuff to do symptoms of Resistance. Resistance shows its head for anything that you want to do where you work against immediate gratification in favour of long-term plans such as writing, losing weight, working on improving your fitness…

Pressfield says with regard to writing: It is not the writing part that’s hard. What is hard is sitting down to write. So plait your hair, make your pony tails [men with short hair: substitute your own postponement devices here], but stay on your bum and do what needs to be done.