I’m doing so much writing in these days, I haven’t had as much energy to blog. Then, this morning I realized I was too focused on producing and needed to step back for a few minutes. So this is me “stepping back” and thinking a bit about my own writing process and some writing tools that I’ve found helpful.
I am currently reading Writing as a Sacred Path: A Practical Guide to Writing with Passion and Purpose, by Jill Jepson. I was drawn to the book because the author sees the connection between writing and spiritual experiences. The wealth of the book is that it draws from various spiritual traditions, but it also offers a lot of opportunity for writing practice or exercises. Like most books on writing, only a couple of the exercises really inspire me (I’m only halfway through the book), but I suspect that I will go back to those few exercises many times.
It can be expensive to collect writing books. So years ago, I started a notebook where I copied down from library books the writing exercises that I knew I’d want to go back to. Here is a short summary of some of my favorites:
From Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
-Blasting through blocks (in Week 9, Recovering a Sense of Compassion). Cameron encourages the reader to list any resentments, doubts or fear that we have about the project we’re working on. And then commit to the project anyway. In another place, she encourages the reader to answer all of the fears and doubts that arise–and I usually do that as well. It’s excellent when I’m tiptoeing around a project instead of delving in.
From A Writer’s Life by Eric Maisel
His One-Day Writing Workshop gives a structure for a full day of writing. I’ve never stuck to the full schedule, but starting it has always gotten me into a full day of writing.
From Deep Writing by Eric Maisel
“Funny Mirrors” is a way Maisel suggests evaluating your work. It’s a wonderful exercise to do if you find yourself either being hypercritical or afraid to correct any part of your writing because the whole thing might collapse. Included in his list of mirrors before which we can hold up our work are: The Mirror of the Adjective, The Mirror of the Original Idea, The Mirror of the Ideal Reader, the Mirror of Narrative Flow….and he encourages you to make up your own mirrors, which I have also done.
And these are two that I want to try from Writing as a Sacred Path by Jill Jepson (pp. 12-16). Both exercises focus on fostering creativity. In the first, “Receiving Stories from Every Day Life,” Jepson suggests looking over our day in the evening, and picking one event from the day–it doesn’t need to be a dramatic one. Then, she gives a list of questions that help us to explore it narratively and imaginatively (through characters involved, impact, details, etc.). Then she encourages us to write it in some form. The second exercise is “Discovering Story Seeds in the World Around You.” She suggests setting your intention in the morning that you will collect a certain number of “story seeds”–which are not story ideas, but simpler, from which story ideas might grow. Then she suggests picking one and turning it into a story.
I have a copy of my favorite book of writing exercises: Making a Good Writer Great by Linda Seger. Years ago, I was really excited to hear Linda speak at a creativity conference sponsored by the Act One: Writing for Hollywood program. Rather than a potpourri of writing ideas, in this book Seger encourages the writer to develop her own personal set of tools and mentality that will nurture his or her unique writing life.
What are some of your favorite writing tools?