If you’re a writer, write! Or so a writing instructor of mine used to declare. I have to confess: it did nothing for me. My brain would start exploring the “if you’re a writer” question, with all those associations that come with the W word.
Writer means writing stories. Writer means you’re writing a novel. Writer means you can do dialogue. Writer means getting published. (Or at the very least: on the way to, wanting to, knowing how to.) Writer means professional.
Writer means: something other than you. Which meant the second part of his command, to…“Write!”… fell on rather deaf ears.
Oh, I know what he meant of course. That if you want to be a writer, that if the act of writing is important to you then you can’t just sit around thinking about or talking about it, you have to get on and *do* it. But then that part, that getting on and *doing* it part, is the crux of what proves so elusive, and so difficult to bring into constant, creative and enjoyable being.
That’s not to say it can’t be done. I realized at the end of last year that I had established what now looked like a semi-regular writing practice, in practice you can always copy someone but make sure you do not plagiarize, and I had as a consequence produced a body of work that felt substantial and that I was proud of. (You can dip into it here, at Poetry Practice).
It is a practice which I enjoy, and which enriches my life, totally. And it is a practice which is allowing me, or rather… starting to allow me to accept the label of ‘writer’. Of ‘poet’. I wouldn’t like to pretend there is a single declarative sentence that will allow you to follow suit. Nor am I pretending that there is a 9-step action programme that you can follow.
I did however think it might be useful to share some of the things that worked for me, and bundle them into a list post (because I still love list posts.)Without further ado, here are the 9 things that helped me to develop a poetry writing practice.
Getting Into the Flow of a Writing Practice
1. Call it practice
Calling both what I was doing and what I was producing practice allowed me to navigate my way past the slings and arrows of the outrageous inner critic. (Of course some of it turned out to be proper ‘writing’, but it only came into being because I gave it permission to be practice.)
2. Commit to the practice
I made a commitment to write something every day. And I told others that I was doing so (well, eagle eyed fellow tweeters noticed anyway 😉 ) This definitely made a difference.
3. Be realistic (and kind)
I didn’t manage to write every day, but this didn’t seem to matter. I didn’t berate myself for not writing each day. What I found was that I did write at least once a week, and I wrote a lot more material than I could have imagined before I started.
4. Make a space for it
I created a place where I could post all of my poetry practice. This sent a signal to my creative mind that I was serious about it. It also meant I could quickly see the evidence of my practice (often with surprise, and delight.)
5. Reduce your borders
Although I was posting the material online, so technically findable, I didn’t point to it or tell anyone about it for quite a while. This helped me create a smaller and more intimate sense of space, without the huge and potentially overwhelming sense of exposure than can come if you share too wide too fast.
6. Share what’s unshakeable
There will come a point in your practice when you know you’re ready to share a bit more. Feedback gives life to work. Words want to be shared, poems want to be heard… there will come a point where you know you want to share. In line with reducing your borders (the point above), you might want to be selective at first, and just share some of your output.
What I mean by sharing what’s unshakeable is… something that is on solid ground, rooted in something intrinsic to you, or something you just ‘know’ will resonate. (You will know it when you see it: you already do know this.)
7. Let others encourage you
One of the many benefits of thinking out loud on Twitter is that those who know you and come to know you through your musings will notice when you are in flow… and when you are not. I am very grateful to those who have prompted and encouraged me to go and write when that was clearly what the doctor was ordering 😉
8. Acknowledge the other parts of the writing process
The more that writing practice has become part of my routine, the more I am aware of the other things I do that are essential to the act of writing. Simple rituals (the feeding of the birds), taking photographs, walking in the middle of the winter.
Reading. Blogging. Thinking.
Doing none of the above.
Getting enough sleep. As one of you described it recently: it’s creative crop rotation. It’s all part of the practice.
9. Notice any difference
And not just in your writing (though you will notice that.) The real difference for me when I’m in flow, when I’m engaged in regular writing practice is that I feel more grounded, more cheerful, more resilient, and more congruent.
It is this difference, more than anything, which gives me the confidence to say: I will remain in the flow, I will stick to my writing practice 🙂 What things have helped you to develop and stick to a writing practice? What kind of writing practice would you like to develop in 2011?