I’m becoming more and more conscious of my process as a creative writer, and what practices are beneficial or counterproductive for me.
Excerpted from my weekly response:
DeSalvo’s discussion of contemplation, discipline and ritual (p 100) in terms of developing a sustainable, meaningful writing practice was the most valuable takeaway for me. For the past few years, I have made several unfulfilled attempts to write and submit the work I had produced without getting published. The primary culprit was a lack of discipline - I would generally write when the inspiration hit me, rather than integrating it into my life in a balanced way. When I stopped getting ideas, I would become discouraged about my calling to be a writer. Or, I would engage in behaviors that compromised my mental health just to feel something worth writing about, yet my mental state would be too scrambled to permit me to even write about it in intuitively. That’s a huge reason why I signed up for a writing class, so I could have a regular deadline to meet that would encourage me to plan my schedule to effectively write, without relying on precarious stimuli.
Related to that, I am beginning to develop a ritual after observing my habits on a weekly basis and adjusting things to improve my ability to write creatively. For instance during the first week, I didn’t get started on the readings until a couple of days after they were posted, and when I started writing, I felt like I didn’t have too much time to process the readings and I felt rushed to meet the deadline. I also put a lot of pressure on myself to write at a high standard, and was frustrated when I didn’t feel I was achieving that. Since then, I have given myself more time to read and synthesize the material, and have given myself more realistic standards of the work I can produce now, which makes me feel more comfortable with getting out of my head and just getting words on paper that I might not even use at the moment, but could be valuable later.
With writing, I have often found that I would start with an idea or an area of expertise and then develop a narrative around that; I feel that incorporating contemplation as a way to learn from what we end up writing about will reduce the pressure and expectation I put on myself to start something to be a finished piece, and allow myself to just write freely and be open to whatever comes out of it.
DeSalvo also highlights the importance of a process journal, so that we can look at our work from the outside and see what it is doing to us as a writer and as a person. That’s kind of why I started this blog in the first place - because I was determined to track my progress as a writer. But without having a sense of discipline and ritual, my contemplation fell short. I am going to try to this blog justice as my process journal.
For instance, last week’s submission was far less agonizing. Even though Krystle was visiting, I gave myself enough time to do the readings and let the ideas percolate before I sat down to get some words out on the page. Even though I didn’t end up using the first few hundred words I wrote, I avoided the anxiety of sifting through those unneeded words at the last minute to get to the heart of what I wanted to write about. By the time Monday came along, I found the story I was looking for, and on Tuesday I found the words to breathe life into that story. I wasn’t working until the deadline, I was pretty much done in the afternoon and had the rest of the evening to enjoy my time with Krystle.
I’ve replicated that this week, working on writing exercises just for practice, and tomorrow I am going to begin editing my submission. It’s becoming more and more manageable to see myself as a writer—not getting ahead of myself and seeing myself as someone trying to get published, but rather seeing me write on a regular basis towards the completion of a project that is meaningful and important to me.