Growing Into Writing
I love to write. I need to write. For me it is a siren voice within. It calls me back if I stay away for too long. I try to write something every day, but it is not always possible. I write most days even if its just a few lines. Other days I write for more extensive periods. The easy flow of words brings an inner rush of contentment.
I keep my writer's notebook close by -always. It travels with me when I leave the house. It is a travelling companion. Wherever I go in this world, it goes with me. My notebook is my collection zone. A place where I trap and collect potential writing ideas. Ralph Fletcher once wrote that keeping a notebook enables the writer to drag a huge net through their life in order to gather rich details. My notebook therefore contains many ideas. Initial drafts, lists, experiments, quotes, words heard, tentative and fragile beginnings.
I also write on a computer situated in my study. I am surrounded by my favourite books. The support of my fellow writers is close at hand. These are my mentors, my unwitting collaborators. I am carried on the wings of my writing heroes. I am careful what I read, for what I read influences what I write. This sage advice was shared by Annie Dillard, (The Writing Life).
Writers need to be close observers of the events unfolding around them. Events both large and small -from the minute to the magnificent.
Writers must notice the smallest insect scurrying across the path as well as a huge storm blackening the sky, writers need to watch and try to understand the ways of the world in which they live. As a writer, I must pay attention to both the flowers and the mud.
My writing ideas come from various sources - childhood memories, conversations, things I have read or seen, places and events. They come from the conversations of others that float within range. They come from sometimes weird and unusual events that invade our conscious space. I accidentally set an emu on fire many years ago and this strange and embarrassing experience became part of a story I felt compelled to write. Australian author, Paul Jennings once remarked that within each of us, a million stories are waiting to be told. I derive much comfort from these words. The possibilities stretch on forever it seems. How good is that?
I often find myself making mental notes thinking, 'I can use that,' and I reach for my notebook. When writing poetry, a single word or a phrase might just be the spark of inspiration I am seeking. With poetry it is important for me to hear the rhythm, the music of the words if you like. I am proud to think of myself as a logophile. Sometimes I distance myself from those initial raw words for a few days, then revisit them to find out if they still sound right. Maybe they need to be polished a bit more. Sometimes I change a large part of the writing (surgery) and sometimes I might change just one word (first aid). I have always enjoyed playing around with words and language. It is when the writer untangles the knots. Revision remains the magic behind great writing.
Ideas come to me because I am constantly seeking them out. These ideas frequently connect to other ideas and the more you use your ears, your brain and your heart, the greater the store of ideas you have from which to select.
Very few writers can begin to write without having spent a lot of time thinking about what it is they want to capture on the page. Sometimes your head feels like a tumble dryer of ideas. They go round and round until they are ready to emerge. Writers often devote as much time to thinking about their writing as they do actually writing. Rehearsal is pretty important to me as a writer. The world in my head keeps me entertained; engaged.
When developing a character in a story I usually base them on people I know, or have met at some stage in my life. Sometimes they are composite people. Characters cobbled together with a mix of physical and behavioural traits. I then begin to imagine them in real situations, doing real and unimagined things too.
After I have written, I read the words aloud to myself, so that I can hear them like a reader would hear them. It was the late Morris Lurie, (The 27th Annual African Hippopotamus Race) who taught me this valuable strategy. When I do this, I can hear where the lumps and bumps in my writing are occurring. My job is to smooth out my chosen words, so they flow easily from my tongue.
I can write at anytime and anywhere. Sometimes I prefer the house to be quiet so that there are few distractions. When the words flow easily from my mind, I feel very connected to my writing. When the writing causes problems, or is moving slowly, I take a break and distance myself from the words. I change the activity, go for a walk, talk to someone, read a book and forget about writing for a while. I know it will be there when I return. Often the problem has sorted itself out while I’ve been away. I am able to view it through a fresh lens.
Sometimes I chose to write in places where there is noise and movement- cafes, airports, beaches, -anywhere among people. I may observe and listen for a while, taking in all the sensory details of that particular setting, but when it comes time to write, I am able to give my full attention to the blank page. It is something I have consciously practised.
Who do I write for? I write firstly to please myself. I write to understand myself and my world. I write because I can, and I write because it gives me pleasure. I love being able to play with words and being able to 'make' them into my very own shapes. If I share my writing and someone else enjoys it, that just adds to my pleasure as a writer.'I shall live badly if I do not write and I shall write badly if I do not live.'Francoise Sagan