Thursday, February 16, 2012

Eleven Commandments for Writing (and Life!)

Two friends sent me the post above, independent of each other, so I took it as a synchronous sign and decided to write my own. Funny thing, as I started writing the things I feel I've learned and need to remember most on this leg of the creative journey (first draft), I realized how appropriate they are to many endeavors, not just writing. So I decided to share.

Why 11? Because if it's good enough for Henry Miller, it's good enough for me.

1. Tell the voice that says "this sucks" to hush up. The parallels to non-writing life are pretty obvious with this one. I've mentioned the gremlins of negative thought in a previous post, but it always helps to remember that negativity won't help you accomplish your goals. It will scare you and shut you down. Do everything in your power to counteract the negative message and try to have a little faith in yourself.

2. Finish this book before you start a new one. If you get a great idea, write it down so you can follow up later, but don't lose focus. You will accomplish more, with a less scattered energy, if you focus on finishing. Alexander Graham Bell said "Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus." I think he was right.

3. Close your eyes and keep typing when you think you can't find the words. Writing gets scary and so does life. If things get too scary or difficult and you don't know what to do, close your eyes and keep going. If you stop, you'll stay stuck in the mud. So when the going gets tough, I close my eyes (and my inner critic) and keep going. It works - in writing and in life.
4. Don't try to make sense of your story until you've finished your story. This is a little harder to do in life, because our stories never really end, do they? But you can remove the gaze of judging while you're living by staying present and allowing yourself and your story to unfold. I find life naturally groups itself into phases, and if you tune into it, you'll feel when you're entering a new phase. That's when you can reflect and look back. You'll be more likely to understand the meaning or find the lesson in the thing, once you've got a bit of distance from it. Try it and see.

5. If a particular passage isn't working, stop writing it and start on the next scene. It might not be working because it's not supposed to be in the book. Similarly, in life, if something just doesn't feel right, stop doing it, even if it makes all the rational sense in the world. This is how you find your path. This is how you find your bliss. This is how you write your story.

6. Tell the voice that says "this sucks" to hush up. You didn't think that voice was going to go away so easily, did you? It's persnickety. It needs reprimanding. Stay vigilant.

7. Write the first thing that comes to mind and keep going. That small instinct is the story whispering itself to you. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone."  What does your life and story want to be?

8. Set a goal. Any goal. And then do it. It's good practice for writing and life. Start with something small and doable. Before long you will definitely surprise yourself with how much you're able to accomplish. Doing difficult things becomes easier with practice.

9. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy food. Do yoga. Sleep. Your mother was right. Thanks, mom.

10. Have fun. Really. You have permission.

11. Tell the voice that says "this sucks" to hush up. Again. And again. I'm not sure if it ever goes away, so get used to this part of the exercise. And keep going. Always. Keep going.


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