Monday, December 05, 2005

The Discipline of Writing

I have 'messed about' with writing in one form or another since early childhood. Somewhere in a mildewed banker's box, the poems and story fragments of my pre-adolescent self sit wallowing in their own angst. Yes--there's a lot of bad writing there.

Those were the years when I knew that whatever flowed from my pen was to be treasured. Gifts from the muse were not to be taken lightly or altered. To be truthful, I still believed that through my college years and I have notebooks full of puerile poetry to prove it. (Did you catch the alliteration there? Good.)

When I returned to writing in my middle thirties, I approached it as a discipline. In the past decade, I have worked at the craft of writing every day. My daily discipline can include writing, editing, reading, and/or critiquing, but it is the equivalent of a musician practicing scales. This is my practice.

I have learned some vital lessons:

1--There is no single word so important it cannot be cut.

2--The muse does not suddenly appear to gift you with your masterpiece. You have to do your part too before she will light upon your pages, your pen, your tongue.

3--Re-vision is a process of seeing, imagining. *re VISION* Take the time to look at your work in a different light. Edit may be a four letter word, but it is a sacred work.

4--There is no such thing as perfection. If you use a critique group, trying to follow everyone's suggestions will not leave you with a better work. If you are mixing paints and mix in every color, eventually it will be baby-shit brown. Don't do this to your writing. Honor the spirit of critique, but also honor the spirit of your vision.

5--There will be days when each word tastes bitter. You believe you will never be a writer. There will be days when each word bursts with the sweetness of a berry in your mouth. You are convinced that everything you write is brilliant. Neither of these is true.

I am certain this wisdom is not original to me, but I do think that every artist needs to discover it for him or herself.

May you walk the path of wisdom as you pursue your craft.


  1. I've piles of notebooks somewhere in my parents' house that I find a bit painful (bittersweet, not bitter) to read and remember from.

    Thanks for your words this morning--helped us all through Charlie's big first day.

  2. :) Wonderful words, there.

    And btw, I love your poetry.

  3. Thanks for the words of encouragement! Those 5 lessons are going up on my wall right over my desk!