I’ve nothing to say.
What would I write about anyhow?
My grammar would be all wrong.
They’d laugh at me.
All this at a recent writing class. And then there was a tea-break and the chat and the story-telling started and could have gone on all night.
So you want to write but just can’t work up the courage?
Here’s a list of a half-dozen tips I’ve picked up along the way. Maybe they’ll help you to get started on the writing or to keep going.
You are a camera: You can try this anywhere – in a place you know really well, in a doctor’s waiting room, in your back garden. Write a detailed description of the scene. Another approach is to take an actual photo of the scene or place, go away and write about it from the photo. This approach can work well with old photos that conjure up vivid memories.
Tune in to what people around you are saying. I visited a chiropodist once who talked non-stop and very vividly about her young children. I tuned in to rhythm of her sentences and as soon as I left wrote down as much as I could remember. Soon after I made a poem of my notes, keeping lots of the turns of phrase she had used.
Write your stories like you talk. To begin with write down your stories like you tell them. This will get you started. A good idea is to keep your stories filed by the actual year in which they happened. This gets you started on building up a memoir file.
Imagine your daily life is in a foreign country. Carry a notebook around with you. Imagine you are traveling in a foreign place (Deena Metzger suggestion) and want to capture everything you see and experience. Record it all. Add in dialogue, your own thoughts, feelings, memories evoked …
- Write a letter. This is great writing practice and can draw out memories and storytelling well as re-connecting with friends and family.
- Fix a writing time and place. I write first thing in the morning, in an upstairs room that looks straight out at a chestnut tree where the yellow leaves are swirling down in the rain right now as I write. Fix a time and keep the appointment.
As Stephen King once said, you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start (writing), you will.
Have you any tips to share with would-be writers?
I’ve been re-reading Dorothea Brande’s book , On Becoming a Writer. Hard to believe the Chicago woman was born in 1893 and published her classic on writing and creativity in 1934. It’s an easy read and you could almost get through it at one sitting.
What makes the book refreshing is that it’s not about the nuts and bolts and techniques of writing but more about the temperament and attitude of the would-be writer or, as John Gardener says in his introduction: ‘This book is all about the writer’s magic.’
I first read this book about five years ago and can see that I have most underlines in the Chapter ‘Learning to see again’. Brande recommends that, for a half an hour each day, we transport ourselves back to the state of the wide-eyed innocence that was ours at the age of five or so. She calls this ‘the experience of fresh seeing’, like turning yourself into a stranger in your own street so that you are seeing and hearing everything through fresh eyes.
But it’s not just the fresh seeing that is important for Brande, it’s letting the unconscious work its magic on this material through assimilation and accretion, allowing it in its own time to feed into one’s writing. She believes that the unconscious is the home of shape and form and can see types and patterns that the intellect misses.
So today I’ll practice ‘fresh seeing’ and start with the fierce magpies in the chestnut tree in my back garden and the blackbirds that I know will be doing their best to steal what’s left of the loganberry crop.