Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lessons from a First Year of Creative Writing

I have taken some time "off" from blogging lately (that is, if I was ever really "on") to focus on creative writing.

While I am a lifetime journaler and have always been a voracious reader, at least in appetite-- my reach in the library is bigger than my read-- this is the first time I'm trying my hand at fiction writing.

I am fortunate to have stumbled my way into a wonderful weekly writing circle in Berkeley. It is a class of about 15 that meets in my professor's home and has one person read their writing each week. Everyone in the class employs a proven method of giving feedback that supports the writer's sense of purpose.

I have so quickly soaked up the benefits of this regular creative writing/reading, like a plant dry for water, that I haven't taken the time to reflect on what has been a big learning curve for me in my first creative writing class ever.

Since I'm having a moment of writer's block with my current fiction writing, I thought I'd finally enumerate what for me have been the coolest learnings from a first year of creative writing:

- I would rather be failing at what I love, than succeeding at what I don't: This is really just an affirmation for me (and I stole the line from Jessica Pare's character on Mad Men the other night). When the zombie apocalypse comes (as it did in my writing class the other night), I would like to be writing.

- And writing makes me a happier person: When I set even small writing goals for myself and actually follow through with them, I am a happier person, more understanding partner, more mature individual, a more satisfied person.

- Wow--forget the famous authors. There are amazing writers living right next door: and downstairs, among our friends, in our families. It seriously humbles me.

- Swing for the bleachers: At the same time, my goal is to swing for the bleachers. Whatever I'm writing I want it to be the story that I absolutely cannot live without telling. I want to tell the story that is so urgent to get down on paper that I can't keep it in. That said, it might end up being a swing and a miss so massive that it spins me around in a circle while everyone laughs.

- Lean into your fears: This is another one I stole, this from Jane Lynch, who said the key to breaking through in her acting was "leaning into" her fears. I think it works for writing too.

- Give up control and the story will come to you: This has been told to me, and as a control freak I'm still trying to put this into practice. Develop the characters, let them inspire you, and let the material come to you, and you can either use it or not.

- If you don't know what you are going to do next, you are probably on the verge of a period of great creativity: I've just been told this, I'm still waiting for it to happen.

- You will be scared shitless to read your work to others: and that's a good thing.

- The dishes can wait-- you must must MUST write! Whatever it is, even a blog post about writing.


Ninad Gujar said...

Nice post! You will like reading this as well. Stephen King's 20 Tips for Becoming a Frighteningly Good Writer

Alyson said...

Thanks for reading and for sending the link Ninad! so relevant for me right now. Especially liked this nugget: “If you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far.”

sudhesh unniraman said...

interesting stuff - i like the part where you say " Give up control and the story will come to you".

Will keep that in mind...

aditi said...

Hey Als,

That was a great inspirational can we sample some of your writing as well ;)

Anonymous said...

Git after it roomie!

You're awesome.

Alyson said...

@Sudhesh - thanks for reading and the encouragement!

@Aditi - ahh that might be a while, I have a ways to go ;)

@Anon - THANKS Rooms!!