All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Taking Yourself Out of Writing

One fun thing about writing workshops is the holiday party (assuming the group has one). They can be wide and varied, and sometimes if they are held away from the usual meeting venue, they can go well beyond the world of writing. For one of my groups, we rented a room at a nice restaurant because there were a lot of us, ate our body weight in pizza and enjoyed one another's company. Basically, what any good holiday party should accomplish. However, in my case, it became something more.

I had a seat at what some people called, "The Poetry Table." This was not assigned seating or any planned positioning, it's just one of the features of the people seated there. And to be fair, the people at that table were far more accomplished at poetry than yours truly, but I digress. The conversation went in a lot of directions, from growing up to family traits to various felons and undesirables in our family tree to hypothetical life questions and different views of the world at large. Nothing got too deep and we kept current events out of the discussion. However, an interesting idea emerged, and I kept thinking about it long after I was driving home, drinking Pepto-Bismol like a dessert cocktail.

The discussion was about ego - how we place ourselves into anything we create, and how that can interfere with what we might truly want to do. Think about this: If you were to write about the most embarrassing moment in your life, what would it be? Now, if you found out (prior to writing this piece) that you would be presenting it to a group of your fellow writers, or close friends, or family members, how would this change your writing? What would change about your writing if you knew you would be tied to it, versus just writing something for the sake of writing it?

We learn a lot about ourselves from the stories we create. However, there's a greater opportunity if we sit down and write something, knowing full well nobody is ever going to see it. We can write about something horribly embarrassing, even shameful, if we free ourselves from having ourselves identified with the story. One therapy treatment is to write a letter to someone, expressing every bit of anger, frustration, hatred, and dark emotion you might hold toward that person, then burning the letter. Not even your therapist has to read it - you just create something to pour the words out of yourself and onto the page, then embrace the growth from the experience and let the words fade away. This is called writing without ego - taking yourself out of the writing equation and just creating.

It may sound like it's a technical detail that's too abstract to make a difference, but we all can hold ourselves back when we know our writing will be identified with us in some manner. Even with writing fiction, the stories we create will bear our thumbprint, and there is this instinctive need to react to that connection. Writing without ego is to write without restrictions and really let the creative process take over without any chains. It may sound weird, but it is surprisingly freeing.

If you ever get the desire (and seriously - give it a try), try writing something - a paragraph, a poem, a character sketch or essay, knowing nobody will ever see the content. Plan ahead of time to burn the pages, delete the file, bump off any witnesses, and eliminate the work from existence. Then, sit down and write something daringly personal, and see where it goes. See where your mind goes when you are no longer in charge of the trip.

And seriously - don't forget to destroy it afterward. If you've written something very personal, you probably should wipe it out.       

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