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.

Monday, April 22, 2024

A Writer's Non-Writing Tip

Anyone who knows me or who is a regular (or semi-regular) reader of this blog knows I have had a pretty rough month or so. I won't go into details about that - look over my post list and I think you'll get the gist of things. Now, in the past I have discussed ways to use adversity or hard times to sharpen your writing skills - often they boil down to, "write about things." However, this has been a very trying time for me, so I've kicked it into high gear and pulled out my strongest writing tool. Surprisingly, it doesn't even involve writing.

As an aside, some of the most intense writing I ever did was during my career in finance as an economist. I had my lovely little space where I would write, and I would diligently put together some truly inspired, insightful, perfectly voiced analysis. These things were legends of economic writing, and I would share them right now if they weren't proprietary information. Anyway, the most telling sign that I was in the middle of a truly epic writing breakthrough is the energy-savers on the office lights would kick in and the area would go dim. I would have to wave my arms around so the energy-saver detectors would recognize there was a human in the office and turn the lights back on, then I would diligently go back to my work, which involved me being motionless. Not writing, not moving, not doing anything but thinking. And what thoughts they were.

Sometimes, a writer's greatest things are in their head. Not their greatest writing - that's always in words - but their greatest ideas and insights form within the chaos of the mind. A writer can sit there, eyes fixated on a blank screen, for long stretches while their mind churns over amazing thoughts, connecting the dots into unseen patterns that suddenly bring out a picture they never expected. And then... the magic happens and they write it down just as easily as anything else.

So, getting back to my point about this strongest writing tool that I keep in my back pocket for the truly tough times, it's surprisingly simple. In my case, I go for a walk. Not sightseeing, not adventuring. I walk around, and let my mind mill through what is really bugging me. The grief, the sorrow, the frustration or the fear of mortality - I let those things take over and watch what they do and where they go. One by one, they run around, scream, rage, bring out all their anxieties, and reveal everything I need to know about them. I let them wear themselves down until they are ragged and exhausted, and I see what they are really yelling about. I see what scares them, what frightens them, what makes them demand so much of my brain's bandwidth. At that point, I know exactly what they are. At that point, I can bring out the writer's favorite tool - I can write about them, and put them away for good. 

I'm not saying this is easy - I took a 15-mile walk today to try and wear down the current beasts - but it is important. Sometimes we need to hand the mic over to the problems and just let them rage. Preferably in a safe place, like on a walk, or while we're cycling, or somewhere without much distraction. Then, once we do this, we can create some of the most genuine, honest writing we have ever accomplished. And a little cardio as well.         

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