“We put a lot of bunk around the notion of being a writer. We make a big deal out of putting words on paper instead of simply releasing them to the air. We have a mythology that tells us that writing is a torturous activity. Believing that, we don’t even try it or, if we do, and if we find it unexpectedly easy, we stop, freeze up and tell ourselves that whatever it is we’re doing, it can’t be “real” writing.” (Julia Cameron, The Right to Write.)
Recently I’ve been just writing. Not writing something, just writing. Words on loose pages, because somehow that seems less Serious than writing in a notebook or saving a digital document. They’re just scraps of paper, and they’re not for anything. They don’t have to be anything. They don’t even have to be any good.
I just mis-typed “have” as “haver”. Now that’s appropriate. “Haver” is a Scottish verb meaning “to talk foolishly, to babble.” (And if you’re a Proclaimers* fan, you can sing along with me: “I know I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be the one who’s havering to you”.)
“Havering” on paper takes all the pressure off, and sometimes you find that what might have seemed foolish is actually quite wise, even useable. Even your mis-spellings!
Open up an imaginary bag in front of you. Just for a while, put into it your judgement and self-criticism; the mental to-do list you’re continually adding to; your ticking inner clock; your need to be right and sensible and useful. Add anything else that feels heavy. Then zip up the invisible bag and put it to one side.
Grab a pen – any pen – and paper, nothing fancy.
Lie down on your belly on the floor, pen in hand and paper in front of you. Kicking your heels in the air is optional, but it helps release the child inside.
(I appreciate that getting down to floor level may not be as easy as it once was, but there are alternatives: sitting on a beanbag; curling up in a corner of the sofa; even sitting on a cushion and leaning against the wall. But do try the floor if you possibly can. Your child-mind will respond.)
Write words you like; write a story about goblins and fairies; write something that makes you laugh; write a poem where the first letter of every line spells your favourite rude word. It doesn’t matter what you write. It only matters that you do it. It’s not work, it’s play.
Enjoy your playing, and when you’ve finished, go and bake chocolate chip fairy cakes.
Today was supposed to be a writing day but it went off course. Life happened. There was worry and upset and other things to do. So I didn’t write. I tried. But there was noise and there were distractions and nothing was right.
Perhaps I should have stopped trying. Instead I tried different things: reading for Changing tackinspiration (more distraction); making a cake (creative, perhaps, and tasty, but more distraction); giving in to the more pressing needs of the day (necessary, but the writing still niggled).
Nothing was right. Neither the writing nor the not-writing nor the sitting-in-front-of-the-screen-sort-of-writing.
Then at the end of the day I picked up a pen and write this post. It’s not what I intended to write today, but it’s an achievement. And I’ve learnt something (or re-learnt it – why do we have to learn things so many times?): changing the writing medium, or the subject, or both, can help. Somehow a blank page seems kinder to me than a blank screen, and a blog post less accusing than a chapter.