Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A thing or two about writing, and books

I've been tagged. Twice.

First, by the lovely Shelli who's asking me to share some writing tips, "because I get paid to write." How funny that statement is to me.

And, the awesome Jena tagged me with a Meme about books, specifically to find the closest one and pull a paragraph out of it -- specifically, a very specific paragraph.

Here's the rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
2. Open the book to page 123
3. Find the 5th sentence
4. Post the next three sentences
5. Tag 5 people

So, for inspiration (and since I'm in my office), I'm going to pull from my writing books shelf. I chose three to scan and reflect on.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
On Writing, by Stephen King
The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

I first decided to pull from Bird by Bird because it is by far the most inspirational writing book I know, but when I got to the right place, I realized it was going to be a bit flat.

I nearly chose On Writing, since the sentences talk about passive voice, which I always struggle with when writing.

But, in the end, I chose The War of Art to quote.

I believe it. I believe there are angels. They're here, but we can't see them.

Now, on to Shelli's meme offering three writing tips. I certainly don't want to repeat my previous writing tips, but they are probably much the same anyway.

Pressfield had a specific point by talking about angels in a book about being creative. He continued later with this:

"When we conceive an enterprise and commit to it in the face of our fears, something wonderful happens. ... Angel midwives congregate around us; they assist as we give birth to ourselves, to that person we were born to be, to the one whose destiny was encoded in our soul, our daimon, our genius.

I wanted to continue quoting Pressfield here because it is exactly my first writing tip, and one that I have recently realized I had been doing all wrong for years.

BEGIN: Don't just begin today. Begin tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. Set goals of what each day's beginning will be. Maybe today your goal is to begin a letter, a lede to an article, the last paragraph of your novel. Whatever it is, begin again and again and again. It is not enough to just begin once just like none of us are born just once. We are born over and over and over in our lives.

GET OUT OF YOUR WAY: This is a tip I might have read a million times, but it's always worth repeating. This means get rid of your ego, sure, but it also means let go of what you thought it should be or would be or wanted it to be. Let go of the preconceived notions and let the writing flow and turn and twist like a river. The second you start looking back to see where you came from, you will hit a block, a rock or some other object that will stop your creative process. See. First. Tip.

SET DEADLINES: So, yeah, I'm a big deadline person. Try writing a (real) murder story in a couple hours and you will become rather proficient at churning out words without emotion, without too much thought, without a care in the world about a damn comma. If you want to finish a novel, do what I did last week ... set up an appointment to meet with an agent. That might be a bit progressive for some, but it's precisely what I needed to put that spark back into my novel and what I knew I needed to finally finish the dang thing. I need deadlines. I would never produce a thing if I didn't set them for myself.

So, now I tag THREE savvy souls and readers for BOTH of these. My dear girlfriend, Shannon, who doesn't have nearly enough on her plate (cough, cough), MPJ and Susana from Mama's Village.

I tried to pick three writers and readers ... 'cause I'm tired and running out of steam here. Tag, you're it.

Please feel free to offer your thoughts on angels, beginnings and writing in the comments section.

Thank you for visiting today.

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Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

What fun! Thanks for the tag. But now I have to come up with tips, like some kind of a real writer or something. ;)

Jena Strong said...

Angels always have beginner's mind... (now I feel like Jack Handey).

Kasie @ ~The Art of Life~ said...

Thank you so much for sharing Shawn! The advice you give for writing encourages me so much in my painting. I think artists and writers face the same fears and roadblocks because we are both sharing so much of our souls.
Interestingly enough, I'm actually in the process of painting an angel right now. (I haven't even shared that on my blog yet, lol.)

Shannon said...

Destiny encoded in our souls! Oh, I love that, why haven't I heard of this man? Thanks for sharing his wisdom. quote Pooh, I shall think on it.

Shelli said...

Wonderful. I knew you'd have good tips that I would need to hear. I thought you might think it was funny that I said because 'you get paid to write.' Believe me, so many of us would like to be where you are in your career, even though I know you probably have so much more you want to accomplish. That's the case with all of us, huh?

Bastet said...

Great tips...can't wait to see more "you get paid to write" tips! ;)

Jozet at Halushki said...

Those tips are precisely what I needed to read right now. Thank you!

And passive voice? I'm like the passive-ist, lol.

Jenny said...

Great writing tips, Shawn. You're right on the money with those. BTW, Bird by Bird is one of my favorite writing books, too!

village mama said...

'Begin' is so basic, yet so fundamental. Way to share your wisdom, thank you!!

storyteller said...

I love Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’ and know there are angels!!! What wonderful writing tips! I never have trouble with the 1st … beginning is simple. Getting out of my own way and setting deadlines are different matters entirely … especially now that I’m ‘happily retired’ and basically accountable to no one but myself. It was so much simpler to ‘do what was ‘required’ … so much more challenging to be true to myself. Thanks for sharing.
Hugs and blessings,