Suggestion for a Writing Practice
Here’s a suggestion for finding your way out of a writing block or period of frustration: Think of something you do on a regular basis. It can be anything, as mundane as brushing your teeth or taking out the trash. I’ve worked with some writers who have selected quite ordinary activities like making coffee each morning, feeding their cats, or watering their garden; and others who have chosen an apparently more spiritual activity like their meditation practice. It doesn’t matter what you choose, I promise.
Once you’ve selected an activity, every day after you’ve performed the activity, sit down—in front of your computer, your notebook, your legal pad—and write about that activity and your engagement with it. You can write anything. You can describe the activity in detail, capture yourself engaged in the activity, focus on one element or component of the activity, reflect on the activity and its importance in your life, etc.
For example, if you were to be writing about brushing your teeth, one day you might write about your toothpaste and how you settled on Tom’s of Maine or Crest. Another, you might put your brushing technique under your writer’s microscope. Yet another, you might write about your relationship with your teeth, and from there your entire mouth. And another day, it might be your dentist you focus upon.
Don’t worry about your style. The point of this practice is to reconnect you with your writing and demonstrate to you how much you really have to say. The way you say it doesn’t matter for now.
What is important is that you not wander off into unfocussed journal writing. It’s not that I have anything against journal writing. Many of my clients find it an essential component of their writing lives. But for some reason journal writing has never led any of my clients or students away from their block.
Writing for a period of time about one activity in particular has. Not only can this writing practice lead writers to the page, it may lead them to important discoveries about your writing. One client realized through this practice that, although she had always written nonfiction, it was fiction she was actually drawn to. Another client discovered that what she really wanted to write, at least for a while, was poetry.
It was a writing practice like this that transformed me into a writer: someone who writes every day and feels most alive when she is writing. For a year I wrote about walking around a local track for three miles every morning. At first, I wrote about my literal, physical experience. But within a month or so, I found myself making associations between something I noticed or experienced at the track and my larger life. The form I eventually settled into was the short (4-6 pages) personal essay, and at the end of the year, I had, coincidentally, written 52 of them.
If you have any questions, ask away.