Thursday, August 11, 2011

Making the Traverse (Don’t Look Down!)

I just got back from walking Baxtor around the lake near my house. There are thin, muddy bits where you have to leap from root to root or skirt the edge of the trail, and it made me think about how we get from here to there when we want to write—how we leave Daily Life Valley and climb to Really Writing Peak (as opposed to the Forced Torture Writing Gully: when we write because we should and then feel utterly poopy about what we’ve written).

I’ve gotten into the good habit of going on these walks and runs before I try to write, and I’ve probably blogged about the importance of forward physical motion before. There’s really nothing about it that isn’t good (unless it involves an internal combustion engine), and for me it’s a surefire way to get into the Really Writing space.  

Many of you will be familiar with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and the idea of Morning Pages, of starting before writing with a 'brain dump.' But I’ve heard so many people say this about journals and pages, that they don’t like to waste those valuable words and time hammering into something that’s not their Big Project.  

So, this is what works for me and it tickles several birds with a single feather*. I spend the first half of my pre-writing walk or run (or forward moving activity) doing my kind of brain dump, i.e. walking along that edge of a good old grumble to myself and some deep-and-meaningful chat about the meaning of life, love, and IT All. And then, at what I know is about halfway point of my walking/running route, I reclaim a little mental discipline. I become AWARE of the act of thinking about Stuff. I wobble a bit, but I usually do make the conscious shift to thinking hard about my Big Project. It has a really interesting effect, and I love seeing the Stuff-People-Deal-With channel directly into my writing in a creative and usually very productive way.  

By the end of my walk, I’ve usually managed to cross that murky space between the end of the work day or the whatevering, and usually with much more general balance than when I started. Of course it can be bit tricky if you’re someone who writes at night as I mostly do, but it really helps even if I’ve done it earlier in the day.

And then, if I’m still a bit stuck and not yet in that place… well… that’s when I tend to blog about process. :)

I’d love to hear how you make the traverse.  

* Much nicer than killing two birds with one stone. 

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