Different ways I work on writing:
- Read good writing.
- Live; have relationships; cook food; smell air; touch trees; play with the office cat; campaign for the hygiene center; face down 200 angry neighbors while setting up a new shelter; play with colored paper... live.
- Listen to people; listen to the sound of different voices; make friends who have different cultures, religions, and viewpoints; learn from whoever I can.
- Read books by other writers about what works and doesn't work for them; inspirational books and life-journey books and workshop books and craft books and reference books.
- Read anything and everything else. Read Korean poetry and Afro-American folklore and Latin American history and fractals and groundwater pollution and radio astronomy and drum-making and herbs and everything.
- Get feedback from others on my writing; use as much as I can.
- Critique others, both the pros and the amateurs. Critique Pablo Neruda.
I spend about eight hours writing for every one hour reading. I still read a lot. Out of 100 books I read last year, maybe five were books about writing. I wasn't avoiding writing by reading those books. What I did get out of them:
- Recognition and validation. Writing is a lonely trade. There's nothing wrong in finding pleasure in the voices of kindred souls. It's one reason we have the Writers list. BIRD BY BIRD can keep you going when the list is down. <g>
- Insights -- and encouragement to do the hard work of putting insights into practice. We all know that writing is the only way to write -- writing day after day after day, hour after hour. A book like THE ARTIST'S WAY turns that dictum into a program, that helps a lot of people stick with it. ARTIST'S WAY also leads you into examining things like how do you spend your time, what are you afraid to say, and who are the crazymakers in your life.
- Exercises, both the get-writing kind and the develop-a-skill kind.
- Specific ideas and techniques, like the stages of the Hero's Journey from Vogel's book, or the Plot Graph from Ansen Dibell's.
- Inspiration. We are each turned on by different writers. Travis is burning to write whenever he reads Ray Bradbury. I find Natalie Goldberg inspiring, while she drives Anthony Dauer's blood sugar screaming. You may be inspired by Dostoevsky -- he leaves me comatose. The sources of inspiration are as strange and varied as inspiration itself. If a man is driven to creative ecstasy by reading Strunk&Wagnall, let him be.
- Good quotes. Like Natalie Goldberg:
"Sometimes you just have to shut up, sit down, and write."
StreetWrites Exercise Page
Kalliope Poetry Exercise Archive
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