Success in writing depends first on reading. But what if you’ve read most of your life and now want to dust off those writing skills (I call them “yearning skills”) and simply write?
After having been an avid reader since going beyond phonics and spelling, I am of the opinion is that the best strategy is to write from where we are. While more reading is always a good idea, sometimes the urgency is in putting thoughts down on paper just as we are. It is a myth that writing can’t be properly done without first reacquainting yourself with the classics. They are dead white men and women who, while offering some great insights into human nature, cannot inform us of our daily, real-life interactions with people and with the present world as our first-hand experience can.
The only thing for me that can kickstart my writing passion is to do at least both, albeit unequally. I’ll write a sentence like a dog sprays a hydrant, not because he thinks it’s alive, but to mark its territory, and pick up a book I WANT to read, rather than one that I think I should read. 99.9% of the time for many writers, their intuition and gut feeling is the right self-direction to listen to. There is the odd 0.1% chance that we might be wrong. However, my intuition has never failed me, although, I’ve failed it. When it comes to writing, the same applies, be it searching for a topic or writing for publication: trust your gut. Then, you are likely to succeed or, at least, not get into something way over your head. But to kickstart this writing habit, you must feel it’s real to you and that it matters to you.
I highly prize my curmudgeon lifestyle, and find it most valuable in getting things done MY WAY. Also, I hate, hate pretensions, although some interactions are so vital that a fake and sanguine demeanor is a temporary, necessary evil (such as during hospital procedures where your life is in sometimes questionable hands). Left to myself I’d sit in my unheated apartment with a coat on, my mug of psychotic coffee…and write…until my teeth chatter from my cold, caffeinated and sedentary world.
Time for another psychotic drink and weight-bearing exercise. Some people swear by a shower, still others by dark chocolate squares, obsessively broken into two squares per mini-ziplock bag. Whatever your poison, it is necessary to de-stress in order to save your sanity. A drink and exercise aside, I also let out guttural noises of frustration that would spook even the two Rottweilers upstairs.
The fear is in writing rant and dribble that signify nothing because I’m in a slough. In that case I write in my blog in search of an honest muse. Or, I turn to reading, not only classical writers, but living authors as well. What are they doing? What are they thinking? What is it in their writing that makes them “tick”? Time away from home is valuable too. A bit of amateur sleuthing and psychoanalyzing make the quiet tasks that come with people-watching a pleasurable, if cynical, past-time. Human nature is the same wherever you go, and has been so throughout the ages. You don’t need Jungian archetypes to read the subtleties of someone who is anxious about money, or a partner’s insecurity about their meeting the in-laws for the first time that day. Especially enjoyable is reading body language to see if people are lying. Turn off the TV volume and watch talking heads on the news; immediately you know who’s acting and lying by the sheer effort such people on TV take to make a point. The only people who are hard to decipher are journalists themselves. Politicians are easy. The person on the street is fun to watch on mute. But journalists, well, they are as if trained in a poker-face, poker-soul expressiveness. They leave you in no doubt that their apparent sincerity is a cover for what they really have going on in their heads.
Another trick is to frequent a coffee shop, and plug in the headphones to white noise on your smartphone. Then, watch the animated conversations going on around you. You learn a lot about the truer, social norms, and a confirmation of the constituents of human nature that you had suspected all along were there.
So while reading voraciously is a good thing at times, there needs to be time set aside for real life experience and writing…without writing, you are not – I repeat – you are not a writer. Happy sleuthing and writing! ~V
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