A subscriber wrote, “I grew up in an environment that did not stimulate creative development. Nevertheless, in adolescence I was a prolific writer. But suddenly I stopped. I remember thinking that what I wrote wasn’t any good, and that I shouldn’t write any more. I put everything I wrote into the garbage. I don’t know why. Now ten years have passed and I haven’t written anything. What I find curious is that I still remember the pleasure the writing gave me, and being frequently in a state of ‘flow.’ I would like to recapture that same pleasure, the creativity that I had, and begin writing again. I don’t know exactly where to start and don’t have a clue if I’m on the right path. Any suggestions or advice?”
Thanks for that. In order to rekindle your love and perhaps your proficiency you have to understand what went on. In your teenage innocence you wrote because it gave you joy. Then your restrictive environment kicked in and gave you the excuse to stop. You destroyed your stuff because your discipline was external. You must now internalize your discipline. Actually, this adolescent action-reaction is commonplace. While many flames are permanently snuffed, they need not be. Some folks figure it out and end up loving again.
Here’s how they do it:
Allocate a writing hour for every single day.
Write whatever holds your interest or takes your fancy.
If you can’t think of anything to write, write anyway.
Work for no other reason than to give yourself joy.
Bring in the wisdom of all your fallow or waste.
In your spare time read the admired writing of others.
When you think you’re getting it right, rewrite it.
Share your efforts only with a trusted friend.
Look for the gleams of personal style and go there.
Allow yourself to fall in love with the process.
Archive your work for your own benefit as you go.
Give this program some honest effort for a six week period. I’ll swear on half a dozen early editions of Webster’s Dictionary that you will find yourself again.
PS: “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day, while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.” (Jim Rohn) “We find our freedom along the guiding lines of discipline.” (Yehudi Menuhin)
Esoterica: Substitute “paint” or “compose” for “write” in the list above. One list fits all. “Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.” (Truman Capote)
This letter was originally published as “Finding yourself again” on July 2, 2004.
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“Artistically I am still a child with a whole life ahead of me to discover and create. I want something, but I won’t know what it is until I succeed in doing it.” (Alberto Giacometti)