Monthly Archives: May 2015
I read a recent post about decision making from marketing guru, Seth Godin. He calls his process to go faster “decision hygiene.” It reminded me of principles I use for sorting mail and housework. My clean-up knowledge is based on hand-me-down wisdom like “touch things once” and “everything in its place” but in reality, anything that takes time is a decision making process.
Godin had five points to move things along faster: make decisions faster, do them in the right order, do it once, don’t look for help once you’ve started and triage the decisions.
So If I am going to write I’m going to:
- Decide what I am going to write about, and do it as quickly as possible.
- Do all organizational activities involving committees or other people’s permission first.
- Follow through with my idea, even if I start to hate it while I’m typing.
- Workshop the results only with people who will improve my writing.
- Decide what to write: a blog, novel scene, or schedule twitter feeds. If any of these items do not matter to the project at hand, I’ll choose not to focus on it.
Stranger in a Strange Land by Eric Michaels
I liked this post by Michaels because it is about a cross-cultural experience, with an ethnic twist. It is something that expats feel when they are raised abroad as missionary kids, or feelings experienced by “third culture” children raised overseas because of their parents work. Even army brats, who move within the United States, find they are not rooted enough to respond to the culture they live in.
My father was an engineer who worked in the natural gas industry. While I lived overseas I hung on to my Canadian birthplace as my identity. But when I went back to Canada I did not fit in. I did not understand their jokes, the television, politics, customs, I was disdainful of their seemingly vacuous, modern life-style. My childhood was spent in Iran, where life was more flavorful, and gritty. My mother, and my elementary schooling, was British. It turns out that the British-Iranian combination is the strongest cornerstone of my identity.
Eventually, I integrated all the different “selfs” that I carry around with me; the Brit, the Iranian, the Canadian, the American. Writing speeds up that discernment process. It’s my”holy foursome:” four that are one, but not wholly so. Each identity is full of holes, and delightedly, not so holy either!
However, I’m white, and my most of my cultures are near-cultures, very “Anglo.” Here is my favorite video for the third culture humans who grapple with ethnic complexity too, presented by Ethnic Man, Teja Arboleda.
“Why write in the first place?” Paula Priamos, a professor at University California, San Bernardino, questioned her students, all intermediate level writers. The responses spun around the notion of self-expression, the importance of free expression without judgment and how writing is a calming, enjoyable way to articulate ideas. For a few people it was also tied to compulsive need, or to practical goal like developing a skill that they were “half-way good at”, or the opportunity of a portable job. Paula discovered that self-expression it is essential to all writers.
writing gives people a sense of empowerment because it gives voice to something that would not otherwise be heard.
In her keynote address at “Another Bloomin’ Writers Conference” in early May, Priamos argued that writing gives people a sense of empowerment because it gives voice to something that would not otherwise be heard. This was true for Priamos. Her memoir “The Shyster’s Daughter” exposed family secrets. Writing was not an easy process, sometimes she felt she ‘ripped out her heart and left it pulsing on paper.’ Her memoir was a very personal tribute to the “no-name” women who endure traumatic experiences. When the book was published and people (including family members) thanked her for sharing, Paula realized that her writing had given a voice to the weak.
When a published writer gives a presentation they invariably disclose an underlying theme, the “why” for their writing. I anticipate this moment like the makeover reveal at the end of a reality show. Readers connect to universal truths, to the greater worldview that writers expose as stories. Writers like Priamos have honed their voice, exposed their hearts, and are passionate about their truths. Successful writers capitalize on this sense of empowerment. Empowerment gives writers personality and fuels their works. It is something to build a social platform around because it attracts fans.
A writer’s calling is driven by a need to create a legacy or testimony. There is hope that the words will inform, comfort or inspire others. At first, even if only one person is responds it feels like validation enough. However, if writers keep at it, they want to reach a broader audience. Then they need a platform, like publications and social media marketing.
But how does marketing feel like being a writer?
Inspiration is an expression of a writer’s discernment. Over time, with practice, (about 3-5 of years of daily writing) writing becomes distinctive and written words carry the writers “voice” to the reader’s ear. The writer might sound like a journalist, asking questions and probing for hidden agendas and clarifications. If there’s a lot of research, the writer’s voice becomes a trusted, learned professor presenting facts and a love of learning. Maybe the writer is trying to fix something with humor, or by sharing vulnerability and dissatisfactions. Perhaps the writer is a true creative, a poet or visual artist, exposing hidden beauty with an eye for things that most people miss.
When I use the writing prompt “write about inspiration” it typically elicits a series of stories about a safe or interesting place, or a personal experience. However, what a writer calls inspiration, I believe is better defined as a calling. Writers have an inexplicable impulse to write that is accompanied by a feeling of divine influence. Inspiration is a trigger that unleashes a creative urge to share an observation or a story, an expression of the writer’s personality and personal preferences.
For some writers inspiration, or this calling, feels like a spiritual retreat, like a deep well of feelings, concepts and connections to people and events. For others, inspiration is a tangible location. It is a familiar place like a window with a view, or an old desk that relaxes and generates confident writing. Often, an unusual or unexpected place becomes the setting for a story or a scene, like the underground vegetable fields built under Tokyo, the ghost town of Calico, the forests of Olympic National Park.
Where do you find inspiration to write?
In today’s world, writers no longer pray to goddesses for magical interventions and most prefer a healthy lifestyle to constant hangovers. Instead, they research practical guidelines to generate hours of blissful writing in the zone. A recommended technique to kick-start inspiration is the “manageable” approach. Beginning writers are advised to pen one or two paragraphs every day, or to target a consistent 500 word count every day. Other writers set aside a certain time of day to perform the rituals of writing. Some rise early to greet Inspiration at the crack of dawn, stealing time in the early morning before work, while other scribblers are habitual night owls. Many people never have a good time for anything, so they grab any opportunity, including hiding in cars during their kid’s soccer game.
Writers honor and seek inspiration with a mystical reverence. They experiment with ways to increase their artistic production. Modern writers set out elaborate traps for Inspiration with compulsive attention. They sit in a special chair, or write with purple ink. Some wear a fuzzy housecoat, or become superstitious about the placement of objects on their desk. Others must start the writing day with a hot beverage and an ample supply of celery sticks. Many need a deadline, or prefer the background hum of a café, or hours of uninterrupted silence.
What are your rituals and incantations?
When do modern writers do their best work? When they are driven by sadness? Drunk?
Writers have always fretted and worried about inspiration. The Greeks, Shakespeare and Keats yearned for nubile muses to imbue the air with a dreamlike mist of inspiration. There is also a belief that a cup of Inebriation pairs well with Inspiration. The Norse, the Greeks, Romans, the Chinese and the masters of Western literature honor a man’s melancholic or hard-bitten disposition, especially when it gives way to drink and despair because the hope is that this will fuel their best work.
My experience is that the “Drunken Poet” is an old myth. I’ve sat through many presentations by writers and they all have figured out a system to write when they’re rested, a time of day and a methodology that suits their lifestyle.