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Chief Jack's Galley

There's a place for people who laugh at nothing...

January 2nd, 2006

(no subject) @ 11:16 am


halfmoon_mollie just posed an interesting question in her journal:

You sit and stare at a blank page and you tell yourself you have nothing to say. So you feel sorry for yourself.

I read somewhere - maybe I should say in a lot of somewheres - that the best cure for not being 'able' to write is to write every single day. A sentence or a paragraph or enough words to fill a ream of pages of paper, but write every day.

Does my LJ qualify as writing every day?

I told her that I believe that there are three answers to the question: "yes", "no" and "maybe", all of which are based on things that I've heard over the years. I also told her that whether this was indicative of the fact that I read too many books on writing and didn't do enough of it to actually know the answer, or that this was the sort of question that you would get a different answer to regardless of who you asked, I wasn't sure. The answer to the question, I think, lies in what we hope to accomplish.

"Writing" is one of those words that has a lot of different meanings. There is the physical act of writing, of sitting down with pen, pencil, crayon, stylus, keyboard or whatever and committing words to paper or some electronic form. Then, there is the craft of writing, of being able to use the various elements of writing (plot, character, dialogue, point of view, setting) to tell a story, argue a point, make someone laugh (hopefully), or express a feeling. Over and above that, there is the practice of writing, which Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron, among others, talk about: the use of writing as a spiritual exercise through which a person gains better understanding of self, of God, of one's place in the universe, whatever.

All of these are writing. So, what are those of us who call ourselves "writers" or who list "writing" as one of our hobbies or interests really saying?

I think that the implicit meaning of all of this is that we strive to become published authors. We want to see our name on the cover of a hardback book or a paperback, under the headline of a newspaper column or article, flashing on the screen in a movie theater or across the television screen, or at the top of the page above something that we've written and has been included in an anthology of poetry, short stories, whatever. We see what others have written and tell ourselves that we could do just as well, if not better, and that we could find a way to, if not support ourselves and our families with our work, at least gain a certain amount of notoriety and make a few extra bucks by doing so. Or, we see what someone else has written and tell ourselves that nothing that we could ever produce could come close to matching what this person has, so why even bother?

So, does writing in one's LiveJournal qualify as "writing every day"?

Good question. One that I've thought about a lot as regards myself. Here's my answer:

LiveJournal is fine as far as it goes. It gives me (and all of us) a way to connect with people we know, establish new relationships with people that we don't know, blow off some steam, record the moments of our lives, get into arguments over politics and religion (ahem), tell jokes, show the results of goofy quizzes, etc. I need that. We all do.

What I have found, though, is that it's easy to put something down in my LiveJournal and call it "writing" when in fact, to paraphrase Truman Capote, it's really "typing". I have often used LJ as a way to avoid developing my craft, building stories, creating something that could possibly be sold and bring money into the house, whatever. (For the record, I feel the same way about my beloved Ghostletters. It's a lot easier to throw Mary Cecelia into a pissing match with Julian than it is to write a story for publication, whether about her or anyone else that I could write about.)

So, does it count toward "writing every day"?


Yes and no.

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Date:January 2nd, 2006 09:03 am (UTC)
You know, when I was young - in school - I wrote. I wasn't always grammatically correct or anything, but I wrote and I enjoyed it. The grammar stuff I left up to the teachers to correct, and I learned.

but then I read those books about writing. Julia Cameron says I should get up an hour earlier and write my morning pages.

Hey, Julia, I work out in the morning. I get up at 5 already. I'm not going to get up at 4. It works for you, not for me.

Natalie Goldberg - Ive read her book "Writing Down the Bones" about three times. Have I learned anything from it? Does the fact that I don't remember if I have or not indicate anything?

I can't lie and say that I don't care if I see my name on something that was published. I got excited when the newspaper published my piece about Horses in the City. BUT...

I enjoyed my writing much more when I was younger. When I hadn't read so many books about how you were 'supposed' to write, and just wrote.

As for LJ - maybe it's like what morning pages are supposed to be - it helps to clear your mind and focus your energy.

Or not.


Yes and No.

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Date:January 2nd, 2006 12:33 pm (UTC)
I am frankly of the opinion that both Ms. Goldberg and Ms. Cameron are, pardon my French, full of shit. If it works for them, mazel tov, but I've tried doing what both of them have suggested, and it hadn't worked for me.

I also play the guitar (meaning that I have a bunch of guitars at home as well as a lot of sheet music and recordings, as well as technique books out the wazoo, and occasionally I will actually pull the guitar out, flip through one of the books, blast a few chords, sound out whatever song is going on in my head, and put the thing back in its case), and, in some ways, I can see your point about LJ--writing something out here can be similar to playing scales, tuning up, doing exercises, whatever. Likewise, writing books can be valuable because they can provide someone wanting to work on his or her craft with a sort of direction. So, yeah, I can see it working as a way to clear your mind and focus your energy.

The real trick, though, is then taking that focus and that mind and crafting something that other people would like to read.

Or not. ;)

Chief Jack's Galley

There's a place for people who laugh at nothing...