The Truth About The Writing Life

When you are a​ writer,​ you cannot separate your writing from your life. Writers cannot not write,​ so writing for you is​ like breathing. it​ is​ so natural you don't even think about it. I think it's a​ shame that so many writers treat their writing as​ anything from "special time" to​ the​ last thing on​ their to-do list. Writing is​ life. And so the​ principles of​ life,​ or​ the​ truth about life,​ are also the​ principles of,​ or​ the​ truth about,​ the​ writing life.

I recently re-read a​ favorite spiritual book,​ and in​ it​ I found a​ quote from the​ author's high school drama teacher. This drama teacher must have been a​ wise man because he always taught his drama students the​ following:

The Truth About Life

1. Leave your personal problems at​ the​ stage door.
2. Treat the​ material with honesty,​ dignity and without embellishment.
3. Show up fully no matter how many people are in​ the​ audience.

I was suddenly struck with a​ simple thought: the​ Truth About Life is​ exactly the​ same as​ the​ Truth About the​ Writing Life,​ and so many of​ us forget these simple truths,​ as​ often in​ our everyday lives as​ we​ do in​ our writing lives.

So as​ a​ reminder,​ for all the​ writers out there,​ here is​ my version of​ the​ Truth About (The Writing) Life

1. Leave your personal problems at​ the​ stage door.

When you are writing,​ IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU! What? Not about me? Well then who is​ it​ about?? It's about your view of​ the​ world,​ your take on​ things,​ how the​ world appears through your own unique lens,​ and yes,​ you need to​ write from your own emotional experience,​ or​ at​ the​ very least you need to​ write about something you care about. But that's where it​ ends. While you are writing from a​ place within yourself,​ or​ you're channeling something from the​ depths of​ your unconscious,​ you are still doing it​ with one very important proviso. You are disengaging your ego,​ and writing from some deep inner truth,​ or​ emotional place. Get out of​ your ego and into the​ soul or​ spirit of​ your characters. You are a​ writer. You are there to​ serve the​ story. It's not there to​ serve you.

A great idea is​ to​ have an​ imaginary hat stand,​ coat rack or​ even a​ cardboard box outside the​ door of​ the​ room where you write. Every time you enter the​ room to​ do some writing,​ mentally drop all your baggage,​ problems,​ ego issues and any other personal issues into the​ box or​ hang them on​ the​ racks and walk into the​ room unencumbered. Then,​ while you are writing,​ imagine that someone or​ something comes and whisks all your baggage,​ problems and issues away,​ so that when you're finished,​ the​ doorstep is​ empty.

2. Treat the​ material with honesty,​ dignity and without embellishment.

I firmly believe that when you are writing,​ you are co-creating with a​ force larger than yourself. Whether you call that force God,​ the​ Universe,​ the​ collective unconscious,​ the​ spirit of​ your dearly departed grandmother,​ Allah or​ simply your Higher Self,​ when you truly enter the​ creative imagination you are only one element in​ many that go into making up the​ totality of​ your story. So when the​ material comes through (when you write it) you do need to​ treat it​ with honesty,​ dignity and without embellishment. Let it​ flow through you honestly. Don't try and change it​ as​ it​ flows. Just let it​ flow,​ get it​ down on​ the​ page,​ and if​ there are changes that need to​ be made,​ address them in​ the​ rewriting and editing processes. Dignify the​ material with your time and your skills,​ and for goodness sake,​ don't embellish. There is​ nothing worse than a​ wonderful story and good writing being asphyxiated by attempts at​ literary high-mindedness. if​ the​ character gets hit in​ the​ head,​ tell us he gets hit in​ the​ head. Don't tell us that a​ large object projected itself into his cranium. Be blunt and use simple language. You will find the​ greatest writers do that. at​ the​ risk of​ sounding like another American self-help guru,​ you're best served to​ "tell it​ like it​ is". Thanks Dr Phil!

Go back over some of​ your own writing and see where you may have been guilty of​ embellishment. the​ beauty and complexities of​ great novels come from the​ story,​ the​ narrative,​ the​ rich drawing of​ characters and their relationships to​ each other,​ not from using lots of​ big words.

3. Show up fully no matter how many people are in​ the​ audience.

Write for the​ sheer joy of​ it,​ the​ pleasure,​ the​ beauty,​ peace and satisfaction it​ stirs in​ you. Write because you have to,​ because you can't not write. Write because there's a​ story that's bursting to​ get out of​ you. Don't write to​ please editors,​ publishers,​ readers,​ your mother,​ teacher or​ partner. Write for the​ sense of​ abundance it​ brings into your life. Turn up at​ the​ blank page or​ screen and write just for the​ heck of​ it. it​ doesn't matter whether you're the​ only one who'll read your words or​ whether you have a​ print run of​ 1,​000,​000 books ready to​ roll when you finish your manuscript. What matters is​ that you show up fully at​ the​ page,​ every day. Because writing in​ and of​ itself,​ is​ all that matters,​ isn't it?

So next time you're sitting at​ your page thinking "what am I doing here?" have a​ look at​ these 3 simple Truths About (The Writing) Life and remember how simple it​ really is. You write because you can't not write. So leave your personal problems at​ the​ door,​ treat the​ material with honesty,​ dignity and without embellishment and show up fully at​ the​ page,​ no matter how many people are in​ the​ audience.

And watch your writing improve.

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