Introduction: On Writing
Writing isn't for everybody, some may feel uncomfortable with pen and paper and find their way to genuine happiness through gardening or other methods. Writing isn't for them, but for those who enjoy the process or who once enjoyed it and want to try again. As a writing teacher I was often dismayed at the number of people who once loved to write but, somewhere in the course of their education, learned to fear it instead. If you are in this number, you might wish to do the fear of writing exercises before starting any of the others. A friend also told me that she prefers to visualize the exercises rather than write about them.
Countless changes, large and small, have been facilitated and helped by journal and personal writing in ways that are not obvious, and can't be measured in terms of book sales or bestseller lists. Incalculable individual adjustments have been worked through in the steady outpouring of words into notebooks and journals, words often trying to make sense of lives their writers never expected to lead.
One of my most abiding pleasures as a writing teacher has been to watch the joy and amazement of a student who has been surprised into writing at a level he or she didn't think possible. As anyone who has ever kept a journal knows, you don't have to be interested in becoming a professional author to enjoy and profit from putting things down on paper. There is--dare I say it?--too much stress today on publishing, too much emphasis on the product of writing, too little on the process.
What I have found is that the value of writing, the sense of connection, comes not at the point a play of mine is produced or a book published, but in the primary process of creation. When I'm writing hard, a sort of humming starts at the edge of my consciousness: earth slides away, the sky opens. I'm in, quite literally, another world. Something comes to me, through me, something sings me, hums me. Each and every one of us can participate in this primary creative act, can connect with this source.
Over the years I found that it is easy to read coolly, superficially, only with the mind, but writing is different. Writing requires emotional involvement, it engages the whole self. By simply picking up a pen and writing for 15 or 20 minutes on a given subject, we often find out not only what we think about a topic, but also what we feel, what we fear, and what we hope. To cast material into a play, poem, or short story will frequently reveal hidden truths and latent ideas in a way that nothing else can.
There is nothing quite like having a daily commitment to write. Start with 15 minutes a day & structure it however you wish -- a letter to yourself, free-writing in a journal, working on a short story or poetry, whatever. Just decide how much time you want to spend every day on writing, then stick to it. It might help to keep a "Daily Log" where you sign in & sign out after your allotted time. You can commit to writing every day or to, say, five days a week which has the added clause that you can make up your time on the weekends if you had to skip a day during the previous five. You might form a "workshop" with one other person, each of you committed to writing once a day. Set realistic goals, don't set yourself up for failure. Starting small, then gradually increasing your daily minutes often works better than taking an idealized I-should-be-able-to-do-this-if-only-I-could-make-myself-work-harder approach. Whatever keeps you writing, whatever works for you, is the method to follow.