There’s no one I know that has a seamless relationship with their chosen creative field. It’s a fickle process. It demands you hand over your entire self to the creative process and there’s never any guarantee that the outcome will work in your favour.
It took me 15 years to come back to the writing process. I’d derailed a little over that time and got caught up heading in directions that continually had me veering the wrong way. When I finally returned, there were two books that presented themselves to me and have become my writing bibles ever since.
I’d first come across Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way long before I’d ever really anticipated I’d have much use for it. When I finally decided to start it, I was a little naïve about what was expected. I scribbled down my signature – a necessity to demonstrate your commitment to the process, signed the date and launched. Aside from the weekly exercise tasks, there were the additional stream of consciousness pages that were required to be completed every day for 90 days.
Although I’ve always kept a journal and likened these stream of consciousness pages to a form of journal writing, nothing prepared me for how challenged I would be made to feel by them.
It’s not just the act of writing, it’s the process involved. It needed to be completed each morning, ahead of your daily routine. It needed to be 3 pages worth of longhand writing. Then, once you were finished, you weren’t allowed to read over it. Instead, the pages were torn off your notebook and placed for safekeeping in a large envelope, where all the pages would inevitably end up.
It was the greatest, most intensive introduction back into writing. The regularity of this repeated process was like exercising a muscle. One that had fallen limp after a long period of neglect. Stirring it from its dormant state was a laboured process. Each morning produced different outcomes. More than that, it was a self-reflecting experience as it forced me to recognise the emerging habits and patterns that come to surface in the face of discomfort. It was one of the most rewarding and difficult writing exercises I have ever done.
When I need to revisit past lessons on writing or be reacquainted with the sage advice of admired authors, there is one book I always turn to that keeps a permanent place by my bedside table. It’s Natalie Goldberg’s: Writing Down The Bones.
Her approach is simple. If you want to write, then you need to practice all the time. In the book she shares her experience of the writing process and explains: There is no perfect atmosphere, notebook, pen or desk. Train yourself to be flexible. What I love about Natalie is her upfront, tough love approach. There is no short cut to accelerating your writing abilities. It is an arduous process of applying yourself, stumbling, trying again and continuing on the journey recognising that it is an ever evolving work-in-progress.
I’ve had countless moments of questioning whether I have chosen the right creative field, particularly during times of experiencing sheer frustration. Despite the drama, there is a quiet voice that manages to break through and distil the noise. It is the comforting reminder that deep down, I already know the answer to that question. Regardless of how many excuses we may present ourselves, there is the underlying truth that never waivers. There is always the option to change direction, but the pull to keep going is far stronger than the decision to turn my back on it.
Happy travels...Paula x