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November 2, 2013

Just Me & My Shadow: Embrace Your Writerly Dark Side & Prosper Creatively.

The haunted houses! The costumes! The bats and spiders! The creepy, crawly things! As the days get shorter and nights get colder, we of the northern climes have begun to prepare for winter.

Since the dawn of humanity, the Halloween season has inspired us to confront shadow side of our human existence.

The same thoughts can be applicable to the creative process: The mental tug-of-war that accompanies writing, for example, can be fueled by feelings we’d rather ignore: fear, uncertainty and ‘stuckness’.

1) Write what you love, rather than what you ‘should’ write.

Forget the vampires, the sexy nurses, The Tea Party costumes; for a writer, the most frightening of all costumes is The Blank Page.

Writer’s block can be scary. What should I write? Something whimsical? (My cat sometimes looks like Hulk Hogan! Maybe a haiku would work?) Something deep and profound? (Cue Walt Whitman shuffling through the crunchy leaves of a New England autumn, white beard swaying in the air.)

Avoid that story you’ve been trying to publish for so long, but now hate because it has been revised it so many times. (Cue sad trombone.)

2) Do not make procrastination enjoyable—you’ll be back to writing in no time.

Any writer worth his or her salt will procrastinate. Do not, therefore, choose to engage in any sort of task you find personally rewarding or enjoyable during your chosen writing time. Do not spend time with fun friends. Do not cook a tasty meal. Do not take a fun day trip.

Choose from this handy list: Clean the refrigerator bins from spoiled produce and Limberger cheese. Clean the grout around the side of the bathtub with a toothbrush. Work on taxes. Return phone call from somebody who makes your blood boil. The more onerous the task, the surer you can be that you’ll be back to writing in no time!

3) Embrace the art of journaling.

I was first introduced to the concept of Morning Pages in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Cameron’s process is simple. The impact is intense. Every morning, write three, stream-of-consciousness, longhand pages in a journal. The next morning—and following mornings thereafter—repeat the process.

Knock away the spiderwebs! Give your subconscious some time to talk. Those morning demons say some fascinating stuff! Let those creepy, crawly thoughts see the light of day!

This is important: Resist the urge to self-censor! Get it all out there. The lofty thoughts. The temper tantrums. Moments of gratitude. Wail like an angry toddler in your Morning Pages. Mine your Higher Self for ideas. What embarrasses you? What makes you happy? Why do you love lima beans? Why do you hate them? What about today fills you with overwhelming joy? What do you dread?

A caveat: Keep your journal away from prying eyes. Uncle Willis does not need to know your innermost secrets.

4) Write first drafts in a journal.

Computers make creative projects seem like work. Investeth, therefore, in a journal. Do drafts and outlines in the journal, all stream-of-conscious-y, just like your Morning Pages. Don’t like writing on paper? Write in the sand. Try some sidewalk chalk. Do a cartoon diorama. Go outside! The options are endless!

5) Be who you are—you will find your audience!

It’s time to fall into writing! Have the cojones to write what you love. Everything else will just end up sounding like a bunch of pretentious nonsense.

Remember Kevin Costner gazing out onto that future baseball field, ‘If you build it they will come,’ echoing in the background?

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

(Flickr: Florida Memory)

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