Monday, October 15, 2012

Radical Writing Advice : What Do You Need to Hear?

I get torn between searching for "the thing" I need to hear, or see, or do, and waiting it out, until it happens. I make lists. I contemplate. I go online and spend time exploring options, read magazines, listen to snippets of conversations about the topic I might be interested in pursuing.

Sometimes in that "doing" I lose the thread or I'm not able to hear my heart. I start following with my head and not my spirit and then I, sometimes, lose my way. Or I knead my schedule - okay, I know the more common term is "massage" my schedule, but that's not what I do. I pound it and shape it and fold it over on itself until I can make "X" or "Z" or "Q" fit. Then, sometimes, that thing I worked so hard to get in there cancels. And I have this twisted mess on my hands and not the thing I tried to squeeze into the odd shaped container.

So it goes with writing advice, too. If we're not open to opportunities we may miss what we need or what would be beneficial to our writing. I don't mean we have to accept everything which floats our way. But sometimes we should trust our instinct and go to hear that author read from their work and talk about their process. Or pick up that book a friend recommended even though it's nothing we would look twice at on our own.

Because, maybe, in that book or in that author's storytelling and process discussion there are nuggets which help improve our writing. Or boost our self-confidence. Or lead us to that secret place where we stored that good idea in our head but it was lost behind all the plotting and planning.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to interact with a couple of authors in my "day job." I was planning on attending the general event - and was volunteering for an organization later in the day - and I may or may not have stopped in to hear these two read. Nothing against either of them, but there were so many choices and I probably would have ended up somewhere else - if I was even there by the time they spoke.

And in their readings and their discussions, even though I was working in another capacity, I felt energized by their words and picked up a few of those little gems in their talks about their process. It felt good both as a writer and for the reason I was there.

An additional benefit of that for me was that I was also being a little bit hard on myself. See, I'm trying to get a better handle on my scheduling and I'm trying to not work on most Saturdays. Except for theater work (rehearsal purposes and teaching the workshop I've designed). But I took this job last Saturday and was giving myself a bit of a hard time about that: "why didn't you just take the day off, Dot?" (except I was volunteering at Wordstock later in the day and I had a theater rehearsal that night), or "you said no work on Saturdays!" and so on.

But then I realized that at some instinctual level, I knew what I was doing. I met a great author and we might have a planned meeting in an entirely different capacity in the future. I was interpreting about writing, about literature. And I learned a couple of things which will help me as a writer - simple, basic, yet important things I might not have heard otherwise, or not for a long time.

So - don't be too quick to judge if the interaction will be useful. Don't worry so much about trying to figure out the perfect way to make it all fit. Plan? Sure. Dream? Absolutely. Explore? Yep.

But leave room for the unexpected. Keep space in your days to wander. Keep your ears and eyes open to that sparkly thought which may pass in a blink; catch it. And trust that sometimes the not-quite-what-I-intended  encounter will hand you a gem.