Be humble. Be brave. Get it on the page.

Illustration from Pencil Sketching from Nature.

Sketching and Jotting Your Way to Victory

When you’re trying to write everyday – and especially when you’ve created a blog called the Daily Creative Writer – sometimes it can be hard to come up with material…especially creative material.  I tend to do some of my best ad hoc writing when I’m stuck somewhere, like a boring lecture, an airport lounge or a tedious meeting.  Once I even crafted a tiny little essay while waiting for my friend to finish shopping at Zara.  These little spurts of genius – as I like to call them when I’m feeling magnanimous – can often pay off big days, weeks or years later.  In fact, some of the content I’ve included in this blog is redrafted and redesigned material written a long time ago in galaxy far, far away.

It’s easier – obviously – to feel open to writing when the moment presents itself if you’ve already committed to a regular writing routine.  For me, that routine involves the Morning Pages that I mentioned yesterday, as well a various writing exercises, freelance assignments and even inspired emails.  The more I write, the more I want to write.

Julia Cameron calls these little moments of genius, “sketching.”

“If ‘God is in the details,’ so is grace,” says Cameron, “and sketching is a means of contacting the grace-filled soup of where we really are.”

The added benefit of sketching…it can help you overcome writer’s block.  As Cameron explains, writer’s bloc – or The Wall, as she calls it – often occurs right at the moment when things are going okay.

“The Wall is the point where a previously delightful project comes screeching to a halt.  The Wall is the point where doubt sets in,” explains Cameron, and I know of what she speaks.  I have so many half finished screenplays lying around, I could probably fill up an entire film festival…if I ever got around to completing even the first draft.

“My own experience is that somewhere around two thirds of the way through a piece I suddenly see what the writing was driving at….This point is a scary one,” Laments Cameron.  “Now that ‘I’ know what ‘I’ am doing, I begin to worry that ‘I’ might not be able to pull it off.  IN other words, my ego wakes up.  No longer content to let the writing write through me, it suddenly demands control.  It want the book to be ‘good.’  This is the point I call ‘The Wall.’ All writers know it.”

If you’ve been sticking with me this far, you can probably already anticipate what the solution to this dilemma is: writing.  The best way to clear that wall or overcome that block is to just write right through it.

“When we insist on being great, the Wall stops us,” says Cameron. “When we are willing to be humble, we wriggle our way under the Wall and back to the glee of writing freely.  By being willing to write ‘badly,’ we free ourselves to write – and perhaps to write very well.”

Be humble.  Be brave.  But get it on the page.

My Little Sketching Exercise:

Ten minute description – where are you right now.

Right now I’m once again sitting at my desk.  Having mined this particular space for all it’s worth, I’m not sure what else there is to describe, but I will give it a go.

Directly in front of me is a badly hung curtain of sheer white fabric.  I put it up to shield me from the outside world because the front of my workspace is made of floor-to-ceiling glass.  In order to hang the curtain, I had to twist an anchor into the drywall on one end, tie some packing twine to it and then safety pin the twine to the grey fabric of the opposite wall.  I then had to tape the twine to the metal frame of the door, because the curtain was too heavy  to be held up by the twine alone.

On my desk – a faux wood in pale brown – sit two black ‘In” and “Out” boxes.  The “In” box has an irrelevant piece of junk mail.  The “Out” box has the latest issue of GX magazine – one of our sister publications.  Not having perused it, I’m sending out to wherever unwanted issues go – the library or some such.  The in/out boxes have also been anchored using regular ol’ garden variety tape…I am the MacGyver of my office space.

My black, flat screen Acer monitor sits on top of Volume 127 of Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 2007 – an inch thick tome with monthly updates that have no relevance to what I do and are often dumped, in bulk, in our recycling bin.  This particular issue was picked at random and repurposed as an ad hoc monitor stand – an attempt to raise my screen to more ergonomically appropriate levels.  I’ve got a sticky note next to the Acer logo that no longer makes sense  – a phone number, an email address and a company name hastily scribbled underneath, who knows for what purpose.  Using some more of that wonderful invention know as tape, I’ve stuck a photo of two-year old Tyler smiling in turquoise pjs as he hugs newborn Reed.

At the base of my monitor sits my new iPhone – latest love of my life – atop a black, plastic letter opener that I’ve strategically placed face down so that I don’t have to stare at the face of the writer who sent it to me as part of a campaign to market his freelance skills (in the end the opener proved more useful than the writer).  Staring up at me from the monitor’s stand is a tiny, squishy, black and white cow that was a gift from Reed and serves as my personal workspace totem.

And…ten minutes is up!

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