Monday, June 08, 2009

More Advice Gone WTF?

“Before you enter the writing each day, you may want to take a long drink of water or a walk around the block. Do something to let you sink into yourself, so you may write from that quiet place of equanimity and truth. You are safe, go ahead. Stay simple.”
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This is another quote from that writing book I’m reading, but I just have to ask, what the hell does it mean? Again, it sounds kind of nice. But do you understand it? Even if you do, I rather doubt you understand it in the same way I do. I take walks often, which allows me to think about the story I’m working on, but I’ve yet to sink into myself with a drink of water. Frankly, I don’t really know what “sink into” myself means. I’m guessing it is intended to suggest something like mediation. I meditate, or daydream at least, quite often but it’s a very different mindset for me than I experience while actually writing.

And where exactly is that “quiet place of equanimity and truth?” And why should I want to be “safe” while I write? I always think the best writing comes when I’m feeling unsafe, feeling the same kind of emotional intensity that my characters are feeling. “Safe” writing sounds like boring writing to me.

I get the feeling that this whole passage is meant to convey a very simple idea: In order to write you need to “focus.” Is that how you read it?
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44 comments:

Paul R. McNamee said...

Take a long drink of water so that you'll need a pee break somewhere in the middle of what you're doing.

:)

Yes, I think it means 'focus' - or maybe 'relax and focus' - don't come at it all tensed up.

Long way to say something simple.

jodi said...

Charles, sounds like a misdirected 'yoga quote' to me. What they are trying to express-I think is that by having a routine in place, you will free yourself from distraction allowing you to write from that place. Maybe?

jodi said...

Charles, sounds like a misdirected 'yoga quote' to me. What they are trying to express-I think is that by having a routine in place, you will free yourself from distraction allowing you to write from that place. Maybe?

spyscribbler said...

I love this series. Totally makes me crack up.

I forgot to tell myself that I was safe this morning. No wonder my writing sucked today. :-)

Steve Malley said...

Sounds like the writer of the book faces a bad case of the screaming meemies when he sits down at the keyboard. Both bits of advice seem geared to a writer who's head is shouting 'YOU SUCK, THAT'S RUBBISH, HANG IT UP, YOOOOOUUUUU SUUUUUUCK!!!'

That sort of thing.

I can imagine that for this sort of person, little rituals to shake off those voices might help, along with the constant refrain of 'just one more sentence, just one more'...

Me, I have a special hat for those days! ;)

Cullen Gallagher said...

Walking around my neighborhood just reminds me of all the errands I have to run, or things left to do. It's loud and chaotic here in NYC.

And I agree with you - I'm not sure "safety" is what I'm looking for when I write.

Shauna Roberts said...

This quote makes sense to me. I read it as saying before you sit down to write, do something to clear your head of thoughts of the plants that need to be watered, of what you should get at the grocery, of all the emails waiting to be answered and blogs waiting to be visited, and other distractions.

If you are reading the writing book I suspect you are reading, I found it myself pretty useless because it assumes you often have writers' block and need ways to get your butt in the chair and your hands on the keyboard.

BernardL said...

Yep... focus from your spiritual center, beaming elevated thoughts to a new plateau of truth... hey... I can write this stuff too. :)

Chris said...

I just drank some water while walking around the block and spilled it all over my shirt. Thanks a lot!! LOL (:

ivan said...

Or Play Dough:
"The mind works best when gathered in on itself."

Yeah, yeah, how about some of the writers I know who get up in the morning, crank up on speed and let her rip.

G said...

I think it means exactly that: focus.

Personally, while I've taken seriously long walks to clear my head and come up with ideas for writing, I'm not sure I would feel unsafe in doing it.

And while being unsafe can make your writing better, you should always feel safe while practicing your particular type of unsafeness.

This incredibly odd PSA was brought to you by a tired government worker who was simply inspired after reading the comments to this post in particular and the post in general, who really wants to know, where did you find this book and why haven't you burned it yet.

laughingwolf said...

dunno charles, difficult for me to 'stay simple', being such a hodgepodge of this n that ;)

like you, i get involved with my characters... both in the reading and the writing...

Travis said...

One suspects that the author is enamored of utilizing elaborate language to convey simple ideas. Perhaps the author is being paid by the word.

LOL.

Charles Gramlich said...

Paul R. McNamee, a pee break is one good way to avoid working, I find.

jodi, I do believe it has something to do with distractions. Not sure why the author couldn’t have said that.

spyscribbler, I’m feeling too safe myself, although that book is threatening me.


Steve Malley, I had one of those moments last night in rereading my wip. I ignored it and it went away sulking.


Cullen Gallagher, I remember NYC. The horns, the horns, the horns. It’s quieter here.



Shauna Roberts, I could see that. The thing that clears my head is usually just getting started, although I fight that sometimes. Maybe some water would help. I’m reading the book very slowly.

BernardL, hey, maybe you should write a book on writing.


Chris, lol. I guess you weren’t feeling safe while you were drinking it.


ivan, or musicians like Johnny Cash. I’ve never tried writing on speed. On booze, now. Yeah, at times.


G, walks really do help me. By now it’s almost a habit.

laughingwolf, yes, and very few of my characters are ever feeling safe.

Charles Gramlich said...

Travis, I think it's exactly like that. I get irritated at people who try to turn writing into some mystical endeveour. It just ain't so.

Rick said...

Hello, Charles. One of the best writing markets is selling books to writers on how to write. There are so many unpublished writers out there dying to get published that represent a pretty fair market to sell to. They'll listen to most anything and, desperate to get into print, they eat up most anything that's served to them.

William Jones once told me to "throw away my writing books and not buy anymore." He advised me to study the writers I admired, then write, write, get input from writers I respected when it was available, then keep on writing.

I admire William tremendously and take his advice quite seriously.

So what I'm trying to say is that there is no secret waiting to be unveiled. I like Elmore Leonard's comment that he keeps making it up as he goes along.

I wish these self-help writing books would just tell us to get to work writing and studying and writing.

Tara Maya said...

I read it to mean, "Don't get sucked into commenting on blogs before you write."

Charles Gramlich said...

Rick, good to see you. Haven't see you around in a while. I agree, I really don't want to see writing turned into some mystical mumbo jumbo. Write and keep writing. William's advice is good, although I still read the books on writing at times. I've been around long enough by now though that I can take a book's ideas or leave them. Usually I leave them.

Tara Maya, oops!

SQT said...

Lol!

What it says to me is that the writer of the "how-to-write" book needs some advice on how to convey ideas with clarity.

Wil said...

I used to sink into myself when I was smoking those left handed cigarettes .

Wil Harrison.com

the walking man said...

I read it the same way as you and I thinks it's bullshit.

If you want to write..park your butt in the chair and write. Zen is for zen and writing is for writing.

Heff said...

I open my "artistic vault" by taking a dump, or cutting grass.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Those activities are what I do when I am stuck. That and swabbing the toilet. Water might cleanse the palate but not my mind.

etain_lavena said...

To me it sounds like they want to sound intelligent, and as if they want writing to be a smooth process with one emotion, I agree boring writting.....hihihihih.....

Scott Parker said...

Too often, I think folks think of writing as some mystical artform mastered only by people who can tie themselves into Mother Earth, draw power from her, and write. It's a job, just like welding and accounting. Sure, you use your imagination but, when you get down to writing, it's merely a job. A fun job, to be sure, filled with those moments only a writer can truly understand, but it's a job nonetheless.

Charles Gramlich said...

SQT, yep. I wanna say, stop the mumbo jumbo.

Wil, I don't really want to know any more about that Wil, but you'll probalby have a vid I can watch eh?

Mark, exactly. She's trying to take a Zen approach but it's only serving to increase confusion rather than cut through it.

Heff, uh oh, cutting grass doesn't sound like it would be "safe." Perhaps you better sit on the deck with a beer and contemplate it. Sink into yourself with each swallow of brew.

pattinase, maybe some of us have dirtier minds than others. ;)

etain_lavena, yeah, there's a lot of posturing in that paragraph I think.

Scott Parker, I agree. The mystical mumbo jumbo only serves to distance one from the writing. It doesn't clarify, it scarifies.

Mary Witzl said...

Jodi beat me to it: this sounds like good advice when you're getting ready for yoga.

When I'm ready to write, I need a big, hot cup of coffee and that's about it. I love water, but writing is fueled on coffee...

L.A. Mitchell said...

Who has the luxury of this kind of time? Maybe if we lived in a writer's commune and came together once a day to dance with our muses and eat wild berries.

I can relate to the "safe" thing, though. I have to remind myself repeatedly when I'm writing a love scene that my Great Aunt, who is a nun, will never read it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Mary Witzl, I use soda for the same fuel.

L.A., love the commune and wild berries comment. Had to laugh about your Auntie Nun. My mom is not a nun but you'd think to so considering how much of what I write she would disappprove of. If she'd read it.

Sidney said...

I've found myself several mornings waking with my brain a little too fuzzy to write. I've started turning on a lamp I didn't previously turn on to pour more light onto me and get me more into a waking state. I think it's all about getting in the zone.

Chris Eldin said...

LOL @ Paul's comment!
I don't like these kinds of books, generally, because the author assumes a 'higher plane' than the rest of us. It freaks me out too much.

May I say something about your post below, about your hair (which cracked me up!)....When I was 20, I worked as a parttime cashier at Woolworth's. A male friend of mine often had the same shift. He had long black curly hair. Very feminine hair, to be honest, but nice hair none the less. So he's got his back turned to the cash register, stocking cigarettes, when a man walks in and asks me, "Hey, can you ask her to get me a pack of Camels?"

My friend gave me a sideways grin, then very slowly pulled the cigarettes out of its column, walked backward two steps, then spinned around very fast and put the cigarettes on the counter. He was inches from the man's face. And his shocked expression.

I still laugh over that one.

writtenwyrdd said...

I get it. I can still do that when I take the proverbial "deep, cleansing breath." Otherwise known as centering, it is something you learn to do from meditation.

I could go into a long esoteric explanation, but it would sound like so much b.s..

Scott said...

Charles,

I usually drink wine when I write...I don't know if it makes me sink into myself, but I sure do enjoy it.

Barrie said...

Well, now I know my problem. I start my writing day with a cup of tea, not water. Ack! (Joke) I can't really believe that we should all follow the same format.

Jo said...

“Safe” writing sounds like boring writing to me too. Live on the edge. (I like Mark's comment.)

Barbara Martin said...

Perhaps, Charles, by sinking into yourself this allows the divine spark within to direct your writing. (I am not being facetious). This occurs during my writing and I have heard other authors speak of it, that while writing the story and characters takes on a life of its own and just goes. This may be the very thing that paragraph means.

JR's Thumbprints said...

A tall glass of water will cleanse the writer of all obstacles, it'll purify the soul. If you believe that, then it's time to flush the book.

Vesper said...

Focus... maybe, WTF certainly...

:-) :-) :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

Sidney, I figure it probably is just that. Though there surely was a clearer way to say it.

Chris Eldin, I get you exactly on the "higher plane." It's like magic words or astrology or something. Lol at the story of the guy with the cigarrettes. It is fun to jar folks out of their preconceived notions sometimes.

writtenwyrdd, that's the main reason I developed my own way of meditating. Why waste a lot of time on silly language. Just do it.

Scott, these days I just drink water. or the occassional cola. Need the brain cells.

Barrie, Oh if it works for her and her friends all power to her. It just won't work for me because I'm too busy laughing or snorting through my nose.

Jo, yeah, I really don't understand the "safe" comment. If she means emotional safety then I think she's dead wrong.

Barbara Martin, that does happen and it's a lot of fun. I'm not sure that's what she means but it could be. The usual term for that seems to be "being in the zone."

JR, what is the sound of one hand flushing? lol.

Vesper, well, I can't complain. I've gotten a couple of blog posts and counting out of this strange work!

writtenwyrdd said...

"Why waste a lot of time on silly language. Just do it."

Indeed. Generally the act comes before the language if you are being shown how by someone who gets it, lol.

Isn't it funny how people come up with such convoluted ways of explaining something simple?

Charles Gramlich said...

Writtenwyrd, I've often found that true. People love to dress up their activities to make them seem of huge importance.

Michelle's Spell said...

I agree with my girl Jodi -- it sounds very yoga like and is probably about routine even though it reads like a fortune cookie. I would take a walk around my neighborhood if someone paid me and water is not my thing when there is Dr. Pepper in the world. And I don't believe anyone who is writing is ever "safe." The things you find out are scary as hell and it's good to be a little on edge about it.

Merisi said...

They could as well have said to shake the sillies out (do I hear Raffi singing?) or to simply close the door and concentrate.

Am I missing the point here? ;-)

Charles Gramlich said...

Michelle, as I get older I suppose I just have less patience for vague language. and go DP. 23 flavors, man.

Merisi, I think you got it, although who can be sure?