Writing Tip #5

“Writing is learned by imitation. If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it.”
– William Zinsser, On Writing Well

A Writerly Life: Robin McKinley

“One of the biggest, and possibly the biggest, obstacle to becoming a writer… is learning to live with the fact that the wonderful story in your head is infinitely better, truer, more moving, more fascinating, more perceptive, than anything you’re going to manage to get down on paper. (And if you ever think otherwise, then you’ve turned into an arrogant self-satisfied prat, and should look for another job or another avocation or another weekend activity.) So you have to learn to live with the fact that you’re never going to write well enough. Of course that’s what keeps you trying — trying as hard as you can — which is a good thing.”

—Robin McKinley (author of fantasy and children’s books; winner of the Newbery Medal)

Know your big WHY

Our culture and our socialization tell us women how to act and think. We are supposed to be women/wives/mothers first and writers second.

Because of this, you need to be clear about WHY you want to write so that you can give yourself permission to write. And just to be clear, some of us have a harder time giving ourselves permission than others do. So,

1. Know what your goal is: it might be to start writing, to write more, to write more creatively, to write a novel, to finish writing projects, to sell your work. Be clear with yourself what your writing goal is.

2. To accomplish your goal, go deep: those who study brain science suggest that you need to answer this question, “what is the intrinsic social, moral or personal reason I have for wanting to achieve my goal?”

Knowing what your goal is and why you want to accomplish that goal keeps the motivation part of your brain activated. The clearer you are about your big WHY (the personal reason you want to write), the more important the goal will feel to you, and the more your brain will be motivated to turn that goal into reality.

When you know your big WHY you will have the motivation to take the necessary steps to find/make/clear time and space for your writing.

Have a Passion. Decide to Act. Make Art.

Today, I’m reminded to take solace in the act of creating. A while ago, in one of my PhD classes, the artist Gendron Jensen*, who has spent a lifetime transforming relics from nature – usually bones – into art objects of uncommon beauty, talked with us about art and creating.

Three things he told us resonated profoundly, and I want to share them with you:

1. The very act of creating changes the projection of world history, whether your art is every made public or not. (His point was that making art changes us, which changes our personal behavior and actions, which changes history.)

2. Art needs to be released.

3. Create. Then let in the other.

*Jensen’s drawings are in the collections of such museums as Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He works almost exclusively in graphite on sheets of paper as tall as seven feet, making meticulous renderings of the intricate infrastructures of wildlife.