Bloom Where You're Writing* By: Noelle Sterne


Especially on dark and blocked days, I question why I write. Like other writers, I come up with a lot of reasons that seem extremely justified at depressive moments. Here are four gloomy statements I’ve enunciated and have also heard from other writers—and some equally reasonable remedies.

· “I have nothing to say.”
How many times have I heard or thought or felt this! But then, after thinking a little more rationally, I arrive at some answers that satisfy and disprove that statement.
1. The first strategy is to attack head-on. Decide on a block of time to write and, if you must, just sit there. Do nothing else. After a time of fidgeting, Web surfing, or muffin-stuffing, your “nothing to say” will turn. Your hand will automatically pick up the pen, your fingers will irrepressibly turn to the keys. Even if you brand what comes forth as inane, stupid, ridiculous, cliché, or copied from your favorite author, keep going. 2. Then, realize that we all have garbage trucks full of such writing. We’ve got to load them up and, later, drive them to the dump. 3. But in the trash heap, and often as a byproduct, your “nothing to say,” like a tiny flower in the dung, will blossom. It will take shape as one sentence, then two, then another idea and a second, and an astounding metaphor, image, memory, face, phrase. You’ll have the beginnings of a story, poem, novel . . . . When you get beyond that self-judging and limiting de-affirmation, “I have nothing to say,” you can yield great fruit. That’s why Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” (in The Artist’s Way, pp. 9-18) are so valuable. Even if you start with “I have nothing to say,” and repeat it as many times as you need to (which is good enough for her), soon, just sitting there, you’ll find you indeed have something to say.
An example from one of my entries:
I have nothing to say. I have nothing to say. I have nothing to say. I have nothing to say. I have nothing to say.
Makes me so mad. Why can’t I write? Others do, badly, and get published and with less to say than I do. [Notice I’ve already contradicted my de-affirmation that you have nothing to say.] I think I have nothing to say.
Can hear my father’s voice when I announced, timidly, I wanted to be a writer. “Ha! How can you make a living? What do you have to say?”
The bastard. How did he know? He had nothing to say—always wanted to be an architect, like Frank Lloyd Wright. The living room coffee table was piled high with books with glossy glorious photos of Wright houses, Philip Johnson landmarks, and I. M. Pei structures soaring to the sky.
But my father married young, probably too young, and had a family too soon to support. So he settled. Became a crafter of prisons and prison-like schools, lockstep cement-block buildings with windows rationed like war-zone food.

Ah—the makings of a memoir.
· “I’ll never make the grade.”My aspiring writing friend Grant wrote me recently, “I haven’t taken writing seriously so far, even though I’ve always wanted to do it, mainly because I know I don’t make the grade.”

As I replied to Grant, how do you know if you don’t go for it? If you feel like you’re worse than other writers, read a few blogs. Many are excellent—and some are, well, to be charitable, less so. Can you do as well, or surpass them? I bet your answer is affirmative.

Even better, don’t read anything else at all. When I’ve read excerpts from stellar essayists or novelists, I too plummet and succumb: “I’ll never make the grade.” Such exposure and comparisons can paralyze us further. So, contrary to much advice for writers, for a while turn away from all reading and concentrate on producing your own words.
· “I’ll never get published.”Maybe, and maybe not. If you keep sending out your pieces, eventually you will get published. The watchwords: persistence, patience, perseverance. Author and writing career coach Christina Katz gives great advice:
Stop waiting for big success and aim for a series of small successes instead. Many writers are waiting to hit the mother lode, so to speak, of writing success. But success lies in taking aim at targets you are likely to actually hit and then hitting them one after the other. That's how experience is gained in an otherwise complex and mysterious profession. (March 13, 2008,
http://www.writersdigest.com/qp7-migration-books/katz-interview) · “No one will read it.”My friend Grant worried much about this: “The subjects that interest me are a tiny pocket and aren’t popular. So, even if I write, how many would read my stuff anyway?”

After complimenting him on his evocative metaphor of “tiny pocket,” I told him, and say the same to you, “You don’t know at all that no one will read your work. Do you realize how many subjects the Internet carries, from common to unnervingly esoteric? As with partners, there’s a reading match for every topic and approach.”

Your first and only responsibility is to do what feels good—and right—to you. If you have the desire, itch, rash, to write, then you are meant to write.

Remember too a truth that contradicts that no-one-will-read-it assumption. Whatever your subject, the more you are true to yourself, the more you will connect with others. Even if you think no one’s interested in what you write about, do it anyway. The more you write, the better you’ll get. The deeper you go inside, the more honest you can be in your writing, and the more other people will read, and find personal meaning in, your words.

In some ways, your job is to write for them. Why are love songs so popular? Because they say what so many people feel and cannot express. Same with writing. How often have you read something and shouted inside, “Yes! That’s just how I feel!”?

Or, “I’m surprised someone else is writing about this. It’s just what I’ve been thinking!”
· Why Write? The answer to this question lies in combating those negatives above and in answers to other important questions:
Do you crave and yearn to write?
Do you feel “unfinished” if you don’t?
No matter how many orders you sold, bills you paid, accounts you updated, laundry loads you washed and folded, do you feel the day has been wasted?
Do you feel you’re betraying yourself when you don’t write?

All the reasons we give ourselves for not writing, or for quitting, that seem so sound are really self-indulgent and self-pitying. Sure, feel one or two for a minute but realize, as spiritual teacher Louise Hay says, it’s “just a thought” (You Can Heal Your Life, p. 5). The thought can be changed any moment you choose—you can think the thought that you are meant to write.

Do you see now, if the desire to write burns in you, even on dismal days, that you must? To ignore or deny that desire only harms you, and that denial will eventually manifest as depression, illness, hopelessness, despair.

But fear of such reprisals is not the reason to write. Author and consultant Joan Frank published a wonderful book of essays on writing with a title that unmistakably answers our writing-doubt questions: Because You Have To. My colleague Grant began to see why he has to: “Now I see things with a small difference. Your words were a message, and through you life is telling me to write.”

Like Grant, past the struggles, self-doubts, and momentary dejections, you’ll know too that your life is telling you to write. You’ll find yourself sitting there, and eventually producing the pieces that knock inside for expression. And you’ll know how to handle those dispiriting statements, to yield to the joy of creating, and to bloom where you’re writing.


 Author, editor, ghostwriter, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle keeps reminding herself why she writes and is glad her reminders have helped her publish over 300 fiction and nonfiction pieces in print and online venues. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has guided doctoral candidates to completion of their dissertations. Based on this work, her current project is a practical-psychological-spiritual handbook, Grad U: Complete Your Dissertation—Finally—and Ease the Trip for Yourself and Everyone Who Has to Live With You. In her published book, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books), Noelle draws examples from her practice and other aspects of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Visit Noelle at http://www.trustyourlifenow.com/

With Trust Your Life, Noelle is participating in the Unity Books “Summer of Self-Discovery,” a reading series on Goodreads with two other authors of positive messages with book discussions and free author webcasts. See unitybooks.org/summer and http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/100799-unity-books

You are invited to Noelle’s free author webcast: June 26, 2013, 7:00p-8:00p Eastern: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6146242861519032832

See also Noelle’s recent posts on Writer’s Digest Online, “How to Prevent Predictable Plots,” http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-prevent-predictible-plots, and on ReadLearn Write, “Wishing Not to Write,” http://readlearnwrite.com/wishing-not-to-write/
Noelle is an invited regular guest blogger for Author Magazine’s “Authors’ Blog,” starting May 2013. In her blog she explores writing, creativity, and spirituality, http://authormagazineonline.wordpress.com/

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let us help you grow into the writer you were meant to be.

Jennifer Brown Banks---Manager of Operations

Announcements & Updates...

Share your calls for submissions, success stories, writing related news.

Dr. Serena Wadhwa joins the Coffeehouse team
of instructors!

Coffeehouse is now on Twitter! Be sure to connect with us to get the latest, up-to-the-minute happenings and find out what's brewing.

Check us out @http://Twitter.com/coffeehse4write