07
Jan
08

A Writer’s Diary Part II

Here we are again–in make believe.

In the first installment, I gave you a little bit of history about myself, as far as the writing life goes. Today I want to talk about something called the Writer’s Trance.

I believe that if you are ever to attain a high level of competence as a writer, you must be able to enter a trance-like state. It’s a kind of euphoria in which your mind is moving so easily and fluidly, that your fingers move on their own over the keyboard, the characters are speaking to you–and you’re simply recording their actions and statements, as a journalist.

Is the trance something that can be attained at will?

Yes.

But it takes practice, and beyond that, it takes confidence. If any of you have played a particular sport for any extended period of time in your life–perhaps college athletics, or just weekend softball–you’ve probably experienced something referred to as, The Zone. Professional athletes seek the help of psychiatrists so that they can achieve The Zone at will, or at least more frequently. Here are some tips that I have for achieving the trance while you write:

1) Write a lot. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be. And believe me, it’s all about comfort. Things need to flow. You can’t feel anxious, stressed, or tired. Flow, relax, be Zen or whatever–just don’t be worried.

2) Chuck the dictionary and the thesaurus on your first draft. You’ll break your stream of thought if you’re referring to Webster every minute. In my experience, I only have a couple, maybe three hours worth of writing time a day, in which I can write well. So I must cram as much typing into a two-hour period as possible. After that amount of time, I’m just too tired to write anything worth reading. Just keep typing and imagining–worry about the specifics later, in your second or third drafts. The first draft is for ideas–not grammar.

3) Be arrogant. Imagine yourself as a great writer. Believe that the great writers of the past are no better than you. Know that they all started at the same place; with no idea of what they were attempting and no objective way to tell if what they were writing was garbage or legendary prose. And they all started with the same cocky attitudes that said: “I’m good. There’s something in me, even though others don’t see it or know about it. That something drives me to write and to write well. Boy when people see this, they’ll be amazed!” As a man thinketh–so is he.

4) Throw out the rules of style and the structures of schoolbooks. If you’re writing fiction, that is. Write what YOU want. Rules are great, especially for beginners, but rules also make us consider the process more than the content, and this leads to anxiety. There are no rules in writing fiction. Read James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake or Ulysses or even better–Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. These are extreme examples and not every one’s cup of tea, but they show that there are people who will be drawn to your originality; they may even join you in your trance when they read your stuff.

5) Read a lot. Everyday if you can. Nothing can take the place of reading, in helping you to become a good, if not great, writer. If you don’t have the time to read–you don’t have the right to write. Read, and earn the right.

6) Stop caring so much. In caring less–you’ll care more. Here we go with the Zen again. But caring really means worrying, and as we’ve said, you can’t worry and write well at the same time.

Over time, after putting my suggestions into play, you may find that simply by remembering the feeling you had during previous writing sessions, you can summon the trance to do your bidding.

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