Sometimes It’s Okay Not to Write

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We went to the tiny seaside fishing village with good intentions, not to fish, but to simply relax, enjoy some time away from daily life. It was our 46th wedding anniversary and in recent years we’ve enjoyed taking such a break on this occasion.

The view above was taken from the beach house balcony early on our first morning after arrival. Believe it or not, rather than inspire me, this view restricted my writing. I wanted to write, believe me. My intention had been to write about 1000 words while there. I thought the surroundings would be perfect.

It seems they were too perfect and I needed relaxation more than I needed writing. I spent most of the four days enjoying the view. Sure, I achieved some journal writing, but nothing more serious than that. In fact at the end of our first full day there I wrote:

My brain is like a hyperactive child after an overload of sugar. It is flitting all over the place, nothing productive. Maybe I need this quietness to enable my creative mind to have a rest, empty, then leave room for new ideas.

I eventually accepted that it was okay not to write. My brain fell into the peaceful rhythm of the sea and I chose to not disturb that rhythm as it became absorbed into my being.

Now I am home again, refreshed, and ready to start writing again.

Sometimes it’s okay not to write.

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What Do Driftwood and Writers Have in Common?

The last few weeks I’ve wandered a few deserted winter beaches here in New Zealand, letting my thoughts wander where they will. As I sat in the car one rainy day, looking over the driftwood on the stony beach, my mind started thinking about the stories of the wood. Each of those pieces had their own story – their own starting point and the adventure they’d taken down the river into the harbour.

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I picked up my pen and started to write, having no idea where my thoughts would take me. I imagined how each piece of driftwood had cast it’s story into the ocean before being washed up onto the beach.

Isn’t that what we do as writers? We release the stories that lay deep within us, letting them free to find their own landing place in the world. Don’t hold of your stories too long. Cast them out for others to read before it is too late and you too become beached in your final resting place.

Make a start today, start writing your stories. There are others out here who would love to read them.

Guilty of Neglect

The lovely ladies dressed in their swimwear stared at me from the screen, chiding me for my neglect.

“You call yourself a writer,” they said in their soft, feminine voices. “You encourage others to write daily. Where have you been?”

“I have been writing,” I said, “just not here.

Disappointment oozed from their silent faces “Your blog was part of the bargain,” thy reminded me, “part of your daily writing practice commitment.”

“I know, I know,” I replied, ‘but I’ve had other writing priorities this month.”

I lowered my eyes in shame at neglecting the lovely ladies who lent me their image. They’ve stared at me each day from my home page, inviting me into the water, trying to entice me into my own writing space. I owe the ladies more attention. So, here I am, ready once more to write the stories of ordinary people. I’ve been away too long.

Uncovering Treasure through Journal Writing

We’ve all heard more times than we care to remember how daily Journal Writing is essential for any writer. I love writing in my journal, pencil to paper, but until about two months ago was never consistent. Now I write two or three pages of random writing on a regular basis and I’m surprised at the potential writing ideas emerging. Take last night for example, for some reason I started thinking about clocks as I wrote.

Clocks ticking can add suspense. Tick, tick, tick into the silence. Breath held, waiting in anticipation. What will happen next?

Those few words enabled an image of a clock to appear in my mind, a clock that would have probably been ticking at a meeting of important people I’ve just written a short scene about for my writing group monthly piece. Great, I’ll add a little clock detail into my piece today and at the same time throw a portrait of a previous Mayor on to that same wall as well.

Then I remembered the large timing clock high on the wall at the swimming pool. This will add more detail to my Work in Progress.

There’s no indication in my journal as to how I moved from writing about an incident that happened during the day to clocks. But I’m glad my mind made the transition, as the image of clocks will improve both pieces of writing.

I started my journal writing last night thinking that many of the words tumbled onto the empty pages were wasted words, never to be used. I now know writers are like gold miners. They have to dig through a lot of rubble and discard it before uncovering a tiny gem.

So keep up the journal writing, you never know when your next little treasured piece will reveal itself to you.

Saturday Morning Journal Writing

It’s Saturday morning again and the first day of winter here in New Zealand. Mind you, winter didn’t wait this year, but slammed us a week early. Our summer was long and hot and I have a funny feeling winter is going to long and cold.

I awoke early, probably because I told myself I’d sleep in this morning. Things never work out as I plan at the weekend. When I realised I wasn’t going to get back to sleep I started reading, re-reading actually as I chose to read Natalie Goldberg’s ‘Writing Down the Bones’, from the beginning.

As always happen, whenever I pick up this book, I get as far as when Natalie tells her readers:

“Sit down right now. Give me this moment. Write whatever’s running through you. You might start with “this moment” and end up writing about the gardenia you wore at your wedding seven years ago. That’s fine. Don’t try to control it. Stay present with whatever comes up, and keep your hand moving. “ Goldberg, Natalie (2010-08-31). Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

And, so I did. I sat down and started writing. Here, in more or less unabridged form, part of the thoughts that flowed through my pencil onto the page of my journal.

There’s so much writing running through my head, chaotic, disorganised, like the wild flow of a river in flood. I have no idea how to tame the wild natural force of a river. Like the river my writing needs to rush onward toward its destination – not the sea, but a recognisable chunk to be added to my work in progress.

Yesterday I completed the piece on the pine grove I’ve been working on. It’s not quite as long as I  hoped for, but I’m pleased with the finished product. I felt immense satisfaction from feeling I’d grown a little as a writer.

Sometimes giving yourself permission to simply write thoughts in a journal leads to other pieces of writing. I had no idea where I was going with this. However, the writing picked up on threads I’ve been thinking about lately, writing about my local river in different contexts, as preparation for a small piece that will eventually sort itself from the chaos and appear in my work in progress.

Natalie Goldberg tells us to keep practicing writing and that is what I do. Every now and then something of greater importance emerges. But, right now I’m still gathering facts and stories and mapping out the direction my new work will take.

How about you? Do you follow Natalie’s advice and practise writing every day, warming up by just writing before you get on with the serious stuff? Do you find the thoughts written randomly written in your journal take you places you hadn’t previously thought of going?

I Write because I Can

Earlier this evening I started re-reading Natalie Goldberg’s wonderful book, ‘Writing Down the Bones.’ I return to this book whenever my writing feels tired and in need of a burst of energy. After two chapters I turned off the light, falling quickly into sleep. But, as often happens, I awoke after a few hours, my brain wide awake.

Unable to go back to sleep I’m writing because I can. I have no idea why this happens, but when I’m not booked to work as a relief teacher next day I feel free to write whenever the urge takes me.  In these early hours, freshened after a few hours sleep, ideas dance into my head, not waiting to be invited. With no other external factors demanding my attention, writing knows it has my full attention.

Nothing else is important at this time. While my immediate world stands still, energy returns. Like the caterpillar waiting to be transformed into a butterfly, I’m cocooned in the quietness of early morning darkness, with nothing else forcing its attention upon me. My only companion is the gentle breeze outside, gently sweeping away the abandoned thoughts of yesterday, like the sea washing away footprints on the sand.

It is one o’clock in the morning and I write because I can.