Walk, Think, Write

Walking makes thinking, and thinking wants writing. And if you don’t write it it doesn’t get written.

It’s been a while, and now I’ve got to a certain stage. Three things happened at once, and now I can look back and say, hmm, well, that was stupid. Not a total waste, though, because it’s something of a lesson for me.

I moved house, so there’s my excuse, but not writing ran on and on and now it’s been a year, and I can tell you right now, it did nothing for me. I thought that not blogging would make me burn so much I’d get the book on, but what actually happened was that I became mute.

Hove Beach this morning.

I was whining on Facebook about not writing, because, of course, it is far more productive to dick about on Facebook than to actually write… and a kind friend told me to go away and read some Natalie Goldberg. I ripped through Thunder and Lightning and Writing Down the Bones, and realised what I had done. I had stopped the practice of writing.

I’d thought that my problem was that I was more ill than usual, and had more crap to deal with in the wake of the move, and wanting to book write, I had to be well for long enough to look at whatever writing I had already, and that wasn’t happening, so that was me off the hook. Time passed, and then the blog, elaine4queen seemed to be too much in and of itself a London blog, and now I was in Brighton, and surely adding Brighton based posts would somehow ‘not work’. My God, but the excuses were endless.

For Goldberg, the practice of writing, and her practice, free writing, which has been widely adopted the world over, was intimately connected to her inner work as a Buddhist. I didn’t meet the idea of free writing until I went to a class only a couple of years ago, but I’d indulged in something that it had been based on, and, I might add, I’d done it quite badly.

My friend, the writer, Rosemary Dun pointed out that Julia Cameron’s ‘morning pages’ (from her book The Artist’s Way) which I’d turned very much into the moaning pages, had been based on Goldberg’s practice of free writing. The idea is to write as a practice rather than to make a finished piece, and in that regular practice it is possible to discover your voice, discover what you want to write about, and to get the writing engine running.

I’d read The Artist’s Way years and years ago, and had used my ‘morning pages’ as a place to rant. If anything, it may have in fact arrested any creativity because I was using it as a sort of diary of unhappiness. The only thing I can say in my defence is that I wasn’t even considering writing for other people at the time.

Some time later I became a meditator and a bit of a Buddhist myself, so when I read Goldberg I had a real sense of OH, THAT’S WHAT IT’S FOR!

You’ll have heard, by now, of mindfulness. What you do on the cushion can be taken into daily life, and you can make a practice of anything. A teacher had suggested to Goldman that she use writing as a practice, and she took the idea and ran with it. Cameron took the idea out of context, and unfortunately for me I hadn’t met the context yet, really, to put it back in. Of course you don’t have to be a Buddhist or a meditator to write, but for me the idea of writing as practice only makes sense if the practice is pointing somewhere, and not towards diarising my unhappinesses.

Nothing, materially, has changed. I’m still dealing with illness, I still have a million excuses, but something has been shifting. Particularly for writing I know I’m a creature. Not just of habit, but of creatureliness. I like to nest before writing. I tidy up and tidy up, and then I begin. I also notice a rise in irritability. Apparently the composer Gustav Holst didn’t work until it positively bothered him that he was not doing. It seems to me that I can’t really afford to wait that long myself, but having done so, I’m glad of the aggravation.