Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Forging Ahead

I read once that if you are stuck staring at a blank piece of paper unable to write, pick up a book of a writer that you admire and take a pen and copy their words onto paper. The author, Lorraine Thompson, of sums it up beautifully as to why this exercise is helpful to an aspiring writer.

7 ways copy work helps your writing
First of all, let me make one thing clear: I’m not suggesting plagiary. You won’t publish your copied text or try to fob it off as your own. Copy work is for your eyes alone. It’s a writing exercise.
Copy work improves your writing by helping you…
  1. Absorb structure and style of great works, soaking up the work subliminally.
  2. Immerse yourself in different literary forms and styles by writing, not just reading.
  3. Open a window into great writers’ minds. Copy work gives you insights into the writer’s intentions and choices. It makes you pause to ask why Fitzgerald imagined a stairway to the sky before the moment when Gatsby kisses Daisy. Or notice how Hemingway’s absence of words evokes more powerful emotion than lesser writers’ explanations and descriptions.
  4. Identify bad writing habits—such as passive voice, weak verbs and stale metaphors—by absorbing great writers’ good habits.
  5. Practice the mechanics of good punctuation and grammar, again, by writing instead of just reading.
  6. Improve your spelling. My spelling has slid to hell on a sled over the last twenty years—concurrent with my use of Spell Check. Copy work lets my hand, eye and mind work together to re-learn how to spell.
  7. Clarify your thinking. Precise writing is about precise thought. The slow, methodical work of copying allows your brain to slow down long enough to take stuff in.
So with that advice, I chose a chapter from one of my favorite writers, Natalie Goldberg, who writes about writing in her book Writing Down the Bones.

Blue Lipstick and a Cigarette 
Hanging Out of Your Mouth 
by Natalie Goldberg

Sometimes there is just no way around it-we are boring and we are sick of ourselves, our voice, and the usual material we write about. It's obvious that if even going to a cafe to write doesn't help, it is time to find other ways. Dye your hair green, paint your nails purple, get your nose pierced, dress as the opposite sex, perm your hair.
Actually, one small prop can often tip your mind into another place.When I sit down to write, often I have a cigarette hanging out of my mouth. If I'm in a cafe that has a "No Smoking" sign, then my cigarette is unlit. I don't actually smoke anyway, so it doesn't matter. The cigarette is a prop to help me dream into another world. It wouldn't work so well if I ordinarily smoked. You need to do something you don't usually do. 

Borrow your friend's black leather motorcycle jacket, walk across the coffee shop like a Hell's Angel, and sit down and write. Put on a beret or house shoes and a nightgown, wear work boots, farmer's overalls, a three-piece suite, wrap yourself in an American flag or wear curlers in your hair. Just sit down to write in a state you don't ordinarily sit down to write in. Try writing on a large drawing pad. Wear all white and a stethoscope around your neck-whatever it takes to simply see the world from another angle.

So if you see me clad in leather with green hair, a pierced nose and a cigarette hanging out of my mouth, hopefully it means I did not lose my last marble. Instead I just have a bit of writer's block.

Love & Light, 

Here are some photos I took for a website for my AMAZINGLY talented friend who makes pottery. 

1 comment :

  1. Great post. I feel blocked a lot and love the idea of becoming "someone else" if only for a moment. Your friend's pieces are amazing. Live the dragonfly mug:) xo, Meg