Saturday, November 24, 2012

Looking for a Sincere Voice

From reading advice from Brenda Ueland and some other writers online, it seems that writing "what you know" seems to be one of the easiest and possibly more popular ways to get started with creative writing.  There's no one like you to speak with truth and honesty about your experiences... you will naturally be original.  The secret per Ueland is to find a way to truly tap into your own honest inner voice.  I still have the initial question on how to get started -- do I write a short story, do I write about memories of past events, maybe a poem, etc.?  Right now I'm thinking I will need to get started with some memoir type activities, although an end goal would eventually be to try my hand at some fiction.

I also found a very helpful article on writing fiction which was encouraging:  "The Secret to Writing Powerful Words".  One of my goals in writing is to share some of the ideals and messages that I feel are important, and to find a potentially engaging and meaningful way for these to have an impact. Short stories might be the way eventually.  We'll see.

Still, in getting started, Ueland's advice struck me here about writing from experience and how you can tap into the roots of one's soul for what might be called your true writing voice:

"Another woman's writing changed suddenly when I told her to try being microscopically truthful. She was perhaps sixty years old and lame, a very fine, kind, gentle person. She worked very hard, but never seemed to write anything really good and alive. Finally I said: "Describe something just as it is. Do not worry if it is angular and clumsy or how it come s out. Just look at something and put down what you see. Remember William Blake who said: 'Improvement makes straight, straight roads, but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius.'" 4

[4 The truth, life itself, is always startling, strange, unexpected. But when the truth is told about it everybody knows at once that it is life itself and not made up. But in ordinary fiction, movies, etc., everything is smoothed out to seem plausible--villains made bad, heroes splendid, heroines glamorous, and so on, so that no one believes a word of it.]

Well, this pupil did as I said. She described a sad, dilapidated, old house. It was startlingly unlike her other writing--graphic and vivid and melancholy. She even noticed colors. She never mentioned a color in her other work. When I told her how good it was she said: "But it is so gloomy! I don't like to write depressingly."

I could see then that a lifetime of a kind of willed cheerfulness, because of her lameness perhaps, kept her from writing from her true self. "I must be cheerful and optimistic. I must look always at the bright side of everything," she was always saying to herself. But not when you write! If it is true cheerfulness, fine. But if it is willed cheerfulness and you always describe things as you think you ought to--well, it will not be effective, that is all. Nobody will be interested or believe you."
          Ueland, Brenda (2010-01-15). If You Want to Write.

I like the way Ueland pushes everyone to write from their genuine and sincere heart -- from who they truly are as a person... from where they live.  It's the sincerity that really seems to count here.  There is real meaning -- and truth -- that can be found in that.  Speaking from who you are, about what you truly think and feel -- that is where the impact and power will be. Would you agree?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Beginner's Mind

This is my first blog post, and staring at this empty page in Blogger, I'm trying to collect my thoughts on how this should post should feel, look and what it should convey.  Let's step back as to why I'm starting this blog in the first place.  After many years of doing writing that I have not necessarily enjoyed for work and the mundane aspects of life, I'm finally looking to writing as a potential creative outlet, and a way to move forward with my own journey as a person.  I'm a middle-aged guy, who has had a relatively interesting career in the I.T. field for a long time, and yeah, you might say I'm having a bit of the mid-life "stuff" going on this year which has motivated me to reach out into quite a few different areas and consider the whole notion of creativity.  I haven't felt that rush of creativity in my work in a long time and thus the research here on its importance for the human spirit, and the different ways to practice with creativity.  I guess you could say with the goal of becoming a more complete and happy person, and to be of better service to my family and this troubled world.

I've always been a pretty avid reader and the plan is to talk about some of the books I'm reading here in this blog, particularly on writing, and and try and share ideas and the good and inspirational things I'm finding in them.  The hope is that I can distill thoughts here, and maybe get some feedback from people on their experiences with writing, and hopefully suggestions, etc.  I've always had a deep appreciation for the writing of others.  I have way more books around than I have yet read, and they're not from the library surprisingly... there's the nostalgia of spending an entire afternoon in the big downtown library of my hometown, and bringing home a dozen books at a time. Funny, that is something long missed (thank you, Blogger).

So last weekend as I started researching this writing and creative outlet topic, and came across the mention of Brenda Ueland's book, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. I picked it up and like many of you who have read it, found delight right away in the inspirational tone.  I knew that I had found a great resource when I read her points on Vincent van Gogh:

"To show that the creative impulse of Van Gogh, a great genius, was simply loving what he saw and then wanting to share it with others, not for the purpose of showing off, but out of generosity, I will tell you a few things he said. I want to show you that what he had in him is just what you all have in yourselves and should let out…
"The world only concerns me so far as I feel a certain debt and duty towards it and out of gratitude want to leave some souvenir in the shape of drawings or pictures—not made to please a certain tendency in art, but to express sincere human feeling."  (Vincent van Gogh)
You can see how Van Gogh’s simple impulse is in all of us. But in us it is clouded over and confused with notions such as: will the work be good or bad? or would it be Art? or would it be modernistic enough and not academical? and would it sell? would it be economically sound to put the time in trying to do it?…
Yes, it has made me like working to see that writing is not a performance but a generosity…

I think there is something necessary and life-giving about creative work.. a state of excitement. And it is like a faucet: nothing comes unless you turn it on, and the more you turn it on, the more comes.

It is our nasty twentieth century materialism that makes us feel: what is the use of writing, painting, etc., unless one has an audience or gets cash for it? Socrates and the men of the Renaissance did so much because the rewards were intrinsic, i.e., the enlargement of the soul… Socrates and the Greeks decided that a man’s life should be devoted to “the tendance of the Soul” (Soul included intelligence, imagination, spirit, understanding, personality) for the soul lived eternally, in all probability…

And so now I have established reasons why you should work from now on until you die, with real love and imagination and intelligence, at your writing or whatever work it is that you care about. If you do that, out of the mountains that you write some mole hills will be published. Or you may make a fortune and win the Nobel Prize. But if nothing is ever published at all and you never make a cent, just the same it will be good that you have worked."
 Ah, Brenda, thank you for your inspiration and this gem of a book you wrote.