Inspiration for the Writer in All of Us

There’s a lot of negativity around right now, in romancelandia, in the economy, you name it. So I thought I’d attempt an uplifting post as I spend today preparing for our Rosh Hashanah dinner.

Here’s a challah that DH baked yesterday. He got a little carried away. I think it looks like a big brain, but it smells terrific.

The Jewish New Year is at nightfall for us. This is the time of year when observant – and even not so observant — Jews try to cast off old sins and worries and gear up for a better tomorrow.

I have plenty of sins and faults, but the one most relevant to his blog is the trouble I have with writing. When I’m blocked, or procrastinating, and beating myself up, I have a few quotations that I read to help me move on. I thought I’d post some of them here.

These are from my favorite book on this topic, Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird.

“Don’t be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your work done.”

“Work is about hypnotizing yourself into believing in yourself, getting some work done, then unhypnotizing yourself and going over the material coldly.”

“What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head … Close your eyes for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar. Then isolate another voice, pick it up by the tail, drop it in the jar. And so on … then put the lid on and watch all the mouse people clawing at the glass, jabbering away, trying to make you feel like shit because you won’t do what they want. … Then imagine that there is a volume control button on the bottle. Turn it all the way up for a minute, and listen to the stream of angry, neglected, guilt mongering voices. Then turn it all the way down and watch the frantic mice lunge at the glass, trying to get to you. Leave it down, and get back to your shitty first draft.”

“Perfectionism is one way our muscles cramp. In some cases, we don’t even know that the wounds and the cramping are there, but both limit us. They keep us moving and writing in tight, worried ways. They keep us standing back, or backing away from life, keeping us from experiencing life in a naked and immediate way … Awareness is learning to keep yourself company. And then learning to be more compassionate company, as if you were somebody you are fond of and wish to encourage.”

“K-Fucked radio, the writers’ station, was on all the time — out of the left speaker came the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, and out of the right speaker the report that the book is an unmitigated disaster, that my career is over, my future behind me and I will have to go to work for the phone company.”  — from Salon, here.

Here are three that remind me to be myself:

“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” –Barbara Kingsolver

“Lately, I’ve been listening to hired musicians behind a row of artificial palm trees instead of the single pure stringed instrument of my heart. For what is the heart but an instrument that turns chaos into order, noise into music? Make voyages. Attempt them. There is nothing else.” — Lord Byron

“You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side. You need to trust yourself, especially on a first draft. … Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance…” — Anne Lamott

And here are a few more:

“Better to do something imperfectly than nothing flawlessly.” — Robert Schuller

“The worst thing you write is better than the best thing you didn’t write.” — Unknown

“There is no perfect time to write. There is only now.” — Barbara Kingsolver

“He is able who thinks he is able.” — Buddha

L’shanah tovah! Wishing you a good and sweet year to come!

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Published in: on September 29, 2008 at 9:39 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. L’shanah tovah. (That is the weirdest looking challah I’ve ever seen)!

  2. Thanks Joni!

    And don’t worry, I’m not letting him anywhere near the brisket. 😉

  3. I think it looks yummy, if a little erm..odd. Thanks for the uplifting words. I’ll have to bookmark that one for future cheering up.

  4. Shana tovah, Jessica!


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