Make no puns funny remarks Double entendres “witty” remarks ironies Sarcasms Only that which is simply earnest meant, —harmless to anyone’s feelings —unadorned unvarnished nothing to excite a laugh silence silence silence silence laconic taciturn. –Walt Whitman instructs himself in an 1855-56 notebook about the Second Edition of Leaves of Grass.
Having written all of half a dozen blog posts in a handful of months, it might seem likely a less than timely time to write about how to make one’s writing effortless, but maybe this is a kind of reverse serendipity—for right now effortless writing is just what I need.
Read on—where these seven ideas are concerned, I for one will definitely be taking my own advice…
7 ideas to make your writing effortless
Writing doesn’t have to be hard; in fact it can be as easy and natural as spoken conversation. All writers struggle in the beginning to develop creativity and flow; use the following seven tips to sharpen your talent and reach your goals.
1. Carry a notebook
Carry a notebook with you at all times; when inspiration hits, seize it and your notebook with both hands. All writers recommend carrying a notebook; use it for the surreptitious jotting of thoughts when and where ever they might appear.
Jack Kerouac, foremost writer of the Beat movement of the 50’s and ’60s—a moniker and eminence he was deeply uncomfortable with—carried one everywhere, forever sketching poetry and novels to be in the most unlikely of places—”Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy” in his words. Likewise Walt Whitman, 19th Century ‘Father of American Poetry’ and inspiration to Kerouac, who went one step further and carried an entire manuscript, a paperweight sized bundle that would one day be his Leaves of Grass.
2. But use it in the right place
Funnily enough, this oft revised and reworked masterpiece was the cause of Whitman’s dismissal from at least one job—fired from the Department of the Interior by an enraged employer upon closer inspection of the ‘paperwork’ on his desk. Which suggests that some places are better to write in than others, although in Whitman’s defence, most writers can relate to the truth that inspiration may strike in the most unexpected places.
3. Make writing a good habit
Writing is a good habit which can benefit from a little encouragement. To this ends, many writers recommend a specific place to write, almost like a meditation shrine, dedicated to this solo, inspirational practise. For some a specific time of day is conducive—a daily regimen just like eating, sleeping and exercise. Creativity can wax and wane like the passage of the moon; take time and place of writing as two aids to assist obstructing clouds to part.
4. Regularity builds the muscles of writing
Make an attempt to write every day, without thought or judgment for the quality you produce. Writing is like a creative flow; it will not begin if you do not turn on the tap. One method is to write like a river bursting its dam, words spilling over onto the paper before you. Follow the rivers’ flow as far as you can, and in time the distance you travel will grow. Look not at this metaphorical river’s banks or rocks ahead of you; flow forth like water, always moving.
5. Writing is like meditation
Writing can be like the act of meditation itself, a secret known to centuries of haiku poets who were also meditators, and practised it as such. Write regularly, in silence and with one-pointed focus to achieve your goal. Furthermore, the discipline of regular practise, as in meditation, encourages an ever deepening flow of creativity, and a more fruitful, productive experience.
6. Suspend critical thought
Suspend judgment during a first draft, even if your mind screams that you are writing poorly. More important is to write, write, write; regardless of quality let the words pour upon the page—revising and polishing are for a later date. The editing process is a different mindset from that of writing, which requires creativity to flow directed but unimpeded; for the sake of creativity leave this more critical part of your being to one side. It is not without reason that professional writing seldom sees the occupations of writer and editor in a single person.
7. Exercise your body, not your mind
Running, and exercise in general, will actually help your writing. Meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy calls running meditation for the body; it clears the mind and purifies the emotions in the manner of a breath of fresh air, dispersing anger and depression as though clouds in the sky. Negative qualities are an anathema to creativity—it’s total polar opposite; take physical exercise as a simple tool to clear the road ahead when you are writing. It also makes a good time out.
Writing is like running in a sense; the hardest part is getting under way, but once started a momentum is built which will carry you along. Surrender to this and your writing may one day become effortless.
I do not wish to imply that I am something I am not. I am not a saint—far from it in fact. But I have never tell the truth ever been in a fight. As in fisticuffs, hurled insults, arms in a flay.
Which is not to suggest that I am of perfect, even temper, or to turn the other cheek, altogether foreign to confrontation and a coward. As most I have my shameful, deeply regretted not forgotten moments, moments I would prefer to remember as exceptions rather than rule in any final summary of self.
Like the time, so long ago it seems almost a dream, all of eight years old and bloated with pride beyond caution from karate lessons, I boastfully challenged a playmate to mock combat and was judo thrown to the ground—pride painfully dented, lesson learned. A storm in a teacup from this distant, adult vantage, childhood ego bruised only slightly on grassy school field, but these are the pride deflating moments that haunt me still. Or to see them more clearly, teach me still.
It is with thanks that what uncontrolled, ill-disciplined acts I do own are buried in the not quite oblivion of a younger, less wise self, and the fact remains that I have never come to outright blows. Which alone may make me a pacifist via count-back decision, but ironic white feather aside I can admit to a few memorable tales of boys-own heroism and physical valour—certainly in my own mind if nowhere else.
At a school holiday football coaching clinic with a friend, both aged about nine, I quietly but not altogether stoically endued two days of taunts, insults and humiliations from a spoiled, obnoxious child one year my senior, several clothing sizes my physical superior. Far more outwardly composed than inwardly, I was equal parts rage and humiliation beneath very thin skin—a violent brooding which found expression on the final moment of the final day. Crossing a field to parents waiting, I walked up beside tormentor and friends and punched him as hard as able in the stomach, hitting and then running to conveniently parked parental get-away car.
Despite several peripheral to character moments like this one, usually spurred to action by strong sense of injustice but at times less, and often standing up for friends rather than myself, I grew up with a deeply held aversion to violence.
I have always been a disgusted bystander to fights, sometimes a peacemaker as well. I notice keenly how foolish those who lose their temper appear, how invariably pride is wounded as badly as from any blow, feel almost as strongly as my own a loser’s humiliation and shame—sure price to be paid when temper and self-control are swung wildly to one side.
I have never been much of a gambler either. One methodical and deliberated in his actions—at least usually—physical violence has always seemed a far too risky, high stakes kind of wager; caution and common sense more often stays my fist rather than saintliness I would in confession say.
Still, despite many lessons yet to master, I am thankful to be well-studied, even graduated in one pre-requisite course of my humanity degree—an absolute aversion to physical violence.
Larry Keiler of Mental Blog has just won my inaugural comment of the week competition. Apologies for the lack of warning but, seeing as this blog is dedicated to—and occasionally written in—the spirit of meditation, if you weren’t on the same wave length, well… better luck next time.
Larry’s prize? A mention—in fact a word-for-word quotation—and a link back to his well worth the read and I’m not just saying that because he was nice to me blog.
I think the main flaw of all of our youthful writings is that it tends towards the purple. The fact that it’s self-absorbed and angst-ridden is just the way it is and probably always will be. It takes a special sort of genius to be a young genius. But it also takes a special sort of genius to even attempt writing (anything) in one’s youth. I wrote similar stuff to yours when I was young. And now I think I’m blessed that I had the courage to do it, and the outlet it provided. (Because I was angst-ridden and hormone-hyped and drug-addled and generally confusedâ€¦) Many of my friends did not have this. They became 100 yard hurdlers and racewalkers.
We’re all writers, else we wouldn’t be blogging would we? But even now, most often I write ME. Even when I’m thinking through other characters, I’m still writing ME. And in a certain sense, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For a while I wrote Jack Kerouac. Or Kafka. Or any other writer whose name starts with K. Now I get to write Keiler, for better or worse.
…In my first year of university, I wrote a short story with a rather“Book of Revelations” ending involving snow. My professor said it reminded her of the themes raised in Margaret Atwood’s“Survival”, a particularly Canadian book. I’m not sure I still have a copy of that story, but looking back on it now, I remember it as being simply over-wrought.
Outstanding comment Larry. Which leads me on to, or more accurately, back to, my favourite topic of all. You guessed it—me.
Funnily enough, as Larry relates, I also wrote Jack Kerouac for a while, and am grateful to ‘Ti Jean’ for his“first thought best thought” approach to writing. Experimenting with just pouring the words out upon the page, never looking back like Lot of The Book of Genesis—just write, write, write and don’t worry what you write—all of this helped inestimably in the thousand-page journey to find my writer’s voice, and to my blessed relief, liberated me from the quagmire of over-analysis and hesitation.
About the time I was writing purple-hued, post-adolescent poetry, I landed a weekly column in a university newspaper—a particularly daring move considering I had all of two completed articles to my name. With twenty-six, due by 12pm Monday at the latest ahead of me, I was soon writing come agonising over-wrought, over-thought think-pieces on topics as diverse as Walt Whitman, Martin Luther King and myself. I think you can guess which topic was the odd one out.
The column—This Side of the (TV) Screen, collapsed after only twelve editions, crushed under weight of over-expectation and a nagging self-doubt. The task of six hundred worthy words a week seemed a mountain too high, and, despite knowing better, I couldn’t help but compare myself—unfavourably—to a fellow columnist, who wrote the most eloquent, lyrical pieces I had then ever seen. Despite my self-perceived flaws, the editor—son of a famous New Zealand poet and an emerging playwright—was more than encouraging, and looking back now—beyond the tears of frustration and sense of failure—it was a good learning experience—a commendable first start.
As an aside, I never met my columnist colleague that year—he was a secretive, mysterious scribe, and seldom ever seen. Several years later however I did, by which time I had graduated to Production Manager—he still a columnist. Would you believe it—despite his paper-eloquence and pen-in-hand wit he was in person nervous, neurotic and to the extreme meek, virtually apologising for his contributions before he even submitted them. Who would have thought…
No failure, no failure.
Failure is the shadow
No failure, no failure.
Failure is the changing body
No failure, no failure.
Failure is the fast approaching train
Of the greatest success.
Sri Chinmoy, The Dance Of Life, Part 13, 1973
As someone once said, failure (upon failure) paves the road to success. And while I’m composing my victory speech, I should say that I couldn’t have done it without meditation.
When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much
applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.