I was raised in a meat and potatoes family, where function was valued over aesthetics, hard work over inspiration. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s where I primarily land by choice in my own decision-making processes now that I’m all grown up. It has made for a mostly wonderful life.
But what do you with that kind of background when you’ve been granted a yearning for something artistic and find yourself completely stuck? (Because that, Dear Reader, is the situation I have found myself in twice in the last several years–the length of time I have really committed myself to the writing path.)
Writer’s Block. Teh Block. Word Stoppage. Call it what you will, Literary Constipation is frankly no damn fun. To approach your artistic throne, swollen with expectation, strain for hours, and then have nothing to show for all your trouble except a burgeoning derriere… Well, do that enough, and anyone with two brain cells will soon be plotting ways to murder their computer.
I’m just sayin’.
If you are lucky, you’ll muddle your way through. Or the spell will be self-limiting and linked only to a circumscribed stress, so that when life returns to normal, your Muse quickly comes out from hiding.
Or you’ll find yourself a mentor in your wider community or writing group who can both correctly identify the reason for your block, and then know how to address it.
But what if you’ve tried all that, and the words just won’t come? And what if you’ve been a resourceful little writer and read your Julia Cameron, your Anne Lamott, your Stephen King, and you’re still FREAKING STUCK?
Well, I just may have the answer for you. It’s a little book I first heard of from writer Charlene Teglia.
Now please understand I’m not finding fault with any of the tomes or writers I mentioned above. Perhaps at a different time and place in my life these authors would have said exactly what I needed to hear; in fact, in many cases, the substance of their message is the same, although couched in more spiritual/mystical language.
But in my little left-brained, pointy head, there’s something about Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer that seems infinitely more approachable.
The thesis of the book is that anyone who genuinely wishes to write can learn to access their talent and subconscious through operant conditioning. Then a series of sequential exercises are given to accomplish just this goal. It’s not a lengthy book–a mere 186 pages, including the index–but its authority and common-sense approach lend it weight.
Even better, it has helped me to write again.
So yes, Dear Reader, you’re getting the benefit of my personal testimonial on top of my review. 🙂 (Although whether that’s a good thing for the world, that I have returned to writing fiction, is still open to debate.)
Anyway, for those you who are struggling left-brained writers–particularly if , like me, you have a scientific background–why don’t you give this book a try? And then stop by and let me know if it helped. I always like learning what worked for another.
On that note, I’d love to hear from other artists. What books speak to you about the artistic path? What are the tricks and techniques that you employ to coax your Muse into productivity?
NOTE: All photos taken from the Creative Commons on Flickr.