Sunday, December 5, 2010

#reverb10 (Shawn's #4 & 5)

What? Another blog already?

Didn’t I warn you there might be a lot of activity around here with this #reverb10 thing?

Yes, I believe I did. I think.

Anyway, after my last post geeked out on football, I decided I wanted to real this thing back in a little bit and keep things as focused as I can on writing. After all, this is a writing blog.

Enough foreplay -- let's get to it!

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

I have to admit, my initial reaction to this one was underwhelming. The first thing I thought of was that wide-eyed kind of little kid wonder and, let's face it folks, that's just a little bit too Oprah Book Club for the kind of goings on around here.

Naturally, in the long and steadfast tradition of those made uncomfortable by something, my first inclination was to write a blog making fun of it. I thought of doing something like this.

Wonder. I wonder why all the batteries in this house seem to be dying all at once. (Anyone else having that problem?)

Or maybe…

Wonder. I wonder if the world really will end when the Mayan calendar runs out in 2012 and, if it is going to, would Jessica Alba consent to swinging by? (It's okay people. She's on my free five card.)

But then I had a realization: wonder is what we writers do every day.

For those of you who don't write, I'll let you in on a secret. Half the time you see a writer they aren't there. Oh sure, they may be sitting right across from you with a beer in hand but I'll bet you dollars to donuts that there is a part of their brain that is constantly observing, taking notes, speculating, wondering. Now, don't get all angry. This is just what we writers do. If we didn't sit around spaced out half the time the rest of you wouldn't have any stories to read.

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

This was an easy one for me. I let go of my need for control while writing.

That may not seem like much, but it was huge, at least for me. You see, it's taken me a long time to really learn how to write. There was a long, long time where nothing I wrote was good enough. I would struggle to make early drafts as good as I could. I would wrestle with the words as they tried to come out and the result was words flowing onto the page with all the rapidity of dishwater seeping through a clogged drain. Writing took forever, and the result was almost always disheartening.

Somewhere along the line, and I don't even think it was a really conscious thing, I just began to let go. Instead of fighting the words, I just let them flow out any old way they wanted to. I didn't care if they were crap, or if there was no punctuation, or if I shortened whole paragraphs into “so-and-so walks across town thinking about the bad guy.”

The result has been both surprising and liberating. In my last post, I briefly mentioned getting caned from my day job. During the two months I was unemployed I wrote close to two thirds of my book in exactly this fashion, just letting the words pour out any old which way. It was amazing.

So why do I think this change took place? The only thing I can think of is yoga. In yoga, you are constantly being instructed to let go. Let go of your fear, your resistance, your thoughts that you can't do what you're being asked to do. Somehow, I think all that leaked into my writing and I am now the better for it. Yoga, as they say, isn't a practice, it's a way of life.

PS. I can't do that - yet.


Mark Teats said...

Shawn, enjoying the reverb10 prompts. I've used a couple for some writing exercises of my own. Was disappointed by your "PS" on this post. Work on it!! :)

Jon said...

Great posts, Shawn, keep it up.

I never know how to answer questions like the "how do you cultivate wonder" one. I'm not even sure what that means... I don't know... I watch and read stuff and then think about it..? I don't know. eh... rainbows?

As for the other, it wasn't this year that it happened, but it's still huge, but like you, I let go of needing a "finished copy" on every first draft and it really opened doors for me. Like on my current short story I'm working on, the last critique session was very helpful and I think this next draft will end up pretty strong, but I needed the two haphazard first drafts to get there and a few years ago, I wouldn't have been able to even make it to the finish line because I would have been spinning my wheels over little stuff.