Writing Calling

Writing, writing, writing, everyday something

Category: Writing every day something

Week 4 – Stream-of-consciousness writing

Continue with your daily record, but move, this week, into an exploration of the harnessing of the right brain for your writing.

Day 1: By time you were 12-18 months old you had probably watched people using pens and pencils, and knew they were for making marks on paper. When you found yourself alone with these two things together you likely decided to experiment with the physical power of making your own marks on life. So now … grab a piece of paper – big if you can, otherwise your writing book – and a pen, pencil or crayon. Using your left hand to get you back into the vulnerable state of early youth, relive that pre-memory experience of making your mark, and just scribble. Let go. Enjoy yourself and see how much of the page you can cover. Then, in your writing book, record the feelings that bubbled up: the power of you and your pen over the paper. (You may, later, like to colour in some of the shapes!)

Day 2: After a few years you began to realise that squiggles on paper were a form of communication … there was a way of getting mind-power over the paper. When I was six my mother kept me back from starting school because I’d been ill, but I desperately wanted to write. My big sister of nine was learning cursive writing – ‘real writing’ we called it – and every day I insisted she mark my writing attempts – with a ring around whichever were ‘real’ letters.
*As an exercise, today, use your left hand to write down what you remember about learning to write.

Day 3: ‘Stream-of-consciousness’ writing is a primary and important skill to develop. It means writing down what streams through your mind, without stopping to ponder or criticise it.
Imagine it like this: as you write the pen draws the words out of your hand, which draws them from your arm … your shoulder … your neck … your head. As long as you keep the pen moving your mind will continue to flow freely down onto the paper. But you must keep on writing. If you suddenly go blank don’t stop to sit and think, just keep the pen moving by writing “I don’t know what to write…” till another thought pops up. Stopping dries up the flow. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or following any special order.
*Take up your pen now and freely write what streams through your mind at the thought of ‘Teeth’ OR ‘speed’ OR ‘grandparents”.

Day 4: From now on give yourself 10 minutes for this sort of exercise. A time-constraint will help remove the counter-productive tendency to stop and think how to write ‘well’. Remember at school, in the last 10 minutes of an exam, how the time pressure knocked out all unnecessary wondering and wordiness? And you just wrote like your life depended on it. Well, write like that. (If you can use a timer you will not be distracted by having to keep looking at your watch. It’s tick-tick-tick will help keep you moving!)
*Do 10-minutes of timed writing on ‘bathing’ OR ‘earning power’.

Day 5: Do 10-minutes of timed writing on ‘contemporary music’ OR ‘make-up’.

Day 6: A helpful variation of this exercise is to take a topic like “I feel happy when….”, and write for five minutes, then switch to “I feel unhappy when….” OR “I like people who….” and “I dislike people who….” Writing in this way helps you get to the ‘under-belly’ of your thoughts and feelings.
*Choose one of those alternatives and write for ten minutes.

Day 7: Today consider where you have arrived in your attempts to write regularly. How are you feeling about it? Write down your thoughts and identify problems you have encountered. Write down ideas for how you can get through or around those problems

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Week 1: An every-day discipline

On the cover of your book write a big number ‘1’ – meaning that this is the first of many books you will fill with your writing. [Or name your computer document: Week 1 – An every-day discipline.]

On the first page write the date. In full. As in Tuesday, 18 March 2014. If you don’t date your work properly you really will be sorry later! It’s great to also record whereabouts you are, or any particular happening. E.g. ‘Bainskloof Cottage’ or ‘Uncle John died today’. (It’s always helpful to fully date your writing, whether it’s a dairy, a letter, a bit of creative writing, an article, or notes of a talk. You will forget very easily.)

The next thing to drum into your head is that Writers WRITE! Writers write, write, write everyday something.

In a writing book such as this new one of yours you can record the events of your life, personal breakthroughs, insights, story ideas, affirmations from others, historic events, quotable quotes that grab your attention, new words you discover … the sky’s the limit. So long as you keep writing, every day something, your appetite and perseverance will grow as you go.

Start off with what you have –  your life and feelings as they are at the moment. Those are concrete things.

Following are seven ideas. Do your best to write every day, or at least try to accomplish five in a week. Each day re-read the above preamble, then follow the suggestions (in order),  always including the date! (If you find these exercises too elementary then go on reading my material until you reach the level that suits you. The exercises attempt to get you writing regularly but also to develop your style. If you are busy on a project already apply the style prompts to that.)

 Day 1:  In at least 12 lines record the main events of the day. Use the 5W&H questions as a guide: What? Where? When? Who? Why? And How?

Day 2: First write as many synonyms (words of similar meaning) as possible for the verbs ‘write’ and ‘work’. After re-reading the preamble record your day, using the 5W&H questions, and also paying attention to the verbs you use for the action. Make them as specific to your meaning as possible. E.g. ‘I ambled along the avenue’ says much more than ‘I walked down the road’.

Day 3: To start with write down synonyms for ‘walk’. Then, when you record your day (using 5W&H and strong verbs) try to write more description of the ‘who’ and ‘where’ of your story.

Day 4: Write down synonyms for ‘happy’ and ‘sad’. And in your record of the day describe what you most enjoyed and what you found difficult or challenging. 

Day 5: Write down some words to describe wind, sunshine, rain, e.g. raging wind, gentle sunshine, torrential rain. Then, as  part of your record describe what the weather was like today and how you related to it practically and in your feelings.

Day 6: Write your ever more-thought-about daily record, then describe your feelings about what has happened in the week. And how you feel about your writing. Be honest.

Day 7: Read through all you’ve written in the past week. Then think about this, from Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “I could inform the dullest author how he might write an interesting book: let him relate the events of his own life with honesty, not disguising the feelings that accompanied them.”

Becoming acquainted

What sort of writing do you do? How often? Under ‘occupation’ on a form do you ever say ‘I am a writer’? Or is it mostly a longing? Inspiration that easily evaporates? Maybe you started and all went well … for a while.  Perhaps you long to write but don’t know WHAT to write, or where to begin. Perhaps you just get distracted all the time and have become discouraged. Or, perhaps you are on the way!

Readiness to write a book is based on what has been going on in a writer’s life, “how much writing in smaller forms the writer has been doing.”[1]

When I read that on 12 December 2013 a light came on for me, and there lay the first inspiration for Writing Calling, plus the motivation and discipline required to finish a book that I had, off and on, long been busy with.

In 2003 I had successfully published a biography, and after that people asked me from time to time: “Are you writing another book yet?” And I’d say, “Well, I am working on one about family celebration.”

And I did work every now and then. But I lacked drive.

So, in the intervening ten years, what else had I been doing? Just keeping a daily diary, just writing weekly letters to my children, just teaching other people writing craft – for which I prepared manuals – and sporadically doing research. But because I wasn’t getting on with writing a proper book I felt quiet inside me about it, apologetic, a bit second-class.

But was it really only ‘just’?  Actually, I was ‘writing in smaller forms’. And did those ten years accomplish something? Yes! They did. I see it so clearly now. I got to know myself much better – and built up a jolly fine record of my life and thought, and I steadily moved into a regular and relaxed writing style. For a writer such things are definitely not ‘just’.

Writing is not only about producing a book, it is about building a writing home for yourself, brick by brick, from which you can send out your gifts to the world. Now I no longer feel quiet about my writing. I want to shout and sing! I want to say to people: “Be happy, in the mean time, to ‘write in smaller forms’… and see where that takes you.”

And try to do it every day.

** Why not, right now, record your writing dream on a small piece of paper, and keep it as a book mark, or stuck up beside your bed or in your workplace where you will see it often.

 Getting Organised

To build a ‘writing home’ for yourself you need a proper book to write in and a pen you’re comfortable with.

A book is better than a tear-off pad because it’s less easy to show disrespect for your words by impatiently tearing out imperfect pages.

What sort of book? Well, whereabouts will you sit when you do most of your writing? What sort of book will you feel most comfortable with in that place? Tastes differ.

What size book do you prefer? And paper texture? And pen? Do you like lines or no lines … or a bit of both? Deep lines or Irish lines? How thick should the book be? And with a spine or ring-bound to fold back? I like Irish line ring backs, and when necessary reinforce the back cover to keep the book firm. I also stick in magazine pictures here and there to give the pages visual interest.

Don’t be ‘precious’ about your book. You must feel free to cross out, to be uninhibited – to mess up a bit without distress. This is a work place not a museum.

[“But,” you say to me, “I only write on the computer now.” Well, okay. The problem with computer writing is that there is the constant left-brained temptation to edit and re-edit what you write and that is a real enemy to writing creatively. Do seriously consider getting a well-chosen book and pen for the exercises in this blog, but if you really feel you can’t go that route, then, whenever you write, turn off the screen and just type freely for the first draft – because that way you will manage better to access the real you – and then (once you have finished the exercise) turn on the screen again, take your writing through a spell check, reread and change a few things. AND REMEMBER … keep all your documents together in ONE FILE with a suitable title – like I suggest you should have all your writing together in ONE BOOK.]

** Write down your practical ideals for a book and pen … then go and get them!

And now you are ready for this blog on daily writing….

See Week 1 – An very-day discipline


[1] Darmani, Lawrence. Book Writing. Unit 19 of Interlit Imprint, Cook Communications Ministries International, Colorado Springs