Use loneliness. Writing can be very lonely. Lead yourself out of it by thinking of someone and wanting to express your life to that person. Reach out in your writing to another lonely soul. Loneliness creates an aching urgency to reconnect with the world. Take that aching and use it to propel you deeper into your need for expression – to speak, to say who you are and how you care or don’t care about life and what’s happened to you.
Think of sharing your need to talk with someone else when you write. Reach out of the deep chasm of loneliness and express yourself to another human being.
Stuck? Write about what you eat. If you find you are having trouble writing and nothing seems real, just write about food. Write about the foods you love most. Be specific. Give details. Where did you eat it, with whom and what season was it in? What was the best meal you had last week? Maybe it’s just the banana you had in your cold kitchen on Tuesday morning. From the table, the cheese, the old friend across from you, the glasses of water, the striped tablecloth, fork, knife, thick white plate, green salad, butter, you can extend yourself out in memory, time and space. Okay, you’ve never had a good meal in your life. Simply begin with the last stale cheese sandwich you had in that empty apartment on
First Avenue. It’s your life, begin from it.
No limits. When you accept writing as what you are going to do, after you’ve tried everything else – marriage, traveling, living in Houston or Billings – there’s finally no place else to go. So matter how big the resistance, there is one day that you write. It doesn’t go smoothly. One day you have trouble putting pen to paper, the next you can’t stop. Continue under all circumstances. You’ll feel momentary flashes of enlightenment, but the nitty-gritty of everyday life, the memories, the deep longings and the suffering are what propels us across the page. Break through the resistance in your own mind and never limit yourself.
Keep a notebook. The really important things people have said are probably engraved somewhere in your memory. Write these in your notebook. Perhaps the following will give you a trigger to open the box. Think about who might have said:
I do.* You’re fired. * I never did really love you. * I’m sorry, I’ve met someone else. It was nothing, just a one-night stand. * Would you like to go steady? * Have you ever thought about marrying me? * You will never forgive me, will you? * I’m leaving for New York.* I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but I know it’s not you.* Have you put on a few pounds? * We’ll see each other again, I promise. * You got what you deserved. * You’ll be sorry one day when I’m not around. * You couldn’t have hurt me more if you had plunged a dagger in my heart. * Either you follow the rules in this house or you leave.
Show don’t tell. If you want your readers to see the quaintness of the town, show us the barber pole, the brick streets, the benches in front of the bank where people sit. Introduce them to the shoemaker who wears a leather apron and repairs saddles as well as your Mary Janes. Let the reader experience the situation with you: I was appalled by the clutter: the chair spitting its stuffing, a couch stacked with outdated newspapers, Chinese take-out cartons caked with dried soy sauce, five cats sleeping on the mattress on the floor. Order an egg cream at the drugstore.
WHY DO I WRITE?
It’s a good question. Ask it of yourself every once in a while. No answer will make you stop writing, and over time you will find that you have given every response.
1. Because I’m a jerk.
2. No one listens to me when I speak.
3. So I can start a revolution.
4. In order to write the Great American Novel and make a zillion bucks.
5. Because I’m crazy.
6. To keep me from going crazy.
7. Because I am channeled by William Shakespeare.
8. Because I have something to say.
9. Because I have nothing to say.
10. Life is temporary, writing lasts.
Why do I write? I write because I’ve kept my mouth shut all my life and it’s time for me to speak out. I am always facing that creeping agony that all this will pass. The truth is I have a way with words. I can make the terrible wonderful, the unspoken spoken.
Alone at my desk, I discover what has passed through me when I write. I write because I am crazy, schizophrenic, neurotic, obsessive, compulsive and suffer from Post Traumatic Stress. I know it, accept it and I have to do something with it other than go to the loony bin.
I write because there are stories that people have forgotten or are too scared to tell. I write because I am a woman trying to stand up for myself. I write because I dare to tell what happened and make it art. I write so that I can face my own life. I write because I run deep and my soul aches.
I write out of joy. I write out of hurt. I write to make myself strong and to come home to myself.