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  • July 16th, 2008 | 6:52 AM
Writing Tip Wednesday

This week's writing tip comes from a wonderful book of meditations for writers called WALKING ON ALLIGATIORS by Susan Shaughnessy. I love this book so much I've considered buying a new copy and then <gasp> cutting it apart so I could put all my favorite pages into a scrapbook with artsy stuff all around it and leave it on my desk for inspiration before work.

Each entry is just one page. There is a quote at the top of the page, a little story, and then a directive/meditation for the day. It was hard to pick just one but this one is speaking to me today. (page 47)

First the quote: (Items from the book are in italics. My response in regular type.)

"When I have a chance to write about a period of my life, an experience, and I can rework it into the life of my hero, then everything changes and I can no longer remember what happened in reality. That is why when I am not writing, I am suffering, because I remember too much of concrete life. I have to destroy my past in order to win my own freedom." Andrei Bitov

Now some people might have issue with the idea of destroy their past but for some us held tightly in the grip of memories that won't let go that is exactly what we have to do. We have to destroy the past in order to lessen its hold on us. I can stifle myself to the point of near-suffocation by holding onto things I should destroy.

Back to the book:

In many ways, the past is a writer's capital. Your first glimpse of the sea, the first crack in your heart, the flowers that bloomed on a favorite aunt's windowsill - these are uniquely yours.

Uniquely to have, and uniquely to share.

The pain is your past is also uniquely your capital. Perhaps it shines the brighter when the light hits it because you have left it so long undisturbed.

In working with your past, you set two processes in motion. One is the transmuting of experience into writing. 

The other is the transmuting of memory into understanding.

What will be left?

What will be left is what is most worth keeping.

I seem to have a handle on transmuting the experience into writing but I often struggle on transmuting the memory into understanding. I return to this page often to help me realize that perhaps I don't have to do anything BUT write it out in order to understand. In everything in life I try too hard and in the trying too hard I often miss the meat of an experience. I continually mine the pain of my past (and that pain can be real or imagined - it doesn't matter if it really happened, it only matters that I believe it really happened.) In the mining of the pain I am healed. But not always the first time.

Back to the book. The meditation for the day.

I'm going to take up some truths in my life today. I will pass the through the fire of my consciousness. Something will be saved forever. Something will be laid aside.

This balances it out for me in a way that I can most easily embrace. 

Something will be saved. 
Something will be let go.
(Tags: )
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 3 comments — Leave comment )
July 16th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
I love the quote and the concept of reworking experiences from our past into the lives of our characters - passing them through the fire of our consciousness. What a great way to describe it! I've been doing this, and although for me it hasn't gone that far in the letting go part, at least it has helped create a little more understanding of both sides. Maybe that's the first step :)
July 17th, 2008 02:03 pm (UTC)
Yes, I think the understanding is good. I wish I had more of that.

Right now I'm all for the letting go part of things. I SO don't want to carry all this emotional baggage into the second half of my life.
July 17th, 2008 07:11 pm (UTC)
It's interesting--on this revision, the past I'm mainly having to let go of is the past of the story, but I'm definitely gaining something, too.

On my YA that I'm just starting, I think I'll definitely being dealing more with ME and my past. Challenging, I'm sure!
( 3 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."
--Bonnie Friedman

"As writers, we must be willing to feel our sadness, our anger, our terror, so we can reach in and find our sweet vulnerability that is just sitting there waiting for us to come back home."
--Nancy Slonim Aronie

"Writers write about what obsesses them. You draw those cards. I lost my mother when I was 14. My daughter died at the age of 6. I lost my faith as a Catholic. When I'm writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is."
--Anne Rice


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