A friend sent me a book a few years ago which I put on my shelf and promptly forgot about. The book is called Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. I rediscovered it this week and started flipping through it. I came upon a writing exercise that intrigued me. Briefly, it is to pretend you are giving advice to an imaginary writer-friend who is feeling bad about her writing and herself and to write about this for 15 minutes. I chose to put this in dialogue form. Here is what came from my 15 minutes:
Me: Hey! What’s up with you?
(Bea sighs) Well, I haven’t done any writing today.
So? Write something tomorrow.
That’s just it. I know I won’t tomorrow either.
You don’t want to be a writer anymore?
Maybe writing’s not for me. I can’t see myself going anywhere with it. I start out with some kind of “program” to break through the blocks, I get all excited, then I go along for a week or so and then drop it all again.
Have you ever tried to figure out why?
I’m afraid to. I’m afraid I’ll find out the reason.
Like my writing sucks.
Oh c’mon! Your writing does not suck.
Thanks. But you’ve just seen a few short stories.
Yeah and they are excellent.
But I can’t sustain any movement in longer pieces, and I keep writing my plots into corners I can’t get out of.
Then don’t. Just sit down and start writing… anything. Just keep writing and see where it goes. If short stories are all that come, then that’s fantastic. You’ll be a master short story writer.
But then there are the characters and situations.
What about them?
Every character and every situation I write is really, well, about me.
Great! You’re an interesting person.
No, I’m not really. I’m afraid my readers — that is if I ever had any — and stop rolling your eyes — I’m afraid any readers I have will see too much into me, and that scares the crap out of me.
You are working on the assumption that you cannot step outside of yourself and into another world. That’s what imagination is all about. Imagining people who are not you. Don’t just reach in and down. Reach out and up. You have an infinite imagination and an unlimited realm of possibilities to resource. Not to be mean, but, sweetie, it’s really NOT all about you.
Gee, thanks. Now I’m a narcissist on top of everything else.
No, you are not a narcissist. But you do care way too much about what others think. Stop it!
You’re right, you’re right.
Don’t just say it. Do it. Sit down tomorrow and write about something alien to your world and your life.
I guess I could do that.
Atta girl! Now, let me buy you a cup.
ljgloyd (c) 2012