BackYard Buddha

Are writer’s born or made?

Can anyone become a writer, specifically a writer of fiction, or is the proclivity to writing an innate characteristic?

This is a question I often ask myself, particularly when participants in my creative writing circles ask for writing prompts or enquire where to find story ideas. As if the life you live and all the people you interact with is not material enough.

It’s then that I think these people are not writers, but instead fantasize about the clichéd version of a writer’s life. The distinction could be further defined as those who ‘want’ to write, as opposed to those who ‘have’ to write.

I have to write and, indeed, am writing all the time – in my mind. I constantly watch people and ask myself questions about the way their dressed – what are they trying to say; their activities – whom are they waiting for; and their mannerisms – why is she so jumpy. What would my latest character do in this situation, I wonder? Plot scenarios continually run through my mind. ‘What if’ is the question I most frequently ask myself.

So when I sit down it’s like a floodgate opens. I write.

I can write anywhere at anytime. Often I simply can’t wait to write. I grab a napkin, an envelope, the edge of a newspaper and scribble words.  I look forward to it, long for it,  and find it deeply satisfying. It’s a release, a meditation, a method to make sense of it all.

If you’re one of those that fantasize about writing but are too conflicted to do any, then A Writer’s Space, Make Room to Dream, to Work, to Write, by Eric Maisel, is the book for you.

Maisel is a creativity coach who holds a PH.D. in Counseling Psychology. He believes that writers aren’t born, they’re cajoled, coaxed, and coached into being. The first step to becoming one is to pick, protect, and honor a physical space specifically for writing. Maisel would have you go on a vision quest to locate the best place in your home to write. Once you’ve divined the location, you must then prepare a security pledge on how you will protect and do the right things in your writing space.

Evidently, the author doesn’t consider life and people enough of a stimuli for a writer and offers all kinds of incentives to inspire one to write. These include a way to access your ‘self-help neurons’ to enter into a state of ‘creative mindfulness’.  The next time you decide to be angry, Maisel tells the reader, use creative mindfulness to decide not to be angry, or, I suppose, just say ‘no to anger’. It’s as simple as that.

As well as the appropriate spiritual location to enable you to write, Maisel suggests there  are various psychological and emotional ‘spaces’ to psych you up, chill you out, or otherwise evoke or enhance your inner muse. They include an emotional space, reflective space, imagined space, public space, and existential space.

At the end of each chapter, the author offers up lessons to help you enter these ‘spaces’ which will allow you to ‘desire worlds into existence; discover the ‘way of the meaning maker’; and, ‘not be quite so nice’.

If you’re not  ‘spaced out’ before applying these techniques and exercises, I imagine you will be afterwards.

There’s also an exercise to ‘upgrade your personality with twelve quick centering incantations’. This might be useful to many of the authentic writers I’ve met since they tend to be reflective, more observers than a participants, and comfortable with their own company, or, depending on your point of view, arrogant, anti-social, loners.

A good portion of  A Writer’s Space is given over to anecdotes about the author’s clients/patients, an incredibly flakey sounding bunch who imagine themselves as writers but don’t have the guts and determination to sit down and actually write something. Success comes for the Dr Maisel not when one of his charges gets published, but when, after all the positive nurturing and self-help mumbo-jumbo, they finally, actually make marks on paper.

If you haven’t drawn any conclusion on this book from what I’ve told you so far, here’s a sampling of Maisel’s profundity:

“You have been hungering for years to write a certain piece while simultaneously curbing your enthusiasm and by curbing it killing it.”

 If you can relate to that statement, I’m sorry for you. It’s likely you’ll never be a writer.

The Writer’s Space is a book of excuses, a book for dreamers.

There’s nothing wrong with having a dream. I dream I’ll be a revered writer. It would also be nice to be revered and rich but I’d sacrifice the latter to be the former.

The problem comes when you’re not prepared to risk the dream for the reality. The dream is too important to lose, you’ve invested too much in this delusion to try and fail. Better to believe there’s a novel in you and some day you’ll write it and it will be a best seller. That, of course won’t happen until you’ve found the perfect place, are in the right space, and have mastered creative mindfulness to access those self-help neurons, and how likely is that?  So you continue to dream, continue to make excuses.

I suggest you don’t need another online course, how-to-write book, conference, seminar, lecture or any of Maisel’s ‘preparations’ to write. Buy a notebook and carry it with you at all times. Then instead of reading the horoscope while you’re on your coffee break, jot down some dialogue.

There, you’ve written something and saved a whole lot of money as well.

From this initial creative endeavor I can guarantee you two things: the first few lines you  write will be crap; the second time you write something it will be better, and it will get better and better…

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