The above image is a pen and ink “fantasy”. When it was finished, I took it to my paint program, and first changed the color to black and white (it was originally done in green with fine artists markers. I liked the black and white but wanted to see what would happen if I inverted the colors. This was the result and I liked it because now the black lines were white and really stood out from the background. The process is important here because personal writing can take the individual through a similar process of transformation.
It is my intent to post here, at least once a week, in order to encourage others to find the deeply altering affect that personal writing can bring about. If we are sticking to the rules of social isolation, this is a perfect time to begin. We all have pockets of time when we are alone. Why not fill those pockets with an activity that promises to help oneself to become the better individual we all long to be? That one who is not quite so lost in the activity of everyday routine. That one who thinks and feels their way without quite comprehending what either of those activities really means.
Because personal writing is aimed in that direction. Base line, it amounts to only one thing: a conversation with self. If it results in you talking aloud to yourself, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It simply means you care enough to let yourself hear what you are actually thinking and feeling. Because, for the most part, we don’t do that, nearly enough.
I have chosen this image as a logo for a whole lot of reasons, some I might even explain in later days. Suffice to say, when this image appears on any post, you will know that it is me speaking about personal writing. Now, to get on with the business at hand.
There are a few things you will need before you are ready to begin. 1. Paper and pen, or pencil. I can hear you groaning, mumbling about how you thought you could do this on your keyboard. Not a good idea. Why? Because it creates a certain distance between you and the self you hope to come to know better. And again, that closer, more knowing relationship is the stated purpose of this activity. If you really wanted to get to know someone, why would you put a machine, with all of it sights and sounds, functions, and purposes between you and that other individual? You’re going to have to trust me on this one. I’ve tried both: pen and paper, and keyboard. It is not the same experience. Mainly because typing on a keyboard means that part of your brain isn’t available to do the actual work being called for. It is now reserved for and to the work of typing. Hitting the right keys with the right fingers, the space bar after each word, and the corrections that a grammar program will automatically inject in red ink, that will stop the flow of whatever you might have intended. And no, you can’t always get the original flow back.
Writing is a creative activity. Any creative activity has the potential to become a form of active meditation. The hands are busy moving in the familiar way we learned in grammar school, doing that automatically. The mind is free to speak through thoughts and images often based in memory, but also will bring up interesting questions and make striking associations as well. And that is what this conversation is all about.
Did someone tell you that your handwriting would never win any awards, so you’ve never liked it and that’s one of the reasons you’ve never even considered personal writing until now? Then close your eyes, picture that person in another room, in a building at least ten blocks away. Tell him, or her, that the room contains everything they will need and they are not to come out unless you tell them they can do so. This is your mind, your private space, and they are not welcome until invited. Then close the door and get back to your paper and pen. It might take a few times, but eventually they will comply. And one of the major benefits of regular personal writing is much better penmanship.
The other thing you’ll need, is really two things. A Dictionary and a Thesaurus. And no, you do not have to go out and buy them. I use Dictionary.com, right here online. It provides both functions. And you won’t need them until the writing is completed.
And now for the actual writing. Find a space and time where you won’t be interrupted. That’s essential. Give yourself, at the bare minimum, fifteen to twenty minutes. Gather your pen and paper immediately in front of you. Now sit back, close your eyes and breath, deeply and slowly. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Do that at least four or five times. Do this every time you sit to write. It will swiftly become a trigger to your subconscious mind that you are ready to begin.
I would ask you to write out your own definition of what personal writing is. First your thoughts on the subject itself, then how you feel about doing it. Can you see yourself doing it comfortably and on a regular basis? What is comfortable to you, and what would be regular for you? What are your objections about doing it? What would you hope to gain by placing yourself within such a process and are those realistic objectives, excuses, or just wishful thinking? These questions are simply examples, suggestions of what you might write about. If you have something else in mind, feel free to engage in that manner. I am not here to tell you how and what to write, but only to encourage you to do so.
I will explain those benefits in further detail in coming posts. For now, the only object is to get you on paper and actually writing. And that’s all you are to do. Do not stop to reread your words, do not stop to correct anything. Simply write until you are done. Only then can you go back to reread, to correct, if so compelled. We all have a judge and jury inside our minds and much too often we are the guilty party until proven innocent. If you stop to go back and check on how you are doing, you will bring the whole process to a halt before it has even begun. Have some heart for the defendant, please. Let the process do its work before making a judgement. You owe yourself that much and so much more.
Until next time…
Elizabeth Crawford 5/4/2020
All wonderful writing advice. I remember when I wrote my poems with a pen, the flow of words was much smoother, much more hand/brain, than when I type. I just cant write fast enough to keep up with my brain. Smiles. I have been very thankful for a writing practice through this time of being indoors most of the time. It is good to have this outlet, and to feel I am producing something. I always enjoy reading what you have to share, Elizabeth. You are such a good teacher of writing.
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