A quote by Anne Lamott that I read this morning got me to thinking:
“We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.”
…and we all know what happens when I start thinking. I think that I do not want to consider a career as a sheep lice…err…louse…err… well, yeah. I don’t want to be a louse either.
Understanding yourself is a major step in the creative process for several reasons:
- If you don’t understand yourself and what you’re putting into your writing, how can you expect others to have a clue what you’re trying to say? The reverse side is that an unleashed mind may believe they actually have a clue, but people just shake their heads sadly.
- It’ll help you connect with those who get it… which means they’ll get you, and maybe even want to hear what you have to say.
- It helps to keep better control of the silly little unimportant things… like writer’s block. Come on… we all know that at the very least our characters are like our own children. If you don’t know who you are, how can you expect to guide them to discovery of who they are? For that matter, each of these characters hold a little piece of ourselves and/or our insights. By understanding ourselves, we better understand them and which way they’re likely to jump… or not.
I’ve been told by several masters of prose, that you don’t truly start to define and refine yourself as a writer until you have written over 350k words. That’s a whole lot of ramble… and a whole lot of insight into who you are, reflected on the pages for the world to see. Or not… it might be better in many cases just to let those early words go into a dark box in the back of your closet to only pull out into the light when you need a little boost to remind yourself how far you’ve come. Several years after publishing, I took a look at some of those earlier words, only to find myself amazed that I’d ever considered it good writing.
Which just goes to show how little we know and understand ourselves when we’re younger… even though we think we know it all!
It may be where some of the writer’s block comes from, when you stop to think of things from that perspective. Sometimes we get caught up in trying to find the “perfect” word, or the “perfect” scene. Okay. I get it. Is it because we are afraid to just let things flow without a filter, because it might dredge up something scary from within? Are we afraid to put what we really think on paper because we’re’re bearing a part of ourselves in writing that many often mistake (even unknowingly) of personal rejection? Get over it! No writer is unleashed enough to send out a first draft for publication. Perfection is what editing is for—and not even the big boys catch all of their blemishes.
Don’t think—write! Unleash your mind and let the words fall out unfiltered. I think you might find it like your own personal shrink… and without your permission for release, ain’t no one going to see it. You might be surprised to discover who you really are.