Saturday Cuppa: Dandelion Tea
I wouldn’t dare dream of turning up here on a Saturday morning to say I had writer’s block. My assistant editor, Anna, would throw Maltesers at me. Actually, no, she’d eat the Maltesers and stick pins in my editor’s photo instead. You see, it wasn’t that long ago I gave her a hard time about ‘no such thing as writer’s block’. I’ve said this to various writers of TM when a due date looms, or as more often the case, then passes, and no words of wisdom have arrived in my inbox. "Just write" is what they tend to hear from me rather than understanding words of compassion and comfort. They might even imagine the sound of a whip cracking too.
Usually by Friday night an idea has taken seed in my head for writing about on Saturday morning. Yet here I am this morning and feeling somewhat uninspired. It’s not as if nothing’s happening in our life… The truth is our whole family is sitting on the crest of a major life change, but I’d rather write about it next Saturday when I’ve had some time to reflect.
I’ve also been doing rather a lot of writing lately and have written a book which is just about ready for pruning with my editorial shears. Snip, snip, snip. Editing your own work makes the process of writing seem like a piece of chocolate cake!
With The Mother magazine now bi-monthly I’m more confused than ever! People will often say “Oh, I love so and so’s article in the current issue” and I scratch my head because the ‘current’ issue to ME isn’t the one they’re reading, but the one I’m working on…Well, right now there is one just leaving the printers and it is NOT the one I’m working on, nor is the one our subscribers are currently reading. Talk about a mind-juggle! I have the next four colour covers in front of me and I find it astonishing how the ‘same’ magazine takes on a unique identity with each issue depending on the tone and texture of the articles, and the photography and artwork used. This is such a position of honour, being entrusted with the words and images of others.
Much like my theory that the best way around a problem is through it, so too is the approach of conquering writer’s block. Imagine it like a child’s toy block with letters on each side. Reduce the image in your mind until it becomes the size of a pin head, then finally invisible. Stamp on the spot where it was… and then get writing.
There are many approaches to writing. Some people do the slow and steady measuring-each-word like grains of sand through an hour glass. They feel them, hear them, taste them… and then, like Security Guards, dare to let them onto the page after they’ve bodily searched them from top to bottom. And verified their passport! This works for them. Personally, I’d find it agonising.
I need to get the words out of my head as quickly as they form. They bubble up like a spring and the incessant chatter needs to be channelled out, rather than artificially forced to go on simmer and then strained before consumption. The post-mortem on word quality and writing style can come later. The essence of the message has to be expressed without the strangulating tones of perfection changing its emerging shape. I'm so grateful to be able to type as quickly as I think. I now find it agonising to write anything other than a shopping list by hand.
One thing I am learning after five years of editing The Mother (our 5th anniversary this month! Note to self: find someone to celebrate with…) is not to be so precious about my words. My last editorial (as in the one coming through your door shortly) was, in fact, the third editorial I wrote for that issue. It wasn’t that I was unhappy with the previous two topics, it was simply that my mood changed. It is actually quite liberating to ‘scrap’ a whole page of writing with the delete button and to start again. For me it captures the essence of abundance; the knowledge that there are in infinite number of words and equally, no limit to the number of times we can weave our stories. If we fear writer’s block, if we actually give it power, we end up creating a whole set of blocks!
I’ve read a LOT of birth stories in this past half decade, and the one thing that always strikes me about this incredible experience of bringing our babies into the world, is how few women can sum up the experience in 1000 words. What tends to happen though, is rather than reaching into the core of how their baby’s birthing day impacted on them, we tend to hear lots of irrelevant information. The birth story becomes a narration of what was happening around the mother (midwife eating sandwich, midwife looking at clock, mother-in-law tapping the table) rather than what she was feeling, thinking, experiencing. And it strikes me that this isn’t so much about whether or not someone is a gifted writer, but the very nature of our society being about ‘external influences’. We’re simply not encouraged to look within, to search for the meaningful experiences and savour the rich moments of our lives. When the very motto of our culture is ‘acquisition’, then unless we turn our back on unnecessary consumption, we’ll find it a challenge to remember and really KNOW that less is more.
There are so many ‘external’ images and ideas that can be used to overcome writer’s block, but the essence of the message has to come from within us. That feeling of “I can’t write” should be interpreted as “I haven’t gone within”.
And to truly enjoy life we have to go within, deep within, or we risk a superficial, un-sustaining existence.