Saturday, February 24, 2007

Writer's Block

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.


naturalmata said...

Hi V. Wow! Did you write this for me? Because I said I had a block about Amba's birth story. You're right about the external & going within. I do remember the "events" to some extent but felt I couldn't write the story because I couldn't remember all that was happening around me. But then that's not really important. Of course I can't remember because I was so focussed on the internal & THAT is the birth story, the real thing. Also it was a process. Where's the beginning & where's the end? I guess when you look at conventional birth stories you do get all the detail & when I tried to script it that way, it was too difficult and not really what I was trying too say, not special enough. Now I'm rambling! Congratulations on the 5th anniversary of TM. May there be more & more & more &.... Love & blessings, Kalyani.

Veronika said...

(from Samantha Price) Your writing is amazing, it really is exciting, your words spark my own and resonante so deeply. Just on example, I found myself 1000km away from Solène on Feb 2nd, the day she turned 6. I had made the decision to return to Wales to be near my father who was in hospital, lots wrong with him and he had just found out he has a cancer of the stomach. It was hard to be away at that time but it was the only opportunity I had and I grabbed it. I awoke around 4am on the 2nd knowing I had to put the light on and write. I knew I was writing for all the wonderful women I know, are part of, have been an important part of my life. I was writing about birth, about Solène's birth but it was not the birth story I have never been able to write, it was not the story of how it all happened, what happened, it was the story of how that unplanned, unassisted birth affected me, affects me today. Your thoughts on the birth stories you have read really shone the light for me, put into words what I have been struggling with. I'm not interested in telling the story of what was going on around, although I have forced myself to do that at times and I do recognize that it has helped a number of other souls come into this world with simply their parents present. What I am interested in is all the inner work; how that experience affected me. It occurred to me that the experience of her birth enabled me to tap into a source of power hitherto unknown, even if I did get a glimpse of it with Milla's birth a few years earlier. How come I have not been able to ride those powerful waves of energy and power that I know are there, potentially within, even when I'm not birthing our children?

I haven't gone back to those pages and pages, the idea of sharing it with all the wonderful women (those who read English) faded, yes I admit out of fear of sounding so bloody "wise" and "I've got it all sussed". What rubbish, I can see that now. Perhaps thanks to your peice of writing and sharing last Saturday, I will reread what I wrote and "edit" it. It came so strong from somewhere really important deep down inside.

And then there's this idea of needing to do things that are linked to what makes my heart sing, I don't do enough of that. I've kept relatively quiet for about 8 years or so about birth, all the while bubbling with excitement inside. I turned 40 last July, felt a great push to go digging and delving again. It occurred to me that perhaps I would live another 40 years and that I wanted to ensure I would continue to grow and learn, carry on the struggle ('cos boy it's hard at times - but I've come to see how "addicted" I am to that feeling) of becoming my own best friend, of learning not to hide my light under a bushel ...... now there's something I could write about. The idea I had in mind when I started this paragraph was writing workshops with pregnant women. I've got a friend who owns an "alternative", no make that mind / body / spirit bookshop in Dijon, it has occurred to me to suggest it to her. Then that ties in with what you were saying about FEAR.

I'v just made a huge decision to apply for a permanent job training primary school teachers here in France, I was doing the job on a part-time, temporary basis. Deciding to apply, getting my act together so that I could actually make up my own mind about what I wanted rather than letting the interview panel decide for me was an enormous step. I went inside for answers, I had been considering home educating, but the girls are happy in their village schools, we are both still so critical of the education system even though we are part of it. I got the job, I know it's right for now, that I have a part to play. Jeannine Parvati's words about "serving" came back a lot. Oh wow, there's so much to say about everything it seems but apart from my proliferous scribbles in my journal I find it so hard to get around to writing in any other way. Another of my "What am I going to do to mark my 40th?" ideas was to treat myself to a creative writing course, haven't done much about that one, ..... yet!!

So, the essence of what I wanted to say, is thank you deeply for writing about writing. I am so grateful for your generous sharing and look forward to reading you soon (I thank Laura Shanley in passing; I had just written to her in response to something she had shared about birth, not long after Solène's birth and she said in her reply "Have you heard about the magazine that is about to be launched in GB?", I think I wrote to you in the following 5 minutes!!)

Unfortunately I can only celebrate with you from afar but my heart is in it - happy birthday to the Mother Magazine and all her readers who birthed themselves into being at the same time.

Your writing, your work, your life continue to feed mine, I don't think there has ever been a time when I have read what you have written and not been touched on a very deep level.

Many, many blessings to you and your family,

Samantha, from France

ForTheLoveOfMilk said...

i have watched your vid on youtube several times, and now have added it to my new blog. i am just now coming into my own as a woman and mother to be. i share so many views in common with you, if i had not been up for over 30 hours straight i could write more, and i will write more. You are amazing. you are such a beautiful woman to represent the mother race as a whole! u are sweet and kind and soft and sweet, and i see that so well from your video. i am a bit delirious at this moment, but when i do wake up, i will get back with you!

hope to hear from u soon!

lactavist, lactation guru by heart, lactation cunsultant in training! lol ! and future mother to be!