The Writerly Habit

This blog is about my struggles to get into the habit of writing regularly.

What Subjects Have Chosen You?


I see myself changing, becoming more political as a writer. I also see myself becoming opinionated and willing to speak my opinions. We have these romantic notions that we can't write about anything important because we didn't live through _______ fill in the blank. For me it was the thought that nothing important was happening, I didn't live through apartheid, the 60's power movements...what could I possibly have to say? Then I read an essay called Being a Product of Your Dwelling Place by Nadine Gordimer. It is featured in the book The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work edited by Marie Arana.

In the essay, Gordimer states that we are all products of our environment and that it will show up in our work whether we intend to or not. She says that "none of us can 'choose our subjects' free of the contexts that contain our lives, shape our thoughts, influence every aspect of our existence." So then I started thinking about what subjects have chosen me. What are things that I have lived through and experienced. September 11th, the Iraq War, Operation Desert Storm, Hurricane Katrina, Columbine, abuses at Abu Ghraib. I've barely scratched the surface and yet I have found a wealth of subjects. These are subjects that many people aren't writing about, at least not from a personal standpoint. Sure we see it in the news but I want to read essays about the emotional impact of Columbine on a mid-Western housewife. I want to see the human element that is so often stripped out of our history. Where are the narratives?

What I'm really trying to say is don't be afraid to explore these subjects. You have a voice, use it. Your pen can be both a tool and weapon.

Your Writing Process


I have the good fortune of taking a class called "Writing as if your life depended on it" at university this semester. My teacher made a startling point the other day, she asked "what are you willing to consider your writing process?" The answers were varied: music, drawing, running, journaling etc. Sometimes, in my case, the passage of time is part of it. I have to let an idea percolate. This is true with fiction, non-fiction, essays...anything I write. If I sit down as soon as I have an idea or assignment, the work seems forced and I get bored quickly. If I wait, it's as if my subconscious is processing the idea while I go about my day. The point I am trying to make is that sitting at your desk typing is part of your writing process but it certainly isn't all of it. Pay attention to what helps inspire, focus or center you and do it.

On a side note, The Writer has a wonderful article this month on how writing is fun for some and agony for others. Finally, my viewpoint is represented. My therapist once told me that if I indeed had been meant to be a written I would wake up every morning with a burning desire to write. What a load of hooey. Also check out the article by Tim Bascom on truth and lies in non-fiction.