By: Dr. Noelle Sterne
Turn Off the Negative Attitudes and Voices
Depressed about your writing? Frustrated with words harder to pull out than bent nails in the wall? Lost all interest in that piece that so fired you up last week?
Or maybe you’re sinking under an avalanche of rejections, ready to toss the text, obliterate the file, and eviscerate the email account. And wondering why you didn’t take a nice, easy job on an outdoor summer construction crew in Texas. If you’ve lost your drive, zest, verve, nerve, and will to write, you need to reconnect with your writing core.
What Is Our Writing Core?
Our writing core is more than those fantasies of book tours and talk shows, more than that rash oath to write 3,000 words a day, and more than our uncontrollable grin when we manage to get something published. If you’re not certain what your writing core is, feel you don’t have one, or haven’t written enough to deserve it, the good news is that you’re mistaken.
Our writing core is what makes us write.
Our Writing Core Is Infinitely Accepting
Our writing core doesn’t avoid us for any imagined failings. It doesn’t hide because we’re naïve amateurs or jaded veterans. Our writing core doesn’t dictate preferences or genres. It doesn’t care whether we write literary novels, publicity blurbs, or plumbing manuals. It doesn’t test, qualify, screen, require a resume, demand membership dues, levy exorbitant annual fees, or insist on our birth date.
Neither does our writing core deprive us of its presence because we haven’t written for a day, a month, a year. Nor does it care how much we’ve published, what awards we’ve won, or what we’ve been paid (or not) for writing.
Above, beyond, and throughout our incessant self-destructions, our writing core is always accessible.
Our Writing Core Often Surfaces Unconsciously
Sometimes, as if at the click of a ballpoint, our core surfaces with no conscious thought. Despite the enticing hot new cable movie, our core knocks, nudges, pulls, or shames us to turn off the TV and go tussle with the manuscript. Other times, our core bubbles up and sends us bounding—to our computer, clipboard, yellow pad, spiral notebook, or nearest napkin.
You know your core has emerged when you effortlessly decline a five-course dinner cooked by friends or a trip to the new electronics emporium. Instead, smooth as butter, you choose the solitary bliss of communing with your work.
Our Writing Core Can Go Underground Without Warning
But at more desperate hours, our core eludes us. It dives deep underwater, where we glimpse but can’t catch it, like lightning fish darting through the coral. At these times, we may have stumbled on a great idea but haven’t a clue where to begin. Or we’ve just opened yet another rejection of that most labored-over piece. Or we suddenly fear our magnum opus has lost all meaning.
Let’s Reclaim Our Writing Core
To get going again, we must consciously tap into our writing core. No, you don’t have to meditate half-clothed in frigid temperatures. Or trek through the jungle on your knees. Or walk barefoot on a bed of flaming vegi-burgers.
We may try to reach our writing core with desperate ploys—lamenting to everyone we snare, entreating the god of abandoned writers, or decimating endless bags of corn chips. But these approaches can take months, guarantee no relief, and gain us 30 pounds.
There’s a simpler, more effective way than all that weeping and munching. The steps below have worked for me for (embarrassedly) countless times. Use them whatever the state of your writing or nonwriting.
1. Stop trying to write. Don’t berating yourself for not writing. Stop telling yourself you have to. You won’t be punished, destroyed, or condemned to eternal block if you miss a few days or more.
2. Go to a quiet spot, with no disturbances from kids, neighbors, phone, earbuds, Ipad, intelligent personal assistant, or Oprah. Take a few deep breaths. Relax.
3. Realize that your desire to write may have gone underground but will not vanish, whatever writing you do or don’t. As Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way, if you want to write a novel at 20, you’ll still want to write it at 80. (And hopefully will have—and more than one.)
4. Let your mind go back to a time you really enjoyed writing. Maybe it was two years ago, last month, or yesterday.
5. Recall that experience. What was the physical setting? How were you dressed? What materials were you using? Picture yourself writing in that environment.
6. What were you working on? Recall the project or piece—its form, length, development. Can you see yourself chuckling as you drew the quirks of a particular character? Are you sniffling as you remember the scene of the dog that drowned? Envision your notebook or screen in front of you.
7. Don’t try to force the memories or bully them into being. They aren’t lost. If you’re quiet and patient, they’ll float up.
8. How did you feel working on this project? Were you captivated, enthralled, fascinated? Almost in love? Maybe a little nervous? Full with the weight of what you felt compelled to express?
9. Live the feelings of that writing session. Reimagine and re-experience them. Let them flow. See and feel your fingers again moving, singing on the page.
10. As you allow these thoughts, images, and impressions to appear, you’ll start sensing something. It may rise as excitement, desire, a physical sensation, a word, phrase, or image. Whatever shows up, let it in and give it time.
11. You may also feel a surprising joy or sense of peace. Or maybe a rightness, like coming home.
12. Then listen as you’re told, from somewhere deep inside, what to write. Make no judgments. It may be that project, another one, a journal entry, or a long-delayed letter.
13. Without hurry, go to your favorite writing place, settle in, and begin.
14. You’ve reconnected with your writing core. Bask in it and savor it. Let it move you, as naturally as a cat stretching in the sun.
Our Writing Core Is Always Here
Whatever our lapses, we cannot lose our writing core. It’s always within us, ready to support, sustain, and guide.
Our writing core may not be identical for all of us, but it’s always there, beneath our excuses, promised self-discipline, and dreams of reward. When you reach it, you’ll recognize and welcome it like a long-lost childhood doll.
So, sit quietly, breathe, remember, and feel. You will reconnect with your writing core.
Dr. Noelle Sterne is an author, editor, writing coach, writing and meditation workshop leader, spiritual counselor, and gentle nag, Noelle has published over 700 writing craft articles, spiritual pieces, essays, short stories, and occasional poems.
Author Magazine: https://www.authormagazine.org/search?q=noelle
Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation, A PowerPoint Teaser: http://trustyourlifenow.com/more-for-dissertation-writers/challenges-in-writing-your-dissertation-a-little-teaser/
Journal of Expressive Writing: https://www.journalofexpressivewriting.com/post/i-don-t-have-to-be-amanda-gorman
Life and Everything After: https://lifeandeverythingafter.com/angel-in-the-mall/
Women on Writing: https://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/55-How2-MatchQuerytoManuscript.html
Publications include Chicken Soup for the Soul (sixth story forthcoming November 2021) Mused, Romance Writers Report, Ruminate, Sasee, Textbook and Academic Authors Association blog (monthly), Thesis Whisperer, Transformation Coaching (bimonthly), Two Drops of Ink blog, Unity Daily Word, Unity Magazine, WE Magazine for Women, Women in Higher Education, Writing and Wellness, and The Writer.
In July and August 2018, she was one of six webinar presenters for TAA’s “Writing Gym.” Her topic: “Get Started, Continue Your Draft, and Finish”, which continues to be offered. Dr. Sterne is also one of several coaches in TAA’s program of free one-hour academic coaching to members.
She also contributes pieces to other national and international publications on dissertation issues and writing. In July and August 2018, she, was one of six webinar presenters for its “Writing Gym.” Her topic: “Get Started, Continue Your Draft, and Finish”, which continues to be offered.
Taking her own advice (hard as it may be), she is completing her third novel.
Dr. Noelle Sterne’s books
Columnist: Textbook and Academic Authors Association
Columnist: Two Drops of Ink
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
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