Tag Archives: Habit

One Channel

Imagine a man or a woman who owns the best and most modern television money can buy. A fancy wide screen with surround system sounds.. whatever…

Now think that this person watches only one channel, say the first channel that appeared when the television was turned on the first time. A life long, one channel….

We wouldn’t do that of course. We would quickly get curious and have a look at the other channels..

What about our lives, are we aware that we have a huge influence upon the life we lead?

We can believe something, or we can believe something else.

It might demand some effort, but we have the possibility to think for ourselves, let our curiosity flow.

Or we can choose to watch only one channel.

Monotony


Thomas Nydahl quotes regularly on his blog Occident from Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. Three days ago the quote was about monotony, stating that an existence should be monotonous in order not to be monotonous. When life is lived the same way every day, then every little thing becomes important, and every little change huge. Therefore one will notice and admire every idea, sound, motion.

It is insanely easy to get distracted in our life full of information and impulses, but where does it leave us?

This is linked to the idea that one can gain freedom by limiting oneself. Freedom is something inside of us, hence Pessoa’s quote from the same book:

Liberty is the possibility of isolation.

* Original: A liberdade é a possibilidade do isolamento.

* Source: “A Factless Autobiography”. Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006, p. 246 via Wikiquote

Writing is done in isolation, so:

When I write, I solemnly visit myself.

* Original: Quando escrevo, visito-me solenemente.

* Source: “A Factless Autobiography”. Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006, p. 287 via Wikiquote

These ideas are simple and old… and forgotten?

I suppose that most people are keen on rushing away from liberty and isolation in order to avoid hearing their own thoughts. It is indeed questionable whether on can function well in our society if one hears its own voice, if one truly feels and thinks. I doubt it will make you rich for example.

But what about happiness, satisfaction, tranquility?

For me, one of the most impressive moments in my life, the most intense, was when I became aware of the beauty and the strength of seeing that one, small plant flowering in the middle of the vast Icelandic desert of rocks and dust. In that  breath-taking monotony the experience of seeing this plant became so strong and clear that it had and has a key influence upon my life.

Hail the caesar of your genius

After reading a post by Merlin Mann on the process of starting a project (and to keep going) and after listening to Elizabeth Gilbert in a TED-talk mentioned in the post about nursing your creativity, I understand that they offer a way to deal with one of the major obstacles for writers..

We all know it basically comes down to the old truth of “ You just have to work for it and all will be well”, but it is not so easy in practice for the majority of us..

Both clearly indicate that writing on a daily basis is the key to getting work done and creating possibilities to get inspired during the process. As Merlin puts it in a Tweet:

.“Creative work, summarized: In the time you set aside each day to work your ass off, ignore anything that makes you consider stopping.”

.To be able to do this for a longer period – what about a lifespan? – is undoubtable the key to success. As Merlin stresses, this “anything that makes you consider stopping” is no sinecure.

.The majority of those threats that endanger continuation are based upon fear, and this means fear in all its facets. That is easy to say as fear rules just about anything in our world, but when it comes to for example writing it is all the more clearly. Writing is listening to the voice within, digging for inspiration in the depths of a human being, listening to all the tails from the incredible feedreader in the unmeasurable caves of our head. And what voices will be more loud and clear than the ones that originate of fear?

.To ignore those voices and to keep digging for the gold is a major achievement, reminding me of many classical stories, like for example Frodo in “The Lord of the Rings”. Being a writer, an active and serious one, is going through a lot of darkness, traveling on a seemingly hopeless journey like Frodo did.

.But it is also a quest, something that has to be done, for not doing it equals giving up and letting life age you without truly saving your soul.

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Genius

.In her speech on Tedtalk.com Elizabeth Gilbert tells about her way of dealing with the voices of fear. She admits that they are a serious threat to her existence as a well-functioning human and comes up with a solution. Although being aware that it is not the only and most dependable system possible she states that it does her good and advocates to people to try it out for themselves. The idea originates from ancient Greek and Roman times, and it is not only for that not a revolutionary new idea, but Elizabeth gives a positive approach to it that can be a great relief to many.

.Her “trick” is to put the source of inspiration outside the person and thereby putting the blame for many of the problems the voices in head come up with outside herself. It is in that way not her responsibility to produce another flawless bestseller or her fault when the day’s writing isn’t flowing at all, but it is the inspirational voice from outside her that lets her down. Following old Roman traditions she calls this voice a genius.

But unlike romantic ideas of writers, or any other creative persons, being struck by a sudden moment of inspiration, like an arrow of cupid’s bow, she definately holds on to the idea that all she has to do to let her genius work for her is to show up and work every day. That is the only way to blame her genius and not her, because she was there, writing at her desk, giving the genius a fair chance to work.

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Natalie Goldberg – Writing Down the Bones

I can understand why Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” is a bestseller. It is a inspiring book with a mission: To get people to write as a habit in an honest and spontaneous way. She advocates the practice of freewriting – that is to sit down and start filling up that white paper. Don’t think but trust yourself and let your pen do the work. In her opinion the best writing is done this way – messages from the heart – unfiltered by ego or too much intellect.

The book is divided into 64 short chapters and most are – as Natalie says herself – written in one session. In these many chapters she deals with many aspects and problems one might encounter when creating the habit of writing as a act in itself. It was interesting to read her approach to deal with the feelings connected to it – the voices inside of us. To beat one’s worst criticizer – oneself – is the key to good writing.

This approach of training writing skills by continual practice for the sake of practice might not be for everyone, but maybe it should be. I think that every writer or would-be writer at least should try it.

Organize your Stories

While playing a game of cards it struck me how important it is to organize well. First it looks like the cards don’t combine and that I have no chance of winning the game, but when I start to sort them it suddenly becomes clear how my chances really are and what I am missing. So it actually changes my perception of my chances and possibilities and makes me feel far more secure and optimistic. It helps to get a good flow into the game.

It is obvious that the same is true for my writing and that is why I spend a good deal of time tagging, sorting, editing and collecting the pieces, stories and poems I have. I made a map with stories that I think are finished and stories I need to work on, and there is a third map with stories (and ideas) that didn’t make it to the second “almost done” map.

In an attempt to catch things I might have deemed “unworthy of any map” in the first place I implemented the habit of going through a random page in my journaling software (There is a shortcut for it) at least once a week.

It is satisfying and motivating to know more or less precise what the actual state of my writing is.

Sources of inspiration for J.M.A. Biesheuvel.

After rereading some of the stories I eagerly read in my youth by the Dutch writer J.M.A. Biesheuvel I noticed that he actually gives clear hints about his ways of collecting material for his stories.
In for example the story Broos’ boze droom from the bundle Slechte Mensen (1973) Biesheuvel tells about a man who writes down his dreams that are a mixture of all sorts of events and combines this with weird stories heard from all sorts of people around him.
Looking at a number of Biesheuvel’s own stories this seems to be a valid explanation for the contents of a lot of his works. The majority of his short stories is packed with anecdotes and sometimes surreal situations with clear autobiographical elements. It creates a wonderful mixture of dialogues, events and images.

Another hint about this way of collecting material comes from the story Het Medaillon from the bundle De Angstkunstenaar where he tells about two window cleaners that visited the office where he worked and that told a lot of colourful stories. He continues by telling that he regrets that he can only remember one of the stories because “In those days I didn’t make notes yet (…)”. This story is also a good example of Biesheuvel’s style as it starts with a situation sketch that is later completely abandoned, a detail that adds to the feeling of a spontaneous and personal way of telling stories.

It seems like a practical way of composing stories that could fit me well as I like to write down all sorts of fragments, dialogues, thoughts and stories from inside my own brain or life around me. Combining some of them in short stories is a good way of using as much as I can.