Monday, March 19, 2007

What makes a writer happy?

I love this picture, Kevin's Hands from France Belleville over at Wagonized.
Wagonized is my new favourite thing.
In fact, I've been living there since I found it a few days ago on a search for hands.
This blog is amazing and only the third visual artist's blog that I have encountered on my travels
(For info: the others are Jeannie Driver and Youngest Indie)

I'm still meditating on the nature of happiness. In fact, I have stumbled 'accidentally' this week onto more information on the nature of happiness than seems strictly normal, but it just goes to show what you notice when you open your eyes - even to just one idea. I'll be posting more about some of the theories of happiness over the next few days.

My other major current preoccupation is my writing. As per. The blog is often the most writing I do in a day, with my diary a close second. The creative 'stuff': articles, short stories, my ongoing stab at the GBN for young people and the occasional terrible poetry is still getting trapped on the backburner, and along with my happiness studies, I'm currently working very hard to find out for myself exactly why.

As my friend Lisa often says, "I don't believe in writer's block!" For myself, neither do I. I always assumed writers' block implied a moment when you ran out of ideas of what to write and I never have a problem with that. Life provides too many incidents to speculate on.

I do believe in fear though, and this can be one of my main deterrents to writing often and to writing well. I find it hard to trust what I write sometimes, I lose faith that I'm copying someone else's style, that I've stolen someone else's idea, that I'm writing badly. Increasingly, I believe that the reason I write is twofold: to understand the world and to be understood by others in it. If I feel like I'm failing on either of these two counts, then I'm not happy about my writing.

But understanding something through the act of writing, and having my writing understood by others is actually just a question of my perception. And that brings me squarely back to the link between state of mind and happiness.

I'm as happy as I think I am!? Does that mean by proxy that my writing is as good as I think it is?

I found this great quote on the blog Wagonized, Drawings by France Belleville, which I cannot get enough of recommending to you:

Talking about Keith Jarrett in The Creative License, Danny Gregory writes: "He says you have to assume that what you are doing is meaningless, to be willing to toss it away. The best moments, he says, "are when i am playing only in the present and not heading anywhere. I aspire not to know what i am doing." This is mindfulness, living in the present. (...) But to achieve mindfulness, you just need something you already have: the willingness to quiet down, clear the crap, and TRUST." It echoes what Karen Winters was writing recently about "effort without striving".

Jenny Diski, one of my favourite writers of screen and paper, has posted on her blog recently on the act of writing.

"None of my novels (or my non-fiction) is predicated on presenting a simple, recognisable picture of reality. Here's the thing: it has never crossed my mind when writing a novel that it should be 'believable' to the reader. I've always found it odd when a book is praised because its characters and their doings are 'totally believable'.

I don't think that novels have to be (and am not interested in writing novels that are) reproductions of the world. There are novels written as realistic portraits, but by no means all and there's no reason why they should be. It is certainly not the only task of a novelist to reproduce reality. A novel is not good just because it looks to you like the world you know. Nor bad because it doesn't.

There are other kinds of truth (or even untruth) that a writer might want to get to. Pictures they might want to paint of what is least likely. Some of us want to play with ideas in the form of narrative. Only the narrowest of views demands that novels must be believable and that novelists have to conform to their readers' notions of the way the world is."

What I like about both of these quotes is that both artists are talking about trusting the process, and I don't think this just applies to creativity. Humans place a lot of stock on where we are headed, the purpose behind what we're doing - yet all we have is right now.

I found a great poem the other day that can be used as a useful kicking-off point for anyone wanting some help with their creativity.

If You Could Write One Great Poem,
What Would You Want It To Be About?

(Asked of four student poets at the Illinois Schools for the Deaf and Visually Impaired)

Fire: because it is quick, and can destroy.
Music: place where anger has its place.
Romantic Love - the cold or stupid ask why.
Sign: that it is a language, full of grace.

That it is visible, invisible, dark and clear,
That it is loud and noiseless and it is contained
Inside a body and explodes in air
Out of a body to conquer from the mind.

Robert Pinsky

Just the title of this poem got me thinking. If I could write one great poem, what would I want it to be about? I can't tell you the answer, because I'm writing a poem to go with it, but when I'm there, it's yours.

And obviously, now I'm bound to ask.....what would your poem be about?


wagonized said...

Whoa, Sarah, thank a lot. I'm glad you found my blog because i am thrilled i found yours. You are raising some interesting points. Happiness? Pfeeew. Happiness is a sad song. :-)

andrea joseph's sketchblog said...

You have good taste - France is the best. I too have been hooked on her blog since I found it. I always go there for a daily fix!