Sometimes in revision, we have to go the long way around until we get back home — but then we recognize it as home. That’s a thought I had last month, seemingly for the first time, so I was surprised to come across this meme:
I did not make this. I didn’t even know what it was from until a search revealed it was something I wrote in my first book. Which might be a meta-case of what this idea was pointing to in the first place. Trippy.
Did you know that there are people who go through an entire day and never say an original word? Not you, of course. You’re a writer who tries to figure out what you really think, and when you do that it has no choice but to come out in a fresh and uncompromised way.
But it’s true. We hear phrases and we pass them around, a kind of cultural currency designed to indicate that we belong and we won’t threaten anybody. Here at Book Architecture, however, we nominate today as anti-cliche day. Which means when we write we won’t describe things as they have been described before. We won’t use phrases that roll of the tongue (like that one) that people before us, and people before them, have used to cover the ground that we are covering.
Today we are going to dig in, and say something new. Or we won’t open our mouths at all.
How’s that for a bold title. And now we only have 120 words left!
Quickly: meditation for writers involves following the breath. You follow the breath, you settle into concentration, you release the ego, you open up to your inner prompter spooling out the words into your mind just as you become conscious of them.
Good? So the secret to meditation is your posture, specifically one thing: opening your bottom belly. Find the place two inches below your navel which is the lowest your breath goes. Below your chest where you hyperventilate or fight on Facebook, below your upper belly where you wax poetic but are still somewhat on the defensive.
Find the bottom belly. Stay with it. And now write what comes to you in the order in which it comes to you.
In their short film, the Tucson Festival of Books asked a dozen writers the best piece of advice they ever got coming up through the ranks. I was caught saying this:
“All the people that quit are contained inside that bigger circle of the people who don’t make it. If you quit, you’re done.”
I don’t have that much to add to this, except I love Venn diagrams.
Okay, I do have something else to add. You can read it here as part of a keynote speech I gave for the PennWriters conference (and from which I clearly plagiarized myself for the Tucson Festival).