Welcome to my new web site

         

Once in a restaurant I overheard a person in the next booth telling a friend about his separation from his wife. The man had to get the story out, and fortunately he had a sympathetic companion who would listen.  His friend didn’t have to say, “give me description that includes detail” or “use dialogue that conveys the conflict.” The recently separated man felt compelled to portray as complete a picture as he could and wanted the person listening to experience for himself the same rage, humiliation and despair.  We talk and write to get something out of our system, and we bond with another human in the process. It’s as simple as that.  When something happens that we can’t come to grips with—whether it’s good, bad or in-between—we need to talk about it.  We can do that to a friend, to a support group or to a marriage counselor. And, we can do it to ourselves through characters on paper.  When we were infants we learned speech from our parents. Along with the words and sentences, we also learned some negative values. Today it’s difficult to examine the process of writing without having it colored by these values.  When we learned to speak, no one asked us if we thought we were capable of doing it.  But, by the time we were introduced to writing as a means of creative expression, we were verbal enough and inhibited enough to protest, “I can’t do this.” And, others accepted our objections with easy resignation. Thus the myth persists: writing is something precious, limited to a chosen few. I believe we must challenge that myth! We might not be a Faulkner, Dickinson or Dostoyevsky.  But we’re alive, and writing is a human activity with a unique ability to intensify life. Actually I started looking at the process of writing by examining another subject—acting. I’d been fascinated with it for years. From direct observation and active participation I tried to deduce what worked and what didn’t. I wanted to know why one actor could move an audience while another, though technically competent, could not.  When I found answers, I that they fit writing even better. This insight became the basis of a 6-step program of guided exercises which I developed for writing classes I was teaching at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin and eventually presented in seminars across the country. I was surprised, not only by the strength of participants’ pieces (novices were turning in stories of professional refinement), but also by the increased volume of work from experienced writers. Once their bridled energy was released, there was no stopping them.  Questions changed from, “How much time should I spend writing?” to “How can I take time away from my writing to cook meals for my husband and kids?” And I learned that if writing is flat or stops, it’s not because of technique, but because we choose not to trust the creative process. Can writing be learned? Of course it can. Read the biographies and letters of famous writers.  See how much they have learned to make them the writers they are.  Put aside objections and self-fulfilling limitations. Writers do live twice.  And, one of the prerogatives you have as a writer is to go back over the restraints placed on you by others and remove them.  We are writers. Today, next week, next month, for the rest of our lives.  We need to listen to ourselves. As Herbert Huncke said, “You choose something on a particular day and it leads to something else and it becomes your life.”

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4 thoughts on “Welcome to my new web site

  1. Off to a great start, John. I really like the Herbert Huncke quote. I recently picked up a used copy of “The Herbert Huncke Reader.” He’s like the patron saint of bottom-feeding junky beatnik lowlifes. Tuschen was a Boy Scout compared to Huncke.

  2. It must be fate that I came across this website. I Can totally relate to what you said in your introduction that we all need to share our feelings, especially when they’re strong, either with someone or through writing. I recently experienced some marital upset in my life that was so intense and disturbing for me that I hardly recognized myself while I was going through it. I was emotionally spent, sick and out so out of sorts that communicating it was difficult, and so I journaled, and journaled and journaled some more, with the knowing that I didn’t have to go back and read it, I just had to get it out. And while I did communicate some of this with friends, who listened politely, i think, but really didn’t want to hear about it, because, come on, who wants or needs to hear about other peoples problems. It was the act of writing that saved me. Fortunately, in my situation, my husband and I did reconcil our love, realizing that it was much too important to us both to throw away over a budding flirtation. In fact, in all honesty, it was the flirtation that ultimately enhanced and renewed our relationship, and so nothing is lost, especially our great love. My husband and I have become great communicators who are wholly honest about it all, while still processing our feelings. Best of all, the experience has made for many poems, lots of co-journaling, with more writing to come. May we all cultivate the writers in us that we are, and discover more and more about ourselves through the writing process.

  3. On the subject of being inhibited: I once wrote a note to a boy. I think I was in grade school. It somehow got in the hands of the nuns. I don’t remember what I wrote but it made big trouble for me. My step-mother took my aside and told me most firmly, “Never put anything in writing!”

    I returned to school in my forties to earn my B.A. in Art. I tested out of Comp so my first English class was Creative Writing. I submitted a story to Mt. Mary’s yearly writing awards and won 1st place two years in a row. I thought perhaps nobody in the English dept. had submitted.

    Now I’ve been out of school 10 years and I’ve written squat. I have some virus running in my writing software, (to use the computer model). It throws up error messages like, “You have committed a fatal action.”

    This doesn’t stop me from writing stories in my head. I rehearse them over and over, committing them to memory.

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