New Writing Practice

Yesterday, as I was scanning my Facebook feed, I found this article called How to Write Your Best Story Ever With One Epic Exercise by Jennifer Manuel.  My curiosity was piqued, and I have to say the article really resonated with me. Basically, she advocates finding a book you enjoy or admire the writing of and copy it out by hand every day before your other writing.

By Unknown – Original: Blades, William: Pentateuch of Printing with a Chapter on Judges (1891)

The idea fascinates me. I’ve always thought about how painters learn to paint by copying the masters, but I had never thought to apply this to writing beyond reading good writers. It makes so much sense to me to physically copy out other author’s writing in order to learn from it. It slows us down and makes us pay attention.

And, Manuel sites a tradition of authors copying out other writers to learn their craft, from Robert Louis Stephenson to Benjamin Franklin.

Manuel said that she has been copywriting for a year and has seen stunning results — and has written the best story of her life during this time. I highly suggest visitng Manuel’s page (click on the link in the first paragraph) as she lays out three different ways of practicing copywriting.

So, I’m going to give it a go.  I also have had trouble lately getting into the creative flow, so I am hoping that copywriting will help by getting my brain gently into writing mode. Even if I have writer’s block, I can still do something towards my writing, which I love.

I’m going to start with one of Thoreau’s essays from Walden because I think he has interesting sentence structure. I started today and found the exercise soothing and meditative. I’ll keep you updated.

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Art in the Park

On Canada Day, my writing group (Books in the Belfry) had a booth at our local Art in the Park, art show/sale and music, celebration here in Kamloops, BC. Here we mostly are:

It was a fantastic, beautiful day, full of people coming by to talk about books and writing and I appreciate everyone who stopped by.

I am so fortunate to have this amazing, supportive group in my life. A common thread among the writers who visited our booth is that they often feel disconnected and would love to connect with other writers. It’s a funny thing, how so many writers are introverted and we work on our own so much, but that we need times to connect and get support as well. After our Art in the Park experience, my group, Books in the Belfry, is looking at trying to find ways to connect with other writers, perhaps even world wide, while still maintaining the integrity of our group. One of the things we really value is our feeling of safety to share our work or speak our mind — because we know how rare it is to find.

Thanks again to everyone who made Art in the Park a fantastic day, and feel free to sign up for our newsletter here to keep up with our plans. And here’s a link to a post about our group, but basically, we are all batshit crazy about writing and keep each other going through (mostly) weekly meetings at a local coffee shop. And how did we start? Through creativity courses and by going up to people who have Nanowrimo stickers on their laptops in coffee shops.

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Book Review: Writing the Natural Way

Writing the Natural Way: Turn the Task of Writing into the Joy of Writing

For those who yearn to write but falter at the sight of a blank page, the unique, student-proven techniques in Writing the Natural Way will help unlock natural writing style and storytelling abilities. First published in 1983, this popular classic has been revised with five completely new chapters and a wealth of field-tested exercises. Since 1973, Dr. Gabriele Rico has pioneered a dramatically different approach to writing that releases creative potential by tapping a rarely accessed part of the brain. Writing easily, meaningfully, and spontaneously is a simple matter of flowing with, rather than resisting, the mind’s natural cooperative rhythms. By abolishing formal rules and quelling the painful inner critic, Writing the Natural Way helps writers of all levels acquire the spontaneity and ease of uninhibited self-expression.
Review:
I absolutely love this book. I’ve actually had it for years and have dabbled with it off and on, always finding the exercises useful, but recently decided to read it cover to cover and do the exercises at the same time. I really enjoyed it and found something useful in every chapter, and even ended up with some decent work. More importantly, I kept my creative juices flowing.
Rico bases her work on right and left brain differences, what she calls Sign and Design mind. She uses a process called clustering to access that part of the brain that sees patterns and to (temporarily) bypass the internal editor in order to get ideas down on paper. She is a proponent of playing while writing and trying to re-discover that child-like wonder that many of us have forgotten.
For me, this is a wonderful approach, as I like to get my ideas down, get the words on the paper, play with words, and then edit it later. I found myself often coming full circle and making interesting, just like she said natural writing often does. And most of the exercises take 5 minutes or less.
I highly recommend this book for new and experienced writers. Rico’s approach is fun and easy — deceptively so, teaching us to trust ourselves and our brains to make connections and write from a natural place. As she illustrates in her book, this method works for both children and adults. If you are a writer and have ever experienced writer’s block, don’t know where to begin, or are looking to explore your creativity, I highly recommend checking out this book.

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A Farewell to Agamemnon from Clytemnestra

Several year ago, I wrote a Greek myth, historical fiction Nanowrimo novel about Clytemnestra, the twin sister to Helen of Troy called Betrayed. Recently I’ve come back to it and have been revising it — and I have to say that I’m having a lot of fun. There are parts of this novel that I think are fantastic. Of course, there are other parts that still need work, but I’m getting there.

I’ve also been going over some poetry I wrote awhile ago and, funnily enough, came across this one about Clytemnestra. It’s not too bad, so thought I’d share it here.

Murder of Agamemnon, painting by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin.

A Farewell to Agamemnon from Clytemnestra

“Farewell,”

I say to Agamemnon, my husband,

Who today returned home,

Victorious,

From the Trojan War.

Tonight the victory is mine.

His eyes grow wide, he sits up,

Sloshing water from the tub.

I throw the net over his naked body,

And watch him struggle,

A fly in a web.

The knife at his throat

Stops his fight.

“Why?” he gasps,

Like he really doesn’t know.

I laugh.

“To gain a kingdom,

You ravaged me on the night you made me

A childless widow.

You shredded my life with your knife.

But that wasn’t enough for you.

Hate festered when

You traded a ten year battle

Leading the thousand ships,

To return Helen, my beautiful, fickle sister,

To the husband who couldn’t keep her

In the first place,

For the life of our daughter.

Iphigenia was an innocent sacrifice.

Though you have blood on your hands,

I sacrifice you to Nemesis,

The goddess of revenge.”

I look up and meet the eyes of my lover,

The usurper, Aegisthus,

And pull the knife across my husband’s throat.

“Farewell.”

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