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Friday, August 28, 2009

Guest Blog ~ Author Jill Dearman ~ The Play of Writing





The Play of Writing

From “Bang the Keys: Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing Practice” by Jill Dearman (Penguin/Aug. 2009)


How does an actor know when the play has begun? The curtain rises, of course! When the show's over the curtain falls. What does a dancer do before a performance? Warm up. Just like any athlete must. Writing is both an exercise and a performance, so the rules of the actor and the athlete's game are the same for us. A little warm up goes a long way towards putting us in the mood to write and helping us to enter "the zone."

And these days, when modern life is so filled with insidious interruptions, I think it is especially helpful to begin one's writing time with a cue, and end with one too. When I run my Bang the Keys workshops I usually sit in front of the clock and ask a workshopper to warn me when it's one minute to "showtime." Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly divaesque I demand that a gaggle of assistants powder puff my face, spray my hair and feed me a chewing gum cigarette for effect. When the clock turns and the hour has begun, I light a candle. When the wick catches fire we all know that the workshop evening has officially begun. When we are done, I blow out the candle. Over and out.

Arranging one's time is a huge part of this phase in one's writing practice. There is something about training your body and mind to begin and end an endeavor consciously, as in lighting a candle to start the workshop, blowing it out to end, that naturally carries over into the way you structure your writing life as a whole.

As always, focusing on a fun, doable micro (coming up with a writing "cue") can help with the much more intimidating macro (meeting your six week writing goal, and ultimately finishing a large work).

Certainly a good way to prepare for one's writing hours is to try a meditation (as outlined in the "Channel Surfing" chapter of BANG THE KEYS), or perhaps do a little quick journaling, but there are additional methods I'd recommend trying, just to change it up.

If you are aiming for 500 words a day you can be as rigid as Graham Greene and literally end your writing day when you hit that lucky number. I would recommend though that once you are in a good writing jag you push yourself to write just a little more. Incrementally you may work up to 1000 words a day or much more than that. But even if you stop at exactly 500 (or just under), good for you! That is a great way to end your writing day, by doing what you set out to do. The question though, is how to begin?

I enjoy mediating at the beginning of my writing time. Meditation, after all, is simply the act of focusing on one thing with relaxed concentration, and creating a boundary (or force-field, in my mind) to keep out all other things. Thjs can sometimes help to close out the rest of the world, and help me tune in to my own creative world.


~~~

“One chiefly needs swiftness in banging the keys,” said author Mark Twain, who pioneered the use of typewriters. Modern-day author and writing coach Jill Dearman has taken Twain’s words to heart in creating her successful “Bang the Keys” writing workshop, offering participants a four step path to creating and maintaining a robust habit of banging the (now electronic) keys.

Scribes have been longing for a relevant and modern writing workshop-in-a-book, one that deals with the issues of distraction that plague them in this information-overloaded 21st Century of ours … and now it has arrived, in fresh, crackling prose: Bang the Keys: Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing Process (ISBN: 9781592579143, Alpha Books, August 2009, $16.95). With a foreward by John Leland, New York Times reporter and author of Why Kerouac Matters.

2 comments:

Kelly Klepfer said...

Thanks for dropping by, Jill, and leaving behind something for us to chew on. : )

Jill Dearman said...

A pleasure. We're all on the same team, and it's amazing how many writers face the same eternal quandaries!
--Jill
www.bangthekeys.com