by Monica A. Ross, LPC
Recently I attended a writer’s workshop put on by the Writers’ League of Texas. Author ire’ne lara silva hosted the class at St. Edward’s University my alma mater. The title of the workshop was “Forget Discipline: How to Want Your Way Through Writing a Book.”
I walked away from class with deep appreciation for instructors like silva who speak from a place of love and passion. I’m also grateful for the community of writers here in Austin and the faces I recognize as I get out and about and attend these events.
You see, many writers are introverts.
This often makes connecting in real life tricky but for those moments when I do get a glimpse into these other writers’ worlds I see that I am part of a tribe, sometimes hidden, but going through some of the same internal struggles and triumphs with this process.
We discussed wanting and longing and hunger at the workshop. The process of wanting anything really starts with knowing who you are. If you don’t know and trust who you are then it could lead later to a questioning of the very things you pursue in life. Knowing what you want is an act of introspection and flows from knowing who you are and what you value.
Think about how it feels to be hungry. . .
This was one of our 3 minute writing prompts. To hunger, to move towards, to want, is to go about things with tenacity and persistence. silva gave the example of animals that hunt down their prey. They often use both patience and planning in their attempts. Sometimes animals on the hunt literally have to wear out their prey––the need to eat and the hunger that fuels the search for food is a normal part of existence.
To extend the metaphor going after that thing that we want in life often comes from a similar place of hunger—of true desire and sometimes necessity. It takes patience. It takes planning. In the case of wanting something for oneself, similarly, a type of wearing out or, maybe more to the point, a moving through those times of resistance and struggle both internal and external.
The type of wanting that I’m talking about here is less about clinging to an identity or material objects which some site as a way to usher in suffering. It’s more about getting in touch with oneself and connecting inward with one’s sense of purpose. Writing is more to do with artistry and self-expression, also a part of being human––wanting as a type of willing one’s way to completion of a project.
An important part of the process is to be able to do the thing one loves to do without expectation of any particular outcome or the pressure of reward or results. It’s about wanting something so much that it no longer becomes of any significance that success or failure lies at the end. Being in alignment with one’s values simply feels good. And quite frankly it’s a need. It reduces a lot of cognitive dissonance.
Where we pour our energies into the act of doing, that’s where actual being and becoming meet. This is the flow as some have described it. As lara silva pointed out, add a dash of hunger and desire and then really the question becomes what’s stopping us and what are we willing to go through in order to feed the need to write (insert here the thing that ignites your passion if not writing)?
“Advice to Myself” by Louise Erdrich
Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.
“Advice to Myself” by Louise Erdrich from Original Fire. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.