Today I have on my blog Maggie Nerz Iribarne who tells us abut her writing process and about creating oneself as a writer.
Do you realize you are an artist? Julia Cameron, the author of the book, The Artist’s Way, tells us that our inner artist is a child that needs daily attention and recognition. My inner artist emerged in my youth when I began writing poems for school and friends. Words came to me in class; I’d jot them down in the margins of my notebooks, then copy them out neatly on loose-leaf, editing and polishing them. Once, I read about a local teen suicide and wrote a poem. I showed it to a teacher who said I must send it to the boy’s family, so I did, my first inadvertent publication.
Take Yourself Seriously
To accomplish our art, we must view our work as important. One of my graduate professors asked my advisor, “How will we get Maggie to take herself more seriously?” I bristled, but instantly knew this was true on all counts, personally, academically, and creatively. Yet there was evidence to the contrary. Mr. Washburn, my young, Godspell-loving, guitar-playing grammar school religion teacher, encouraged my poetry and let me taste success by always hanging my poems on the bulletin board. Mr. Northern, my ninth grade English teacher, wrote “SUPERLATIVE” on the top of my essay about chocolate chip cookies. Although in high school I chose popularity over grades, in college I got published in the literary magazine and was inducted in the English Honor Society. These events transformed me from high school airhead to graduate student material, yet at the time I always thought of myself as an imposter on the brink of failure. My inner artist was knocking at the door, asking to be seen and heard, but at the time I could not discern the order in the chaos of my life and work.
Get Up Early, Write in Short Bursts
The first step, according to Julia Cameron, to recognizing your inner artist is by writing, first thing every morning (and you might need to get up 20 minutes earlier to do this) three pages of what she calls Morning Pages (MP), to dump out all the chatter in your mind to make room for art, whatever that means to you. I read The Artist’s Way when I was in my late twenties, began doing the MP, and have never stopped.
The MP got me started with a daily habit/practice of writing. In the last year, I have added to my morning practice by writing 500 words of a short story or essay. This only takes about 20 extra minutes and I finish rough drafts this way. Recently, two short stories (one of which was accepted for publication) were written in this daily dose of 500 words.
Write about Everything and Anything, Start Big, Messy, even Stupid
I just wrote a story (one mentioned above) about my parents’ deceased elderly neighbors. I made the wife into a ghost that kills the husband and haunts their house. My mother would be appalled by this; I call it fair game.
Write about anything that resonates for you. Start every story as long, disorganized, and over the top as you need to get it done. Change names of people and places. After drafting, whittle down to a more coherent, cohesive, narrative.
Take Your Time, Don’t be a Perfectionist
Writing, like life, love, careers, needs time to unfold, learn its lessons, slowly reveal its meaning and potential. That story about my parents’ neighbors was written specifically for a particular journal. I wrote it, revised, shared it with my writing partner and my husband, revised it again, and sent it. It got rejected in under 48 hours. I reread it, revised it, searched online for another place that would take a literary ghost story and sent it out again. I know it’s not perfect, but I will continue this process until it gets published. So, getting rejected actually helps fine tune writing. I am not fussy about who takes my work, as long as I think the publication is looking for quality stories. It doesn’t have to be The New Yorker.
Find a Writing Partner
Currently, I have my friend Laura, who matches me in passion and productivity. One writing friend, Libby, I cold-called after reading an article she wrote. She called me back and invited me to a writing group. This was 23 years ago and we are still friends and ardent supporters.
It’s Never Too Late
At age 50, I nurture my inner artist by writing a little bit every day. I call myself a writer.
Sift back through the story of your life; find the lost moments that spoke your misplaced truth. You are an artist, too; say it out loud, write it, begin.