The Empowering Effect Of Non-comparison

The Empowering Effect Of Non-comparison

sand_castleImagine a child on the sunny beach, building a sand castle.  She has her pail and shovel. She has unlimited amounts of media including sand, water, stones, sticks and shells.  As the creation rises, she recognizes in the materials the infinite possibilities of combination.  This is perceived as great wealth for creation and re-creation.  Once completed, there will be cajoling to come and see, see what I created!  There is also the learned understanding that the castle is ephemeral.  It will not exist tomorrow, unless she decides to build again.

Suppose she comes to the beach the next day, prepared to create an even better castle.  As she hurries to the sea she looks left.  A child and his mother are building an entire town around a beautifully manicured castle, complete with drawbridge, parapets and banners.  We can infer that our little girl’s excitement might be undercut, joy bleeding slowly out.  Sound familiar?

When I taught music in public schools, I was often distraught by my student’s immediate desire to compare the music they made in class with their favorite pop star icons.  Since I have retired, that perspective has redoubled.  When you want to learn to juggle, you can go online and learn the basics.  However, you will also run across videos of jugglers that seem to have a natural talent for juggling 5 disparate objects, while balancing on a unicycle, blindfolded.  The gap between what you might accomplish in 30 minutes of practice and that kind of talent may cause a deflating ego effect.  This is the corrosive effect of comparison.

Want To Write?  Write!

Sounds grim I know, but I have a solution for you in your daily writing habits.  I often refer to this perspective as looking through the telescope backwards.  Instead of internalizing the vastness of the job at hand, look at it from the perspective of small progression.  If you’re feeling like that little girl on the beach, raise your shoulders and begin building your castle.  Take cues from the mother and child you observed; “Ah, I never thought of using sticks that way!  I’m going to try that too.”  Imagine yourself going to them and introducing yourself.  Ask if you might help out with their creation.  In other words, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Remember that when you compare your own work to work done by veterans, you want to glean clues as to why their work is successful.  Word choices, grammar, descriptive language, POV.  Then just select one tool or media that you observe in their work, and introduce (play with) that one idea on a page.

That’s how your own writing will improve.  That’s how the veterans learned.

Write every day without wallowing in comparisons.  Remember, just because you have all the sand in the world at your disposal, it doesn’t mean you have to use it all at once.  ~TH~


New Visitors, Welcome!

A quick post to welcome any readers just tuning in to this website.  You may have been invited here by a recent email – talking to you local Erie writers!

Be sure to scroll down and see what goodies I offer in the sidebar menu.  You can always check back here to see when the next writer’s group meeting is, and where we will meet.

I’ll be adding useful links to the page, so check back often.  My hope is that this website will encourage you to write every day, and find ways you can improve your writing experience.  If you have any questions or comments that will be helpful to the group, feel free to contact me.  See you this Saturday!  ~Tom~

Are You Really DIY?

Are you really Doing It Yourself?  When I think of a Do It Yourself (DIY) project, I often think of the phrase “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps“.  Get the job done.  In a writing group, think of yourself as the project.

This should be the most important project that you’re working on.

You need to write in your journal every day.  Often, folks say, “I don’t know what to write.”  A good way to begin is to set short-term, realistic goals and deadlines.  Here’s one method.

Right now, take 20-30 minutes and consider what kind of writing interests you lately.  Poetry?  Short fiction?  Personal essay?  No matter what it is, write that form at the top of a page in your journal, then number the left margin, 1 to 7.  On each numbered line write a short, achievable goal such as, “Write 100+ words about my job”, or “Write a 2 stanza poem that contains rhymes”.  Be sure to write a goal (a prompt) on each line, even if it’s a simple baby step.  You can write the same goal for each day, or mix it up if you like.  IMPORTANT: be sure that each goal is achievable.  After all, if you’re not writing, you’ll never get any writing done; some is better than none!

Start your day with that goal.  Get up 15 minutes early and crank it out.  It won’t be perfect, but it will be writing.

Put a check mark on your list, then go on with the rest of your day.  That check mark will have you walking on air!  Next day, do that same thing, first thing in the morning.

After just one week, you will have filled 7 pages with writing.  Then, the next time someone asks what you’ve been doing lately, you can say, “I’m writing!”.  Stay motivated and get your DIY writing project off the ground.  Now is the time.  ~TH~

What Are You Up To?

“What are you up to?” my mother used to ask me when I was a kid, tacitly implying that I must be up to “no good”.  I will now ask you the same question regarding your writing life. What are you up to?

Most articles and books regarding successful writing practices boil down to this; you should write every day.  That’s what we call practice.  Uh oh, don’t stop reading yet!  It’s also supposed to be enjoyable.  I enjoy knowing that I have created pages and pages of original inspiration.  It feels good to know that I’m busy writing, creating something for myself.

That’s where your daily journal becomes all important.  You are allowed to write anything at all in your journal.  Bad poetry.  Terrible prose.  Essays with potty-mouth language.  Word lists.  Anything.  Here you might ask, “Then what’s the point?” Great question.

It trains you to write without judgement.  When I was writing songs, I churned out plenty of awful lyrics. Awful!  I may not have recognized it at the time, but I wasn’t sharing the songs with anyone, so I was able to sit on those songs and reflect on them.  As my writing improved, I came to appreciate the work that got me there, even though those early songs were cringe-worthy.   That’s what your journal does.  It allows you to collect all of your ideas into one place for later reflection.

If you have never kept any kind of journal or diary, now’s the time to start!  Write in it every day.  Stuck for an idea?  Do a ten minute timed writing.  Ten minutes. Boom. Done.

Eventually you will be carrying your journal everywhere (I recommend this anyway).  You’ll fill it up and start a new one.  Soon you’ll be coming up with short story ideas, novel concepts, poetry snippits, maybe even bits of song lyrics.

I have a couple of journals that overlap, and I always know where they are when inspiration pops up.  I’ve recently begun keeping a bullet journal as well, many folks find that format very useful.

Stay encouraged, figure out a process that works for you.  Only one rule; write every day.  ~TH~

Have any questions or comments about this post?  Don’t be shy, reply!  Happy to hear from you.

Get going!

I suspect many folks involved in writing groups procrastinate when it comes to getting the actual work done.  There are two things that keep me moving forward.   First, I have a regular time that I write, every day.  For me, it’s the morning.  The second is my writing journal.  This is a notebook where I just write; doesn’t matter what.  Observations, poems, fiction ideas.  I don’t share this work, so I feel free to write anything at all.

If you’re ever stuck in the mud when it comes to fresh ideas, look to the internet!  I’ll be posting helpful links I find – check out the links on the right.

Do a little exploring and fill up that journal.  Write something fresh to present to your group, and for goodness sake, have fun! ~TH~

Start At The Beginning

If you’re part of a writing group, you may want to have access to links and files that are spread across this mighty internet landscape of ours.  I’ll be posting information here that will help you stay on track with your writing life.  Hopefully you will be inspired to write every day.

I will set up links for quick access to the information you’re looking for.  As I build the site, feel free to leave comments and suggestions.  Welcome!  ~TH~