Monday, October 8, 2012

Writing Workshop With Eric Maisel

Next: an actual workshop! I know I've raved here previously about Eric Maisel's A Writer's San Francisco and A Writer's Paris, and now I get to rave about his 2-hour workshop. These are my notes as I jotted them down; buy his book Creativity For Life and they'll hopefully make more sense.

1. We use "I'm too busy" and "I'm too tired" as negative self-talk. To deal with it:

  • Listen to what you say to yourself.
  • Dispute what doesn't serve you, e.g. "I am tired but not too tired that I can't work on my book for 20 minutes." IOW, get a grip on your own mind.
  • Substitute with affirmative language: "No, that thought really doesn't serve me."
Question the monkey mind--get used to distractions. Has to be a time each day when your to-do list doesn't exist.

2. Hold the intention to write, 24 hours a day. Enlist your brain at night. Go to sleep with a wonder rather than a worry. Wonder what Jane wants to say to Jack in Chapter 3. Write first thing in the morning to get what you've been thinking during the night. If you make meaning first thing then you can make meaning for yourself each day. (As in, make meaning of your life, as in "why the hell am I doing this.")

3. Choosing provokes anxiety. if we had to choose everything when we write, we'd write nothing. Most don't write enough because as soon as they come out of writing mode, they feel anxious but don't recognize it. Makes it hard to get back into writing.

4. Detach from the hope that everything you write will be excellent. Can't skip the things that don't work. Accept the fact that you're going to make mistakes and stop beating yourself up. Decide consciously to love your book, even on days when you hate it. However, sometimes you have to say "I love you, work," even as you abandon it.

5. Lots of writers get stuck instead of instituting practices. Show up each day and take it seriously. Don't buy into artificial contours of the universe: your creativity practice is up to you. Show up even if your current book has problems.

6. Change "seeking" meaning to "making" meaning--every day.

7. Problem with categories--limiting yourself, eliminating possibilities. E.g. I'm a writer, not a marketer--that means you've just done something bad for your marketing chances. Instead, think "I'm a writer, it's all available to me; today I choose to write fiction."

8. We can regenerate mental energy quickly by falling back in love with our work. The better job you do of staying in love with your  work, the more energy you'll have.

9. We are always in the middle of our own personality. Must get into the habit of writing despite ourselves.

10. Mindfully and consciously figure out how to quieten your mind. 10 zen seconds: 5 secs intake while thinking "I am completely" followed by 5 secs of exhaling while thinking "stopping". Repeat 12 times. Celebrate daily writing successes then say "I return with strength" so you have strength for the rest of the day. Do some ritual to move from your normal way of thinking to "I get to create"--e.g. light a candle.

11. Goal-oriented process is no more viable than any other kind. (And I don't know what I mean by this so it's just as well the book is on its way to me.)

12. Can't eliminate anxiety, so embrace it. Deep breathing. Self-cognitive therapy (don't say things internally), guided visualisations, discharge techniques (silent screaming) (and now all non-writers will think we're completely barking!) Remind yourself that you're not the stupid person who wrote a bad book. Let go of the small things.

13. No reason to do this writing just as work, it must be loved work. Tell yourself "I'm not disciplined, I just love what I do." Be devoted, not disciplined.

14. Nobody know what depression, which is why it's hard to deal with. He believes writers suffer from existential depression. We have trouble maintaining meaning in what we do. Often we say "Why bother?" We need our own personal answers for that.

15. Be less scared of energy--in the face of repression, we must keep energy up.

16. Big distinction between being blocked (you really don't know where the book goes, you're stuck? and everyday resistance, the simple distance you are from your work. To beat that (no pun intended): crack an egg in a bowl and start working. As soon as you feel yourself coming out of the trance, stir the egg and shell for 15 seconds to lessen anxiety then get back to work.

17. Have your anxiety tools in place. Recognize magic formula: business provokes anxiety because it matters (which is why pitch sessions are such torture for some). Role play, rehearse, know how to speak about ourselves and our work.

18. Know the reality of the business then don't be the rule. The rule isn't good enough. Do more than the next person. Check in with your agent every 16 days. Make a powerful web presence (or whatever's crucial in your arena). It's about survival, it doesn't need to be upsetting.

20. Hold an "abundance model"--recognize you can't write all the books in your head but you can get to them 1 by 1 (even if you can't, it helps lessen anxiety). Then you don't have to mourn the books you haven't finished. between books, write down all your projects (past, present, future)--it's your best opportunity to see what calls to you.

24. Have clear agreements with those in your life about your writing. Do not allow what should not happen to happen. Make it clear this isn't your indulgence--this is 2-3 hours a day that should be inviolate.

 26/27. Remember: books morph. Your first vision of the book might not be the last--or the best. we go into a book with a beautiful dream then we end up with the reality.

 30. Many reasons we don't want to finish the book--when you finish, you have to read it and see if it's good. If it's not contracted, we have to think about selling it. So: complete, revise, market, move on.

32. Regarding toxic criticism: detach. Always temporize--"I am not responding to you now. I am not having a feeling now." Write a Dear Critic letter (don't send!) where you vent--that's when you begin to notice your part in the process. You see where she was wrong as well as where she was right and you need to be better.



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