Lords Of The Manor

Imagine you are standing in the room with 100 attentive people. Each is uniquely creative in their own way, and for this day each has arrived with the sole purpose of serving you. You tell them you are interested in writing a story. You would like it to be a love story, and you would like it to end happily, more or less. You then ask each of these 100 people for a story idea with these two requirements. In a short time, each has jotted down notes. One by one, you have them read their ideas to you. Many are good, a great many are similar, and you listen carefully, waiting for that one idea that lights up for you, that aligns most directly with your desire.

Once you have chosen your story, you could go back to these same 100 people and ask for an outline, or a first scene, or names of characters, or whatever you would like, and with each request, your requirements would become ever more specific, eventually, if you chose, down to the very words in the story.

This scenario is the closest I can come the ying-yang experience that is writing. In other words, you are in charge, insofar as you are asking for the ideas, and you are selecting from all those provided, but you are not actually responsible for each individual idea. That is, as the writer, you don’t “come up with” the idea, you merely ask specifically and then select.

This is why I have said in the past that writing is listening. I don’t know how to come up with ideas. I only know to identify a feeling or experience or concept that needs form—and then wait. Wait. Wait.  And then choose. That is writing. We are both receptive and assertive simultaneously.

It is useful, I think, to remember this, particularly when you feel you are blocked. Often we forget that we are not in charge coming up with the ideas, and we think we must, and send our attention out to get one. Yet we are like lords of a manor the location of whose kitchen is a mystery to us. The servant will gladly bring a sandwich, but we must ask for it, and we must say what kind we want.

So when you are blocked, even for as simple a thing as a sentence, turn your attention only to that thing you believe you wish to say and focus on it and it alone. Do not try to write, merely see it, or hear it, or feel it. And wait. That is your job. Soon the ideas will come, and soon you will have the joy of picking the one that pleases you most.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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