As any writer will tell you, reading the work of others stimulates our own writing. I've also realized that watching documentaries about great writers is also inspirational. I recently watched a Netflix documentary on Joan Didion— "Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold." She is an American journalist and literary icon. Ms. Didion's life story is a captivating one as it's full of remarkable and heartbreaking experiences that she used in her writing. It all began with her entering a contest (which she won) for Vogue magazine while she was a senior at UC Berkley. Afterward, she moved to New York and started her writing career working for Vogue.
Her love for writing began at the age of five when her mother gave her a notebook--telling her to cure her boredom through writing. As an adult, Ms. Didion spent time with movie stars, rock stars, and political leaders. In watching the documentary, it seemed there were few she didn't rub elbows with. She is Aunt Joan to actor and director Griffin Dunne, who did an extraordinary job sharing her life's story by talking with her and sharing archival footage. Ms. Didion told Tom Brokaw in an interview that her stories come to her as she is writing. A lot of us (including myself) sit and wait for something to come to us. All we really need to do is just start writing. Write anything; and the stories will come. In fact, I find that even if I sit down with a story in my head, it changes direction completely as I'm writing.
All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.
Ernest Hemingway offered this and a lot of great tips, such as stop writing when you know what will happen next. If you stop when you hit a road block, that's exactly what will be waiting for you when it's time to write again. Another is to not feel the need to describe the emotion of your character, make it. Identify the action that caused the emotion and present it. A lot of times, we want to spoon-feed our readers. Allow them to create the intended emotional response along with your character. It's always helpful to learn from writers whose work we admire. We want to explore their processes and find out their secrets--hoping to gain some divine knowledge of becoming a great writer. The good ones will only tell you their secret is to read a lot of books and write everyday. Hemingway said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." Writers can't teach us how to write, only how they became a writer. W. Sumerset Maugham, known for "Of Human Bondage" and "The Razor's Edge," said it best:
There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
Another inspirational documentary was not specifically about writing, but the tool in which to write--the typewriter. I watched "California Typewriter," which is about those dedicated to the typewriter as a tool and muse. Everyone shared their love for them, making me want to buy one immediately. I had one growing up and even took a typing class in high school (yes, I'm that ancient). I used it all the time. Many of those commenting in the film were writers in some form or fashion. Tom Hanks, the most fabulous actor ever that I’ve followed since Bosom Buddies, has about 250 typewriters in his collection. In fact, he’s written a book, "Uncommon Type"—a collection of 17 short stories featuring a typewriter within each one. The late Sam Shepard—actor, screenwriter, and playwright—received one from his son and used it almost every day. John Mayer, singer and songwriter, bought an electric one online and types out his random thoughts that may or may not become lyrics for his songs. Then there are renowned writers like David McCullough, who has used only his typewriter to write his books. Books such as his two Pulitzer Prize winning works, "Truman" and "John Adams." McCullough hopes that one day his grandchildren may write their very own books on his 1946 Royal KMM. I completely understand the magic behind typing on a typewriter. With all of the technology we have today, such as computers and iPads, it is a lost art form. They aren't just antiquities on a shelf, but a tool used to encourage creativity—seeing your words instantly in print, typed one letter at a time.
I love to write. Whether it's in a notebook, laptop, or my soon-to-be-purchased typewriter. However, life gets in the way and becomes the excuse to abdicate. And, I love to read. I have a library of books that constantly grows. I willingly fall into a world the author has created for me. I actually imagine all the characters stopping what their doing in the story when I close the book. They just wait, chatting amongst themselves, doing the things people do when waiting for someone. They can get impatient with me and I imagine their annoyance when I'm taking too long to start reading again. It brings a smile to my face to hear them cheer as I start reading again. That's precisely what I love about writing and reading—bringing the characters to life.
I am a woman-child at heart; continuously evolving to find my place in life. I am a mother, a daughter, and a sister. I am a lover and a dreamer--an explorer and a traveler. But it's my passion for writing that allows me to explore my ingenuity. This is something that undoubtedly carries over to the many roles that make up the ever evolving woman I am.
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