Thoughts On Writing

From time to time I have the opportunity to share my thoughts about writing and about areas of life that influence my writing.  Listed below are some thoughts about writing I have been exploring for many years.

- George Kaufman, author of Accidental Spirituality


How do you get inspired to write?

Thanks to The Omega Institute for the beautiful picture of the Omega Sanctuary seen in the video. 

What's your advice for aspiring writers?

Three pieces of advice.
First, read books from as many kind of writers and as many kinds of works as time permits. You will learn as much from bad writing as you will from good writing. Be critical about what you read and consider what drew you into a book, or what kept you aloof from being engaged by the book.

Second, write every day. Writing is muscle that needs to remain sharp and fresh. Cheat on this commitment and the results will show up in your writing. Honor this commitment and the results will also show up.

Third, keep notes of comments you hear, settings that are unusual, or people with quirky or strange habits. Lock them away until an opportunity appears when the comment, or setting or habit becomes part of your story. No matter that a bar you saw in Kansas might now end up in South Africa in your story.

Many writers when writing about their craft will offer similar advice, while others have their own unique ways of framing what is inspirational for them. If my suggestions are helpful - give them a try. If you are still looking for more direction, consult the work of authors with their own singular approach. (W. Stegner; E. Welty; N. Goldberg; A. LaMott; R. Bradbury; B. Euland; N. Aronie; etc. - the list is almost endless).


What's the best thing about being a writer?

Writing keeps my mind alert, opens me to new ways of thinking, and has a toughness and durability that helps during difficult times. Those benefits have been acquired over time. After more time passes, some of those qualities will deepen, others will play a smaller role, new ones will appear, and still others will disappear.

Writers are storytellers, chroniclers, interpreters, historians and observers of how we behave, how we think, and how we express what we see, hear, and feel. History is remembered through writers, the future is predicted by the imagination of writers, and our values are described through the interpretation of writers. I love being associated with those values and the opportunity to play with creativity.


How do you deal with writer's block?

I find that writing comes and goes for me in spurts. There are lots of dry wells, some wells that are productive but not outstanding, and occasionally a gusher. It’s made me wonder what goes awry when my writing loses its rhythm. It is helpful for a writer to have a facility with words, but without fresh ideas and new directions, writing won’t achieve its full potential.

When I teach, I tell my students they need to commit to spend some time writing each day, even before their ideas have teased themselves into a familiar form. I provide exercises that make that instruction less formidable. When participants resist diving into a series of ten minute writing exercises, they are expressing a limiting self-belief that sounds like “I have nothing worthwhile to say, nothing worthwhile to write.” When I hear that form of resistance I recognize that a larger issue is at play. And that issue is one to which I also fall prey. When I am out of fresh ideas with my own writing, it means I haven’t been paying attention to life around me. I have missed a signal, misunderstood a gesture, ignored a warning, or been oblivious to a signpost. Relationships feel static instead of dynamic. I am in the picture but not aware of the other images.

If you were to pick out highlights from the past week, what would come to mind? I want to know what happened in one of the recent yesterdays that involved you, or you noticed or observed, or that held you in its grasp because it was totally true. I want to know how you tracked emotions, observed responses, followed behavior. How did you know when responses were spontaneous or planned, unvarnished or edited?

We want to be moved by world issues, and we want the experiences we encounter in our world to lift the hem line of life and show us more leg, reveal more life issues, and take us on a musical pathway by which we can touch on issues larger than ourselves. We want to be held in the thrall of humanity’s fight for life, for lending our shoulder to stones that need to be rolled away, and to smooth the journey for someone else – not because we need to, but because we want to – not because we should but because we can. If w achieve those goals, we can use the information learned from our encounter with writer’s block to work for us – not against us.

Download Chapter One
of Accidental Spirituality
I Almost Missed The Forsythia

as George's gift to you

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