The dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille said:
Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.
Leaping in the dark can leave you bruised. Inventing stories and acting on them can have you jumping to conclusions. But leaping in the dark can also take you somewhere you never imagined. Guesswork is artwork. And besides, isn’t it the job of writers, especially fiction writers, to invent stories and jump to conclusions? Continue reading “Guesswork is artwork”
Carolyn O’Hara breaks down the components of great storytelling in this 2014 article from the Harvard Business Review. Continue reading “6 Essential Lessons for All Storytellers”
Hands up if you add too many items to your to-do list each day.
You might feel frustrated that you’re “not accomplishing anything.” The real issue is that you’re not prioritizing tasks.
I’ve experimented with numerous approaches to the to-do list over the years, and finally settled on a simple format that works. Continue reading “The only to-do list you need”
Kate Harris has won the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize (Nonfiction) for her debut memoir, Lands of Lost Borders. Of Lands of Lost Borders, judge Michael Harris said, Continue reading “Kate Harris wins the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize”
In their classic book on making art (or avoiding the process), Art & Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland outline the merits of using your work as a litmus test for your commitment:
Look at your work and it tells you how it is when you hold back or when you embrace. When you are lazy, your art is lazy; when you hold back, it holds back; when you hesitate, it stands there staring, hands in its pockets. But when you commit, it comes on like blazes.
How are you holding back or embracing your work at the moment? How can you increase your commitment to your project, or accept that you’re flogging a dead horse?
Humans tend to favour analogical reasoning—we regularly look for the similarities between two or more unlike things or systems (compare reasoning from first principles). But when is relying on analogy a problem, and does doing so prevent us from living in the moment and engaging deeply with our writing?
In Rob Walker’s new book, which is full of strategies for paying attention, he quotes the poet Marie Howe: “It hurts to be present.” He explains that line more fully in a recent episode of Hurry Slowly, when he refers to making “metaphor-free observations.”
Rob believes that inexperienced writers use metaphor as “a distancing act.” But, he says,
to be truly present requires punching through these kinds of distancing techniques that we use as a matter of course, and be really in touch with what’s actually there.
We know that being present (or mindful) can result in more happiness, connection, innovation, and productivity. But being present is not always easy, and can expose us to uncomfortable truths—that’s why it hurts. Continue reading “It hurts to be present”
You feel like you should finish your book—you’ve already sunk so much time and energy into it.
But your old techniques for productivity aren’t working anymore.
Your story isn’t going anywhere—no purpose, no horizon.
And you hate your manuscript. Like, really, truly, loathe it. Continue reading “When the horse dies, get off”