Recently I have been experimenting with writing memoir, and short stories based on memoir. I have been reading short stories by George Saunders, and books about about prose writing such as his brilliant book on the Russian Short Story, ‘A Swim in a Pond in the Rain‘. Today I read a chapter of Robert Olen Butler’s book on writing, ‘From Where You Dream.’ Olen Butler is a Pulitzer Prize winning author. The book takes the form of a series of Lectures. For him, good writing does not come from what you remember, but rather fro memories that have decomposed into the unconscious. Good writing is sensuous, not abstracted, – it has the strangeness of dreams, and needs great attention to details. This unconscious place is incredibly difficult to access; he talks about the need for a daily writing practice – that you you reach into this place daily or the doors to your unconscious will close . Olen Butler tells us he wrote three novels whilst travelling daily by train for work – he made this a dedicated writing time and space. How might you make a dedicated time or space for writing? Have objects, writing talismans, music to help you get into the space, he says.
If, like me, you have been working from home during the pandemic, and have to use the same space for writing and for work, how can you make this different in kind? How can you get into that writing space? I have a friend who get up at 6am to write for two hours before her work as a teacher, and she is writing her novel this way – I like this idea in theory! I am a bit undisciplined about writing at the moment! I say, its summer, I need time off etc, when in reality this is as good a time as any to get into stories. I also have an agreement with a friend to send a smiley face after I have done some writing each day and this also works for me on the whole – not always!!!
I have a pile of short stories and novels to read. What balance is to be had between reading and writing?