Last update: 06:45, 11/02/21


It's Only Words...

Lessons learnt from a year of writing - use this post as a basis. (The lessons have grown!)

Unfinished business with the #write365 project. Always wanted to re-purpose the posts in some fashion, build on them.

Was meant to be just focused on the one year but that cannot really be taken in isolation. The year is a metaphor, or a representation of life as a whole.

  • continued lessons as I read and write and discover
  • dealing with mental health issues and how that intersects with the writing

# A journey of self discovery (or, perhaps, realisation) and admitting to my mental health issues.

It becomes so much more than about writing.

# The lessons:

  • we become our own inspiration
    • being creative opens the flood gates, we give ourselves ideas by getting in the right mindset
    • we allow ourselves to be open to ideas, we get the mental wheels turning
    • Review - "I subconsciously adhere to a certain style and this style influences subsequent thoughts: a feedback loop"
    • Philip José Farmer - "Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got."
    • Jack London - "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
    • The social paradox - "The more we create the more creative we grow to be." & "Creation becomes habitual and we find ourselves overwhelmed with thoughts and concepts"
    • The Messenger -

    Those moments where an idea spontaneously materialises fully formed and transfers itself from mind to screen amaze and astound me.

    These moments make me feel like little more than a conduit, a channel for these nuances of thought to share themselves with the world and I ask myself "why me?"

    It is as though these ideas are physical manifestations, they exist in their own right and have just been looking for a way to get from A to B.

    By writing have I made myself more receptive? Do they seek the path of least resistance and I am no more than a lightening rod providing these wondrous sparks with the quickest route to ground?

  • balance & burn out
    • the irony of self-applied pressure when trying to escape perfectionism
    • writing every day is not so much an issue, so what if it's rubbish, but knowing you'll be hitting publish adds another layer
    • Being ill - "frustration at inability to conjure more than meandering stream of words" but THAT was always the intent, not to be perfect
    • "We must acknowledge and accept that not every moment will be life changing, not every idea will be ground breaking"
  • writing is like any other habit
    • it can be hard to get going, rewarding while we are doing it, but easy to fall off the wagon
    • Back on the horse - "it's a lot easier to fall out of a habit than to form one."
    • Perhaps not doing something becomes just as much as of a habit as doing it. Perhaps, once the habit is broken it becomes harder to reestablish it due to an underlying sense of failure
    • James Clear - Atomic Habits — it's not the time that makes a habit but the repetition
  • big ideas are simply made up of lots of little ideas
    • the project was a big idea, there's no way I could do it all in one go but just by turning up each day with a little idea it was completed
    • I keep telling myself I'm a little ideas person but the project shows that I am capable of bigger things - I just have to believe
  • writing changes people
    • good and bad
    • the writer and the reader
    • related to writing finds the truth
  • we should all write
    • I believe that everyone should write/type/narrate if they are able
    • getting your thoughts down lets you see things for what they really are rather than getting stuck in your own head
  • everything is derivative
    • there is no such thing as truly original thought
    • wait for perfect rather than demean ourselves with something derivative
    • March to your own beat - {{}} "The more we read, the easier it is for us to write or think things we think are original but that are actually derived from other people’s heads.
      - reading is an occupational hazard. We are told to read to become better writers but how much of what we consume ends up influencing us, even if unintentionally?
    • The fires of imagination

    We absorb so much information from different sources, much of it subliminally. We subconsciously process this and extrapolate on it to form ideas and opinions.
    Much of what we absorb lies dormant, unbeknownst even to us, waiting - waiting for the right time to show itself.

    Perhaps we need the input of others, their contributions, to reawaken what sleeps inside, to reignite the fires of imagination that smoulder within.

    We need to reminded of everything we once learnt but didn't realise, everything we need to complete our train of thought.

    • Nothing new - "...our stories have been told for millennia, since before we could ever write or build or type. They were handed down, one generation to the next, father to soon and mother to daughter and teacher to student ... There has always been talk, always been conversations; there is nothing new under the sun only new ways of doing it."

    • Conclusions - WHOLE POST

    Sometimes I want nothing more than to read and research, link to resources and paste quotations.

    Multiple strands weaved together to fashion a coherent whole.

    But then there are those occasions when I will avoid everything, shut myself off from social and the web. I want to capture the thought as it comes to me without outside influence.

    I want it to remain pure and unadulterated as I know that exposing myself to the thoughts of another will twist it, turn it away from its original path and meaning.

    Even when serendipity dictates that different people are simultaneously arriving at the same place it doesn't mean they are travelling down the same road.

    We take our own routes, see unique sights and explore different avenues. These are the times that we want to experience the journey for ourselves rather than rely on the stories of others.

    We don't want to be rude or distant, even if it might come across like it. We just want to make our own conclusions.

    • Explaining -

    Tolkien once wrote of his influences:

    "An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience, but the ways in which a story-germ uses the soil of experience are extremely complex, and attempts to define the process are at best guesses from evidence that is inadequate and ambiguous."

    There are the times when influence is obvious, when we regale stories from our past or use events as a direct template for what we create.

    But, as Tolkien suggests, everything we experience is taken into ourselves and we can never be exactly sure what effect it will have upon us in later life.

  • identity is fluid/transient
    • a common theme across a number of posts, the notion of change - always in the "now"
    • that we are a fixed version of us is an unachievable ideal, we change, we grow, our opinions morph over time based on life experiences
    • it would be nice to think that we can provide a definitive "us" but that cannot happen
    • "Just as we evolve so concepts, meanings and understandings evolve with us. We attribute new properties to even basic entities as we realise that they are part of a far wider interplay than we at first imagined."
    • "What we are never changes. Who we are never stops changing."
    • Branding - "We mould ourselves to situation, circumstance and environment, only revealing a part of ourselves, albeit always a different part and of a different size, even to those closest to us."
    • novels or short stories:

    We tend to think of ourselves as one identity, a consistent projection or manifestation of who we are whilst simultaneously growing and evolving as experiences contribute to that projection.

    We see our lives as one story arc: birth > life > death.

    We see our stories as one giant novel comprised of different chapters, each event following on from the last in perfect sequence: action > reaction > conclusion.

    We string together these events as though they have temporal significance, as though their placement in our story affects everything that follows and, of course, the eventual outcome.

    • As much as we attempt to fashion our narrative we have no one true story, an autobiographical truth that serves us completely from beginning to end.
    • Redirection - Susan Sontag: "I write to define myself - an act of self creation - part of the process of becoming"
    • Interestingly, Sontag is also quoted as saying: "I've never fancied the ideology of writing as therapy or self-expression. " - an intriguing contradiction
    • Existence - By changing our context are we truly still us?
    • {{}} - "Can you leave behind your past self? All the incarnations? All the You-versions that existed? They’re not real anymore. They don’t live, except when you give them permission."

    • Identity and ephemerality

      _ identity is transient and evolving: as experience changes us so we become new instances of ourselves and the notion of a static identity goes out the window. Indeed, if we try to maintain one we are deceiving ourselves, trying to play a consistent role that cannot possibly exist after enough change._

      It would be like trying to recite a part in a play when the other actors have received new scripts or the dramatis personae has been altered.

      We mean to be true to ourselves but what does that actually mean when ourselves is a moving target? Is it a contradiction? How can we be true to something that is constantly changing?

      Perhaps, what we really mean is that we won't be false, won't try to be something we are not, won't try to play that role. Instead, we will just do what comes naturally, improvise with the rest of the cast - a different production every evening.

      But society demands more, society expects a degree of permanence - something to pin a label on. If our identity is ephemeral how do we accurately represent it? How do we accurately project an ongoing metamorphosis, especially when it is gradual and not always apparent, even to ourselves?

      We are forced to go against transience, to pick an aspect, a facet to polish and display over all others.

    • Tears in Rain -

      "A diary or journal isn't just an historic record, it is also for thoughts, feelings, emotions, for reflection and introspection. For all of this, however, one interesting aspect is that they are as much a product of their time as the events they are designed to record. I have written much (and often) about how we are but evolving instances of ourselves and a diary perfectly reflects this."

      "Many say that they write because a dairy is like a stranger they can tell anything without fear, without judgement but, when reading back, the analogy is curiously prophetic as the real stranger is their past self."

  • What is authenticity?
    • Who are we, really? What is authentic or true when we project different façades of ourselves to different people or groups?
    • Allow yourself to be you - "the identity paradox"
    • The imposition of self - is being eccentric (different, at odds with normal) actually being authentic because we are not forcing ourselves to conform
    • is eccentricity merely the abandonment of pretence?
    • "The imposition of authenticity is the imposition of the self."
    • Authenticity - "We are constantly trying to work out in our own minds who we are. Taking this into consideration perhaps authenticity is transient based on our own self image. We act in accordance with our nature but if that nature changes so do our words, actions, beliefs. This may be seen as inauthentic from the outside but is it? Not if we are being true to ourselves."
  • writing has a way of getting to the truth with or without your abettance
    • Stephen King - "Fiction is the truth inside the lie."
    • Opportunity - "By writing you can find that you are consistently at odds with ... yourself"
    • Addiction -

      In the past, when saying enough to one particular behaviour, I have felt the need to "fill my time" with something else as if there was a void, an emptiness within me that required filling. With anything. Just so that I could feel whole.

      I have felt that there was something missing, that I was somehow incomplete and, therefore, not good enough. It was as though I needed something to boost my self confidence, as though I was searching for a reason to exist.

      I joked yesterday that writing was almost like a drug now; the truth of this jest is actually quite close to the knuckle.

    • Painful truths -

      This is the curse of the introspective introvert - living in here (taps head) and not being able to see what others see, how they perceive you. Not being able to live out there.

      Some call it being self-absorbed or in your own little world.

      The hard part about it is that it is not intentional, there is never a desire to hurt or offend and the painful truth is that you don't know you're doing it, don't realise exactly how it affects others, how you leave them feeling shut out when you just consider it normal.

      It's hard to break out of the confines of your own head ...

      I look at the #write365 project, see how it has developed, what has been covered, and can't help but wonder if this is just another symptom. Perhaps even a cry for help - an attempt to reach out from inside my own head under the pretence of forming a writing habit.

    • Displacement - "... the transference of emotion from one thing, or person, to another."

      If there is one thing of which I can accuse myself it is hiding in plain sight: employing generalisation rather than the specific.

      We and our instead of me and my.

      Inconsistent acknowledgement of faults and failings by projecting them on to a wider audience. Denying the personal by making it public.
      ... Maybe the truth is sometimes too uncomfortable to face head on and must be sweetened, flavoured, to be made palatable.

    • Lies - "We have to admit to our failings or they will try to eat us up from the inside ... no matter how badly we get hurt it is the pain we cause others that does the most damage and the guilt we have to live with for doing so."

    • Artificial - "They may not make riveting reading or be particularly thought provoking but they _are the most revealing, the most transparent and provide the best insight into the mind of the individual."_

    • leads in to...
  • writing is both a trigger and therapy

    • the project became a public therapy session in places but what came out also triggered mental health issues at the time and later
    • Hope - Depression is an easy way out, a ready made excuse, a reason for failure that doesn't demand you try.
    • sharing introverted musings can be difficult as we are having to effectively translate our own chaotic thoughts into something more conducive to public consumption - exposing our thoughts and processes to an audience initiates an observer effect
    • Too much -

      Is too much introspection a dangerous thing? Can we go too deep and become lost along the way?

      Do we cause more harm than good?

      Do we search for things that aren't there and convince ourselves that they are?

      Psychological hypochondriacs taking the slightest nuance of thought or behaviour and creating a syndrome.

      We know ourselves better than anyone else but have to be honest with that knowledge or we suffer at the hands of our own deceptions.

      The very act of introspection alters us in ways that we might not realise and, with that in mind, what we think we know may no longer be valid but how far do we chase the white rabbit?

    • Creative despair

    my eldest daughter quoted from the Uberfacts Twitter account that writers are, apparently, 121% more likely to be bipolar than non-creative types. My wife replied "Yep, Dad writes."

    That kind of says it all.

    • also: the fine lines between genius and insanity or pain and pleasure ... but there is also one that sits between creativity and despair.

    {{}} The Dark Side of Creativity

    • Edvard Munch - "My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art."

    • Lloyd Alexander: "Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it." That is exactly how I felt about the Write365 project. The only problem was that understanding it was a double-edged sword. (Used in Chapter 1 but link back here.)

  • the difficulty of "living what we write" - especially when mental health issues intervene (see below)

  • everything has become defined by the project, it is the one success I have achieved and I compare everything else to it

"Above all, write for the love of it." - Steve Kunzer

# Words, everything comes back to words.

# morning pages & daily gratitude logs

# My thoughts in "Stupid" about clearing mental detritus - same sentiments as with morning pages but years before I knew what morning pages were.

# what does blogging provide or allow you to do that other forms of communication don't?

  • "be the version of us we are rarely fortunate enough to be"

# what is the attraction of exposing your soul, your hopes and fears to complete strangers on the internet?

  • validation?

# "writing is like any other habit" but even once you have established that habit it is still hard to string words together into a meaningful cohesion. The old adage "turn up even when you don't feel like it" has never been so true as for writing. You have to throw words down even if they are garbage. Like writing the morning pages, sometimes, getting the rubbish out of the way will reveal some good stuff underneath, you just have to scrape away the crud to see it.

# Thoughts from Pocket Psychology - "We have to be storytellers but also an audience. We have to be authoritative but admit when we know nothing. We have to be outgoing but stay restrained. We must be leaders but know when to follow." That's what writing gives us.

# "3. Writing and not living what you write is a serious form of hypocrisy. Embody your words / beliefs / philosophy." - {{}}

  • I have been living that hypocrisy: writing one thing but acting another
    • We can't live by what ifs. (what if)
    • "You try, you fail, you try, you fail, but the only real failure is when you stop trying." (Haunted Mansion)
  • Self censorship - We are our own worst critics; we tell others to say whatever is on their minds and in their hearts but are ashamedly reserved ourselves.

# Where to tie in the various thoughts about the subconscious? - include in inspiration chapter

  • The Subconscious - "the secret part of you... There's a part of you that's here with me right now and there's another part of you that belongs just to you." and "The subconscious is a part of us that exists at a level that it is, for all intents and purposes, secret to us but as for belonging to us I'm not so sure ... I think we more belong to it"

  • Wandering - "...rather than my mind shutting down it had possibly gone wandering... but without me."

    • "if we sleep less do we daydream more so that our minds catch up?"
  • Mental Librarians - Do we daydream more if we sleep less? Does the mind need to catch up on its filing? ... Daydreams are stigmatised, the daydreamer considered lazy or irresponsible, but sometimes we just need to let the subconscious take over and for our mental librarians to find what we need.

  • Going with the flow - Maybe flow is the alignment of the conscious and the subconscious - those rare moments when what is inside is able to manifest in the world beyond the strict constraints of the mind; the body acting as a conduit between the physical and mental realms.

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