Writing and the idea of discipline.
Information on classes online, beginning early May.
I want to suggest a new discipline. I am of course not saying that getting yourself to the desk is not an important part of being a writer. But many of us, for many reasons—including being unsupported in a society that instills competition as a way to art and creativity—have the idea or are somehow involved in the practice of discipline as a kind of self-punishment, a daily dose of affirming some kind of deficiency, or insufficiency, that can make the work of writing feel somehow futile or pointless. A validation of a lack of worth or talent.
So, I want to suggest a new discipline as a writer, not to exclude the “sitting-at-desk-working” aspect of things. But to remind you and me, that this is what we actually want to do. Love to do!
The discipline, then, is simply this:
You are there at that desk to do your work. No one else can do your work. No one. No one else can tell the story, in the voice, that you can, that you have. No one.
So, be nice to yourself. I don’t mean, don’t be rigorous in your work, don’t work hard, don’t revise till you…well, you fill that in. Just know that you are writing what no one else can or will. And I assure you, the more you take this leap of faith, the more you believe there is an astonishment of riches within you, there is language you never knew you had, there is a vision forming every moment of your life, there are interconnected levels of truth and of artistry within you that you can bring forward, the more you affirm all this, the more you want to get to that desk, the more pleasure is there along with the terribly hard and sometimes terribly painful work, work that is yours and no one else’s.
There is no censor standing around, no critic, no big meanie, no disconnected academic, no supreme measure of good and bad. This is a profound and urgent and lovely and terrible and satisfying work and process. You all can and do make, and have made, story.
If you are looking for a place to push your work to the next step, do it online with me and a group of varied and dedicated writers, at Writers.com — rededicate yourself to bringing your writing forward, going to the next level in your craft, getting a fuller sense of the long term projects and writing goals you have, and building your writers’ community.
I will again be teaching 2 classes online for writers.com/writers on the net, beginning May 4th: Claiming Our Stories: Working with the Power of Autobiography and Autobiographical Fiction, Parts One and Two. These are each 10-week courses for writers of both memoir/creative nonfiction and fiction.
For full descriptions and registration, please go to http://www.writers.com/achtenberg.html#story
For questions about content or the workings of the class, email me at aachtenberg at gmail.com.
I will also be accepting clients for one-to-one work, long distance and in-person, on full-length projects in progress, short works, and craftwork and coaching to bring your writing forward, whether prose or poetry, fiction or nonfiction. Contact me soon to schedule our work together.
But here’s the 3rd class I will be teaching in May, one of my independent online writing workshops, beginning May 10.
If you’re interested in writing story, or already do, contact me directly at aachtenberg at gmail.com or 651-214-9248 for information on:
Finding the Real Story: The Essential Elements of Story in Fiction and Memoir
In this workshop, the first of 4 levels, we explore the essential elements of writing story for both fiction and creative nonfiction writers, and how to allow these elements to embody the deeper truths and powerful emotions which move us into writing.
We will work on discovering narrator and point of view; the unfolding of plot; letting subtext work for the story; deepening characterization; context and simultaneity; dialogue; the music of prose; the story’s metaphor; revision; and full development of your story, novel, or memoir.
We work with the mystery of human behavior in story form, to deepen characterization and discover plot rather than be constricted by it.
We will tap into the power of the visions and voices of our narrators and characters, and the mix of truth and fiction that creates a world both imagined and real. We’ll learn how to unveil and deepen the subtext of our stories, understand point of view, and use the power of metaphor. We will explore narrative summary, active scene and dialogue; begin new stories and discover ways to complete old ones.
I provide writing suggestions in every session for explorations that both free and deepen participants’ writing, and we share our work in an atmosphere supportive and challenging, tailored to the needs of each participant.
This is the first of four cycles of classes of 10 weeks each. In each cycle we will return to every element of story at a more advanced level, with more customized work for each participant. Level “One” does not mean basic, although I aim to answer questions that may not have been answered in the past about this work of writing story. It is just the beginning of my approach to all the elements of making story.
For writers at all levels of experience (and their characters, too).
These are, I believe, all fine and magical classes, solid and liberating.
Here’s the complication –
I will not be reachable for a few weeks beginning April 12. Registration for the Writers.com classes, the first 2 mentioned, is through their site, and I will aim to field any questions I can while I am away. But registration will be easily handled by Writers.com
For the Essential Elements of Story class, please contact me by email. I will get back to you most definitely before April 12th if you are in touch before. Otherwise, you may not hear from me for a while – mysterious, yes? Story there…but I will be back most definitely the 4th of May and ready to answer your questions and register you for this class.
I am blessed by the feedback of people who have worked with me to know that something quite grand often happens. And keeps happening.
My novel Blue Earth will be out August 1st. If my discipline were only harsh, it would never be. Harsh enough, but it has come together by going beyond whatever I felt was a limitation of vision.
Let’s work. Let’s write.