“…you cannot grow in the great art form, the integration of action and contemplation, without (1) a strong tolerance for ambiguity, (2) an ability to allow, forgive, and contain a certain degree of anxiety, and (3) a willingness to not know and not even need to know. This is how you allow and encounter mystery….” — Father Richard Rohr
Allow and encounter mystery. Collaborating with my imagination means allowing and encountering mystery. I have no idea how it works, I just know it does and that’s enough for me. I tolerate not knowing, ambiguity, and anxiety in order to participate in this collaboration because I know it works, it’s fun, and it is deeply satisfying.
Above my desk is a post-it in light green and on it I’ve written “TRUST in the PROCESS.” Let go of control. Play. Trust my imagination. As I’ve been working on Perceval’s Shadow this past week, I’ve realized that my imagination demands that I tell Evan Quinn’s story even if it takes me five novels to do it and a totally unknown amount of time. That is certainty I’ve not felt before. It rides on a sense that even though I’ve been away from Evan and his story for a while, he has not gone anywhere, but has waited patiently for me to return. I find this both reassuring and spooky.
Then today, as I was digging through my pile of notes for things to write at this blog, I found the quote above, and a list entitled “Lessons Learned from a Private Investigator” without attribution. I suspect I’d saved the latter because of the note about the website where the writer had found the list: Diligentiagroup.com. This website is for a private investigation business in New York that also has a blog. The writer, a mystery writer, noted that he/she spent a lot of time researching websites, blogs, and books by police, agents and private investigators for her/his writing and had found this particular website’s blog. The list could be also titled “Lessons Learned from My Years as a Writer.” Here’s the list:
- Always be learning. Learn by doing and observing others.
- Know thyself. Know your strengths and where you need help, and don’t be shy about either.
- Differentiate yourself. Don’t be ordinary. Create a brand.
- Authenticity. Being genuine and authentic is very attractive these days when the world is wrought with fake and “Buy my book.”
- Stick to your principles. Be honest and straightforward. Protect your reputation.
- Be helpful. Good things happen when you lend a helping hand.
- Don’t be everything to everyone. Pick your genre, find your readership base, and avoid trying to write for every reader out there.
- Do work you are proud of. If you write slow, so be it. If you write Christian, erotica, YA, whatever the style, voice, genre, own it.
- You are never the smartest or dumbest person in the room. Ask questions. Learn more. Help others do the same.
- Don’t stop thinking of new ideas. You’re in a creative environment, and change is happening all around you. Be constantly seeking ways to be unique.
- Adapt. This industry changes fast. Roll with that change.
- Embrace technology. Yes, that means learning ways to publish, brand, and network, whether you like it or not.
- Follow the facts. Make decisions or form opinions based upon fact, not rumors, gossip, innuendos, or half-truths.
- Be inspired. Be aware of the world around you.
- Do great work. Don’t shortchange the quality of your writing.
- Be skeptical. Operate with a critical eye. Don’t fall for the latest class, how-to, software, or book that claims to teach you the perfect way to (fill in the blank).
- Persistence. Probably the most important of the list, persistence carries you through those times when you think you should not be writing.
And then I would add two more, two very specific things:
- Read everything but especially read what you love because that is what you will write. I learn something from every novel, essay, poem, short story, or nonfiction book I read.
- Write something everyday. Even if it’s only a paragraph in your journal or a letter to a friend, write, write, write.
If you haven’t already found it, here’s my job description for a creative writer.
Keep writing, learning, and growing!