5 secrets to good writing (& a good life)

I must admit I am rather s l o w l y returning to reality after spending a full glorious week relaxing by the sea.  But as we were making our way home over the weekend, I got to thinking about life and writing, and how many lessons I have learned through my writing practice that have also been lessons I apply to living a good life. To be an artist is a special way of being, I have always believed that to be true, and the more closely we explore our creativity, the more life secrets we discover.

With that in mind, I thought I would share the top five ways writing has awakened me to a fuller, happier, more expressive life:

1. Writing has taught me the intimate, critical skill of listening. When we think of writing, we tend to think about a person who has things to say, and while that is of course true, it is equally true that in order to be able to say something worthwhile, you have to spend a great deal of time listening first. Listening to yourself, to your inner voice. Listening for the poem within so you can understand its message before you know how to craft her lines. Listening to the world happening around you, listening to other people. Listening to nature with your whole being. Listening by reading the works of fellow creatives. Listening longer and more attentively than most other people do is a beautiful way to cultivate a writing practice and a life rich in meaning.

2. First drafts are a lot like beginning anything that scares or intimidates you. The only way to break through the paralyzing perfectionism is to just keep writing through the mess to get to the gold. As Anne Lamott so brilliantly puts it: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” Don’t judge— just write. Beginning is the hardest part. You don’t have to know everything before you start, just start anywhere. Move. Decide. Jump in.

3. Both pain and pleasure can be wellsprings of creativity. Always approach them both with love and respect, and pay attention to how they manifest within you. This is how empathy is nurtured, and all writing, all art, all connection, all life, can only benefit from an increase in deeply empathetic humans.

4. Cherish the elders. There are people who have come before you and paved the way for you. Learn about them. Be grateful and humble in their presence. Spend time with them regularly because to listen and learn from their achievements, disappointments, triumphs, struggles, stories and traditions is a sacred gift. Their contributions are holy ground. There are certain secrets to life that will always be true. Learn what is timeless and honor it.

5. Good writing has its own rhythm and pace, so does a good, authentic life. Every writer, every artist, has her own unique voice and style. When I first started out writing, I was sort of taking bits of those I admired and imitating them, trying their styles on for size. Eventually though, I discovered my own flow and rhythm that felt like “home” and I found my own voice by becoming more accepting of my own limitations and talents. All of which is simply to say: Find your groove and let it guide you. You are already wiser than you think.

Also? Coffee. Even if everything else falls to dust, coffee is really the secret to the good writing and the good, good life. 🙂

Until next time, I’m sending you so much love & gratitude eternal,

Allison Marie

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