Be a Writer You Admire
Earlier this week I posted the following in Writing Out Loud Sisterhood, a Writing Women’s Lives Facebook group:
“This morning on the way to an annual check-up I caught the tail end of an NPR report about children and self-confidence. The report stated that when children dress up as one of their heroes–Wonder Woman, for example–they do much better on school work and tests than when they are dressed as ‘themselves.’ It’s as if donning the costume of their favorite character infuses them with this character’s qualities and strengths and confidence. The minute the report ended I thought, ‘I’m going to be Joan Didion this week.’ Why? Because I want to take my writing super-seriously, especially during this busy time of year. I want to see myself as a writer first and foremost, and I want to remember that my writing is my work and I want to assume my own productivity.”
I’d recently watched Netflix’s new Joan Didion documentary The Center Will Not Hold so, yeah, Joan Didion was on my mind, especially her commitment to her work, which to my mind doubles as a commitment to herself: through her writing she became Joan Didion.
But there was something more than that. One of my writing challenges is staying connected to my writing—i.e., to myself—when other responsibilities vie for my time and attention (hello, December). It’s as if when I am under pressure, my plate overflowing with “to-dos,” I become tempted to “let go” of my writing until I meet my other obligations; I conveniently “forget” that letting go of my writing is letting go of my sense of being Marilyn Bousquin in this world.
In other words, this is a place where I can go unconscious—this worn habit of losing myself to silence—in my conscious writing practice. I know this about myself, which is why, of course, I am so attracted to Joan Didion’s unwavering commitment to her writing; indeed, when under pressure, she turns toward her writing, which is why we have Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights, memoirs about her husband’s death and her daughter’s death, respectively.
The women in the Writing Out Loud Sisterhood—as well as women on the Writing Women’s Lives main Facebook page—are naming the writers they intend to “be” this week. They’re listing the qualities these writers possess that they themselves wish to embody. Why is this so powerful? Because naming the qualities you aspire to in your writing imbues them with your intention, which is first step to incorporating them into your conscious writing practice.
Care to join us in “playing the part” of a writer whose confidence and sense of self you aspire to as a writer? Who is the writer you choose to “be” in your writing as you make your way through this notoriously busy month? What qualities do you wish to cultivate in yourself and in your conscious writing practice?
You may just find that the qualities you admire in another writer are the very qualities you are ready to fully realize in yourself and in your writing practice.
P.S. As soon as I posted that I intended to “be” Joan Didion this week, I looked up and saw this photo of Maya Angelou that sits on the sill above my desk, and I thought, Wait, I want to “be” Maya Angelou, too! Why? Dr. Angelou recovered her voice from a silence that resulted from childhood sexual abuse—she literally did not speak for five years afterwards. And yet this “phenomenal” woman went on to become a prolific memoirist and stake her claim in this world by telling her story through writing and speaking her truth. So, this week, I’m “being” Joan Didion; next week I’ll “be” Maya Angelou. No need to limit yourself to one writer!