This is my second attempt at writing a blog post today. I intended to write about the insight I discovered as I wrote my Morning Pages. But as I began writing about “wild writing” or writing as a child does, I got sidetracked into a dissertation on Julia Cameron, originator of the Morning Pages process, and that spun off into a long list of her books.
Before long I had filled a page with blather that wouldn’t do Julia credit even as a catalog page and I had barely touched on the idea of ... I’d lost track of what I set out to do. I remembered wild writing and tried to get back to that, but the moment was lost.
Anyone who writes life stories is bound to run into this same problem. You begin writing about an event in your life, or a memory, and instead of talking about the taste of the turkey and what it meant to you, you’ve filled pages with descriptions of the family china, how Uncle Mark twitched his mustache when he laughed. and how that rotten cousin Tommy always set you up to get blamed for his stunts.
It’s not that the other material isn’t good and valuable, but the clutter obscures your point about the taste of the turkey. You need to crop this story, weed out the clutter, and keep the focus on the turkey. You may end up with a very short story, perhaps no more than a paragraph, but if that tiny story makes your point clear, it has achieved its purpose. More words do not a better story make.
With a little thought, you focus the story to begin with by clearly defining what you intend to write about before you start. Run through your message in your mind.Pick up an imaginary phone and explain this idea to a friend. With that clear mental image, you’ll find it easier to stick to the topic.
But you don’t always know at the outset what is important in a story. You may begin to write about one thing, and find the story is something else entirely. When you produce a rambling page, as I did this morning, ask yourself, “What is the story here? What’s the point?” Once you know what the point is, you can clear the clutter and sharpen the focus.
In my case, although I began writing about wild writing and escaping the Inner Censor, the more compelling story is about focus. I’ll get back to wild writing another day, and I’ll also write about Julia Cameron and Morning Pages another day.
Write now: about the difference in the way you feel when you are writing in focus and rambling. What makes the difference for you? State of mind? Distractions? Ambivalence? See where your writing takes you.