The more I learn to embrace my calling as a writer, and the more I read about the craft of writing, it becomes more evident to me that we are a narcissistic and introspective group. We fit into that artist category of being free-spirited, difficult to nail down, temperamental, and a little haunted by our own talent.
But in a good way.
And thatâ€™s just it: Dennis Palumbo, in his book, â€˜Writing from the Inside Out,â€™ encourages me to EMBRACE my quirkiness as a writer – the â€˜dark and twistyâ€™ Jen, to borrow a phrase from Grayâ€™s Anatomy. For it is the darkness and twistiness that provides the raw material, the grist for the mill.
I have alluded to this many times in my own writing, including this post about my boring happiness:
Life seems uninteresting these days from a blogging perspective, though it is FANTASTIC from the survival aspect. Iâ€™ve said this before, but itâ€™s easier for me to write about things Iâ€™m complaining about or struggling with. Depression? Martial strife? This is the stuff great stories are born from â€“ the setup, upset, reset. When was the last time you saw a movie about a really happy guy that led a really happy life and nothing tragic or embarrassing ever happened to him?
I think Iâ€™ve always embraced the dark and twisty Jen and recognized that it provided valuable raw material and ambiance to work with. But at the same time I think I still viewed it as a personal defect, something to overcome so I could get on to the REAL business of writing – as if writing about the dark and twisty Jen was just practice.
Palumboâ€™s book opened me up to embrace the many things I thought were supposed to be labeled as distractions, but were, on the contrary, quite therapeutic for me. Things such as the phenomenon he writes about in his chapter titled, â€˜In Praise of Goofing Off,â€™ which is about the valuable downtime a writer spends daydreaming, or reading, or reorganizing a closet. It is this time we spend allowing our thoughts to â€˜percolateâ€™ or â€˜simmer,â€™ as he puts it, that is just as necessary as the actual act of writing. â€œYouâ€™re allowing that part of the brain that creates to work unconsciously,â€ he writes, â€œfiltering and sorting, selecting and discarding.â€
It is the mystery of inspiration and the writing process.
The over-arching theme of the book is this: love what you do, because the rewards of writing wonâ€™t always come in typical or tangible success, so our reward must be IN the writing. This is not a step-by-step how-to of writing the great novel or screenplay. Rather, it is a therapeutic salve that encourages the writer to be himself, to write from his own experiences, and to find joy in the everyday mundane.