2022: Setting Writing Intentions
A couple of days ago, I took an online writing workshop run by American writer, Vanessa Martir. I did a free workshop of hers a while back (and meant to double down with the paid version, but got distracted) and when this one popped up in my feed I signed up, not least because it wasn’t expensive (US$30) and I like the way she structures her classes. Vanessa sends through pre-class readings, which are discussed in the workshop and there are timed writing/thinking sessions to prompts (maximum of five minutes). Given that I’ve pretty much lost my mojo, I figured taking a class titled Master Manifesting: Setting Writing Intentions for 2022 couldn’t hurt. It was was two hours well spent, and I’ll take you through the big picture process of setting my intentions, what I achieved and why I have a house as the feature image for this post.
Prompt #1: Why am I taking this workshop?
Good question indeed, and here was my response:
I need to get unblocked. I think about writing, but I don’t do much (unless it’s income related). I feel like my ideas have dried up OR the ones I have aren’t worth writing about OR my ideas are too painful to explore, and I don’t know where to start. I used to be a prolific writer a couple of years ago, but my mojo is missing in action.
Setting intentions #1 for me
Start an ideas notebook, along the lines of James Altucher’s Guide to Becoming an Ideas Machine.
Prompt #2 : Who is a writer I admire?
This question was asked to identify mentors and help with a framework around practice. Here’s my writing idol.
In my main genre (creative non-fiction/personal essays), there are many great writers, but one reigns supreme. Cheryl Strayed, and this is why:
- Her writing is deep, connected, raw and cathartic
- She’s not afraid to dig deep, get into it and reveal intimate, painful, private details
- She examines and dissects the human condition, and what it means to be human and flawed
- She taught me that you can “sit with your stuff” and still find peace
- She discusses and explores without sermonising
- Her vulnerability is her strength.
Setting intentions #2 for me
Read more of Cheryl’s work (or reread) and study how she formulates her pieces.
Prompt #3: What do I like about this writer?
This question was asked to identify areas to work on with our practices. Here is why Cheryl Strayed is my writing hero, and this is not a complete list by any stretch of the imagination:
- She plays with structure and form, semantics and word choice to support what she is writing about
- I admire her use of repetition to lead draw the reader into the rhythm and flow of the writing
- She creates a safe space for the reader even though what she writes about is uncomfortable
- She uses visual cues to create an emotional connection.
Setting intentions #3 for me
Prompt #4: What self-talk is sabotaging you?
This was an aside in the workshop, but the important topic of self-sabotage came up. This is what I tell myself:
No one cares what I about my writing therefore there’s no point writing about anything therefore I won’t write because there’s no point because no one cares.
(This feeds into the Your own mother didn’t love you, so why should/would anyone else message that I’ve lived with most of my life. Writing The Mother Wound was the first class I took of Vanessa’s. And in 2017, I took her 52 Personal Essays challenge, although I wrote 26ish.)
Setting intentions #4 for me
Turn this around and when I write change the perspective to: Why do I care?
Prompt #5: What’s your writing metaphor?
Using interviews with writers about their process as the jumping off point, I created a metaphor that I can use for my own writing process, and it’s a house. This metaphor works for me because:
- I’m essentially a homebody and love being at home
- I love to travel and explore but I always have a stable, secure, familiar and safe base to come back to
- Houses have strong foundations on which everything is built
- Houses have basements that can contain dark secrets
- Cupboards are places where things can be stored or compartmentalised to be used later
- Nourishment is there, in your pantry, fridge or garden
- My cat is a source of unconditional love, and part of my home
- Windows let in light, and the breeze through open doors and windows is cleansing, cathartic
- My house keeps unwelcome visitors out, and I can invite people who I choose in.
Setting intentions #5 for me
When I am writing, use the house as a metaphor to help with the process.
Prompt #6: Finding my hum
Using Shonda Rhimes’ TED Talk, I created a list of things that makes me hum, where I’m in the moment, where I feel effortlessly energised, where I recharge:
- Running and riding my bike
- Getting lost in a story (film, series or book)
- Learning about and exploring different ideas and perspectives
- Deep conversations and connections
- Travelling solo to new destinations and different cultures
- Being connected to my community
- Making things/crafting
- Music from my childhood through to my forties
- Road trips
- My cat, chickens and garden.
Setting 12 intentions for 2022
So out of this work, came a number of doable and feasible intentions for my writing in practice in 2022:
- Experiment with different kinds of essays
- Read one book a month about craft e.g. Creating the Personal Essay, Tell it Slant, Guide to Writing Flash Non-Fiction
- Read more of what interests/inspires me in terms of what I want to write e.g. Catapult, The Rumpus, Havok
- Read and write more poetry, learn more about using poetry in my writing e.g. CalArts’ Poetry Workshop
- Choose readings that demonstrate the common literary devices, and write using/experimenting with each of them
- Create a vision board
- Create a bucket list of publications, and actually pitch and submit to call-outs!
- Ideate daily
- Take more writing classes e.g. Wesleyan University’s Coursera
- Go somewhere unfamiliar once a month and photograph it.
- Publish every two weeks from 4, 5 and 8
- Dream big! Publish my novel and memoir about living in Vietnam.
I will come back and visit and amend this throughout 2022, to see how I’m tracking and remind myself that I might be treading water – bearing in mind I am going back to university this year – but there are still things I want to achieve with my writing.
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Picture credit: Pixabay