The sun slants in my office window, turning the leaves of the orchids on the desk translucent. Though the glass, I see a thicket of dead branches with a small brown bird hopping through it. The tips of the bamboo plant wave in a stiff breeze. Further out are the roofs of neighboring houses, barren of snow now, and beyond them the dark green silhouettes of pine trees in the brilliantly blue winter sky. I hear the snores of my pug, and the whirr of the garbage truck as it makes its rounds. The furnace clicks on, then off. My computer hums.
Those are the sights and sounds that I see and hear from my office this day.
Not terribly earth shattering.
But vitally important.
Because an integral part of being a writer is learning the fine art of cultivation.
Which means, among other things, to:
–develop or improve by education or training, train, refine
–to promote the growth or development of, foster
–to devote oneself to (as an art or science)
I like to apply the word to cultivating the writer's mindset into your life. Cultivating is one of the key practices in my Writing Abundance system, because it underlies everything we as writers do. Such as:
Observing. But not just casual observation. Deep observation. Really looking at things, so that you can go home and write about them later. Looking at the different kinds of noses people have, or the way the sky looks right before a rainstorm. Imprinting these images on your mind so deeply that you can call them forth when you need them while writing.
Listening. Instead of eagerly waiting for your turn to speak, try really hearing what the other person is saying. A fine ear for dialogue is an acquired skill, and it is a handy talent for all kinds of writing. But beyond how things are being said, there's this: what, exactly, are people talking about? What are their concerns? Story ideas galore abound in the dailiness of life.
Reading. Words in, words out. Sometimes the more I read, the more I can write, I think because I need to fill myself up with words in order to spit them back out again. And then there are all the things you learn from reading. A person could teach themselves to write solely by reading, and many have.
An open mind. Ideas do not land in open minds. The perfect solution for that problem you're having in chapter seven will not appear if you're so set in your mental ways that there's no room for new thought. Stay open. Read magazines on topics you think you're not interested in, check out a random book from the library, drive home from work a different way every day. Maintain an air of avid curiosity.
Time. The major bugaboo. "But I don't have time to write!" I know, none of us do. It sucks. And yet, when we do somehow find time, flowers bloom, trees bud, the world opens to us anew. If you cultivate time, you're never going to be a writer. Period.
So, be a cultivator. Cultivate the seeds of the writer's mindset and watch your work blossom as a result. And tell me, what do you do to cultivate your writerly brain?
Photo by Thor, from Everystockphoto.