Beginner’s Mind

Sometimes, as a professional writer, I worry too much about product and don't focus enough on process.

Yes, I need to worry about outcomes–my income depends on it.  So it would seem to be a no-brainer to focus on it.

Over the years of practicing writing every day, you get better at the game.  The words flow a bit more easily and not quite so much rewriting and polishing is necessary. 

It is easy to begin focusing on product, not process, because that product appears so much faster.

There are two prime keys to creativity in writing:

1.  Process, not product

2.  Do the work, don't judge it.

I learned both of these at a creativity camp I took with Julia Cameron, she of the Artist's Way.  And back then, when I was a beginning writer, I practiced them constantly.  And then I got better.  And then I started writing professionally.

And then I forgot these lessons.

I forgot the prime keys to creativity.

And writing got less amusing, less free, less wild.  It got more constrained, more anxious, more blocked.

I figured this out in my novel writing, where suddenly I was second guessing every word I put on the page and going back over everything I'd written a million times rather than just sailing through a rough draft.

I figured it out when the novel writing got un-fun.

And now I've gone back to beginner's mind.  I've gone back to focusing on process and doing the work without judging it.

And life is good.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Assess where you are in your writing. Do you need to rethink your process?

I'd love to hear your take on this.  Are  you utilizing the two prime keys in your writing?  Or have you gotten anxious and constrained?


13 Responses to Beginner’s Mind

  1. Patrick Ross 05/18/2012 at 04:01 #

    First of all, kudos for having taken a Julia Cameron workshop. I’m envious. (I’m even more envious of James Nave, a VCFA alum I’ve now met who co-led workshops with her in NM for many years!)

    I will confess I don’t think I’ve thought about this process vs. product much in any conscious way, but I’m going to focus on that distinction now a bit more going forward. Thanks.

  2. Charlotte Dixon 05/18/2012 at 08:25 #

    Patrick, Nave co-led the workshop I attended, so I know him, too!  He is an amazing poet and performer, actually taught a class in projecting our presence.  I believe that the idea of process, not product might grow out of the art world.  There's a famous book written for artists whose name of course escapes me that talks about it quite a bit.  Thanks, as always, for coming by, Patrick.

  3. Elizabeth Westmark 05/18/2012 at 11:44 #

    “Do the work, don’t judge it.” I’m taping that nugget to the bathroom mirror where I brush my teeth every morning first thing.

    Too often, I’m judge, jury and executioner before the work is halfway done. Thanks for this, Charlotte.

  4. Charlotte Dixon 05/18/2012 at 11:49 #

    I think all of us creative types struggle with critical judgment!  Glad this thought is helpful to you.  Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Melissa Marsh 05/18/2012 at 12:47 #

    Oh goodness. I’ve allowed myself to become anxious and constrained a LOT over the past few years. I need to get off this crazy train because it’s sucking the joy out of writing for me. Instead of looking forward to it, I almost dread sitting down at the computer. It didn’t used to be like that for me. I can so relate to Elizabeth’s comment above. I am entirely too judgemental of myself, and it’s not just my writing life, either. I have been recovering for six weeks from a hysterectomy surgery and this last week I finally felt good enough to start taking my long walks again. And what do I do? Start berating myself for gaining weight during that month I was in bed! Ridiculous. I think I need some sort of intervention. LOL

  6. Charlotte Dixon 05/18/2012 at 13:48 #

    Oh, Melissa, we are all our own worst enemies, aren't we?  I know that I tend to judge myself much more harshly than everyone around me does, both personally and in my writing.  So you're not the only one.  Best wishes on a continued recovery from your surgery!

  7. Karen Phillips 05/18/2012 at 14:45 #

    Charlotte, thank you so much for helping me remember to just get to work and stop listening to my inner critic. I’m going to let my inner critic paint the front porch this weekend; maybe she’ll leave my writing alone until I get started on the second draft.

  8. Patrick Ross 05/18/2012 at 15:14 #

    Always happy to visit. I wonder how many other creatives we’ve both crossed paths with, physically or digitally?

    Speaking of, your blog led “Beth Lives Here” to mine, so gracias!

  9. Charlotte Dixon 05/18/2012 at 15:22 #

    Karen, sounds like painting the porch is a great job for your inner critic.  Good luck with your writing this weekend!

  10. Charlotte Dixon 05/18/2012 at 15:23 #

    You're very welcome and I love how you and I travel in the same circles!  So glad that Beth found her way to your blog, she's great!

  11. J.D. 05/18/2012 at 17:17 #

    Hi Charlotte,
    Maybe sports is related to writing after all. I heard a football player say something similar to what you have above, something his coach had told him: It’s less about the destination and more about the journey.

  12. Philip V Bernier-Smith 05/30/2012 at 08:55 #

    once upon a time there was a huge wall in a land where people had once been prolific writers. Many champion heroes of the mighty pen had waged war against it -rather like the Dragon and St George but to less avail. One bright morning when no one was paying any attention at all and butterflies and birds were singing among spring flowers or in the case of birds annoying worms who were attempting to sleep in the deep green grass. A young child armed with a box of crayola’s fearlessly approached the wall and began to scribble on it. Great arcs of language yet unformed flew from his crayons and he left his mark on the Huge Writers Block for the world to see. Well of course after this everyone was amazed. Critics and Pundits weighed in to examine and discourse on his creative problem solving to a situation of drawing a blank that the whole community had suffered from for ever. When sought for the young author could not be reached for comment, he had crawled off in search of another fresh wall.

  13. Charlotte Dixon 05/30/2012 at 09:22 #

    I love it.  Maybe what we all really need is a fresh box of crayons.  Burnt Sienna, anyone?
    TITLE: Beitrag lesen
    BLOG NAME: Beitrag lesen
    DATE: 01/27/2013 03:56:03 PM
    Beginner’s Mind – Charlotte Rains Dixon

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