I struggle with my commitment to writing. When I worked as a journalist it was easier. I would walk through my day on the look out for good stories, for juicy tidbits, for possible leads, gather all those pieces and head to my desk for some mad writing.
As a fiction writer, the habit of looking has fallen to the wayside, and as a result my writing has suffered. This came to my attention recently after I reread The Bhagavad Gita. I first read it as an undergrad, one of those “require” texts, but this time I was inspired by so much of the content, especially the idea of immersion.
Out of curiosity, I looked up immerse in my thesaurus and came up with words like drown, fully saturate, baptize, and steep. This, I thought, as I flipped back through the pages of the Gita, is what I have been missing in my writing.
The Bhagavad Gita is about a prince who faces a great battle between two peoples. In the face of the battle, he finds himself unable to act. Gita, who is God personified, talks with the prince and throughout the 700-verses, they speak about everything from spiritual monism to transcendentalism, and cover the concepts of yogi and dharma. It is a profound piece of writing, said to have inspirited Thoreau, T.S. Eliot, and Ghandi.
It has swept through the ages, as all good literature does, touching and changing. In it, the concept of dharma is spoken about in the context that dharma is a purpose in life. Whether or not you believe your life has an over arching purpose, the power behind the dharma principle is that whatever you are doing, do it so fully as to leave no room for any other endeavor. According to Gita, by doing this, the universe will align with your purpose thereby come to your aide.
I am not sure if the principle actually applies in such a straightforward way, but it did put me in mind of Stephen King’s On Writing. I went to my bookshelf and pulled out my copy, not opened for a good five years. In this book he also talks about giving writing your all. His 2,000 words even on his birthday and 4th of July are indicators of a purpose that he gives all his time to. He is committed to his writing and has immersed himself completely.
Whether or not this has led to his bestselling status, I have no idea, but according to the Gita it has played a significant role. And King says “when you find something at which you are talented, you do it… until your fingers bleed and your eyes are ready to fall out of your head.” Commit completely.
Armed with the Gita and with King, I set out to find ways to immerse myself in writing.
- Read. A lot. This should be a no brainer, straight from King’s mouth actually, but I never thought about it in the context of writing. I read all the time. I have master’s degree in literature after all and I love to read; however, my reading is rather narrowly focused. I have decided to branch out. Right now I am reading a book that I got in the romance section at the library. When I am done with that, I am going to read a Young Adult book.
- Carry a notebook. I realize that most writers have heard this one, but how many of us actually do it? I bought a small, green-colored, hard-bound notebook. I write in an observation every day, even if it is right before I go to bed. It is habit forming and I find that the habit is forming, albeit slowly.
- Describe random things, out loud, to yourself. I was struck in traffic the other day. I proceeded to describe the cars around me as if I were writing those descriptions down in a story. Seeing the things around you as if you were going to write them down is an interesting experience, and one that is easily added to your daily routine.
- Immerse yourself in your current project. If you can, visit the places that you are writing about. Even if you are writing about a galaxy far, far away, your characters still do things that people on Earth do. Live as they do, if only for five minutes and only doing something as simple as taking a shower.
- Call yourself a writer. Even if you have never been published, haven’t written but a handful of things that have all landed in the trash, labeling yourself a writer is a powerful tool. If you write, you are a writer.
Taking the Next Step
There really is not a next step. This is the writing life: commit and immerse. Trying to do so is only going to make you a better writer, and just maybe the Universe will get busy and start helping out.