The Rite of the Right Way to Write


What is the right way to write?

There are a few ways, so I’ll set you aright.

First, seize your right—tis your right to write

And tis right that it’s so.

Write the sound of the birds in flight

Copy the might of the failing light

And the vast, encroaching night

Record the squabbles and the fights

The lazy arc of the summer kite

And humanity’s enduring plight

The nightmares that give you fright

And the growing season’s blight

None are too trite: W R I T E !

I don’t care, gape and stare

Note them all, bad or fair

Listen to the sounds that blare

And the subtle creak of the rocking chair

In the town square

Or in your private lair

But above all dare…

Dare to write.

Writing is the right way to write

Seize this right, and make it your rite.

Notebooks and Rusty Water

What is the best way to keep consistent and active as a writer? Well, by writing of course. This doesn’t always mean tackling your work in progress every moment of every day, but it does mean trying to write daily. My house is filled with hidden notebooks of all colors, shapes, and sizes. At any given time, my purse is holding at least one notebook, usually a small pocket size spiral bound for those elusive and profound thoughts that sometimes come while on the go—trust me, I have done my fair share of texted notes. So where is all this incoherent babbling about notebooks leading? I recently began reading Pencil Dancing by Mari Messer, and in it she recommended the use of a wide variety of notebooks for different purposes. Of course (being the slightly spontaneous introvert that I am) I mulled this idea over and decided to give it a try. Currently, I have about five main notebooks that I use: a trashcan binder, a two-line journal, a poetry book affectionately nicknamed Dragon Scales, a journal filled with sermon notes and musings, and the afore mentioned on the go pocket spiral.

Of all of these, my current favorite is the trashcan. It is only a large and bulky three ring binder, with quotes and reflections sharpied all across the cover. When I feel like writing, but am not sure what might surface, I grab the trashcan, because anything can go in it and everything generally does. It’s like the documents folder on my laptop. You find everything ever written in it. When the notebook is filled (all three inches thickness of it), I’ll remove the loose-leaf pages and file them where they can then be accessed later on if I need a particular idea, plot, or character.

The two-line journal is precisely what it sounds like: a journal limited to only two lines per entry. Growing up, I always struggled with journals and diaries. There was never sufficient space or time to effectively communicate my thoughts. With the two-liner, I am forced to distill my thoughts and impressions for the day into a few very short and very concise sentences. And so, for the first time in my life, I have been able to keep a journal on a daily basis.

If I know for certain that the ink flowing from the tip of my pen will form lines of rhyme rather than prose, I pick up Dragon Scales. The poetry book is my oldest notebook, and therefore the one closest to my heart. When I first started writing, I wrote poetry. I kept my piecemeal thoughts confined to a single notebook that I nicknamed Gryphon Wings, a name that in turn spawned a poem of its own. When Gryphon Wings was filled, I sadly put him on the shelf—a little intimidated at the idea of starting over again with blank pages and an unworn book cover. I did it anyway though, and Dragon Scales is now my companion when the poetry mood strikes.

My Sunday journal however, is the most comforting of all. In many ways, it is the simplest of all the notebooks: jotted verses, basic sermon outlines, bullet pointed life applications, quotes, words of encouragement, gentle reminders, and snippets of songs. Occasionally, the neat and tidy notes dissolve into rhyme. So many of the poems I’ve blogged thus far have had their roots (if not entire making) in my Sunday journal.

Of course there is that one other very obvious notebook—the one that I am typing on right now. In general, I prefer pencil and paper—writing with them takes more time, and forces me to slow down and think through what I am actually saying. However, in all the busy bustle of life, one does not always enjoy the luxuries of such time, and the speed and ease allowed by a laptop are invaluable. Yet still, I often find myself falling back on tangible medium instead. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I love hardcopies. A stack of notebook paper does not require a charger cable.

All that rambling to say, keep writing. Day in, day out, every day. Messer compares this process to “running off the rusty water.” Keep pumping, pail after pail after pail, because eventually the water will run clear. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s rubbish. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. What matters is that you are consciously giving effort to continuous practice. Want to know one of the nicest things about constant practice? It leads to improvement. So scribble away and hang on to those scribbles. File them away if you want—lock them up in the deepest and darkest corner of your junk closet—but keep them. It’s a lovely feeling (although at times rather embarrassing) to glance back and see how far you’ve come. And who knows? Maybe some of the materiel might prove useful and relevant in the long run.