This strikes such a common chord with me, Stephen, when you write:
“Looking back, I notice those early unsuccessful efforts exhibit two common characteristics:
First, I would try to detail exactly what happened during the day – the order and times in which events occurred, who said what to whom, etc. – an impossible journalistic task. It had taken me all day to live it; writing it all down would take another day – hence I found the process time-consuming and impossibly overwhelming. No matter how enthusiastic I was at first, my efforts faded and entries soon dribbled away to nothing.”
I have often had the same thing happen or this same feeling–so overwhelmed by the amount of information that yes time consuming and how to get all the details down. I then worry about what my writing might lack is if it needs to be full in order to read it a year later and understand it, let alone remember what I meant by it at all or what the circumstances really were. I often do this when I want to write a journal entry or a blog entry and end up not writing or posting it. Sometimes I will simply write down the general idea like” I had a dream last night I want to write down later.” Often, later never comes from that point on with that. The same sort of thing is going on with me with a writing project I have going on now–this one is not a journal, not about me, but about the characters. But what you wrote here just gave me a gift of understanding something: If I worry about not getting the right or enough details as I write (or feel apprehension about the daunting task of organizing the details of the material) I make it about me when what I really want and what the characters want is for it to be about the characters! I guess the advice here for this type of circumstance would be to make it about the characters and get out of the way! (Insert smile emoji!) Or, if it is writing about the day’s events: what I gather from your words here, Stephen, is to again make it about the subject matter and get out of one’s own way–for instance, if writing about a dream, make it about the dream and not what you (here I mean general you, as in anyone) are superimposing over the dream–unless analysis is what you are after but then you can always go back and analyze later and step out of the way of the dream for a minute and “give” it its own life it already has. (Here I am also thinking about the forum discussions we’ve had on dreams and Hillman’s theories on animal dreams. And I see here too that if I were worried too much about organizing this material in my response that I would never have written this parenthetical comment!) I just came into this forum just now because I just read something from Campbell that made me think of this forum topic, so I came here to share it. It is about writer’s block–all the things that block us, whatever they are, we can all get over our blocks perhaps if we consider what Campbell expressed:
Writer’s block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa when her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscience allows.”
― Joseph Campbell, A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living
Thank you Stephen, and thank you, James, for this topic on writing during this pandemic.
Wishing blessings to all,