Truth, Flow and Mastery

My ideas about fiction have always been entangled with the idea of ‘truth’. That I may fictionalize a situation or character, but it must stay connected to the truth through either its genesis or the truth of the writing. And as I say this, Keats’ “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” floats up irresistibly at me since I’ve internalized it so much. I love the Romantics! I also love compressed statements of great power, when I write.

The combination of these two factors has made me a writer who actually writes very little nowadays. If your writing has to be both real and beautifully intense and that’s the only way you write, you don’t end up meeting your own expectations most of the time. Especially not if you are your own editor.

So what you do is, you wait for a heavenly choir of light to spontaneously combust in your brain (without narcotic help) to start to write. You follow the intense, unique tune of inspiration and go where it leads, in its necessarily short lifespan(s).

The question is how do you stay in the higher mental dimensions long enough to do significant work? I have been striving to do this for years.

Alternatively, how do you change your internal writing engine to be more versatile and therefore write more and more in varied styles of fiction, poetry and non-fiction? For me, this is the more difficult path. I think sometimes – how do you possibly make something which is ‘art’ to you into a ‘job’?

But as a working writer, you need to, right? Find a way forward. Find the combination of space, place, mindset, emotion that propels you forward; help you achieve ‘flow’. A flow of words and stories! How wonderful would that be?

I’ve thought about one mindset/technique change and I think you might find it useful too:



I haven’t tried it yet but it seems promising.

Another precept might also help. The 10,000 hour rule, or as I see it the ‘mastery rule’. That if you practice for a significant period of time, the ‘muscle’ of your art or craft gets built. Probably a case of the neural pathways being created and fixed (if that is the right term). And then art becomes a part of you and the basics at least, the techniques become effortless. You have a solid base, a structure from which to take flight.

Does the theory of riding a bicycle also hold true in conjunction with the mastery rule?

From 14 to 17, I practiced my craft. At 17 I started my master work. I worked on it till I burnt out at 21. From 21 to 24 I edited and typed and wrote smaller pieces. I like to think I had achieved a sort of fleeting mastery, had produced something of worth. But I have hardly written any fiction since then – some poetry yes, some blog posts, lots of writing for work but nothing with resonance.

In what shape will my writing come back? Will the base I had created then support me now? Or do I have to lay each brick again?

What do you think?

If you had a reasonable handle on your art and if you got interrupted by life in some way, for some time, can you come back to find it waiting for you?

Can you pick-up where you left off?

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