In my quest to be something by the time I turn 35 (now just 52 weeks away), I have begun to concentrate fully on my writing. Last month I pulled out something called The Observation Deck: A tool kit for writers by Naomi Epel. I can remember when I bought this thing that was supposed to help me become a successfully published writer.
It was over ten years ago. I was working at a crappy little ad agency on 37th and 6th in Manhattan and every morning on my way to work I passed by the New York City Public Library. On my lunch breaks I would sit and read in Bryant Park, take a quick stroll through the Rose Reading Room or window shop at the library’s store across 5th Avenue. This is where I picked up the Observation Deck, dropping twenty bucks and making a solemn vow to do the exercises and work to write or write to work. I did one exercise then put the deck way.
Ten years, many moves, and lots of dust later I am finally using it, enjoying it and growing because of it. I am 35 pages into a silly little romance and nearly twenty pages into something else and I feel like I can actually do this. Some of the exercises haven’t been all that useful, but they get me to write, to practice, and I’m realizing that practice is the key. For so long I have been so lazy in my life. I know it may come as a shock to some people, but it’s the truth. Being busy doing the easy things is still being lazy. I haven’t pushed myself in ages and scary as the push may be, it feels so good – like a stretch after a long flight when you just have to move.
Anyway, the exercises I have found most useful now adorn the wall above my writing desk. They read: listen, slow down, feed your senses, stop, and act successful. The last one is something I need to start doing – it’s the fake it till you make it theory of success. Here is part of the reading that accompanies the exercise:
“…to become a great writer you need to act like a great writer. That doesn’t mean being temperamental or demanding. It means treating yourself with respect and understanding that you are constantly learning and that solving problems is part of the task. Give yourself time to work. Give yourself time to wander in the woods and reflect. As a successful writer, you need these things and must find ways to live like the artist you wish to become.”
The thing I find most important is to give myself the allowance to stop, listen, enjoy the world around me and imagine. For far too long I have thought these things were unproductive, lazy and most importantly, a sign that I was some silly little girl. But I’m starting to realize that to stop, listen, imagine and dream are the way to exercise, to stretch, to grow and become the person with the talent I’ve always hoped to become…eight years ago when I ran away to London the first time, ten years ago when I would stroll through the NYC Public Library, or even further back…
I may be a silly little girl, but I’m going to be a silly girl with a book deal, a home office and the money to spend three months a year walking the streets of London or Paris or Rome. I’m going to be a silly girl of 35 years who has the money to stop, listen, enjoy the world around me and imagine.