by Marj Hahne
1. Read as a writer.
Read for form as well as for content: Study the text’s construction, how it was written, from macro (narrative structure, chapter/paragraph/stanza breaks, point of view of narrator/speaker) to micro (punctuation and word choices, sentence/line lengths and syntax).
2. Learn about other art-forms.
Study other artistic expressions—painting, sculpture, collage, music, dance, theater, film, architecture, as well as writing genres outside your primary one—as witness and/or participant to illuminate the “process” aspects of art-making in general, which can analogously inform or be applied to the art-form of writing, to ultimately refine the “product”: exploring the possibilities and limitations of the medium, solving problems toward harmonizing content and form, overcoming beginner’s mind and fear of failure.
3. Identify your authentic writer’s life.
Determine your endgame, your definition of success as a writer, in practical, not abstract, terms, and how that translates in your daily life, so that you can spend your resources (time, money, energy) smartly and satisfyingly—and get strategically inventive in creating that life rather than wait for the status-quo writer’s life to happen to you.
4. Stay in the question.
The result of a quest is a question: quest (from the Latin quaerere) “to seek” + -ion (Latin suffix) “the result of an action.” Stay in the question of everything. Of every person, incident, perception, perspective, poem, story. Of yourself. You are the original revision. Aim to un-sense (un-see/hear/taste/touch/smell) what you’ve held to be true, static, fixed, unchanging, so that you can re-sense it, sense it freshly, newly, every time. Rainer Maria Rilke (in Letters to a Young Poet): “Love the questions themselves…live everything. Live the questions now.” Albert Einstein: “Never lose a holy curiosity.”