My motto is on the wall of my writing room: nulla dies sine linea–never a day without a line. I have to keep the writing muscle exercised.Donald Murray, Shoptalk
Lately, I begin my writing day with a few lines from Donald Murray. I don’t know that I’ve ever read anything he’s written that isn’t about writing. When he includes his own poems or prose to illustrate a point, I tend to skim to get back to the good stuff.
Murray is one of a handful of writers on writing (Natalie Goldberg, Ralph Fletcher, Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, and Penny Kittle are a few more) who reliably makes me want to write. There’s just something about how he writes about writing. I read a few lines and find myself itching to pick up my pen–always a Precise V5 Rolling Ball in blue–and write–always in a Cachet wirebound sketchbook.
You have no idea what you have to say or how you have to say it, until you put yourself in the position to receive writing.Donald Murray, Shoptalk
I woke this morning already imagining slices. Oliver didn’t want to get out of bed, and I began writing a piece in my mind called “The thing about sleeping with cats.” (I wrote that piece last year.) I crept downstairs in the dark to make my coffee and began writing a piece about making coffee in the dark. (I wrote that piece a couple of years ago.) Cats were trying to get in my lap before I could even properly settle on the chaise, and I began to write a piece about holding cats. (I’ve written that piece too many times to count.) And how many time have I written this piece about starting over, losing the writing habit and having to begin again? (At least a dozen.)
Sometimes my writing surprises me, but often I am tilling the same ground. Cats, coffee, notebooks, morning, books, writing, the prairie. Sometimes I think I should find something else to write about, but mostly I love the predictable rhythms and routines of these small daily joys that stay the same for me even as other bigger things change.
Art begins in awareness. Writers see implication in what others pass by, noticing the extraordinary in the ordinary, using image and word to articulate feelings and thoughts. Writers draw from the well of awareness that never seems to run dry.Donald Murray, Shoptalk
I begin again with quiet, with noticing what I have experienced without awareness these past months of not writing. The creak of the stair in the dark. The familiar pull of pen across toothy paper. The weight of a sleeping cat. The fence’s pop of yellow against patches of snow.
Wait. Enjoy the quiet. Do not fear the emptiness, welcome it, let the words come at their own time in their own order.Donald Murray, Shoptalk