Thursday, December 11, 2014

Alumni Voices with Danette Lane: The Toothbrush and the Pen

Jane Resh Thomas once told me “understanding clears obstacles.” I love the simple truth in this wisdom and remind myself of it frequently.

If there is one obstacle in my writing life that I have earnestly sought understanding for, it is the obstacle to writing every day. I know I do not suffer alone with this problem. Jamie Swenson taught us “how to get [our] butt BACK into that chair” in November, and Jennifer Mazi wrote an open letter to her distant muse just last week. In general, we writers spend a lot of time talking about our problem of not writing.

Why is that? Shouldn’t writing every day feel just as important to us as brushing our teeth?

I have worked on my writing obstacle for years. The easy BIC! fix never cut it for me. Then last month, while exploring various topics for this post, I discovered some blessed understandings that have shifted my writing paradigm. Disclaimer: What follows may only be ridiculous convoluted theories that have absolutely no basis in reality. (But they’re working for me.)

Here goes…

: What the obstacle to writing is not. It is not fear (What if I don’t get it right?); it is not doubt (I am not the one to tell this story); it is not procrastination (Today I will make a story collage); it is not laziness (ZZZZZZ); or interruptions (“Candygram!”); or even distractibility (Look! A chicken!). The obstacle is not any of these things--or all of these things. These issues are surmountable.

: What the obstacle to writing is. The obstacle is a basic failure to understand who we are as writers and how we are created to process the world.
Creative writers are a highly intuitive clan. Significant portions of us fall into the “Intuitive Feelers” or “Intuitive Perceivers” personality types when we take the Jung Typology test. This means we gather information using the five senses like everyone else, but we then take in additional data that goes beyond our senses: wispy connections, patterns, relationships, gut instincts. I’m not sure how much of this input we are even consciously aware of. While these pieces of data are not typical facts and figures, they are still a form of intelligence. It’s a mystery how this intelligence is stored within us, but we don’t seem capable of accessing it in the same manner as recalling facts and figures.

: The understanding that clears the obstacle. Additional tools are needed to cull and extract intuitive intelligence. Artists use paint. Monks use prayer. Writers pick up the pen. We rely on the writing process to access and free the unconscious knowledge our intuition has gathered and stored. This understanding offers us a serious motivation to write: To not write means leaving a considerable portion of our humanity and intelligence lying fallow within.

So being all I am created to be depends on me picking up the pen every day.
This new level of self-understanding has turned the simple act of brushing my teeth into a strange otherworldly experience. Every morning I pick up my toothbrush, and I see a pen. I pick up my pen, and I see a toothbrush. My intuitive intelligence must be working overtime, making a connection in the relationship between these two implements. Oddly, I feel thoroughly empowered by the visual reinforcement the delusion provides.

Danette Lane is a 2010 graduate of the MFAC program. She carries her toothbrush (and pen!) back and forth between her residences in Florida and North Carolina.

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