Image courtesy of Andrzej Barabasz (Chepry) via wikimedia.org

For a long time I struggled to overcome the intimidation of a blank piece of paper, then later the same sort of intimidation rose up over a blank computer screen. It seemed like it would be easy to begin writing on page 6, or even on page 2, if someone could just hand me page 1. I longed for a shift in awareness.

Since no one magically appeared to write page 1 for me, I devised a system over time, a technique, to get to near-prolific without the agony. There’s even a little ecstasy now and then to keep me going.

Here’s what I did, and do: In meditation/contemplation I get some mighty interesting thoughts and rather than push them away (as I’d been taught) I capture them with a digital recorder. Then I transcribe the audio. Then I take those nuggets and randomly write around them, with them, through them, against them, over them, not exactly like stream-of-consciousness but not like staring at the blank screen, either. I play with the words, the ideas, the evolving themes. It’s fun.

The process is not unlike sculpture or painting, pushing here, seeing a new pathway there, not letting the words become ossified and stale. Of course, my readers may have a different opinion, which they will preferably keep to themselves.

Not long ago I discovered that what I do with writing is to create something like what jazz musicians call a “pocket.” There are several definitions of “pocket,” but the one that most closely parallels what I do goes like this: The bass and the drums, say, lay down a rhythm, a riff, which gives support the sounds of the other musicians, like a pocket.

My pocket evolves from the process that carries the thoughts from mind to audio to written word. The pocket is formed by the transcription and I’m always protected from a blank screen, safe and snug, like a child with a blanket and a teddy bear.

Not quite this old-fashioned. Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration (ARC Identifier:541367) via wikimedia.org

The transcriptions go on and on and on like a journal or a diary, a palette of ideas, thoughts, riffs in words, a dependable pool to draw on.

I believe that the university way I was taught to write was an old-fashioned way of going about it, stuffy and stagnant, and my results showed it. Maybe writing is the way Kurt Vonnegut said it was, that you have to write out a million bad words before you can get to what you want to say. Or maybe you have to write out a million bad words spawned by less-than-adequate teaching.

I believe the stifling intimidations of the old school are being left behind, fueled by the Internet and a rapidly shifting awareness. All we need to learn is how to create that comfortable pocket, snug and secure, to confidently share with the world all that we each have to offer.