Many writers know the meaning of this; but as a new writer I did not. BIC HOK stands for “butt in chair, hands on keyboard”. I came across it last week in one of my writing groups. It sounds like such a simple concept doesn’t it? Although when I am in a procrastinating mood I often think of a quote I came up with “Stop walking the cat already.” Why is this of importance? Because I don’t have a cat and that is precisely the point. I will create many things on the “to do list” except putting my butt in the chair.
I actually have today off unexpectedly and my plan was to go hiking all morning and then join a friend for lunch, go back home and write all afternoon. Sounds like a wonderful plan doesn’t it? Well it is now 11:02 a.m. and as you can see I am writing, not at all on my story though, but on this subject of not writing. I woke up as usual at 5:00 a.m. and it was raining, and thought I would just reverse my plans. Write all morning, meet for lunch and hike all afternoon.
Guess what I really did? I folded some laundry, made some phone calls because my washer broke, went through stacks of papers in my office recycling many of them, mostly stuff I’ve gathered to read with no extra time to actually do the reading. Oh and I did some cleaning in the family room. I managed to do something useful and related to books albeit not writing one. I organized my book shelves. I have a lot of interesting books on writing, inspiration, how to write better, writing from the heart and soul and even a couple of books on writing your book in a year (sadly I have had those books for more than a year and still preparing)
Have you ever found yourself getting ready to do something and you just keep getting ready? I’ve been in that situation more than I care to mention. In fact after cleaning up some paperwork this morning, I discovered a few times that I was gathering information preparing to write about something and I didn’t write it at all. Can you say over-preparation: the act of preparing excessively? Yes I bet you are smiling right now because you too have been guilty of it. Learning more about the craft of writing is important to me but I also find I am attending classes, watching webinars, reading books about writing instead of actually writing. I do however love my books and I am inspired by each of them in some way.
The Tao of Writing by Ralph L Wahlstrom is a favorite of mine. There is a lot of power packed into that little book. Ralph says, “Most people in approaching a writing task write against the flow, constantly bumping up against and trying to overcome the rocky rules of writing. They tend to struggle for ideas and words. They think in terms of numbers of words and pages. They toil over the mechanics of writing, syntax, and punctuation. Instead of composing, they seem to construct, feeling that they need to be correct and find each right word before they are able to go on to the next. The result of this obstacle course is that, unlike the prolific authors on our shelves, most of us don’t write very much at all.”
He talks about the rigidity of traditional teachings and as a writing teacher he felt there were better ways to learn about writing and the act of actually writing itself. He also says, “To put it more simply, I believe we write about what’s important to us, and just about everything is important when we see the connections between our personal lives and the rest of the world. The Tao makes these connections explicit.”
Finding your flow when it comes to writing isn’t about just breaking the rules of good writing, it’s about learning what works for you, following your instincts and actually getting down to the business of writing. Ralph created Twelve Principles of the Tao of Writing and here is a synopsis of each.
Writing is natural – an extension of the human need to communicate by letting go of the strict rules and approaching your writing style as naturally as you can.
Writing is flow – a trance like state where the words just appear on the paper without thinking, to write through that interconnection and using words that are free flowing.
Writing is creation – creating the connection between the real and imagined world, we throw our thoughts out into the ethers and read what comes back to us on paper.
Writing is detachment – shutting down your inner critic is important in the early stages where you just need to get all your thoughts on paper, editing will come later.
Writing is discovery – writers are constantly discovering something to write about, always gathering ideas throughout their day and organizing them somehow.
Writing is change – you will find your writing changes as you grow and experiment, not necessarily because of the methods taught but because you have evolved as a writer.
Writing is unified yet multiplied – having a subject to write about as the writer gets clearer about the direction of the writing, the ideas keep growing and you want to write more.
Writing is clarity – communicating effectively as if you were having a conversation with friends and needed to make a point in a clear non egotistical way.
Writing is simplicity – people tend to think they can’t write but have been doing it all their life in the form of letters, emails and journaling unconsciously and effortlessly.
Writing is personal – understanding ourselves better allows us to send out a personal message to others in our writing
Writing is universal – we write what we’ve experienced, heard as a consciously universal form of conversation.
Writing is open ended – we learned in school that a story always has a beginning, middle and an end. How often as a writer have you edited more than once after the story was done? Our writing evolves as we tweak it just a little bit more.
Writing can be hard or flow as easily as water in the river. Yes there may be a rock or twig that stops that flow but it can’t be put on hold forever. Putting your BIC HOK (or in my case handwriting pencil to paper) feeling comfortable about what you want to write and how you approach your writing is a process you as a writer will evolve into just as your words flow out of your heart and appear on paper.