Getting Creative and making rules with Aimee Bender

AimeeBenderI’m not quite sure how I reached this interesting bit of information, as it’s on the Oprah Winfrey website. My journeys across the vast plains of the internet are extensive, especially when procrastinating, but Oprah? Not so much.

Anyway, anyone who wants to learn about short story writing in general would do well to read some Aimee Bender. Her stories have been variously described as strange, surreal, mythic, fanciful and no doubt in some quiet corner of the internet ‘shittingly weird’.

But, for me, the strange situations that arise in her stories are catalysts for exploring things we all understand – loss, love, the need for connection, family, hope.

So I was happy to find a blog post called ‘Why The Best Way To Get Creative Is To Make Some Rules’.  where Bender says: “For almost 17 years now, I’ve been faithful to a two-hours-a-day routine, every morning, five or six days a week. I get up, sit down, check e-mail briefly, turn off my e-mail and Internet, look at the time on the computer, write the two-hour marker on a little pad of paper on my desk, and begin. Inspired by the highly regular routines of writers like Stephen King, Flannery O’Connor, Trollope, and many more.”

She also goes on to describe an agreement she developed with another writer who wanted some formalising of her writing time – and some impetus to do it. This led to a Writers Contract, which, when signed would mean: “She would write five days a week for an hour. As a firm reminder, every day, when she finished her hour, she would e-mail me one word: Done, and at some point during the day, I would e-mail back Check. No other words were necessary. All that was being acknowledged was that she’d sat at her computer for an hour with the intention to write, whether or not she did. ”

It’s such a simple thing, having a routine, a time which is devoted just to writing, or at least the intention of writing. Giving yourself permission to spend part of your day writing is the bass note of the writing chord, the foundation on which everything is built. It’s not about the quality of what you write, it’s not about what you’re writing about, it’s simply prioritising writing high enough for it to become woven into the rhythm of your life.

Without devoting time to writing you cannot write. Without writing you cannot be called a writer. Simple isn’t it?