As a young aspiring writer, the advice I got from most teachers and writing manuals was to create a disciplined writing practice. The notion of discipline held an aura of serious professionalism that put my un-orderly writing moods to shame. I tried hard to be disciplined . . . only to procrastinate more as if in tacit rebellion against myself. I tried all the tricks, from automatic writing to “morning pages,” from loads of coffee and cigarettes to sitting- and walking-meditations. Fleeing the lonely demands of my desk for the warm hubbub of a café, I sometimes got going — and then couldn’t stop. A day-and-night obsession would sweep everything else in my life into oblivion until sheer exhaustion and anxiety about the neglected rest of my life dropped me back to square one. Was I a fool to think I could be a writer when I had such difficulty writing?
I have come to believe that for some writers discipline is a panacea, and that other writers have to enter a state of playfulness to succeed. Often what it takes to get writing to happen is to distract the inner judge–to trick her and sneak around her unnoticed. Playfulness is a good way to accomplish this, unless we confound play with random playing around, lacking purpose.
After 20 years of practice I have a bagful of tricks to share with you that can outwit the perfectionist critic who keeps looking over your shoulder with scowls or smirks when you long to write. My assistance aims at bringing you to a place in your writing where discipline AND playfulness are tools in your toolbox and where anything is possible because you are not afraid to make a fool of yourself.