How often has someone been talking to you and instead of listening you were planning how you would reply or thinking about what you were planning to cook for dinner that evening or thinking about something else altogether different than what the person was saying to you? You know, you just weren’t present in the moment. Think about how much it would mean to that person who’s speaking to you if you would choose to be present in that moment and actually hear what is being said to you.
That’s an important life lesson and also important in writing. I’m currently taking the online James Patterson Masterclass for fiction writing. I was hesitant about paying to take the class because I didn’t really see how I’d get anything useful out of the class. I expected it to be just a lot of Richard Simmons-type inspiration. You can do it! Rah, rah, rah! And for the most part, that’s what it is. It’s pretty much listening to James Patterson talk about what works for him with a bit of sage wisdom sprinkled in throughout the video “lectures.”
Well, one of the things Mr. Patterson says that he has to do is consistently remind himself to be present in the scenes when he’s writing, to put himself right there in the thick of things with his characters. Sometimes, as writers we may think we’re there with our characters because we’re engaged in the act of writing. But just because we’re writing doesn’t mean we’re present. It’s just like that person who’s talking to you while you’re planning your dinner menu in your head. When we write like that, we cheat our characters and our readers. So, I’ve adopted Mr. Patterson’s strategy for reminding himself to be present when he’s writing. One of the things he does is simply write along the top of the page: Be present. It’s a reminder to stay with his characters as he writes so the reader will stay with the character while they’re reading.
So, maybe the money I spent for the Masterclass was money well spent after all. I guess I’ll see how things go. I’m not even halfway finished with the course. But I’m always reminding myself to be present when I write. And, who knows, maybe that’s a lesson that will spill over to other parts of my life.
Peace & Love,