Thursday, February 07, 2008


I've been think about this a lot recently, the importance of Dailiness, not just because a friend has been talking about it and how important it is to her, but I've been wondering if it's not at the heart of my writing process. Just that practice of adding things on and on, rather than making huge random bursts of running at 'it'. It's not so much 'ordinariness' as one dictionary definition has it, but more as Randall Jarrell's poem celebrates,

And yet sometimes
The wheel turns of its own weight, the rusty
Pump pumps over your sweating face the clear
Water, cold, so cold! you cup your hands
And gulp from them the dailiness of life.

Surely, it's that wheel turning of its own weight that makes it all worth while.

This is why my daily prompts have been proving so useful to me. Not because in themselves they are producing fantastic pieces of work - or at least not for me - but because they are all adding slowly, slowly to the weight behind my process. It's a bit like meeting up with a friend you haven't seen for a long time. Sometimes you get lucky and you click back together as if you were only with them five minutes before, but just as often, anticipation sets in beforehand and it feels as if you HAVE to make it a big occasion. At these times you find it's only five minutes before you have to go that the two of you start talking about what's really important. And then you have to wait six months until the next meeting.

I can get like this with writing. If I don't do it for several days, I'm aware of circling the page, almost afraid of it, because when I do finally sit down and write, then I should be producing a brilliant piece of work - a 'big occasion'.

No, much better for me to try to inject some dailiness in my writing. Little ordinary things that will let me take the page for granted, in the hope that when something that does matter sneaks in round the side, the ground will be well prepared.

So my writing prompt for today is ... I thought I was meeting a stranger ...

And on the subject of prompts, I have put a new blog up on the sidebar. Sarah Charsley, one of the Your Messages contributors has started a new blog, with regular postings. Definitely worth reading.


jem said...

Good post. Its something I think about a lot. I think writing is a lot like exercise, its easy to get out of shape and then doing it is a real struggle. Do it everyday and it takes a lot less warming up time.

I've written consistently for quite a while now, but I still have lapses of few days here and there, when life intrudes. But this year I am trying to write something EVERYDAY - even if its just a few words, a list of the day.

This is where prompts are useful. I've thought a lot about them - and their use on blogs (I wrote a post that touched on it somewhere). For me its important to use prompts to fill gaps, to kickstart me. To begin those inevitable blank pages. But I must be sure that the prompts dont become all I write - because for me that is not my aim.

heather (errantdreams) said...

I definitely feel that having a daily writing practice serves multiple important goals: keeping the wheels from getting rusty, helping you to explore things you might not try in a more regimented piece of writing, and stretching your creativity/brainstorming.

I love the poem piece you posted---very apt!

Alex said...

I write (quite a lot) daily as part of my job. It can be nice, but it can be a right pain in the neck too.

Sarah Charsley: said...

Thanks Sarah. Regular postings, yikes I hope I can keep it up. Three in row, I've surprised myself. Going away tomorrow, so will be without computer for 3 days :( Think it's high time I invested in a lap top!

Sarah Salway said...

Thanks, Jem. I know what you mean about prompts not becoming everything - but it was interesting recently when I had some time. I went back and shaped several of my prompt writing as an exercise and found I had a rich resource.

And also thanks, Heather. I visited your site - and will definitely be back. We are obviously on the same track!

Sarah Salway said...

Couldn't do with my laptop, Sarah - and it's good to be surprised! Yep, Alex, it's when it becomes a chore that's the pain. That's why I started taking creative writing classes after years as a journalist. Interesting I'm wanting to go back now!

Deborah Rey said...

Oh, I know what you are talking about here, Sarah!
All during 2006, I had but little time to write for myself, because I had started La FenĂȘtre Magazine. When I folded the magazine and thus, could get back to 'me' again, I encountered a very severe case of writer's block. First time ever, by the way and PLEASE, never again! It is slowly going away now, but still makes writing regularly very hard, something I am not used to at all. Most frustrating and infuriating, because the ideas are there, the words are there, but they won't come out.
Love your Blog, Sarah!

Kathryn said...

After the Your Messages thing, I now force myself to write 300 words every day. Some days (like today), it's really hard and I wonder why the hell I'm doing it! I suppose that I shouldn't underestimate the very act of writing regularly rather than expecting to produce something brilliant too often (or at all!). I think it's all about the rhythm.

Sarah Salway said...

I think you're right, Kathryn. Rhythm is a good way to look at it. And for me, the worst way to start writing is to think I'm going to produce something brilliant!

Sarah Salway said...

Thanks, Deborah. I'm never too sure what writing block is, but that's interesting the way you talk about it. Your lovely book suggests you've got over it, at least!

Fiona Robyn said...

Hi Sarah - found your blog via 'all of these things' - liked this post a lot. Writing something little every day on my blog makes me feel more like a writer when I'm between books, and little and often is definitely less scary! Good to 'meet' you.

Sarah Charsley: said...

Hi Fiona

Thanks for your message.
Yes, Sarah's daily prompts are proving invaluable for my writing process. I can't imagine getting from 300words a day to a whole book but I guess it's a start!

I've just had a look at your blog a small stone and registered to receive a daily stone. It's a lovely idea and I look forward to seeing the finish product.

Good to meet you too and hope we can keep in touch.