Writing and Mastery
1. Instruction: Learn all that you can about your subject. Seek the best guidance available Seek a mentor, but choose carefully.
2. Practice: Practice, Practice, Practice. "Take pleasure in the endless repetition of ordinary acts (149).
3. Surrender: Let go of old outdated patterns/habits in your life and art and welcome newer productive patterns/habits. "Lose yourself without losing your balance" (149).
4. Intentionality: Create a positive attitude, mental toughness, openness imagination: the ability to see oppositions and visualize desired states.
5. The Edge: Play, enjoy your journey on your path with sense of adventure: "On some occasions live entirely in the moment, revealing everything and expecting nothing in return" (150).
I was elated when I found Leonard's work because he articulated the methods that I've used in my life and in my creative writing workshops. For example, at the Calabash Literary Workshops, I taught traditional forms (sonnets, villanelles, and ballads) in the poetry sessions, so that my students would have a grounding in the poetry of the past. Poets before them. Poets after them. They were here to contribute a verse to the song of Caribbean.
My students wrote and collaborated every day (practiced) and some learned to give up (Surrender) some of the habits that had earned them the title of "poet" among their peers-- the easy rhymes and the vocal tricks that never translated to the page, but sounded great in performance. I also tried to show them how intentionality is demonstrated by the theme. Sometimes, the theme is not readily evident and it takes time to discover, as I am learning with my latest novel, Song for the Shulamite But once you've discerned the theme through revision, it shapes the content. And vice versa.
More than anything else, I tried to get them to play. Most of the time LITERATURE is taught by people who approach it as if they were dealing with sacred text. I approach all literature as the work of a fellow writer who was/is as hungry/jealous as I am, and was/is willing to misread creatively his/her "elders" and to play with the texts that s/he has read/envied/wished s/he could have written.
In fact, I sometimes get a little peeved (not much, they are buying and teaching the book) when I'm invited to a college as a guest author and discover that my novel, Benjamin, my son, is being taught as if it's SERIOUS LITERATURE. I mean, yeah, it's serious, but it's not deadly. I had fun writing that novel, which like most of my work is literary fiction masquerading as popular fiction. And some parts are downright hilarious. It's just that some people don't share my sense of humor. How else could I have written "Uncle Obadiah and the Alien" about an alien who looks like Margaret Thatcher and crash lands in a Rastaman's ganja field? For years, I couldn't get that story published until The Caribbean Writer took a chance and published it. It's the same reason why I blog. I love to play.