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Words to the Wise

Ross Laird on Creativity—A Website to Inspire You

Every once in a while in your virtual travels, you come across a website that stops you cold—and then enthralls you with its clarity, originality, intelligence. This was my experience with Ross Laird's website, two sites actually. Laird is a Vancouver writer, scholar and teacher who specializes in "the creative process as it infuses writing, craft, art, and personal development." I heard him speak at this year's symposium for writers presented by The Writers' Union of Canada, and was so taken by his energy and insight that I immediately searched out his sites and, two months later, am roaming them still.

For Beacon readers, two of Laird's articles are especially refreshing. Starting to Write begins, "Stop whatever else you are doing. Close your email application and Facebook, turn off the background music, silence your cell phone. Put it all away. Do it now. I’ll wait." How could you not read on! Laird urges writers to enfold the process of finding and following their creative voice in silence. Then listen: "The creative animal [the path of creative energy within each of us] is primordial, eternal, wise beyond our knowing. It has been waiting for us, all this time. Listen to what it has to say." And finally, write: "Allow the creative animal to write for you one good word, or sentence, or paragraph. Don't mess up the writing."

Laird's article "Tips on Tightening" (recently reposted as Steps to Better Writing) brought me up short. Nearly everyone who has attended a critique group has heard that the best approach to writing, in the initial stages, is to get it all down, put your thoughts on the page, worry about the editing later. Even I have said this to others; but never—not once in my writing life—have I done it myself. For me writing is a painstaking process: I cannot move on until what I have done is solid if not good. Now I discover that a renowned teacher of writing and author of books, one shortlisted for the Governor General's Award, is "not a fan" of the spontaneous approach. "Good writing, in my view," says Laird, "builds sentence upon sentence. Each new contribution adds to the structure and the framework of clarity.... Why go farther down your creative track when the foundation is not yet established?" Am I vindicated? I feel so.

Laird's example of self-editing in this article, a sentence of twenty-five words, is the best lesson you will find anywhere. Phrase by phrase, he shows you how to achieve clarity and strength, image and resonance, how to embody emotion, and most importantly how to move yourself, the writer, along. "The sentence itself leads me on, as its writer, to the next stage.... I cannot write the next sentence without first the polished catalyst of the first."

Take a look at Laird's websites, and his books. They are worth your time.

Ross A. Laird: http://www.rosslaird.com/

"Starting to Write": http://www.rosslaird.com/articles/2010/12/03/starting-to-write/ and scroll down.

"Steps to Better Writing": http://rosslaird.com/articles/2011/10/12/steps-to-better-writing/

Ross Laird is a keynote speaker for The Writers' Union of Canada. His slideshow for "Writers in a New Landscape" can be found here: http://slides.rosslaird.com/writers.pdf.html

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