Book Review: One Continuous Mistake, by Gail Sher
What Does the Writer Say?
With the Zen philosphy that we learn more from our failures than our successes as the basis for One Continuous Mistake, Gail Sher offers writing as a spiritual practice. Sher, like so many other writers, emphasizes the need to create a writing habit. She stresses the importance of writing everyday-even if it is only a little bit. If you make it to your desk, but don't actually write, she still believes this is instilling a "writing practice" for you. It is also important to organize your life around your desire to write. Writing has to be the daily event that doesn't get swept away by everything else needing to be done. Like Natalie Goldberg, Sher emphasizes the need to practice. We learn from our mistakes, she says, so writing needs to be done on a regular basis. By writing every day, she is strengthening her writing "muscle".
Sher’s book is based on The Four Noble Truths:
- 1. Writer's write
- 2. Writing is a process
- 3. You don't know what your writing will be until the end of the process
- 4. If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is not to write
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Sher also enables the writer by offering support with the recognition that more goes into writing than the actual writing itself. Sher calls it "invisible practice"-where writing can be considered 60% organization, 40% writing, and 10% this and that.
This reminds me of a model I learned in a writing class:
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So while writing appears easy to most people, there is a lot of invisible work put into it by the writer.
Sher also describes Five Pillars of Writing:
- 1. Brainstorming: stream of consciousness writing, no borders, anything goes
- 2. Journaling: focus, narrow, adopt attitude/stance toward subject
- 3. The Draft: get it down on paper, obsess later
- 4. Enriching & Refining: flesh it out, identify what your subject is and isn't
- 5. Rest Periods: give yourself distance from your writing
Sher has a style of writing that captures me as a reader and motivates me as a writer. Her emphasis on beauty in writing and creating a relationship with words enables a writer to have a respect for writing and not seeing it as a burden.