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The Writing Life: An Interview with Rosanne Bane

2013 May 14

The Writing Liferosanne-baneRosanne Bane‘s most recent nonfiction book, Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance, proved to be productive fodder for our almost hour-long phone conversation. (For more about the book, check out Rosanne’s guest post for The Writing Life last week called Top Ten Tips for Writers.) What I wanted to know right away, though, was how she came to her current career as a writer, creativity coach, and writing teacher.

Bane started out studying linguistics in college before she realized creative writing was where she belonged. Through her time in the University of Minnesota’s creative writing program, Bane taught Freshman Composition where she discovered her love and zeal for teaching writing: “That spurred me,” she says. After taking a personal growth workshop, Bane proposed a class on self-actualization to the Loft Literary Center—that class became the first in her long career of teaching at the Loft. She also edited The Phoenix during this time, which gave her the opportunity to interview and pick the brains of many inspirational and intelligent folks, including Julia Cameron (co-author of The Artist’s Way, an influential book for Bane, and many writers). Finally, Bane kept up with her own writing, including both fiction and nonfiction.

But Bane had some difficulty with something that many of us writers face: showing up for writing. Bane explains that this is why she teaches a lot of creative process classes at the Loft, because, as she puts it, “we teach best in the places we’ve struggled to learn ourselves. What I was having trouble with was consistently showing up and putting in my time. So I thought I was pretty well equipped to help others.” More recently, this love for teaching and helping writers segued into her creative coaching career. After having a sample coaching session with a friend, Bane realized this was something she could be good at. Her coaching clients are primarily writers, although she’s open to teaching creative people of any genre (some of her clients include fabric artists, painters, entrepreneurs, and more).

Her most recent book got its roots from a class she’s taught at the Loft for many years called “The Writing Habit.” Bane had been thinking to herself, “What’s happening? Why do people keep having this problem? If I like to write so much, which I do, then why is it so hard to show up? I started realizing it wasn’t just me.” In her class, she came up with the three steps: process, product time, and self-care. She used these as a framework for the writers to check in each week on their progress, and later, used these as the pillars of the book.

The book is steeped in neurology, but Bane explains it in a way that makes sense, appealing to my inner nerd.  The science behind the book was really a catalyst for writing it. Bane says after her first nonfiction book (which focused on psychology of writing) she started researching neurology, including Joseph Ledoux’s book, The Emotional Brain. Another book that triggered something for Bane was The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge, M.D. Bane talks about how LeDoux’s book specifically helped her find her angle for Around the Writer’s Block:

“I saw LeDoux’s research on how the limbic kicks in when we’re stressed and how that makes the cortex, the source of our creativity, problem-solving, and self-motivation, unavailable. And the cortex doesn’t even realize what’s happened. When I saw that, I thought, THAT’s what happens when we want to write, but can’t. It’s not that we lack will power or discipline; it’s that the part of the brain that has the desire and ability to write—the cortex—simply isn’t available. Joseph LeDoux’s book was a huge A-ha for me that prompted me to write my book.”

One of the ideas Bane asserts in the book is that “To write well, you must be willing to write badly” (pg 89). Why is this? Here’s what Bane had to say in our interview:

One of the truths that as a culture we don’t want to recognize, is that creativity and deconstruction have to go hand in hand. When you’re creating music, you’re destroying silence. For writers, when it’s in your head, it can unravel in a million different directions, but when you go to put it on the page, you have to pick one. Basically what you’re doing when committing to a draft is destroying all other possibilities, at least for the day. If we’re thinking, “I have to get this right the first time,” then it’s really hard to write at all.

In other words, remember: “A draft is just an approximation of the final draft.” Take the pressure off, and allow yourself to destroy the other possibilities for the day.

If you, like me, are always interested in where fellow writers find inspiration, then you’re in luck. I asked Bane for a list of resources, and guess what was at the top of her list? The Loft, naturally. As she says, “I’ve been on the education committee so I’ve had the opportunity to see a bunch of people go through. [The Loft does] a fabulous job of finding people who are not only gifted, talented, [and] recognized, but are also good teachers. That’s not always an easy thing to find.” Some other resources include Seth Godin’s blog and the blog Write to Done. Bane also emphasizes the importance of having resources and connections outside of the writing world. She actually got the contract for Around the Writer’s Block in an unusual place: a contact from the agility dog world (Bane has two agility dogs).

I could go on and on about my conversation with Bane, the book, and more, but I’ll spare you my excitable rantings, and leave you with this: Bane is teaching a writing workshop called Overcome Your Writing Resistance class at ArtReach in Stillwater, MN on May 18 on these very topics. What can attendees expect? “Students get a greater understanding of their own process, their own brain, and will be able to move more easily into their writing. They’ll find that after the workshop, they understand more about what gets in the way [of their writing], and how to get around that. They will leave writing more easily, more powerfully, and more often.” Sounds like an obvious choice to me!

What are your personal road blocks to writing? What do you do to ensure that you have self-care time to fuel product time?

 

The Writing Life: Top Ten Tips from Rosanne Bane

2013 May 7
by Wren

The Writing Liferosanne-baneTop Ten Tips for Writers 

by Rosanne Bane

Editor’s Note: We recently encountered Bane’s newest nonfiction book, Around the Writers Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance, and found it incredibly insightful for understanding why we writers have trouble getting ourselves to write every day. Here are ten tips which Bane distilled from this book, for your pleasure. Stay tuned next week for an interview with Bane! 

 

Relax. You’re not defusing a bomb. Take a deep breath and take comfort in knowing you can always…

  1. Rewrite. Good writing comes from rewriting. So you can stop worrying about being perfect in the first draft. Or in any draft. Perfectionism is fear-driven and limits your creativity.
  2. Make and honor small commitments. You’ll get more done in five 15-minute sessions than you ever will waiting for the day when you “have time to write.”
  3. Just show up and do something writing-related in those 15 minutes. If you want to keep going, by all means, do! But know that you can stop after 15 minutes and still make significant progress.
  4. Evaluate your success by whether or not you show up. Word counts only work when you’re generating new material (not when you’re doing research or rewriting). Consistently showing up will create your writing habit that allows you to…
  5. Harness the neurological power of habits (aka well-myelinated neural pathways). Inspiration is fickle, discipline and will power are limited and will ultimately fail. Habits sustain you and keep you moving through multiple drafts to the final draft.
  6. Create your own quirky writing ritual. Rituals seem irrational, but that’s part of why they work and why they make brain sense.
  7. Stop judging your writing and yourself. Develop your power of discernment instead.
  8. Be physically active. Take frequent stretch and movement breaks. Because it is a glutton for oxygen and glucose and needs to conserve energy wherever possible, the brain has evolved to shut down when the body is not moving.
  9. Give your brain what it needs to be creative: adequate sleep, exercise, meditation, creative play and time to focus.
  10.  Abandon multitasking – it actually takes more time and it fractures your ability to focus your attention on your writing. Postpone email; write first.

 

Rosanne Bane has worked for two decades as a Teaching Artist at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, the country’s largest center of its kind. She also serves individuals as a creativity coach and teaches in the MBA program at the University of St. Thomas. She lives in Minneapolis with her partner and two dogs, Blue and Kelda. On Sat, May 18, Bane will be teaching a workshop called “Overcome Your Writing Resistance” at ArtReach in Stillwater, MN.