What do you already know? by Catharine Bramkamp

What do you already know? by Catharine Bramkamp on Writer's Fun ZoneLet’s welcome back monthly columnist Catharine Bramkamp as she shares with us “What do you already know?” Enjoy!

Do you read a lot of writing and creativity books? 

I do. I not only read, I buy. Hard cover.

What I already know

After collecting and consuming dozens and dozens of advice/creativity/how to write books I’ve discovered that like novels, there are only a few advice plots.

There is only so much advice in the universe available to re-purpose and re-package.

That is not to say that a new book in the cannon is pointless.

It’s not, there is always one or two interesting ideas worth savoring, and even doing, but you will discover, after reading a dozen books that by the thirteenth book you will think, wow, I already know:

  • To show up every day to write, at roughly the same time, so your Muse can find you. Because the Muse arrives on a schedule. You got this. You write every morning just like in the Artist’s Way.
  • To honor your writing as work and protect that time, just like in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.
  • To leave behind negative people and situations. If you belong to a club or have a group of friends who are killing your creativity, you leave. Have you left yet? Of course you have.
  • To take up an alternative hobby, if you write, play music. If you play music, dance. If you dance, keep a journal.
  • To take classes and always be learning. You have just signed up for a community college extension class in the theory and uses of Greek pottery.
  • To break down your goals into manageable chunks of time and effort, just like in Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird.
  • To keep a journal.
  • To study something deeply.
  • To read deeply.
  • To sleep.

New Advice

The new, new advice that you will not find in some of the classics writing books: turn off your phone.

Yeah, yeah. But what if someone needs you? What if there is news? What if something beautiful, or silly, or a puppy needs to be photographed?

The new, new advice is to put down your phone anyway.

I left my phone behind Sunday morning.

My husband and I climbed into the truck and bounced down a vey long one-way dirt road to Purdon’s Crossing, part of the Yuba River.

We hiked down to the water’s edge and spent the morning sitting on the hot rocks, swimming in the cool water, admiring the green pines against the blue sky, listening first to the water rush around the rocks and then to a dog with a horrible high yipping bark, barking as he swam. He swam for an hour and a half.

For lunch we parked at a drive-in and ate outside on a picnic bench. With no phone it was far easier to eat a messy burger and slurp at sticky milk shake. No photos, no posts, no checking.  Just me and the burger.

What did this sitting, slurping, unrecorded morning do?

First, nothing happened while I was away from the phone.

Second, it was like getting time back. It was summer with my husband — no distractions or filters. He drove, I gazed out the window. We talked.

I relished the wind in my face and messy hair because at the river, no one cares. And unarmed with that everpresent camera, I was in no danger of submitting to a casual photograph. I didn’t even suck in my stomach.

I had time to concentrate on the light, the sounds. I focused on climbing down a face of rocks to the water’s edge, then took my time strategizing how to ascend those same rocks without tipping backwards and killing myself. It was not climbing the face of Half Dome, but for me, it was challenge enough.

What I Gained

What I gained was a 1,000 more words for my book project. A 1,000 words that often take hours to squeeze out of my brain, this Sunday afternoon spontaneously presented themselves in the form of a surprise solution to a plot issue.

First I experienced a complete state of quiet and calm.

I spent an entire morning not only without the phone, but without an agenda, without a goal. At the time, I thought I was doing absolutely nothing.

Next I experienced that state of flow, the heroine of advice books as popular a trope as the beautiful girl who is unaware of her charms is in romance.


EDITOR’S NOTE: What do you already know about how you can find your creative flow?



When she’s not pulling her mother out of traffic, Catharine coaches and teaches fiction, non-fiction, and journal writing.

Catharine Bramkamp is an author and writing coach -- visit her at www.Catharine-Bramkamp.com.Catharine Bramkamp is an author and writing coach — visit her at www.Catharine-Bramkamp.com. She has written 17 novels and 3 books on writing. Her poetry appears in over a dozen anthologies including And The Beats Go On (she was editor, as well) and the chapbook Ammonia Sunrise (Finishing Line Press). Her current book, Don’t Write Like We Talk, is based on her co-producer experience creating 200-plus episodes of the Newbie Writers Podcast. She is the Chief Storytelling Officer for technical companies because everyone has a story.

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