Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Whatever Works

A writer friend recently read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. She's also doing Morning Pages from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way.

Another writer-friend is recruiting "bunkmates" for Camp NaNoWriMo, which is apparently the summer version of NaNoWriMo. She suggested creating your own project--not necessarily drafting a new work, which is (as I understand it) the function of NaNoWriMo, but perhaps editing or submitting or researching or something else--intensely, for 31 days.

Others are creating schedules and valiantly attempting to stick to them, even though summer is here, with all the summer things--like WARMTH and SUNSHINE and GELATO and STROLLS. (And for me, bug spray.) For many who work in a teaching capacity, summer feels like "found time," and their fear is that late August will bring despairing moments of "whaaaaaaaat haaaaaaaappened to aaaaaaaallll that tiiiiime?" (Flashbacks to childhood feels. Though I also liked school a lot.)

I, too, am transitioning from "well I'm stuck indoors so might as well make progress on this novel" time to "geez, they're showing up when?" time. Summer brings visitors, and I live here in part to make it easier for loved ones to share its beauty. But making this transition can be challenging.

Especially because I, too, want to look back in August and say, "Okay, I took care of that, and that, and now I'm ready to transition to this." Especially because I, too, respond to structure and discipline (though not necessarily the communal nature of a NaNo project). And I, too, sometimes really REALLY need a return to longtime friends with their advice and inspiration, and morning pages.

The upshot of all this? Do whatever helps you complete your work, whatever that may be. The world needs it.
Wednesday, June 19, 2019

How It Looked

I was recently at the Creative Nonfiction Collective's conference. Here are some of my favourite moments from the trip. Enjoy.

Why my novel has been "cut" from 90K words to 94K words a time or two.

On a medical building. Love art like this.


Didn't buy it. Really wanted to.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

How It Looks Around Here

I'm traveling this weekend, therefore, Spring is springing and I am reluctant to leave.

Here's what I'll return to:






I'll enjoy being with other folks writing creative nonfiction. By my oh my, it will be great to come home again.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

A Creative Exercise

Over on her blog, Transactions with Beauty, writer Shawna Lemay posed an interesting question recently: "What words would you most like to get tattooed indelibly on your skin?"

She has a whole list. (She's also in the middle of a Springsteen phase, and she takes lovely photographs.)

It's tough to say. One reason I haven't seriously considered a tattoo is that words change meaning for me over time. I don't know that a word I wanted and needed to see daily at 30 (integrity) would be something I'd want or need to see daily lo these several decades later.

However. Shawna's right; it's a fun exercise.

At the moment, I'm toying with this: "It is a truth universally acknowledged."

Yes, it's the opening to Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps mentioning Jane Austen on the blog linked above primed the pump.

But the quote also says something about writing and the writer, I think. We worry a lot about whether "it's been done already," whether the world really needs to hear OUR version of, say, Pride and Prejudice.

We console ourselves with the various "basic plot" outlines, which all boil down to one: a stranger comes to town/someone goes on a trip (it's the same plot from different points of view).

Regardless: we take a "universally acknowledged" truth, or "truth," and we write a specific instance of it. OUR instance.

Perhaps the story is about two appealing young women, sisters saddled with embarrassing relatives, who run into difficulties making the biggest decision available to them in their current circumstances--and the difficulties are at least partly of their own making.

Whether a writer starts with the truth or the specific instances of it--perhaps the sisterly relationship or the embarrassing relatives inspire the story--a truth, eventually, becomes part of the story. Stated or not, conscious or not, we write to make a point somehow.

Other contenders: "How can there be any sin in sincere?" "Up so floating many bells down" (or, more probably, "sun moon stars rain"). "Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever" (just kidding)

See? So much writerly wisdom exists in the world. I can't pick one sentiment. But it's fun to consider!
Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Oof, Some Days

So. Some days, your back hurts.

Some days, it's not your back that hurts, but the hurting back still hurts you.

Some days, your back stretches tall and you feel invincible.

Some days, you stand and walk and bend over and your back feels okay.

Some days, you can only hang on, hoping for a stretch of sunny days to make you feel foolish for taking a jacket.

Some days are all about waiting, but not passively--resting while you wait, readying yourself to grow again.

Like this.


Some days are for blooming.
Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Agave

Agave plants bloom once, late in their lifetimes, and it's pretty dramatic--a tall (ten- to twenty-foot or even taller) spike shoots up quickly over the course of a few weeks, then sprouts flowers. (This is not a technical, botanically correct description.)

After it blooms--which can take 10 years, or 20--the plant dies. (Don't fret. It has left behind little plants. For a longer version of this story, see Charlotte's Web. Or Little Shop of Horrors.)

A friend in Tucson has been monitoring a blooming plant since early April, posting updates on Instagram. It looked like variations on an asparagus stalk crossed with a Dr. Seuss illustration of a plant ready to open buds. Just a few more days, maybe, until it flowers.

Yesterday, he posted a picture of it lying across the road--high winds uprooted it.

Imagine, all that time put in to maturing, then working so hard to bloom. Then taken out before the work pays off.

A LITTLE ON THE NOSE THERE WITH THAT "LESSON," NATURE.

In a lull between movement on bigger projects, I've been desultorily working on an essay. Emphasis on desultory. I've allowed "oh who even cares" thoughts keep me from writing.

It's okay when those thoughts prevent me from submitting a piece for publication. I even checked to see if this piece still needs* to be written, and it does. It needs to be written, so I need to do it.

In this season of foul weather (check out the weather patterns across the middle of the North American continent and stay safe, y'all), some high winds are surely headed this way.

I'll keep working till then.

* "Needs" here doesn't mean for money or anything other than some inner need I have to work out something on the page. I'm incredibly fortunate that way.
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Restarting

I've been home for a week or so, but part of me still feels as if I'm traveling. That is to say, I'm still in the triage stage of return--what bills must be paid today, what else must be done for today's deadlines, what food do we absolutely need for today.

Meanwhile, some students and teachers are nearing the ends of their terms. As a result, or maybe it's coincidence, I've found some good advice out there lately. Wrap-up thoughts, if you will. A message to leave with people as they move ahead into the rest of their lives. 

One of my favorite online advice-givers is Lee Martin, a writer of novels and memoirs who also teaches in Ohio. Here is a recent blog post, Ten Precepts for the Writing Life. And here is my favorite precept (today): "Write because you know you'd be less human if you stopped."

And, if you are at a point in your writing life where you wonder what's next, or if you are venturing beyond the structure of a classroom, consider this list: Bernadette Mayer's List of Journal Ideas

Some of the more assignment-esque bits are near the bottom: "Type out a Shakespeare sonnet or other poem you would like to learn about/imitate double-spaced on a page. Rewrite it in between the lines."

Good reminders! Concrete assignments! Both help me manage returning from vacation and moving into a new season. Perhaps they will help you, too.