Tuesday, February 28, 2012

WRITERS' BLOCK

I am not so arrogant to say I never get writers' block but I'm learning to call it by different names. Some days it's just laziness and lack of interest in my project. Other days it's strong resistance to work and thinking. Resistance is like a stone wall I have to barrel through--it hurts my head but releases me from the bonds of idleness. I've read that "writing begets more writing," and I believe it's true. It's like priming the verbal pump with a trickle of good sentences. When the block comes in the guise of procrastination there's only one thing to do--sit at my desk, whip out a spiral notebook and my favorite purple pen and start writing. When I encounter the block of badly written sentences and characters that fall flat I have to force myself not to quit writing. If I keep going, tossing my lack of confidence out the door, I find dialogue, characterization, and settings building and scenes stretch out over several pages. Maybe not all keepers but definitely something to work with.

Now I just have to fight through my blocks against revision!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

LIGHT ON A GRAY DAY

Saturday was rainy and gloomy but I was happy to be indoors and sheltered by the quilt of gray clouds and the light of my muse. Sometimes it's just delightful to stay home all day and gather my poems into a notebook to await revisions. To leisurely lounge in bed, have a lovely breakfast and relax with that second cup of coffee while discussing politics with my husband. Then read without thinking about where I have to go, or what I have to do next.

I need these points of stillness in my life in order to let the muse in. She's shy and doesn't like to appear in the midst of noise, people or chaos. Somehow these rainy days, with soft music in the background, and the comfort of hot tea, beckon her out onto my shoulder where I can just sit, stare into space, not thinking, and let her guide me in the right direction. Lately she's been nudging me toward poetry, but the other night she gave me a significant push back toward my abandoned novel.

I could use more days of soft silence--so much more would get written this way. My days off from work are when my muse comes out to play. Someday when I retire she is going to be very playful.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

WADING THROUGH WORDS

Yes, writing is wading through words. First they hunker behind the gray convolutions of the brain. I nudge them out with a long walk outdoors, maybe some instrumental music, hot tea and candles, perhaps a dip into some good poetry or an exciting well written novel. Then all those anxious words begin to tumble around in my head like so many schools of krill. I toss my net into the chaos hoping to catch the train of a plot, an image to turn into a poem, an exciting character to build a story around. As I string the words across the page the magic happens. Scenes build, sentences become doorways into new worlds, characters spring to life before my eyes. I am compelled to keep going, it brings me back to the notebook again and again. It seems the more ideas I have for poems and short stories, the more ideas I get. Once all those words get loosened up there is no stopping them. I feel free. I believe I am a writer.

I am halfway through revising short stories for my collection. As I finish each one I will send it into the world hoping to find a home for it. Even as more story ideas get jotted in my inspiration notebook I am turning to poetry. I just finished one of Roger Housden's anthologies, "Dancing with Joy," and in my car is the anthology by Marilyn Sewell titled "Cries of the Spirit." I am wading through those words too, setting free my poetic spirit. Once these short stories are done and out and about, a binder full of poems awaits my revisions. They too will find homes I'm sure. Some may even end up here or on my other blog http://www.amarriageofpoetryandart.blogspot.com/.

Like wading into the foaming breakers of the gray-green ocean, I continue to wade into words, my own and those of other poets and fiction writers, and my heart swells like the waves at sea. It's a magnificent way to live.

                                                     ENTER POETRY

                                                In the crook of three evergreens
                                                I perch a book of nursery rhymes
                                                on my sunburned knees.
                                                I sit, criss-cross-applesauce
                                                on cool summer grass.
                                                My lips move as I read to myself;
                                                a conductor
                                                warming up that splendid
                                                synchronicity of sound in my head.
                                                Lyrical images
                                                mingle with an avian chorus,
                                                the swagger of noon breeze,
                                                the squish squash of children’s sneakers
                                                on hot pavement.
                                                I am in
                                                a world of poetry,
                                                at the ripe age of six.
                                                I will never leave.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

WRITING UPDATES

Okay, I had resolved to write every day, complete a short story every week, and start sending some things out. I'm getting there. Life nudges our resolutions out of view, giving us other things to do or think about. Stress in the guise of disappointment threatens to wipe all writing commitments aside while I hide inside the pages of a novel. But that won't get me anywhere. It was a tough week, not getting what I thought would be mine, but I had to shake it all off and hunker back to work. So, 3 haiku and two stories have been submitted, three stories were revised, making my short story collection halfway on its journey toward publication. (well submisison anyways.) Now it's back to some daily writing and getting those poems revised and sent out.

As the afternoon stretches out in front of me I am flagging but it's time for a shot of caffeine and some real work before this day ends.

in time for lunch
the muse settles in
pen slides across paper

WEEKLY PROMPT

Write about your ideal day

Thursday, February 16, 2012

SOLITUDE IN AN ELANTRA

My car is only several yards away from the chaos and stress of work but inside its red shell I find solitude. At lunch time I sneak out to the parking lot and hide in the front seat. My mp3 player whispers soft melodic music in my ears as I watch rain drip down the windshield like tears. I am sheltered, at peace and alone. There is much to be said about solitude, about not hearing the words of others or dealing with others' wants and needs. Here by myself I can read or meditate or just stare into the gray wet afternoon and let its cooling breath cleanse me of strain. As I sit and listen to the patter of rain and the occasional whir of an airplane words come to me. Lines of poetry tiptoe through my mind like tiny mice leaving little footprints of metaphor, similie, imagination. Characters emerge in the shapes on the glass or the billows of clouds. Story lines weave in and out of the strains of the music. Free of phone calls, visits to my office and the chatter of colleagues I can absorb the thoughts that gather into short stories, letting my brain infuse itself with ideas. None of this can happen unless I create this empty space for ideas to slither in. None of this can happen unless I find my way out here ever afternoon where my muse can emerge from her hiding place and whisper in my ear.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

SANCTUARY

It was small as closets go, with bi-fold doors painted shiny white. The doors were louvered as if to provide ventilation to something alive that resided within. But over the ten years I played and slept in that bedroom no living creature ever emerged.

My little sherbet colored cotton dresses with their long sashes that Mom tied in big bows at my back only reached a short way down from the closet rod, leaving lots of space for the really important pieces of my childhood.

Born a rigid little girl, I’ve never had tolerance for clutter or disorganization and apparently that trait began way back then in the confines of that closet. To the left was a neat stack of boxes that held all the clothes and accessories for the dolls that sat on the top of my bookcase. Next to that was the pink vinyl tote box that I took to dancing school. It carried my leotards, ballet and tap shoes and in its corners dreams of prima ballerinas and bouquets of red roses offered to me center stage. Next in line were stacks of puzzles, board games and art kits. Venus paradise colored pencil kits and paint by number oil paint kits. And to the far right was a stack of coloring books and paper doll books. Well, not the far, far right. Despite the midget size of the closet I was able to leave a small corner for a silk baby blanket, a silk pillow from my crib that had my name embroidered in the smoothest of dark pink thread and privacy as rich and decadent as an Ebinger’s blackout cake.

It was in that corner that I huddled when I needed sanctuary from the noise of large family gatherings, or just to browse through picture books by myself, even when the house was quiet and still. Later it became a hiding place from dark secrets, broken hearts, and unkempt promises.

I’ve never outgrown that need for my own private small space. Over the years I’ve found it in far corners of my backyard, a rocking chair in the corner of my bedroom, and during lucky years a whole room just for me to hide in. I’ve found it in a stretch of sunwashed beach, a park bench, a cafĂ© table; anyplace I can carve out a space devoid of people or noise.

In these caverns of solitude I have penned poems of sadness and joy, short stories of complete fiction and novels threaded with more truth than I care to share. I’ve painted my fears and depressions in both bold and subtle acrylics or transparent watercolors. I’ve created dolls that become my muses and scrapbooks that preserve the love of family. I’ve been frantically creative or silently pensive in these sanctuaries. I need these spaces and have even used hotel bathrooms for journal writing while on vacation.

No matter where I find my little corners of solitude, when I am in them I can still smell the musty floorboards from that closet. I can feel the silk of the pillow and blanket on the tips of my fingers and I can hear my heartbeat the way it echoed in my ears while captured in that small space.

I believe no matter where I go I will always be able to find the solitude and space I need in which to just be me. I know I would never live anywhere that didn’t afford that small corner of some room, or even a whole room. I think Virginia Woolf was right. A woman needs a room of her own, even if it’s only the back corner of a closet, where no one can find her except her own soul.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

SNOWY SATURDAY

It was snowing when I awoke and I was happy to see a gray day. I needed a day to unwind slowly and sleepily over morning pages and then bacon and eggs for breakfast. And then I actually accomplished something writerly.

I took all the stories for my short story collection and organized them in a binder. Then I created an index of titles and comments on the status of each---"published," "revise based on notes," "revise or write new version." I feel settled now. I even whipped off an email to my two writing instructors for suggestions on how to get this collection out into the publishing world. Plan to have this done by end of April before our Tapestries writing group retreat at which time I will start planning my "memoir in poetry."

I also took all the other short stories I have, put them into a second binder, also with a table of contents of titles and status of each story. I feel so productive!

Now off to do some free-writes, revise a story for class next week, and clean my closet. Will surely do a new art journal page before this day is over.

WEEKLY PROMPT

Write a 500 word story, but write it backwards. End with the scene just before the inciting incident and back up to where the story starts. GO!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ACCEPTANCE AND REJECTION

I returned home yesterday after a stressful and busy work day to find two familiar envelopes had come in the mail. When a writer finds an envelope with her own return address label on the face it means one of two things---a poem, story, proposal or whatever has been either rejected or accepted for publication. Yesterday I found two such business sized envelopes from the same literary journal. In one was an acceptance letter for a poem I'd written, VOICES IN THE CEMETERY which appeared a few weeks back on this blog. I'm taking bragging rights here. I was so honored to have an editor like what I'd written from the heart enough to publish it.

It was, seconds later, tempered by a rejection, from the same editor, of a short story I had submitted. I can't let the rejection overshadow the acceptance so I am bragging about it to everyone I know. And the lesson here is to go back to the drawing board, or writing desk as it were, and make that story so good that the next editor who reads it will send me that ever prized acceptance.

Admittedly I get more rejections than acceptances but I am waiting for the day that ratio is reversed.

Friday, February 3, 2012

WRITING PRACTICE

It's Friday and I just ordered yet another writing craft book from amazon.com. Why do I believe that reading all these how-to's will teach me to write? Why do I complain about not having time to write when all I need to do is clear away the stack of books on the coffee table and go to my writing desk? Many of these authors recommend doing a daily writing practice.

Writing practice is the process of choosing some random prompt and writing stream of conscious sentences for a set time, like ten minutes. Using a timer the writer has to race to finish some complete idea before the buzzer startles her from her writing trance. Almost every writing book suggests this, except one or two I've seen recently. And of course when you read conflicting information you have to decide which is more correct, or which is right for you.

"The Memoir Project" suggests that writing practice is not only unnecessary but hampers you from getting to the real work of writing a book, short story, or essay that can be marketed someplace. For all the ten minute timed writings you've done, you could have been doing some "real" writing. Makes sense. All those half hours spent writing morning pages could have added up to several novels of 80,000 words or more. They could have been used to create enough poems to fill several collections. In all these years of writing morning pages and doing timed writing practice, I could have written my memoir, revised it, and had it published.

So why waste the time?

Sorry to say I haven't solidly answered that question for myself yet. I'm getting closer. Maybe I'll find the answer in my three long hand pages tomorrow morning. Maybe I'll find it in a ten minute writing session based on the prompt, "why write morning pages?"

The answer to writing dilemmas is not an exact science like mathematics, but then that's why I've chosen this literary path. I like the open ended question that piques my imagination. It's a balancing act and I am midway across the tightrope.

WEEKLY PROMPT

Start a flash fiction with this first line:  
The first thing she saw when she opened the old scrapbook was . . .