Tag Archives: writing

back

doll

I’m back. Here, I mean. What happened? I just got tired. And I was sad about my writing. When I’m sad and tired, I don’t have extra energy. This is what this is. Extra energy. A way for me to exercise writing in a different way.

What does “back” mean? Coming here weekly. Attempting not to bore. Opening up a bit to what’s inside. It also means some chores: selecting what to write, writing it, playing with photos and links, if I want to deepen the entry.

At first I blogged because I was supposed to: marketing. Then it became another and quicker and more fun way to express. Then I ran out of steam and felt empty. So I stopped writing here. Kept on with fiction, but stopped here. Now I have a second wind. Let’s see where we go……………

cameilla

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strange

siege_image6What a strange life I lead. I am researching details to write a war scene. I’m reading about demi-lunes and covered ways and bastions and ricochet fire. I’ve already researched it, but I’m going over and over it in my mind before I write it. A character will die in this war scene. If I see the siege in my mind, I’ll be able to make a reader see it. I’m in 1673 internally. In 2014, I’m at my computer looking at old drawings and making notes and diagrams. As the wicked witch told Dorothy, what a world, what a world.

happiness

I’m preparing for my writing class….looking over interviews with writers I’ve saved but not managed to read. Toni Morrison‘s words in a summer O Magazine stop me in my tracks….

I gave a commencement address at Princeton where I told the graduates that I wished them happiness but they shouldn’t settle for that–it wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t important enough.

Her words take the pursuit of happiness and somehow put it in another place, give the headlong rush of all of us toward it another tone.

What do you think?

madness

Here’s something I wrote for Creative Madness Mama. At first I felt like I had no idea what to say, but I started anyway and before I knew it, words flowed out. That’s the way it is with writing prompts, why I like them, why writers who feel stuck should practice with them………
I wish I were creatively mad. Perhaps then I wouldn’t worry so. But when I think about it, creative madness does have me. Why write about a family in the early 18th century and become so engaged with them that you take the story backwards instead of forwards to write about the grandmother? Why take the story backwards instead of forwards? Why spend your days imagining what a character might have said or how she/he would react? Why read biographies and social commentaries and memoirs and funny old almanacs and recipe books? People around me rise at 7 am, go off to work in a cubicle. I can stay at home in my pajamas and daydream about other centuries and people who aren’t real, or who were real but now are gone. That’s crazy, that’s madness. That’s creative……………..

 
The best part of creative madness is when I know I have the story. It’s when the characters become as real as someone I live with. To leap off the reams of biography and commentary about Louis XIV and know him when he was 22 and vulnerable and wanting to live up to an ideal was crazy and incredibly liberating. I became very fond of him in Before Versailles. I hope you become fond of him, too…….
Do you ever experience creative madness? 

care6

How do I wrap up what I know about the care and feeding of the writer within? By reminding that each writer is unique, a special bundle of drama and memory and insecurity, and each writer must figure him or herself out to create long work or continual work. That understanding your inner writer is as important as writing because when you block or stall, often it has to do with the conditions under which the inner is laboring or the fear the inner is experiencing.

To steal a factoid from a wonderful talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about inspiration on TED:  perhaps the muse is an outside thing, a gift given whether we deserve it or not, and therefore it isn’t our fault that the creative process is so capricious. And, as Ken Atchity says, the muse  can visit while we’re in a project; in other words, that we don’t have to wait for inspiration to show up and set us afire. We can take the steps and have her surprise us along the way. Discipline helps the writer, orients him or her, but too much discipline, and at the wrong time, breaks the spirit.

There is a wonderful book, Writing the Natural Way, that uses clustering, a seemingly random gathering of right brain memory, to begin writing. I think clustering is a great fallback in the middle of a hard project or as a beginning to one. I think clustering can help unblock. You may find out more about you than the plot, but that is likely what you need to know anyway.

And finally, I end my little series on the care and feeding of your writer with lines from a poem, Family Reunion. The lines I’ve chosen describe the fragility of creativity within me, the care it needs, its innocence, and most of all, its knowing.

….most are cut off from their own/histories, each of which waits/like a child left at day care.

What if you turned back for a moment/and put your arms around yours?/Yes, you might be late for work;/no, your history doesn’t smell sweet/like a toddler’s head. But look

at those small round wrists/ that short-legged, comical walk./Caress your history–who else will?/Promise to come back later.

Pay attention when it asks you/simple questions:  Where are we going?/Is it scary? What happened? Can/I have more now? Who is that?

How are you caring for your writer?

care5

How does discipline play in the care and feeding of your writer? It has a bigger role than you imagine: not enough and you feel terrible; too much and you burn out. Ken Atchity writes in his A Writer’s Time that you should work on your project whether or not you feel the muse. She’ll show up eventually, he says, and it might as well be for something that matters.

My own experience is that I have to show good faith on a long project (for me, a novel), but that the not knowing where I’m going and the deadend writing that is the process of that wears and tears emotionally, and I have to step back sometimes, give myself a break away. This is when I head for morning pages or when I try to write a haiku every day, something that keeps me engaged with the act of writing but isn’t the process that is currently busting me.

I also have to find a balance of discipline, which means when I’m in a hard stage of a big writing process not writing so long and so hard that I exhaust myself, another of Atchity’s tips for the long haul on a project.

This is also where you use the tricks of stopping in the middle of a scene or knowing exactly the first sentence you will write the next day. (The mind rewrites it, but you mustn’t until time to sit down and do it.) And when in a hard project, you work until the point before exhaustion or depression. That way, you keep faith with the project, and yet you protect that part of yourself that is terrified you won’t be able to do whatever it is you’re aiming for.

Bonni Goldberg in her Room to Write has a great writing prompt: give your muse a look and give it a voice, too. Picture it, and then write what it says to you. I do this exercise every year in my writing class, and every year, the muse is so kind to the writers, so much kinder than the writers are to themselves.

Hope is a thing with feathers/That perches in the soul…..one of its faces is creativity.

the garden

I can never resist the garden in the spring. Houston’s been in a false spring since January, and I’ve been outside happily cleaning and clearing and filling bare spaces with what I hope will thrive. I’ve watched many a season of what I like die or grow spindly from lack of sun, for the yard I work in is a shady one towered over by a very old camphor tree that is quite decided in what it lets grow beneath. I’ve been in a battle with that tree for years, and mostly it won. But with time, I’ve been able to edge the yard with things that thrive, ivies, gingers, cannas, iron plants. There’s a life lesson there….to make a regular habit of cleaning away muck…..and something  about acceptance. To work with what you have. To bloom where you’re planted….but what if there’s shade? Then you green where you’re planted, don’t you?

What’s in your spring garden? Outside and within? Have you raked it lately?