Not surprisingly, I've been too busy to write. Yes, even a tiny poem won't be squeezed out at the moment. And don't we writers know how to procrastinate in the best possible way in order to avoid writing? Coffee, dishwasher, newspaper, the dreaded internet...all time-wasters of the highest order!
But like the best writers I know, I've been writing-of-sorts in my head. Poetry is easier to carry in your head than an entire novel, I'll admit. Nonetheless, it seems that everything I've encountered...laid hands on in the past few weeks has redirected me to the writing. And it's a good thing.
Whether that's yarn (like twisted, spaghetti-thoughts), the fog that my mind (and the most inspired words) usually seems to reside in, the crazy-blinking lights in the darkness or the proper tools to apply to the chaos that first lands on the page...it's all been an echo chamber.
And didn't we just (this weekend) scavenge the reusable section of what once was a stone-filled crib that the float dock was hitched to and convert it into a shore-deck for early morning coffee; for relaxing by the water; for supervising swimming children? Yes. Just as with raw writing, boards were cut and cobbled together like salvageable words and phrases to create an impression (no matter how shaky it looks to the writer, lol).
There's value in everything! Keep your observant-writers-eye trained on the world around you and lap up summer like the elixir it is.
Non-writers think the words just flow from a writer's pen like magic in some sort of blissful perfection. Not true. Although a writerly mind tends to focus (often too much) on minute details and obtuse observations, our thought are usually spat out onto the page just like everyone else's.
So this past week as I tackled my first bag of knitting yarn that arrived in skeins instead of balls, I had over an hour (that it took my to maneuver it into proper form) to contemplate how this soooo relates to writing. It's kinda like when you're stripping wallpaper or mowing the lawn and your mind has time to wander...to what? Well, writing, of course. And the dumping of first draft material onto paper is very similar to managing a jumble of strands into orderly fashion, no?
In the end, it's about having the tools - a swift here - and then practicing the process so that your muscles - in the case of authoring, your writing-muscles or freewill-capacity - remember exactly what they're doing as you put pen-to-paper. Training your mind to relax and let the words flow (unedited!) is what it's all about. Editing, perfecting, polishing comes later.
What's needed is akin to the aligning of disparate strands/thoughts/words into fragments/phrases/(dare I say) sentences. I'm most often a poet, so I don't even worry so much about sentences. Dig deep and dredge up the feelings because emotion that you, as writer, deliver to the page, your reader will find and feel from the page.
Practice doesn't have to make perfect...just get it done!
Although I don't attend my larger Writers' Community (wcdr.ca) as often as I want...should...used to, I attended their morning networking meeting this morning to partake of the insight and expertise of Katie Hearn (Editorial Director of Canadian children's publisher, Annick Press) with special thanks to my friend/author, Sylv Chiang (look for her middle grade series Tournament Trouble at your local bookstore - my grandson's love them!) What Katie reminded me of is the need for writers, firstly to write; butt in chair with commitment and drive. Then to connect with other writers for support in a lonely occupation, brain-picking on next steps in the publishing journey and exposure to the best of the publishing industry's brain-trust (that's the expertise part). Vital stuff for writers of all level of experience!
Then I was reminded of the motivation garnered from the energy in the room. Yes, that's the 'push' such a gathering of writers gives us naturally-layback-shy-to-put-ourselves-out-there sorts. And I'm one of them. Even though you've come to expect me to send my stuff out on a regular basis from all the blathering I do where my poetry's concerned, I'm as complacent as the next person when it comes to submitting my children's stuff or my memoir manuscript. As an aside, I'm considering indie-publishing the full-edited-ready-to-go memoir that's been collecting dust for the past 5 or 6 years.
But this afternoon, I was fired up about my middle-grade manuscript; written at least 5 years ago. Sure, my pitch letter needed a few tweaks and the synopsis was stored on an unused flash drive. I had to pull everything together, but I had a name to put on my e-submission. Dear so-and-so is much better than to-whom-it-may-concern, don't you think? So, for my hour's worth of effort, I'm rewarded by the satisfaction of having-submitted. Come what may (most often the rejection that I take in stride by de-sensitizing myself to it...by rote), at least I've gotten off my gluteus-maximus to JUST DO IT!
Write on...my friends!
PS: Sometimes you're work is a contest winner (like this poem of mine that recently won the Calgary Poetry Contest 2019) Enjoy!
It's taken me over a week to formula exactly what I want to express about life at the moment. A writer's life.
Last week, many of us were stunned into that shocked silence...not being able to put together the words to convey our sadness at the events in the centre of Paris. Although I've been to Paris at least 3 times in my life, I always seemed to parachute in for a day or two and never made it into the cathedral (just as I've never seen the inside of the Louvre). I am planning on a visit to Paris in the fall and was dismayed to hear that (my favourite way of travelling - with writers!) the Inkslinger's Retreat was scheduling a whole day in Notre Dame (cue weeping for it's not to be). Nevertheless, as writers are often called on to do, I was nudged into labelling my feelings the day after the blaze during a full day of writing (sonnets, this time) at James Dewar's monthly Poetry Sanctuary. And I did come away with 4 sonnets!
This week my brother called asking for words...My family has commissioned a set of carillon bells for the family-church steeple in the city and we've been invited to add an inscription. These bells are in dedication to my mother (who some might remember died in 2017 after a shockingly brief illness). Again, I was reminded of the grappling feeling of wordlessness. Reaching and stretching for the best words in the best order (the definition of poetry).
Much of poetic writing has focused on climate change in this past year. How to capture the emotion and the raw power in feeble words? That is the struggle of many a writer. Standing mute when it's necessary to formulate full sentences. Words are the building blocks of communication. Yet sometimes we need to take refuge in the awkward silences; the quiet practices; the stillness of nature to find those breadcrumbs...Do not be discouraged about taking that moment - that breath - that beat from which the words will spring. Those places are your sustenance.
Then, write on...
At this time of year, most of us are so starved for colour in our lives - writers as well as ordinary folks - that we bemoan any hint of further snowfall. The grass is yellowy-brown. The trees are bare. Too often rain and clouds block the sun. If the sun appears, it's watery and weak. Winds prevail. And we're just done with being patient!
Such is the writing life as well. I've been encouraging you for over a year to submit, submit, submit (your work). And with submissions come the wait. It helps if you're tracking your overloaded roster of submissions because (mostly) you'll forget that 6 months have passed; or that you never heard back (& can axe that notation, sending the work out again); or can send it out anyway, doubling-tripling up of the possibilities for that piece you're so proud of.
I expect rejections. It's how I ward off the disappointments. Then should an acceptance arrive to my inbox, oh joy! For the first time ever (several weeks ago), I had such an acceptance - a contest winner. There was joy, but also the mad scramble to inform a Lit Journal that I was pulling that poem and the replacement of the poem with another publication (since the deadline hadn't passed yet). First time angst due to simultaneous submissions...and I survived. Know that you can easily sort out any issues if your work should win something. It'll be the least of your concerns. In my case, my poem (written on the tour bus in Ireland last summer) called Rowing Across the North Atlantic has won the Calgary Poetry Contest and all the relevant paperwork has been signed for publication. These small victories are too few and far between for poets - for writers in general. But know they can be managed.
And they do add a hit of colour to this barren time of year! That and the high-octane saturation of my knitting and crochet projects...
Write on, fellow wordsmiths!
You know that feeling when you've just written a huge chunk and you're proud of yourself. Your words are like golden droplets of genius; like they've fallen from the heavens onto your page; writing the world is just waiting for...? Nah.
If you leave it for a month; a week; sometimes just a day, you'll be able to take a more clear-eyed look at your work. And so often, you'll want to overreact and toss it. Resist that impulse. Your words are seldom the genius you thought they were but they are also not 'dreck'.
This past weekend I tackled a project that reminded me of the ruthless, surgical editing work that is usually required to buff and polish our writing. I tackled a beautiful sofa that I've owned since the mid-80s (well-bought and sturdy of construction); that I last re-upholstered about 17 or 18 years ago; tore it right down to the frame and foam. What a satisfying feeling to freshen something that was 'okay'. By smoothing and arranging, I turned it into something quite 'yummy'!
I devoted the time (3 1/2 days) and the patience (prying staples and unbolting components) to create what I imagined in my mind's eye. Behold!
And you too can fill your life with this kind of colour...every day!
Not only did I miss much of the coldest weather; the heaps of snow and the polar vortex excitement, I also got a break from the characters that routinely stomp around in my head. It's true, I've written more poetry than anything else in the past year (to fairly regular pub success due to submitting, submitting, submitting!) but writers hear voices...don't cha know?
So, the lull of the surf-sounds (and the buckets of rain we had in south-Florida), the rhythmic movements of my hands (while knitting and crocheting that scarf for my grand-daughter) and the scratch-scratch of my pen for the odd poem is all I needed to get a fresh start of what remains of the month of February in the wintry North.
Needless to say, we should all be so lucky as to take a break from our everyday lives as writers...to cleanse the palate (so to speak).
Happy Home and write on...
Sure, don't we all carry the perfect image of what we're creating in our mind's eye - rich and wrought from pure magic? And when we go to make that inspiration real in the here-and-now, hard-as-nails, brutal world, doesn't it too often not measure up?
Me too. My imagination holds (say) that blood-red moon and my craft can only accomplish what is comparable to the snapshot my iPhone feebly captures. But do I pout? Do I fret? Do I simply shove it into the nearest drawer and forget it every happened? No! Say it with me, no...
I edit and polish to the best of my capabilities. I enlist the aid of other writers/poets. I share my raw work with the groups I have access to. And what happens is that others see/hear something much more akin to that blood-red moon than I'm able to conjure.
This is what gives me the guts to send it out. To submit. And then (although I anticipate only rejection) I receive emails of acceptance. The best affirmation that any writer could hope for. So during this cold and silent time of year...write...share...submit...
You owe it to the world!
In 2018, I was fortunate to have 27 poems accepted for publication (all over the world - except Australia I'm still striving to crack)...and just got my first acceptance of 2019...with an American Journal that published one of last May...so...does this finally make it a trend? I'm going to hazard a YES! And although not every submission is a perfect fit for every opportunity, if you don't ever send anything out...risking the possibility of no...then your stellar record of zero publications will hold (sheesh). And there's no fun in that.
I cheer the rejections as much as I do the acceptances because I can then plug that particular piece back into my roster of (say) 400 poems (that I very regularly) send out and it may hit somewhere else. Hope springs eternal, they say. Not only that, but I've found to some of my older poems have been picked up during the past year, so I want to encourage you to pull those older writings out of the bottom drawer, blow off the dust and give them a vigorous polish (meaning edit). Be brave. Send them out into the world. PROOF: That acceptance of the past week was scribbled into my little notebook in 2010.
So, hold tight to any tiny scrap of spring that you can fill your life with; don your reading socks to stay warm during the winter months; crack open that little notebook and dedicate yourself to sharing your magic with the world!
It's never too late, writers.
Be brave and thrive (like this quirky being)!
So as a writer, I find that I'm always relating the rest of my life experiences to what goes on the page. Maybe because I'm mostly a poet? Writers of other genres can confirm that for me. And those who've been following along know that other than roofing and renos, I've falling into my (former) crafting life by playing with textile creation again.
Remember, this little experiment from December? Well, I tired of it and the uninspiring colours that I started the knitting off with so I frogged it - that's ripping it all back to yarn that can be utilized in something else. Sometimes we need to tear apart, cannabalize or just toss our written work (much as it horrifies us) inorder to turn it into what it was always intended to be.
Having survived the holidays (so far), I can say on this New Year's Eve that life/work/craft/just-plain-breathing is good. It will be a quiet transition, but I find that the most fruitful poetry comes in the quietest, introspective moments. So, relish what nourishes you; revel in the company of those human beings around you in all of their diverse glory; take pause and smell the roses and above all, learn to love yourself (yes, with all your flaws and nitty-gritty crazy!)
Make 2019 the year of YOU! Everyone wants more you...
Poet. Writer. Teacher. Artist.