Reading Deprivation

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For writers, reading is a way of life. We read early and often. We read, we write. We check our media contacts, read newspapers or magazines online or in hard copy, then read a text of something similar to what we are working on in our own writing. If we stop reading, it’s deprivation.

It’s a paradox that by emptying our lives of all that text and distraction, we are actually refreshing the wellspring. By absenting ourselves from all the media, we get in touch with our inner selves, which is where all the creativity comes from. By keeping the inflow to a minimum, the outflow improves. Our true thoughts and feelings will begin to penetrate and come out in new writing, running freely. I knew a playwright who would take off his shoes and socks and stand in a running stream with a paper and pencil to literally get his flow going.

If you find not reading difficult, and many writers do, here are some suggestions:

.listen to music that has no words

.sew

.repot plants

.cook a complicated, time-consuming recipe and then

.invite friends to dinner

.watercolor

.rearrange the kitchen

.exercise

.meditate

.dance

After a number of these activities, sit down and write again. Notice any differences in your feelings or content. Your writing may benefit.

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Using the Library for Writing

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I was struggling with writing a poem about a historical incident. I just couldn’t find a way into the poem. I tried locking myself in my study, ignoring the phone when it rang, procrastinating with housework, but nothing worked.

Then a writer friend of mine made a suggestion. Go to the Library. I live in Massachusetts where every town has a town library, but it just didn’t occur to me. I’ve read many articles and blogs on how to focus as a writer, but I hadn’t tried my local library.

I organized my writing materials as best I could, convinced I would leave important things at home that I would need there. I allowed for time to get to and from the library (about eight minutes each way. ) I carried my computer and notes to the car and set off.

When I arrived there, I found a lovely place to sit, a desk with partitions that actually blocked me from other desks. It was quiet and I easily tuned my computer into the wifi, and soon enough I was writing a rough draft. I came to a point where I needed to confirm some historical information, and the reference librarian was at the ready to help.

I wound up bringing the draft home and finishing it there. I recently submitted the poem. I don’t know if it will be accepted, but at least I finished it and it’s off my desk.

I’ll be blogging on Thursdays and doing announcements on Tuesdays as they come along. Follow me.

Derek Walcott on Life

The time will come 
when, with elation 
you will greet yourself arriving 
at your own door, in your own mirror 
and each will smile at the other’s welcome. 

–Derek Walcott

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Derek Walcott writes about being comfortable in your own skin. In a world of war and international pandemic, sometimes we have to be our own friend.

As writers, we need to nurture ourselves. There is plenty of rejection and criticism out there for the writer, so being our own cheerleader is sometimes necessary.

We crave praise, awards, good reviews, and the affirmation of the publisher, but if we remember the joy of the creative process, we don’t need the positive feedback of others.

As a poet, I work often alone and in solitude. Books tend to be published quietly also. There may be a book launch, but aside from that, people buy and read our books on their own. This doesn’t mean that our books don’t touch people or have a lasting effect. A writers, we know the books that have made that special impact on us and we have to trust that our writing will have an effect on our readers.

Or as Derek Walcott so aptly put it “…peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life. “

I will be posting on Thursdays about the writing life, with announcements, as they come, on Tuesdays. Follow me at WordPress.

How to Avoid Distractions While Writing

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It’s really easy to get distracted when writing, especially now that we’re all often working at home. Phone calls, emails and housework all conspire to take away the writing time.

Losing focus while in the middle of writing can seriously damage the quality of your content, The human brain takes around 17 minutes to refocus on a task after a distraction. If you want your writing to be the best quality content possible, you need to get rid of distractions. Billy Collins, the former Poet Laureate of the U.S., suggests sitting with your idea and writing until the complete thought is down,

You can disable notifications on your computer and delay household chores until after writing.If you put your writing first, you get more accomplished and the quality of the content will be better.

During the pandemic I wrote a collection of poetry and had it published.  I did this by focusing.  Take a look at the book:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Getting Distracted While Writing

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It’s really easy to get distracted when you write, especially now that we’re all largely home working and there are phone calls, emails and housework all conspiring to take away the writing time.

The human brain takes around 17 minutes to refocus on a task after a distraction. Losing focus while in the middle of writing, can seriously damage the quality of your content. If you want your writing to be the best quality content possible, you need to get rid of distractions.

Disable all notification on your computer and put your phone on silent so that you do not get disturbed in the middle of a writing session.  Be disciplined enough to either do your housework  before you write, or better yet, delay it until after your writing session.

If you put your writing first, you get more accomplished and the quality of the content will be better.

During the pandemic I wrote a collection of poetry and had it published.  I did this by focusing.  Take a look at the book:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Rejection Therapy in Writing

Ok, so your piece has been rejected. As writers, we all go through it. Rejection can be defined as the act of pushing something away. We submit a piece or a manuscript somewhere where we think it will be a fit, and the powers that be don’t see it that way.

One thing I find that helps is knowing that publishing is just a business. A publisher is looking for something specific and your writing may not fit the bill. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it just means it’s not what the publisher is looking for.

Most editors don’t comment on their rejections, but if you do get feedback, you may learn from it. I had an editor tell me I was using too many adjectives and adverbs. I took the advice to heart and started editing them out, and it made my writing stronger.

When a piece has been rejected several times, I try revising it. Language in its uneducated, natural form, reveals if we uncouple our own judgment and explore linguistic vehicles, the piece may be better. In poetry, it sometimes means trying a different format. If it’s a free verse poem, I’ll try something more formal, like a pantoum or sonnet. It sometimes can provide a different, more successful vehicle for the piece.

Another thing I sometimes try is reordering the piece. The last line might not be right. The last line might be found a stanza or two up. Maybe I’ve done too much explaining, and it wants cutting. Or the beginning of the piece might better serve it in the middle.

When I did my last collection, “Touch My Head Softly,” I kept rearranging the order of the poems. Then I realized nothing fit the beginning. So I wound up writing a prose poem to start off the collection.

When I’m going through rejections, I sometimes remind myself why I like to write, and this often makes me feel better. I wrote the poems in Touch My Head Softly, about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s in his sixties. It helped me to get through my grief by doing this and this became an end in itself.

You can view my collection Touch My Head Softly, at:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Touch My Head Softly can be viewed on Goodreads at:

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https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3609820860https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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Storytelling, an ancient art form, allows writers to make sense of the world and derive deeper meaning from their lives since the beginning of human history.

Storytelling takes practice and there are things you can do to improve your technique. You want to have clarity when you tell a story. It should have a central theme and you should keep your eye on that theme as you go along. If you want to tell an engaging story, keep the tension up to the end. Be clear about the plot point that builds the story.

Great literature is crafted around characters that have great obstacles in their way, and eventually overcome them. You must embrace conflict if you want to engage your readers.

A good story has a beginning, middle and ending. A successful story might start with an inciting incident, lead into accelerated action, build to a climax and resolve. A good path to becoming a good storyteller is to read good storytellers. A good writer reads a lot. There’s a reason The Illiad and the Odyssey are still read after centuries of being told and written.

Observe good storytellers. See how they engage their audiences. This can be a family member who weaves tales of ancestors or a politician who engages the public

While reading other writer’s stories is essential, it’s also important to draw on your own experiences. This way your stories will ring true. Be an observer and use those observations. If you can’t use your recall for details, go research and re-experience. I recently revisited three locales I’m writing a story about: New York City, the Nevada desert, and the mountains of Costa Rica.

What places do you write about?

Persistence and the Writing Process

They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.  I often think of the writing process when I hear that old adage.  Writing can seem laborious when we proofread, edit, revise.  These are the mundane parts of the process. The joy, for me, is in the creation, but that’s only one stage of the writing process.

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So try to enjoy the journey, and not just the final, published product.  Writing groups can help as you can share your writing with others and self-edit along the way.  Writing is an isolating activity and a group of writers can help with the isolation. You can also get good suggestions from fellow writers.

Readings can help also.  Reading a work in progress can help to get feedback and it also helps to hear your work aloud.  Samuel Butler says “I feel weak places at once when I read aloud where I thought, as long as I read to myself only, that the passage was alright…” The act of reading, line for line, can help the writer focus in a way that just rereading again can’t.

It took me ten years to write my most recent collection of poems, Touch My Head Softly (Finishing Line Press, 2021.) I kept starting and stopping, but reading the poems aloud in writing groups helped to keep me going. The members of my group also encouraged me to publish, which I eventually did.

Check out the collection at:

#https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Two Books on Loved Ones With Dementia

Have you ever had the experience of finding someone who wrote a book on a similar topic to yours? It’s not exactly déjà vu, but there is definitely resonance there.  I just published a collection of poems about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s and Dementia in his 60’s (Touch My Head Softly, Flutter Press, 2021.) and this book I discovered was about caring for an elderly mother with among other things, dementia (Why Is Grandma Naked?: Caring for Your Aging Parent,Kelsay Books, 2021.)  The scenarios are not the same, but many similarities about caretaking and emotions in this situation are similar.

Author Ellen Pober Rittberg, playwright, talk-show host, attorney, writer, approaches the subject of caring for the aging family member, who wants to among other things, take off clothes in inappropriate situations, with humor and grace. My book of poems talks about, when my partner accuses me falsely of infidelity, of how to survive the ordeal of a loved-one in an altered state of reality.

Rittberg describes her journey with her mother as joyous, stressful, life-altering and worth every bit of energy because “we never know how long our parents will be with us.”  My poetry is more a backward look at what went on to make sense of the experience.  Rittberg talks about the nursing home dilemma, especially relevant post-pandemic, that she faced with her mother and family, My poems deal with the dilemma of the death.

Feel free to take a look at either or both books at:

http://www.ellenrittberg.com

#https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

A 21st Century Place: Poetry from a Pandemic Reading 8pm EST Wed.,June 30

University Professors Press is proud to announce the release of A 21st Century Plague: Poetry from a Pandemic edited by Elayne Clift. This book is a powerful collection of poems about the Covid-19 pandemic. We will be hosting a book release celebration with a poetry reading on Facebook Live on Wednesday, June 30 at 5:00 PM PST/6:00 PM MST/ 7:00 PM CST/8:00 PM EST. Like the University Professors Press Facebook page to receive a notification when the event starts. Use coupon code “21cp_nr2021” at the University Professors Press website to receive a 10% discount on A 21st Century Plague. The coupon is also good for the Poetry, Healing, and Growth Book Bundle (12 books), including A 21st Century Plague.Read more at https://universityprofessorspress.com/new-release-a-21st…/#poetry#poetrylovers#poetryisnotdead#poetrycommunity#poems#COVID19#covid#pandemic#pandemicpoetry

Check out University Professors Press Facebook Page for link:

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https://universityprofessorspress.com/21cp10

Go to their Facebook Page for the link