“Hold fast to dreams for when dreams go Life is a barren field frozen with snow.”
I live in the Northeastern United States and we are leaving winter behind and moving into spring. Green things are starting to pop out of the ground and the trees have small bursts that will be leaves. As a poet, I like to take out what I’ve written over the winter and see what can be used in a manuscript or for a journal submission. So I hold onto my dreams, my writing, and figure out what is worth publishing.
Some writers, like Mary Gordon, write pen on paper. I need a computer. But I need to revisit the joy of writing periodically. I also do this after a long winter. Spring is the time for renewal, to look back at the past, find what’s good, and move forward. It’s a good time to put the best of your work into manuscript form.
I will continue to blog on Thursdays, with announcements as they come up, on Tuesdays.
“Glory be to God for dappled things — For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim.”
–Gerard Manley Hopkins, Pied Beauty
Beautiful, precious things make life worth living, especially in these difficult times. Poetry is a celebration of the beauty, and sometimes lack of it in life.
It’s important to make beauty in the world, especially when war and violence are a threat. I make beauty, as many poets do, in my poetry. This beauty makes life worth living, even in depressing times. In fact, I try to write through the despair.
And it’s important to remember to be grateful for this beauty. Everyday, in my meditation, I find something, even on bad days, to be grateful for, i.e. the sounds of the spring peepers at my local pond, the small green sprouts of spring, etc. I’m sure you can add to this list.
I will continue to blog on Thursdays, with announcements, as they come along, on Tuesdays.
When you finish a manuscript, there is usually a down time for reflection, but then, as a writer, you need to start on a new project. I find this phase challenging because I often have many ideas percolating, but don’t know which one to choose to pursue. It’s a commitment.
There’s not enough time to pursue all my ideas, so the issue is which projects to pursue and which to pass by, maybe forever. So I ask myself, is this the right concept for a poem, narrative for a story?
There’s a project that’s right for you, and only you can find it. I recently published a book of poetry and now I am in search of a project. Check out my book at:
I woke up last night in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep, war on my mind. The new poem I had written that day needed a title. I got out of bed and added the title to the poem.
This act of writing can be a savior in these dark times. The writing is a form of sanity for me. If I am writing about current events or not, it is a way of keeping myself focussed on something positive.
My creative visualizations are on world peace these days. My creative writing takes me anywhere it leads me.
I will continue to blog on Thursdays, with announcements on Tuesdays.
Onething I love about winter in the Northeast is the snow. Now the snow is going, and it’s officially spring this week.
I love the quiet, the writerlyness of the whole thing. But how does this affect my writing? I wrote a collection of poems about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s. We had spent a lot of time in Mexico, so this landscape came into my poems:
“When I think of Oaxaco
I remember the Zocolo
where they sold pipa del agua
and chocolate dripping from paper cups.”
The setting just naturally came into the poem. Does this happen with you?
Whether writing pen to paper or sending a text or email, writing and reading is different today.
We can listen to a podcast, watch the news on television or our computer, or still read a book or newspaper. But what of the skill of writing? Employers complain that resumes are filled with typos and a well-written resume still draws a better job application response. The written word can be a powerful tool for a business leader affecting employees. Studies show that people disregard messages when they have glaring typos and mistakes.
And what about the power of a hand-written message. When was the last time you got one? Did you read it? Did it affect you? How about a letter sent by snail mail, rather than email or text?
A personalized message has a way of making the person receiving it feel valued and recognized.
It wasn’t sent to the masses, but written especially for the receiver.
Writing has a way of developing relationships between people. I know at holiday times when I get hand-written cards, I always respond positively to them and pay attention, be they a simple,
“Best wishes for the New Year” or a whole report on the last year.
And what of the creative writer? Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way suggest starting the day by handwriting with pen to paper. This is supposed to access the creative side and also gives the artist the freedom to write without rereading or censoring. Many writers use pen and paper as a different way into their writing that their computer keyboard just doesn’t do.
When I wrote my most recent collection of poetry, Touch My Head Softly, I tried all different ways of writing: pen and paper, keyboard, dictating into a recorder, an old typewriter.
There is beauty in imperfection. In this pre-Colombian figure, the right arm is missing, but it’s still beautiful. Michelangelo would often leave a small bit of sculpture unfinished, like on his David he did not polish the very top of the head. This is the aftermath of a crippling self-doubt. He knew as an artist he could never be perfect. Kafka told his friend to burn his manuscripts.
So why do we have a feeling of inadequacy from time to time about out own work? Nothing is perfect in the world. Why should our writing be? Leonardo DaVinci said art is never finished, only abandoned.
As writers, we have to transform a blank page or screen into something other people will want to read. This is not always easy. No wonder sometimes we fail. Failure is inevitable.
This is an imperfect world and we need to let go of the idea of perfection. We can aspire to good writing, but it will never be perfect. Some people will like our writing. Some people won’t. Regardless, we should keep writing as best we can.
I will keep blogging on Thursdays and if I have announcements, they will be on Tuesdays.
Writer’s block, or when an author is unable to produce new work, happens to all writers.
Try writing something of special interest to you. Write down all the primary ideas you’d like to write and then write the smaller ideas that make up the big ideas. Then write an outline of these ideas.
Now you have an outline that is a starting point. Research your topic. Then write down your own thoughts on the research. Identify gaps in the research you find. Now you’re ready to write.
When I wrote my last collection of poems, I had many blocks. Some are emotional, such as my partner’s Alzheimer’s that I wrote about in Touch My Head Softly. Or just time barriers, so that when you finally have a chance to write, there’s a lot of pressure to sit down and produce.
But I got through it and published my latest collection earlier this year:
Since the pandemic, I have been much more inclined to interact with strangers. The isolation taught me the power of human interaction. Some of the most interesting interactions have been chance, at the supermarket check out or the farmer’s market. I write at coffee shops and I’ve used some of the dialog I’ve overheard in my writing.
It’s good to interact, connect and appreciate each other. It makes for better writing, remember Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” about the wall between his property and his neighbors. This will make for a better world generally. If you use dialog in your writing, it makes your writing more authentic. It’s also good to meet periodically with writer friends to compare notes and get advice on what you’re submitting, etc. I’m in several writer’s groups.
I published a collection of poems about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s, and it’s led to many interesting discussions with people I didn’t know who were affected or had loved ones affected by this disease. Check it out:
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.
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 writing group can help with the isolation. You can also get helpful hints 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.
I used many of these “journey steps” to complete my collection of poetry that published earlier this year. Check it out: