Polish Your Writing

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The word polish means to make something smooth and shiny, like leather shoes So what does it mean to polish your writing?

Does it mean to go through your piece and get rid of minor errors? Or does it mean to improve or perfect? To me it means go over your writing and make sure that it all makes sense. This differs from editing in my mind, which refers more to going over your piece for minor errors in punctuation or grammar.

I am currently writing a long narrative poem, about the drowning earth, interspersed with haiku. There’s a lot to follow. I do a draft and then read it over once, revising as I go. It’s not yet polishing, which I do at the end.

My most recent collection of poetry that I published was a different process. It was a highly emotional collection about the death of my partner to Alzheimer’s. It was painful to write, and I just got it out on paper periodically over a number of years. I then polished it at the end. Take a look:

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/

Using the Four Elements in Your Writing

The four elements: earth, wind, fire, water in your writing can be exhilarating.

The four elements can be nurturing, but they an also destroy. There is much possibility in these primitive forces. Fire, for instance, can be cleansing or destructive at the same time.

There’s a scene about a fire and the seeds. I actually had that dream, where there was a fire, and I dreamt that I was carrying those seeds, that they’re what had to be protected. I thought about that later, that those are the instincts that these women had, the instinct to protect your food source, no matter what, because you didn’t have a Costco, you didn’t have Cub, you didn’t have social services or food shelves or anything else to rely on except yourself. Fire, to me, it’s got the two sides of it. It’s the simultaneous purging and cleansing, but it’s also destructive. But then you see what happens after a fire out in the forest and the deadwood’s gone and all of a sudden, there’s all these wildflowers coming up. I love that. I love that cycle of renewal that happens with fire. That was a really key element in the story.

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Yes. To me, that’s Western science that has made that very arbitrary distinction. I think the extent to which we can consider ourselves “objective” is something of a myth because we bring all of our filters, we bring all of our experience, and while I believe you can have a rigorous process that really does your due diligence in research, it’s never separate from who you are and it’s never separate from everything around you. So that Western understanding of science is very different from an Indigenous understanding of science, which is all about place. There is a great book called Native Science by Greg Cajete. It’s one of my favorite books. I’ve got it underlined, I’ve got it marked up. He talks about the metaphoric mind. He talks about how science has to be relational as well. You can’t take it out of life and its context with everything else around it and say, “There’s just this.” That’s why I think technology has gotten so out of control, because it never takes into account what’s going to happen in the future. It doesn’t take into account the consequences of it, meaning some of the pollution or the using up of resources or nuclear power, when we think about waste that’s going to last for thousands and millions of years. That’s unethical in my mind. What you’ve done is borrowed or poisoned the future for your grandchildren. That’s not right. So science has to have ethics. It has to have a relational connection to the world around it. That book is just a beautiful way of understanding science. That’s my foundational book.

Where are you finding hope or joy or inspiration right now?

Plants, seeds, food, anything to do with the outside world. To go out and garden, to have my hands in the soil, to walk out the door in Minnesota in March and hear birds singing, because our winter is very, very quiet. So to hear birds singing as they’re returning on their migration, and the fact that when all that craziness was happening, the political coup and everything, they didn’t care. The birds keep singing. The world around us is just profound in its disconnect from what humans get so excited about. I think of that as a really good check and balance for our priorities. Writing, reading, working with native writers: those are all joyful places to me.

Witchcraft is thought to date back to the Stone Age and for several millennia witches and their male counterparts Warlocks, were the village doctors, herbalists and counselors. In this day and age, true witches and warlocks still revere the earth and all its inhabitants and work for the highest good of all.

Join Me and 11 Other Western Massachusetts Writers for a Straw Dog Showcase September 8, 6:30 pm

https://www.kathrynholzman.com/news/straw-dogs-author-showcase-2021

Join me and 11 other Western Massachusetts Writers for the 7th Annual Straw Dog Writers Showcase at 6:30 pm tomorrow. Follow the link to register

#p

Time Commitment and Writing

The difference I have noticed between successful writers who publish and people who want to be writers is the time commitment. The successful writer takes his/her writing seriously and carves out time daily to write.

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The successful writer is disciplined about writing, if not daily, at regular intervals, and sticks to that schedule. We all go through periods of vacation, periods of time devoted to family and friends, but within those diversions, the writer has discipline about devoting time to the craft.

Never assume that something will get done because you’ve told yourself it will. Have a disciplined approach, and rely on writing groups, calendars, schedules, good word processing systems, in other words, the tools of the trade in good order. Then sit down and write.

It took me ten years to write my most recent collection, but I finished and published it. Take a look:

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

I will blog regularly on Thursdays.

Finding a Theme for Your Blog

There are many types of blogs out there, from buying a car to reading graphic novels. Read some of those blogs and you will get a sense of your competition. Try focussing on a theme for your blog. If you have a sense of what you want your theme to be, look for similar blogs and read them.

Standing out and finding readers for your blog is a challenge. Finding a theme for you blog can help to brand your blog for the right audience. What are you passionate about? What do you want to write about? What is your expertise? All these things should guide and focus your content.

I have a literary blog. I am most interested in writing, the writing process, books, publishing, readings. This is what my blog is about. I blog announcements of new books and events on Tuesdays and I blog about the literary life, writing and blogging on Thursdays. Consistency is important.

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My most recent collection of poetry, Touch My Head Softly, was published recently by Finishing Line Press. It’s about my experiences with my partner, who died of Alzheimer’s in his sixties. Check it out:

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

Keep Writing

Practice makes perfect. The more you write, the better you become at it. It’s just like an athlete working out to keep in shape. With practice, over time, you are able to write faster, more clearly, in less time. New writers have trouble getting started, but experienced writers sit down and write everyday. Even if you don’t use what you wrote today, it will lead to something better tomorrow.

Another misconception is that you have to be “inspired” to write. Writing is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. You have to put it the work. If you waited for inspiration to come, you’d be waiting forever to begin writing. Start writing and inspiration will follow.

My latest book is a collection of poems about my experiences with my partner who died in his sixties of Alzheimer’s Disease. It was ten years following his death that I finally got the collection together, but I persisted and here it is:

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

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Using Your Inner Critic

Everyone has an inner critic. The inner critic is there to protect you from doing dangerous things. But it can also make us too cautious.But writing isn’t dangerous and we should learn to use our inner critic to help us write.

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The inner critic serves as a guardian angel to keep you safe and doing something dangerous. When it comes to life and death situations, the anxiety from your inner critic causes you not to act. But you don’t need your inner critic to write.You need to act to write. Have your inner critic give you permission to write.

I just finished a book about my experiences with my partner who died of Alzheimer’s in his sixties (Touch My Head Softly, Finishing Line Press, 2021.) It was a hard book to write and i struggled with my inner critic. But the writer in me won out in the end.

Part of the proceeds of the book will go to the Alzheimer’s Association, so it’s all positive. Take a look:

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

Your Unique Voice

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Finding your own unique voice in your writing can be a challenge, but one worth pursuing.

One way to begin is by finding unique voices that you like in published writers. Billy Collins suggests finding a poem that you like and writing it out to discover exactly what makes it unique. What is it that drew you to it? The language, the topic, the genre? No matter what you’re writing: creative nonfiction, a blog, a poem, read other writers who have been successful in that genre.

But in the end, there’s only one unique you who has your own story to tell. You don’t necessarily have to write memoir or autobiography, but bring your own individual experiences to your writing. Focus on what you know, what interests you. If you love food, eating it, growing it, cooking it, write about that in a nonfiction article. If you’re a birder, out mornings observing birds, bring birds into your poem or short story.

I recently published a collection of poems about Alzheimer’s Disease, which I knew through my experiences with my partner. It was published by Finishing Line Press. Take a look:

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55776971-touch-my-head-softly?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=8ZpBlRznY3&rank=1

“There are dozens of unfinished or aborted projects in my files, but I can only assume they don’t get done because they’re not robust enough to struggle through the birth process.” – Grant Morrison

I have many unfinished poems. Billy Collins says five or six poems wind up in his trash bin before he gets one that’s a keeper.

The concept of being complete is an interesting one. If you are complete, you don’t have to strive to do anything else. You don’t have to reinvent yourself.

We can change as we develop new skills, new experiences, new outlooks. That’s what makes the writing interesting. We adapt to new circumstances and overcome limitations. This affects our writing.

I wrote a book that was just published by Finishing Line Press:

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

After it was published, I floundered for awhile, trying to write different things, but not really liking any of the new work. Then I started on a new longer poem about the drowning earth. Here’s an excerpt:

The Boat

“Cuando sale la luna, el mar cubre la tierra

When the moon rises, water covers the earth”

                        –Federico García Lorca

I want to begin with the boat.  It was a thing of beauty.

Can one be seduced by a boat? I was.

This project intrigued me and I continue to work on it today. How do you stay engaged with your writing?

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