Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday Musing

I am not religious but I met yesterday with a woman who decided that for Lent this year--instead of giving up something like chocolate or trashy novels--she was going to write every day. Rather than give up something, deprivation, she was going to add something, enhance her life. Forget the hair shirt, go for the comfy cotton.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Things I've Been Silent About

Things I’ve Been Silent About: this is a prompt I’ve given in three recent workshops and it's also the title of a new memoir by Azar Nafisi

One thing I’ve been silent about is that I’m not doing my own writing. I have been silent about this. I am so busy advising others: “Get to the desk, don’t wait for the muse. Put writing on your calendar and show up, like Woody Allen says: eighty percent of living or working or doing anything is showing up.”

But not showing up? I’m good at that. Ways to avoid writing: edit other people’s writing, plan workshops, think about other people’s ideas and email them—“hey you might want to consider . . .” This is a good unselfish use of creative energy.


Right, definitely. But wrong too, well, sort of.

Here’s part of the list of things I’ve been silent about that I wrote during a workshop I gave last Saturday:

--the truth about the weight issue.
--screen porch musings, too private to say more than that about (for now).
--D.’s death
--my own writing, lack of it.

So I made that list on Saturday. By Monday morning I had a writing schedule. 7:30 – 8:30 AM, Monday – Friday. To revise that book. And bingo. I’m doing it. Not a big deal.

Bill and I meet here in the living room, set the timer for an hour and go. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been up since 5 or just gotten back to sleep at 6:30. The alarm, if I’m not up already, sounds at 7. Make a pot of coffee, wash my face, take my daily pill, print out the next two chapters, and sit down to revise them.

Breaking the silence can make things happen.

I mean what kind of writing coach won’t get to her own writing? Sure I freewrite tons and love it; then there are columns and the Toyota writing and other assignments but where is the work on those three books?

Other times when I’ve tried to get regular about my writing—I’ll say something like, write two hours on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 9:30 – 11:30 AM. Those times never work. It’s too late in the morning. Not regular enough. I’m already into emails and edits for others by then.
I have to write first thing but not at 6 when I’ve gone to bed at 1 AM. 7:30 works.

This morning I had a client call set for 8:30 AM. Fine. Bill and I started a few minutes early so that at 8:25 I was through with my writing—at 8:30 I was ready for my client’s call. Not only ready but ecstatic because I had already done a hunk my own work. (To see what Bill has written on this writing schedule, check out his blog post.

Walter Mosley said in an article that he wrote three hours every morning seven days a week 52 weeks a year. That is just depressing. Of course he writes in a genre and, he says, needs to write a book a year. It’s his livelihood—the books and the film sales, etc. that go along with it. Genre writing is easier, more predictable. You don’t have to create a whole universe with each book, a brand. Still he shows up, every morning.

My livelihood comes from my work as a teacher and a coach. I couldn’t live comfortably on what I make as a writer. And I’m fine with that. Been there, done that--with corporate and magazine writing.

I don’t want to write full time now. I love working with other people’s creative writing. I just want to finish those three books. And I can do it, for now, at an hour a day, five days a week (maybe seven—we’ll see). And maybe some extra time on weekend afternoons, unscheduled.

Note to self: I never would have gotten here if I hadn’t WRITTEN THIS DOWN AS ONE OF MY “THINGS I’VE BEEN SILENT ABOUT” ITEMS.

Writing, even a list, is mysterious and magical.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Writing in Real Time, February 2, 2009

Some of my clients arrive with writing they want to read aloud and discuss; with others we work on edited print-outs.

Some show up sheepish. "I didn't get that rewrite done," or "I told myself I'd get to the desk but somehow couldn't this week."

Some show up wanting to write here. I give them a prompt and say, "Go." They write, then read aloud. We pick a gem or a gnarly section or an "I'm not sure about that . . ." and I say, "Go again."

Writers practice their craft, right here in the swivel chair across from mine. I love the energy in the room when they're writing. They work on dialogue, character portraits, point of view, scene, narrative arc and structure--and other stuff. There are "ah ha" moments and "Yikes, really?" moments.

Writing doesn't happen without writing, somebody said--I think William Carols Williams, a doctor who practiced medicine all day and wrote poetry in his spare time.

Ah, that hush: a writer writing, sitting in the morning sun in the swivel chair.