Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Three Things About Yesterday

At yoga, my smart teacher Christina said, "Tension masks sensation."

She was talking about tension within the body, of course. I thought about writing too. If we're tense we can't relax into writing from our senses--from those places deep within us, the well, from where we experience the world. We're shut off if we're uptight. I believe that trust and a sense of safety are essential for a good writing workshop--and a good yoga class and a good life.

Last night, Natalie Goldberg read at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina. She opened by saying something like, Wow this is my first time in the South and THERE ARE PEOPLE HERE--as if she were stunned that people in the South not only 1) know how to read but 2) know how to come out to a reading. She was kidding, sort of. But all night she kept up this provincialism, which was annoying and distracting especially because she had so much great stuff to say, like: Memoir is a study of the movement of the mind. We don't remember chronologically. We smell a lilac and remember sitting over a bowl of cabbage soup 20 years ago.

She said: "Sit down, pick up a pen, and kick ass." Amen, sister.

Here are two photos from the Mining for Gold Writing Workshop I taught over the weekend, through the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South. These people sat down, picked up their pens and, well, did it.

They kicked ass.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dialogues with the truth

At a workshop tonight we wrote dialogues with an aspect of self--or I said before starting--"you might want to have a conversation with a book project or something you're working on or with a body part that's bothering you."

I told them about a dialogue I'd had with my tongue.

Me, to my tongue: Why do you get swollen and sore and make me talk as though I'm drunk, slurring my words because I can't fit you in my mouth.

Tongue: You stay up too late, don't get enough rest. That plus eating too much salt makes me swell. Knock it off and I'll behave.

Me: Well OK.

Two women, sitting beside each other on a couch and banging on laptops, both wanted to read their dialogues. Both were with writing projects. One of them went something like this: "Why do you NOT put me on your schedule, give me any attention? "

Writer: Because other things come up and I'm not on a deadline with you.

Project: Yeah but you don't have forever. You might die before finishing me, like Peter did. What makes you think you have all this time?

Writer: Yikes. True. What do you want from me?

Project: Your time and attention.

Somebody else read about a real life character who was begging for a voice--to have her story told in a memoir.

If we give these inner voices the chance, they come out loud and clear for what they need.

All we have to do is take the time to ask, and listen.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Scout's Pace

Nothing like travel to break up routines. I so admire those people who write and exercise no matter where they are--or how disoriented or bad the hangover. I try, in hotels, to use the gym. But I forget my headphones and can't bear the boredom or I go, but only for one day of a five-day trip. I brought my running shoes with me this time and after a full day's work yesterday, I went out for a scout's pace. (I'm not in a hotel.)

I learned about the Scout's pace from my husband. And then, cleaning out one of my parents' bookcases, I found my father's Boy Scout Handbook. In the index, sure enough: Scout's Pace. It's a way to cover a lot of ground fast without getting exhausted--you walk then run then walk again, and so on. Always counting. I did about a mile yesterday. It's a better workout than walking and not as crushing as running.

But as for the daily hour of writing on MY book? I've missed two days. I don't report to my edit job until 9 AM and only have to walk downstairs to the office. There's hot coffee for me by 7AM. I may be immersed in somebody else's book right now, and sleeping in a strange bed in a distant state, but, really, there are no excuses.

Tomorrow morning: 7:30 AM. I'll be at it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Daily Grind

At a meeting with a friend this morning, I mentioned the book I've been working on.

"Which book?" she asked.

"You know," I said, "the one about the mothers and writing."

"Oh, that," she said, "I thought you finished it last summer."

"No, I finished a draft that week in August when I went away to write."

"You were so excited about finishing. I thought it was, like, done."

My friend is not a writer.

"Well, you see, I put the book away when I came home," I said, "and got all caught up in my work schedule and I didn't look at it until I made this new commitment to work on it every day for an hour."

"Oh," she said, looking distinctly blank, unimpressed.

"Right," I said. And thought: go ahead, rub it in.

She had just been talking about how productive she's been lately--refinancing, applying for a new job, doing her taxes.

We sat in silence for a few moments.

"So, what else is going on?" she asked.

"Nothing much." I shrugged.

I didn't say that I spend so much of my time working with other people on their writing that I don't get to my own. I'm done with that excuse.

And I wasn't about to confess to her that I am a binge writer, a sprinter, a deadline-driven writer, that to write every day is, for me, a monumental achievement. She wouldn't understand. I mean she finished her taxes already and it's not even the middle of March.