Monday, January 28, 2008

PEELING BIRCHES



Ages ago now, the sweet Michelle tagged me with an award to write about writing. As she put it, "there are two rules that come with the award: 1. write three writing tips and 2. award three other bloggers." After a particularly rewarding writing session yesterday at a favorite cafe, I feel like I have a few thoughts--finally--to share.

1. Find a favorite cafe. Yes, I know this one sounds like it has little to do with the actual act or craft of writing--and no, your spot doesn't absolutely have to be a cafe (parks, bookstores, libraries are also good havens)...but there has been a true shift in my work since I found the series of "morning offices" I frequent now. Carving out physical space for writing in the home is wonderful--and I have a desk with a beautiful inspiration board above it filled with sparks and images that intrigue me--I sit here often and revise my work. I also find myself inexplicably drawn to the kitchen table, right in the heart of the chaos of our lives, but only in those early morning hours when the world is still sleeping--or once the house is empty save my notebook and myself. *But* getting out of this space and going out to where the chai is always perfect and steaming and the girls walk up Main Street with their black tights and red high heels...where a steady stream of college students with pierced faces and circus-tent sized black pants pass by the window...where a boy with a flawless face glided past on the sidewalk riding a bike and playing his guitar at the same time just yesterday afternoon: this fills my creative palate so much more than the "writer locked in her turret" sort of solitude. The man behind the register speaks longingly to me of "his abandoned home, Persia" and asks me how my work is coming along. At a corner-window table, hand-painted and embellished by a pretty teenager with flame-red hair who introduced herself to me several months back, I sit back and drink it all in. Writing is a solitary act...doing it in the company of these luminous strangers makes me feel embedded in LIFE and the community around me.

2. Find a "someone" to share your work with. Beyond blogging, which is a great outlet for writers who are on their own--one key to my writing life, long-term, has been to find like-minded souls *in real life* to bounce ideas off of, to read to, and to sit and write with. There are people out there, wherever you are (I promise), who also explore their inner terrain with a pen and paper. For many, many, many writing years I held my words close to my chest--wouldn't share my writing, especially what I thought of as my "best" or most "raw" stuff with anyone else. I attended different writers' conferences and found the kinship there to be inspiring, but it wasn't easily translated into "small town" real life. Or so I thought...then locally, I found, first, a poetry class where a wonderful man with an MFA and careful pencil helped me learn to dissect my words. After that, I tried to soldier on independently again. Halfway through the third re-writing of my manuscript I decided to quit writing for good and at that *exact* moment I found a writing group that resurrected my faith in my words--and, on a monthly basis, check in on me and see what progress is being made. Having someone else care about my writing--indeed, to request it--kept me going...keeps me going still. {Side note: my wonderful writing session yesterday was made so, in large part, thanks to the lovely woman from my writing group who drove down to meet up with me and freewrite about whatever off-the-cuff topics we could conjure up. This exercise of meeting with a friend and writing together is now a favorite creative kickstart of mine.} Find "your people" out there...you won't regret it.

3. Let books be your teachers. When I was an undergraduate, my university didn't offer a creative writing program (which, of course, they do now). But, I was already filling notebooks--penning poems, snippets of essays, and short stories that never went beyond the third page. It was disappointing to me, at first, because I knew I wanted to study writing deeply, but I had a scholarship to this school and had to go there instead of one of the others where "poetry writing" was an actual major. This turned out to be the biggest blessing of my creative evolution. I majored in English instead and spent four and a half blissed-out years studying books from the inside out...digesting them...consuming them. It was completely acceptable, and indeed required, for me to sit in a room with thirty other people and consider for three hours the placement of a comma in a poem or the haircolor of a heroine in a novel. This microscopic exploration of literature taught me more about craft than any creative writing course ever could. I had a wide mind from this experience...a true sense of the diversity of writing *voice* out there--and what I gained was the knowledge that, surely, somewhere, there was room for mine. If you cannot indulge in a full degree in English at this stage of your life, not to worry...the books can teach you everything you need to know. Dive into them, read widely and deeply, and let the words fill your heart.

Thanks, Michelle, for the prompt...I would love to read all of *your* responses to this, so if you share your three writing tips please let me know in the comments! (It would also be great to hear tips from BB, PoetMom, and Mardougrrl as well, as my "three" if you haven't been tagged already!) And, finally, a BIG thank you for the responses to my last post {and the warm-hearted emails so many of you have sent my way}. I have temporarily "paused" in my writing with the other blog--taking comfort in the solace of my notebook instead, but, I *will* send the link along to those of you who have requested it. Now, go out there and keep writing right through the heart of this fallow season...
Love,
Delia
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10 Comments:

Blogger daisies said...

i appreciate my english lit degree for that very reason, sinking deeply into short stories, poetry, novels was an incredible joy i think .... and i heart coffee shop writing for similar reasons, i also enjoy writing in art galleries, i'll find a piece that speaks to me and find a comfy place to sit nearby (often the floor) and write away to my heart's content.

these are wonderful tips, thank you :) xox

4:21 PM  
Blogger Melba said...

Your photos are always so full of life and texture. You are a woman wise beyond her years.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

I value ANYthing you have to tell me about writing. Anything. And this stuff was great. I have been going to a cafe, and you are right about that! I feel in a different mind space, and I am only there to write. And look. And that helps the writing.(Also the fresh caffine).

So happy you posted this. (For some reason the link I had saved to your other blog has not worked. Did you change it? maybe I just need to save it again? But now I need the link again I guess...)

ox :)

12:57 AM  
Blogger Kim G. said...

This was so timely for me as I'm trying to jump-start my seriously lagging writing times. The part about sharing my writing seems so intimidating and yet I know that is exactly what I need - some accountability. I love my lit degree also and translate that dissecting of "story" into so many different places of life - parenting, relationships, work, entertainment, etc. It's a gift to be able to study language in all its forms to find meaning. Thanks for sharing this!

9:29 PM  
Blogger Michelle (a.k.a. la vie en rose) said...

i'm so glad you posted these fabulous words of advice...

i totally agree with you about #1...i have found my own special coffee shop and one of my favorite treats to myself is to sneak away for a couple hours, sip some hot tea, and write...there is always so much visual inspiration around me and it gets me out of the house where distractions can often tear me away from serious writing/contemplation...

for awhile now i've been longing for my own writing group...i had one at one time and we eventually disbanded when the majority of the members moved away...i need a new one...i gotta keep looking...

i love what you have to say in #3...i think i would love a class like the one you described because i am so interested in why poets/writers/muscians/etc choose the words and images and descriptions they choose...and as someone who has not had any english courses past high school it's reassuring to hear a fabulous writer like yourself tell me my voice is still important and that i can find what i need outside of the academia...

thank you for this...

5:33 PM  
Blogger Mardougrrl said...

What a wonderful post--your words about writing are some I need to take in deeply, because I admire your writing so much. I wanna be just like you!

And I will do the tag...thank you for thinking of me!

11:44 PM  
Blogger angela said...

beautiful, beautiful. wishing you love D. this is such a great post on writing and i thank you.

2:17 PM  
Blogger GreenishLady said...

Wonderful tips - and offered with such a rich measure of your own experience, too, that their value is doubled and quadrupled, I'm sure. I seldom set out to write in cafe's, but am often seized by the urge to write while having lunch at 2 particular places with views of a river. I wonder what would happen if I actually set out to do it? I'll find out next week!

7:43 AM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

English lit was my minor (journalism major), but I have loved books since childhood and can't imagine going a single day without reading. Lovely writing - about writing - as always, Delia. Am glad you've found support and encouragement when you've needed it. xo

8:05 AM  
Blogger Lucky Candice said...

I too agree with what you've said. I also think that when you write from the heart it shows.

Love the photo -

LC(lucky candice)

2:14 PM  

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