The First Half-Hour Of Your Writing Day

An old adage (and of course we all love old adages) says, “Well-begun is half-done.” It works for me.  I notice a huge difference in the amount I accomplish if I hit the ground running shortly after shower, coffee and getting dressed.  Slopping around all day in my not-terribly-glamorous old bathrobe is a sure way to make me sloppy about writing.  I tend to check out Facebook, the weather, the news . . .  
If you’re someone who likes to begin his/her writing day after dinner and carry on deep into the night, what I’m going to say may be useful to you as well.  Whenever you begin, have a structure that you follow unless you have a really good reason not to follow it on some occasions. I structure my day as eight hours with an hour for lunch and two or three little breaks.

What works for me is to do some very unstructured writing at the beginning to get my juices flowing. The only thing I’ve found that does this is about half-an-hour of writing exercises, subjects that are unrelated to current writing projects.  Interestingly, many of these exercises have later turned into poems and stories.

Over the years, I’ve gathered up a few books of writing “prompts.”  Two of my favorites are The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kitely and What If by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. If you just do a random search for writing prompts you’ll find a treasure trove!  For something new every week, you can’t do better than look at the website of the writers’ friend, Poets & Writers.  In the menu at the top of the page, you’ll see “writing prompts,” which takes you to The Time Is Now.  They post a new poetry prompt on Tuesday, a fiction prompt on Wednesday, and a nonfiction prompt on Thursday.  However, although you can find something new every day, don’t overlook the value of doing the same prompt a number of times (on different days).  This will give you a lot of faith in your own powers of invention.

I’ll leave you with a small but great resource.  I have had some of my most productive periods of free-writing based on simple, humdrum words.  Try “brick,” for example and follow where it leads.  They thought a lot of this approach in the Middle Ages, when a philosophical idea called “Occam’s Razor” was invented.  To make it very simple (that’s it), sometimes the simplest solution is the best one.  

Writers' Saving Grace--The Agenda!

I've been talking to my writing friends and reading writers' viewpoints online and I've come to the conclusion (pretty obvious, you might say) that your approach to your writing practice has got to be your own.  It's probably something you've struggled with for some time.  I know I've experimented with writing times and places.  I've finally settled into something that works for me but I'm always open to improvement so I'll be interested in any comments I get for new ideas. The one constant, however, that I always look for is regularity with variation.

To begin with, I love to write.  When people talk about writer's block, I have no idea what they're talking about.  You live, don't you, eat, sleep, breathe?  For me, writing's like that, just a natural thing.  However, I eat and sleep all over the place.  Pretty much keep to breathing regularly!  Well, I eat and sleep regularly, too, but with variations and I've come to realize that that's a good model for my writing.  I've got to do it every day but it's good to have variations built in and realize that variations are okay and even keep my attitude toward writing fresh.  If I write one day before breakfast and not the next day, but I do write that day (in the sense of working with ideas) while I'm doing my two miles at the gym, I AM ON SCHEDULE WITH MY WRITING!

Now, having noted that different approaches work for different people and that it's a good idea to be aware of (and embrace) your own propensity for variation, I have to say one thing about my approach to my writing schedule on any given day--it helps me enormously to jot down an informal plan with my morning coffee.  Given that I have to spend a part of my day in gainful employment (mostly afternoons), I structure writing around that.  Fortunately, I'm an early morning riser and like a jungle animal, I hit the ground running, fully alert.  Since I sleep all night with a pad of paper in one hand and a pen in the other, I can start jotting on my way to the coffee pot.

For me, a good writing day will include making my agenda, doing some writing exercises, reading some entries about writing, production of new text in whatever areas I'm working on (poetry, short fiction, novel), keeping up to date with new writing by others or old writing that has heretofore escaped my notice, revision and the business of writing.  I'll talk about each of these in coming posts.  Oh, right, keeping up with my blog is on that list, too! I promise!

Website Being Redesigned

Please have patience with disconnected links and the lack of new content on my website.  I'm redesigning the format and adding new material.  With a little time and good luck, I'll soon be back better than ever!

The Next Big Thing: An Interview With B.E. Kahn

1.What is the working title of your book?

Night Spark: The Zoe Poems

2.Where did the idea come from for your book?

In the early 1990’s I was reading John Berryman’s The Dream Songs. Coincidentally I met Tom Lux at the Rosenbach Museum where he read in a program sponsored by APR and he suggested I consider attending a workshop that he and Marie Howe were offering at Martha’s Vineyard. I decided to go there and when I read the stunning beauty of Howe’s work and then heard her read, I recognized the need her poetry was fulfilling: 1) in participants whose experiences were similar to hers and 2) in other listeners  being made aware of this—up till Sharon Olds, probably—taboo subject— child sexual abuse.

Joseph Dorazio Interview for The Next Big Thing

Here's Joseph's interview, answering the same ten questions as all the authors involved in this "round-robin interview" project. Joseph's poems have appeared widely in print and online literary magazines.  His latest book, As Is, earned an Editor's Choice award from iUniverse.

Name of book:  As Is:  Selected Poems of Joseph Dorazio

What is your working title of your book (or story)?
As Is:  Selected Poems of Joseph Dorazio

Where did the idea come from for the book?
From my interest in treasure hunting at yard sales, flea markets, rummage sales, etc.  

What genre does your book fall under?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Jackie Gleason, John Candy - I like funny fat guys.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Poetry that stimulates the imagination and offers a quirky perspective on the commonplace.

The Next Big Thing @ Tree Riesener

          First of all, I have to thank the brilliant and prolific Susan Tepper for inviting me to be part of this “writers’ chain letter.”  It’s such a great way to link the current projects of a lot of writers, so I hope you’ll follow links backward and read a lot of interviews as well as following the links forward at the end of this interview on the dates announced for the next interviews.
 What is the working title of your book (or story)?
          The book is called Sleepers Awake.  
          That title is resonant, of course, echoing as it does such diverse applications of the phrase as  John Ashberry’s delightfully humorous poem of the same name that addresses the sleeping foibles of many iconic writers, the Ohio rock band, of course  Bach’s glorious Sleepers, Awake! A Voice is Calling, all of which tap into the verse from Ephesians, 5:14, which actually says “Wake up, O Sleepers.” 
          My usage is referring to spies living in deep cover  who do  nothing to communicate with  their shadow bosses and don’t even look around to see what’s going on. They acquire jobs and identities and blend into everyday life as normal citizens. The idea is that when their hidden employer invades, they will wake up and help defeat  the country.  
          My deep agents, my sleepers, are demons that Satan has placed on earth to await the final battle when Satan hopes to take over the earth. 
          In the meantime, my sleepers marry, have a good time, buy expensive coffee makers and fall in love.

Tree Riesener Wins Eludia First Fiction Book Award 

Tree Riesener, Author of SLEEPERS AWAKE, winner of 2012 Eludia Award
Hidden River Arts is extremely pleased to announce Tree Riesener as the winner of the first annual Eludia Award, for a first book-length unpublished novel or collection of stories. The prize is open to women writers age 40 and older, who do not yet have a book-length publication of fiction. The winning manuscript will be published by our imprint, Sowilo Press, and our author will receive $1000 plus ten copies of the published book. Because of the wonderful response and exceptional quality of work submitted, we also have an extensive list of semi-finalists and finalists for the competition. Congratulations to all our writers. The talent and brilliance of all of those who have shared their work with us is simply overwhelming.

Lightning, Thunder and Fire Writing! Part I.

We’re going to start with Lightning Writing today.

Remember the joy of writing with invisible ink when you were a kid? You’d buy this ink at a novelty store and write in it.Nothing would appear on the page but when you held it up to a light bulb, the words would appear.

You can use a technological equivalent for those days when the censor is sitting on your shoulder and you’re lingering too much on what you’re writing instead of trusting yourself and moving ahead.

The idea is to write in a text you cannot see or cannot understand but which you can easily change back to your normal black Times New Roman (or whatever) on a white background.
Okay, ready to go?

First, change your font color to white with the selection tool in the upper right corner of the toolbar area. Begin to type.You will see . . . NOTHING!

This is a wonderfully freeing way to write. You will feel a closer connection between your brain and your fingers when you write without the in-between appearance of the printed text.Your thoughts will fly freer. You can come back and censor, tweak, re-arrange later. That’s the part of writing that should come later, divorced from the act of creationg. Give it a try.

Now that you know how to do this, be really brave and start a folder in which to save your unseen writing. Don't peek. It’s okay to give it a retrieval name you can see. You’ll want to call it up later, select the text, and change it to black.
After writing something, I always put it “in the drawer” for a few days, at least, or better, a few weeks before I come back to it. My mind will have been working on it in another way and my thoughts and eye are sharper to revise.

I’m going to give you a few days to try this and then I’ll post again, with some exciting variations.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel--Canterbury Tales for our Time

After reading The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I went to see the movie.  Both were interesting.  Having read them close together, I was very aware of the differences.  Book to film is something I always find fun to analyze.  I immediately liked the beginning of the film better than Deborah Moggach’s book, although she’s a great writer and I love her stuff.  The book started with a fairly long exposition of the troubles a daughter and son-in-law were having with her randy, flatulent, belching, selfish old dad, who in the film became a still randy old man but someone in search of love and companionship and a fairly attractive human being, very vulnerable.  The beginning of the film?  Well, think Canterbury Tales.  Each character is introduced before they begin their journey together (not the flight to India but the journey in the hotel toward whatever peace or pain they are going to find in their final years).  Although Chaucer’s pilgrims went on pilgrimage to holy shrines for expiation of sin (as well as a nice road trip, different food, and good company), the main sin of the pilgrims here and the reason for their residence at the Marigold was financial improvidence or other problems that left them unable to afford England.  The movie is billed as dealing with the trials of old age but I think it’s more about how we allow or forbid cultures to change us, whether the cultures are foreign countries or different micro-cultures we encounter as we travel through life in our own countries.  I loved a sentence that was repeated several times during the movie, especially by the endearing, ever optimistic young proprietor of the Marigold:  Everything will be all right in the end and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end yet.  I can live with that.