Category Archives: writing

#whyiwrite

Today is the National Day on Writing–an initiative supported by NCTE and the National Writing Project. Because writing is such a powerful experience, I thought I’d share some of its side effects.

The Side Effects of Writing

Less Knitting:  I don’t get as much knitting done but my lap is open for my kitten.

Stashing Mechanical Pencils: I’ve become picky about writing implements – soft lead mechanical pencils with big erasers are my favorite.  I tend to buy them whenever I see them.

Recycle bin Next to Chair:  Along this vein is my preference for 6″x8″ spiral notebooks.  I like lines and being able to tear out all the drafts I don’t want to look at any more.

Well Fed Birds and Fat Squirrels:  When I’m in the mood to write, I keep the bird feeders well stocked because they are in my line of sight and I like to watch these creatures while I’m thinking.

Possible Over Exposure: Sharing my writing is a commitment to being vulnerable.  I have to be willing to accept the consequences of feeling like I’m walking around in my underwear. Other art forms like painting, music, and dance seem to allow for ambiguous interpretation.  But words can go straight to the heart of an experience and bare one’s soul.

Questions from Family: Sometimes family members read my writing and wonder about the thoughts going on in my head.

A Wider World View:  The consequences of writing – especially on a blog – are amazing; people appreciate voice given to human experience and they reach out to me.

These are just a few of the side effects. If you are a writer, I’m sure you have plenty to add to this list!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


April shorts – 18

some people like to talk
I spent the better part of today with one of them
sometimes I just had to find a way to leave the room
sometimes I just found a way to occupy my mind and pretend to listen
mumbling “mm” and looking up at appropriate intervals

some people like quiet
I am one of them

writing is quiet

thank goodness


instead

imageI wrote a poem a few days ago about feeling bitter.

My mom called to ask if everything was all right. “You sounded down in the dumps.”

“No, mom, it’s just that I occasionally have negative thoughts.”

“Well I guess I do too but I don’t write about them.”

These words from my mom imply an unspoken question: “Why do you write about bad feelings?”  More to the point: “Why do you publish poems about your bad feelings?”

Blogs are easy places to rant and when I started by first blog, it was because I wanted to rant. It still happens occasionally.  But mostly I want to write and self expression is a deep source. I don’t need to spit out all the details of how it came to be I had those bitter feelings that day.

Writing allows me the opportunity to turn the question back on myself – turn to wonder as Parker Palmer prods us to do. What did the events of that day teach me about myself?

 


allemande left

imageBitterness came to call today
why on this day with such blue in the sky
and such a happy disposition in the air?

A little shadow of darkness,
images of Winnie the Pooh strutting about,
“tut, tut, looks like rain!”

but it doesn’t! and it shouldn’t! and it wouldn’t have!
except for this little niggling of doubt,
whisper of worry

seed……
shoot…….
damning root…….

No!
Stop!
“Out! Out! Damn spot!”

How dare you insinuate yourself into my life this way!

Quick! Light the candle!
Now! Get the broom!

Surgeon! Scalpel!
Inhale! Roses!

Shuffle shuffle, slide
and allemande left and allemande right,
dosido your partner
all the way home tonight!

“Tut, tut,

Looks like………..”

 

 

 


writing spots

imageTruth be told, I do most of my writing in the brown leather chair in my living room fondly named “my nest.”  I have a notebook and my favorite brand of mechanical pencils there – as well as all sorts of things that have to do with knitting and sewing and reading as well as a place for my coffee mug, a most essential component to my daily writing.

But I have had experiences writing in other places and so in answer to Bonnie’s request to send a photo of a special writing spot, I took a little trip through my memory searching out visual recollections of particularly wonderful places where I’ve nurtured my writing.

The first place I really started writing in earnest was in my college dorm room. Everyone else headed to the library or their boyfriend’s place,  but I would curl up by a window and feel like I had the whole 100 year old dorm to myself.  I loved looking right into the branches of the majestic trees on campus, eye to eye with the squirrels. Since then I’ve often found myself writing while at water fronts too, first as a camp counselor, then visiting my relatives in Cape Cod, and at home on Puget Sound.

Tree and water vistas are definitely my favorites and were part of my most recent writing experiences as well. Last summer I had the luxury of both landscapes.   I went to a week-long art camp at the Grunewald Guild in Leavenworth, WA and sat in my dorm-like room as well as outside under the ponderosa pines. IMG_2471 It was extremely hot and as the wifi wasn’t dependable, I really did use my spare time to write – often sitting with my feet in an inflatable pool by the garden within sight of some tall and sturdy holly hocks.

The other excursion was more exotic.  My parents invited my husband and I on a small boat cruise in Alaska and I found out I could have the whole front deck to myself if I got up at sunrise. You can get a peek here in a past blog post.

Something I have learned over the past couple of years – mostly since I started blogging, is that I like my writing better when I take the time to do it in a dedicated way – and I’ve noticed a special place really does add not just to the quantity but also the quality.

This where I’m currently writing:1-IMG_0026

 


marcescence 2

(this kind of goes along with yesterday’s post…)

My mom wrote letters to her mother once a week throughout her adult life as long as herimage mom was alive. Onion skin-like sheets of paper typed single space and often with carbon paper so she could send a duplicate to someone else.

My grandmother saved every one – tucked in their original envelope, stacked neatly in shoe boxes.

Now my mother, currently older than my grandmother was when she died 30 years ago, is dutifully pulling those letters from the envelopes, reading them and putting them into plastic sleeves.

She tells me she doesn’t remember half the stuff she wrote about all those years ago. I’ve read a few of the letters as well as some I sent to my grandmother – because she saved those too – and I don’t remember the stuff I wrote about either.  Or what I read just really doesn’t match up with what I’ve come to remember as most consequential from those blocks of time.  I am realizing that what I chose to document really isn’t what became  most important after all.

My mom is putting the plastic sleeves into now bulging notebooks.  “I don’t know what you guys will do with these.” (I have 3 siblings.)  “I don’t really care, maybe you don’t really care.”

I don’t know how I feel.  I read through some of the story bits and am entertained. There are snippets of accounts of our escapades in school, camp, family trips, daily doings. There are little sketches and poems and doodles and stanzas from camp songs. It is charming, all of it.

But I don’t know what to hold on to or let go.  Does an account like this matter – filling in the gaps as it does – when what we actually remember and hold dear is vastly different or at best only a mere essence of the recorded detail?   Does accuracy in memory really matter when time creates a new reality?   Will knowing what my mom recorded as significant affect or change my relationship with her, my dad, my siblings or myself?

Marcescence

shall I let these carefully preserved records of daily details fall as compost to the new memories I’m creating every day

and/or

keep them in place in their plastic sleeves, preserving their truth and posterity, as witness to the past

or

let them go

(I know my siblings will have their own opinions)

I suppose all memories eventually become fodder – forgotten, discarded, or folded into some new venture. The present continuously demands our full attention no matter the care we take to preserve the past – plastic sleeves, shoe boxes, notebooks, blogs, Facebook.  Time will not be denied the light of tomorrow and tomorrow’s light always alters what we see through a lens.


See What We Get

I was telling a friend of mine that all of us are poets because we are speaking and writing in poetry form all the time.  Here is an example – my sister wrote a quick email yesterday and when I read it, my inner poet just had to put it in a poem. So thank you, Sia and Gary; I got a poem from your hard work.

I picked up a couple tomato plants at Costco.

The plan was:

dig a couple holes plant and wait for the yummy tomatoes.

But as usual, it expanded into an entire weekend project.

We ended up planting 14 plants: tomatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumber and red bell peppers.

We dug up the dirt (can’t bring myself to call it soil,)
in a roughly 6 foot x 6 foot area.
Gary made a 1/4 screen strainer and we processed all that dirt.
Got rid of all the
rocks,
grass
and misc things.
Then we read “plant guide.”
“Space plants 36-48 inches apart.”
Well, tough luck.
We will see what we get.
Now we will make good use of all our collected rain water.

in the company of strangers

the prompt was to tell a tale of 2 meals – one wonderful, one not

I’ll begin with the not-so-wonderful meal.  I actually can’t remember the meal, just what happened next.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer for a very brief time in the South Pacific. We were a small group of 12 and hadn’t been in the country for very long when, naive traveler that I was, I ate something at a market and ended up with food poisoning. This was not my first time away from home or even living with a bunch of relative strangers in close quarters, but it was my first time being sick and requiring care by people who weren’t family members or really even close friends. I spent a whole night curled up on a bed in the humid dark cement block room, vomiting over and over again.  When it was finally over I realized I had gone through a rite of passage – that of feeling and looking incredibly wretched and vulnerable in front of strangers.

 

The wonderful meal I remember wasn’t a proper meal at all.  It was Communion at a women’s retreat some years ago.  One of the women attending had recently been diagnosed with cancer just days before and was going to begin an aggressive round of treatment for it.  There were some 40 women at this retreat and we spent the weekend passing around a prayer shawl started for her on Friday night and finished on Sunday morning.  We wrapped it around her shoulders and passed bread and wine to each other around the circle.  It is a favorite memory of mine.


writers ignite

Margie is a friend-who-is-a-writer I communicate with regularly.  Today she sent me a connection to her blog  referencing an email note we exchanged.   I chuckled because she had no idea I was about to blog about our support of each other as writers and reference the same email!

I don’t think I could attend to communicating in writing on a regular basis without the support of friends like Margie.  I have a nice list of people who check in with me, read my stuff, and encourage me to keep at it.  Their support is visible, audible and often tangible.  But there is much that is invisible and intangible and audible only in my head!

The email exchange I was going to reference today is part of a weekly check-in that Margie and I have.  She has arranged with me to email her a little note on Monday mornings as a way to say “hey, are you writing?”  The unsaid portion of that exchange is that I am thinking “hey, I care about you and your process.”  So I’ve got a reminder on my phone and tablet to check in with Margie on Mondays at 6 am  – although I have to admit I turn it off on holidays.  I have sent notes, scraps of poems, photos, drawings I’ve made.  It is a way I get my own juices going too.

Last week I sent her a poem I’d found on the website A Year of Being Here.  (I found this site when I was deciding on my One Little Word and wanted help jump-starting my way to being “mindful.”  I get a poem from them everyday and I just love it!)  I offer this connection to others who don’t have a Monday morning companion like I do.

The poem I enjoyed most this week is this one:

“Down on My Knees” by Ginger Andrews, from An Honest Answer (Story Line Press, 1999).

cleaning out my refrigerator
and thinking about writing a religious poem
that somehow combines feeling sorry for myself
with ordinary praise, when my nephew stumbles in for coffee
to wash down what looks like a hangover
and get rid of what he calls hot dog water breath.
I wasn’t going to bake the cake

now cooling on the counter, but I found a dozen eggs tipped
sideways in their carton behind a leftover Thanksgiving Jell-O dish.
There’s something therapeutic about baking a devil’s food cake,
whipping up that buttercream frosting,
knowing your sisters will drop by and say Lord yes
they’d love just a little piece.

Everybody suffers, wants to run away,
is broke after Christmas, stayed up too late
to make it to church Sunday morning. Everybody should

drink coffee with their nephews,
eat chocolate cake with their sisters, be thankful
and happy enough under a warm and unexpected January sun.

on your mark – get set – get writing!
 

 


who knew there could be brilliance in doing nothing

The story on NPR this morning about the way we are using our screens to fill up our time made me stop and think about what would happen if I didn’t give in to the impulse to

1) look things up on Google at the drop of a hat, or

2) check email when I’m just sure I should be getting a response to a question I asked earlier in the day, (or worry that I’d better check because I probably have to respond to someone else’s questions) or

3) play Mahjong or Solitaire or Yahtzee – supposedly to “wind down.”

It isn’t that I’m obsessive or even compulsive about checking my phone or my tablet but I’m sure the act of checking and using them the way I do is filling up time in my day when I might otherwise have been —  what — daydreaming? napping? bored? twiddling my thumbs? engaged in something – anything – else?

I do knit – and I can’t really check screens when I’m knitting.  And I do read a bit before bedtime.  But there are times in my afternoons and weekends when one little search for information leads to a click on another site or I have to look up something else up to fill in a gap in my information.  Bored and Brilliant is the title of the NPR story and if I wasn’t wandering down those rectangular little rabbit holes, I probably would be doing some creative thinking of my own. Perhaps I’d be more inspired in my writing – which has taken a nose-dive into a cave for a long winter’s nap.

So the next time I find myself wondering about something, I’m going to keep wondering instead of wandering – and perhaps I’ll write something brilliant.