Praxis

There are as many different kinds of writers as there are books produced. While all share the vanity of self-possessed flowers, each blooms with a unique fuse.
Being a Writer | Writers wore a certain kind of clothes and lived in a certain fashion–bedraggled barflies. And to my way of thinking there was a particular way to be a writer. All of this is hogwash, I now know, but I allow it once rang true and might even still be so for beginning writers today. Old habits die-hard and sometimes stereotypes live much longer afterwards; after all it is work to dispel stereotype, and the happy coincidental byproduct is the creation of new habits.The first thing to help you on becoming a writer is to simply be one. This isn’t to mean you need to fake anything until you make it, rather it means you should write. Type on a keyboard, write in longhand, anything. Just write. As much as possible.
Write | This is the first and the only step required to begin a writing practice. Here are some other tips which can be adopted or ignore.
Read | I would suggest that you read every thing you can get your hands on, but I know this sounds a little too zealous. It is not presumptuous however to assume you are now a reader; you read books in prose both short and long. You might even have some favorite authors. If you don’t read it has to be said you are in the wrong business wanting to be a writer. Reading is completed writing, it helps in a back and forth way to become a better writer. From reading the works of others you learn from their mistakes and their success. Carve out time every day to read. Anything.
Time | Pause for a moment for some self-reflection and during this interlude ask yourself honestly what time of day are you at your best. This is not to say your best is anything other than a time when you feel the most yourself. For example, I am at my best fairly early in the morning. This doesn’t mean I could hold great conversations with you or build a bookshelf; for me it means it’s the time I feel is the best for writing. I can concentrate, I feel good about getting work done early and I tend to be able to sit for longer spells in the morning. I have learned over the years the exact calibration of what times exactly work for me. Too early and I’m only kidding myself. Too groggy. Too late and I begin to panic my best material has been swallowed by the day. Each of us has a specific time. Pick yours.
Space | It is equally important to my thinking, which might not be your own, to have a regular space to spend some time every day to sit down and be your best while writing. For me, it’s a desk in a quiet part of the house. For you it could be in a busy coffeehouse or on the deck of a houseboat. I don’t really care. But what is important here is that you decide where you want to be when you are writing. It is important in establishing your practice to have as few variables as possible.
Tools | I don’t chide anyone their whims. Every writer comes to the page differently. Some write directly into their computers, others write longhand. My own choice, over many years, is to write longhand in a journal and as material accumulates I then begin to translate this material in a digital form. For some projects I add step between paper and computer by typing up material on a manual typewriter. Choose was works for you. People will give you plenty of advice here, but ultimately it’s all about you and you’ll figure it out for yourself. Once you do you’ll need no one’s advice on what to do to get your work down.
Feedback | At a point in time, again a decision that is solely yours, seek out some readers; they can even be fellow writers. Let others read your work and provide you with some feedback as to what you have produced. In draft form the idea is simply to understand how others will come to perceive what you were intending. Writing for yourself alone is not to be devalued, but for now it’s best that in beginning your practice you share the fruits of your labor. This feedback helps you continue to sit down and attempt to write given either nebulous or specific criticism; more on levels of criticisms later on.
The Take Away:
1 Decide to write
2 Write as much as you can
3 Read
4 Find a time
5 Find a space
6 Choose your tools
7 Get feedback

An Andy Goldsworthy production

An Andy Goldsworthy production

As you can see there is a lot of room here for personal choices to be made because remember for every different kind of book out there, there’s a different kind of writer who penned it.
Write and write well.

Hundred Feet Tall

(for San)

images

You’re a hundred
Feet in the air
Quarantined, parting a sheer curtain
Waving to me
In a vacation-bound station wagon
We were heading West
You to motherhood: I was looking for you
And thirty years, forty, fifty doesn’t matter
I’ll still see you
There, up at the hospital window
White gown, flaxen hair
Your porcelain hand gently moving
Yes…
But incredibly your eyes
They sink into me the most
Looking out
With a love a hundred feet tall

Poetry Month

Found this digging through my files today, the first day of National Poetry Month. (click on picture to enlarge)

Poetinthehouse

Yellow Bird

oil by E. Sivas

E. Sivas www.pixshack.com

 

As with all dreams

Fortune and ill alights

When you call it back

From its far-flung adventures

Amazing some with your gentleness

Others your gentile brutality

The room both lit and filled with witnesses

Darkness and echoing emptiness

Something comes your way to carry

To peck to bring no one knows

But the bird

Gallery

Fishing (twice told Irish folk tale)

  The family no longer fishes. This has to do with history and the blackness that came to the potatoes. The family was starving; there was no food. There was rot in the fields. The English bastards would not help, … Continue reading

Seeing

A dress.

Blue and black, gold and white.

Scan 1The eye of the beholder.

Light is seen in different ways, of course, but the same kind of light or color can be witnessed according to one’s field. In this way, who you are is found in the eyes.

What of color? It can’t be corrupted, right? Well..

The physicist notices the waves of light’s length. To the psychologist, the physiologist the notice of color is a matter of the synapses, of our neurological responses found deep in our eyes seeking marriage with the brain. Unfortunate few, frayed nerves, rickety nervous systems suffer limitations when absorbing color.

Color in nature is boon and bust; it offers nature-lovers awe when beauty fills their eyes, however, the hue and tone of a beast, of the flora and fauna is camouflage; it’s hiding place and its survival.

Understanding black, blue, ochre social historians and linguists unravel threads, tied to the shawl of community and culture. The art historian fumbles with skeins; seeing over time how, say, muted earth tones take on the patina of dream. For that artist, color is a turning of the inside out, bringing what lies beneath, atop, surfacing and glistening like blood, like stars in a dark sky. The intangible becomes wood, dark loam; a canvass of sea.

I’ll tell you how the sun rose a ribbon at a time

– Emily Dickinson

AWP: Go?

As the annual Associated Writing Program conference inches closer I contemplate attending, again. I came across this blog entry I wrote a few years ago for a site dedicated to the conference.

**

I go.

But: For introverts and malcontents, like myself, competitive and conspiratorial introverts, conferences are a test of wills. I find the entire enterprise to be exhausting on so many levels I often chide a higher-ranking myself in mid-conference stream for having fooled a lower-ranking myself once again in attending. You’re never alone when you’re schizophrenic, I might say jokingly to myself while humming Ian Hunter.

And then there are the people. I love people, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve come to adopt Dostoevsky’s stance “demands of the particular,” which states — “the more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular.” Heartstrings trill until someone plucks with me. I see an arch nemesis; a hectoring former professor trailing neck-scarf, their own tomes artfully arm-pitted; the jilting agent latte whore or the plainly insane publisher borderline plushie who inched your manuscript across the glass desk with the tips of her manicured fingertips as if the leaves were a dead carcass – and I lose my mind.

The hoards don’t help either. All sweaty and earnest swinging bulging, hemp book-bags. All the theorists in fancy eyewear, all the writers in torn cardigans.

I go.

Because I’m a writer. And there is nothing lonelier save perhaps a svelte long-distance runner than a writer sans his or her community of ink-stained neophytes and blithering zealots. I go because writing is the most important thing in the world and it is an art that is maddeningly elusive and achingly beautiful. I go to commiserate, to conspire with dead poets and novelists, to sing, to mingle in some circumscribed manner; and learn, learn, learn. I am not done yet, and even so acknowledge: the only way to grow and know is to rub up against that which produces friction. I go for this heat.

I have attended writing conferences for many years now and yes there are many instances where I find myself in a stuffy banquet hall nodding over my cooling Styro’ of coffee glancing at the dais and thinking: I could have given this presentation. But I go. And I go now, unlike in the past, knowing a lot more about myself, and why conferences are a test for me.

A few years ago now, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder II, a disorder of hypomania and depression on the spectrum of autism, Asperger’s and other bipolar disturbances; some days a little ebullient, on others, bluer than blue. Couple this with my Jungian personality type — INFJ — of the introvert (where energy is reaped through solitude, a good book) who feels his way through the world by way of intuition, feelings and judgment and conference-dread makes sense.

Well this makes sense to me anyways.

**

So I go? This year?

I’ll have a conference with my selves and get back to you, dear reader.

Through Distant Stirring

Unknown

 

Me and some Lone Justice
Dancing around alone
Through a distant stirring
Of long ago doors unlocked
Out of the bleak winter
Inside a gathering of shapes and angles
Bringing in with me some kind of tragedy
And seeing the unfamiliar face
Hearing that stranger’s voice
Hey where have you been? 
I’ve been looking for you
Pullling me in for a sway
This is for her
Not a love song
A moment so far from that
— a human kindness —
Hearing her voice again saying
I am afraid too
Me and some Lone Justice
Dancing
Through some distant
Stirring

(Lone Justice/Shelter/1986)

Working (addendum)

…and another thing.

Such is the life of a working writer. Just as you post something or send a piece of work out into the wide world, there’s more you want to say, or something you wished you’d said differently.
My recent post on writing being work failed to mention that the reason why a writer must compose or work at it every day is that because for every day you are away from your desk the worse it is to get back into it. The adage used to be, for every day you miss writing an hour of time is spent at your desk in an utter daze. So, away from your desk for, say, four days, expect four hours of painful hesitation and stagnation. For some, it’s not the rule, but for me it generally is.

Another thing about the work day for a writer, and by writer I mean someone who writes novels, or plays, or short stories or essays, not someone who writes for a newspaper or magazine or blogs. A writer of prose or poetry composes in a very idiosyncratic way and for a very specific amount of time. Most writers, the ones I’m familiar with, do not rise in the morning and write all day until it’s time to don the PJs — we all can’t be Nora Roberts (supposedly, she spends the entire day writing, which makes sense given she cranks out upwards of two or three books a year). Reasons for the length of time spent actually composing, not including revising or taking notes, or reading or staring off into space, is very individualized. But I like what T.S. Eliot has to say on the matter, his thinking reflecting much of my own. This was from his Paris Review interview:

Partly on the typewriter. A great deal of my new play, The Elder Statesman, was produced in pencil and paper, very roughly. Then I typed it myself first before my wife got to work on it. In typing myself I make alterations, very considerable ones. But whether I write or type, composition of any length, a play for example, means for me regular hours, say ten to one. I found that three hours a day is about all I can do of actual composing. I could do polishing perhaps later. I sometimes found at first that I wanted to go on longer, but when I looked at the stuff the next day, what I’d done after the three hours were up was never satisfactory. It’s much better to stop and think about something else quite different.