I get an e-mail from The Writer's Almanac radio program every day. Say what you will about Garrison Keillor, he's done a lot to promote poetry and other literature. I freely admit to being biased, since he read one of my poems once. I love getting the e-mail, both for the poem and for the literary history it contains.
Yesterday I read about David McCullough's writing process: "To research Truman and Adams, he not only read their letters and visited their homes, but he imitated their daily rituals, read the same books they read, and reenacted pivotal events in their lives." That intrigued me. Did he eat the same food that they did? Not bad when you're researching Truman, but following the diet of our founding parents might be tough. Which pivotal events did he reenact? Reading the same books seems like a good way to find out about a person; in fact, I've often done the same thing. If one of my heroes/models speaks highly of a book or writer, it hasn't been uncommon for me to seek it out.
Usually I get writing inspiration after visiting someone's birthplace or reading about them or stumbling across an interesting fact. Something burrows in my brain and emerges as a poem. I haven't done the kind of long project that might require a reinjection of inspiration.
It's an interesting approach. I've read about artists who surround themselves with items/totems to remind them of their projects, who build altars or other concrete objects, who journal, who clip pictures and hang them. Since I share space with my spouse, I don't do that as much as I might when alone. I have been thinking about various writing processes and wondering what would strike the outside world as extreme and what seems perfectly reasonable. I've been thinking about inspiration and encouragement and how we keep to this poetry path we've chosen.
But today, I must return to more mundane topics. I'm off to work to assist in leading an all-morning workshop on Information Literacy. At least we're in charge, so there will be plenty of breakfast food. At yesterday's faculty meeting, I got there just in time to snag the last muffin, a crumb of a muffin, really. And no more were forthcoming. And then we met, with our rapidly cooling coffee, for hours, with no break and no food.
I've written on this before, and again I say, here is evidence of why more women should be in charge at the upper echelons. Make me dean and there will be enough muffins! Not much of a campaign promise, is it? Not an effective interview strategy. But I bet it resonates with lots more people than we'd like to think.
This Year's Summer Reading List: Take a Look!
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