Friday, February 21, 2014

Writing Processes from Deep Submersion to Pirate Radio Stations

Yesterday, after the morning's meeting about persistence (lots of discussion of the problem, about which we all agree--not much time on problem-solving), I took part in a meeting that was part webinar, part phone conference.  Something was wrong somewhere, which meant that the organizer had us all muted--that meant that when someone wanted to talk, we had to wait several minutes for the organizer to unmute.  Maddening.  At this rate, we will never launch the redesign of the English Composition class.

It's frustrating because I spent the late months of fall participating in a small group where we wrestled with issues and came up with a plan.  Two other teams did that too.  Now we have 3 proposals and we need to achieve some kind of synthesis.

I found it rewarding to work in the small group.  I loved returning to issues of curriculum and student learning.  We've got some cool ideas, and it's frustrating to be stalled at this stage of the process.  We need to synthesize ideas and move forward with a plan.  We've had a meeting where the plans are presented; we're now trying to discuss them.  But the technology is working against discussion.  Sigh.

By the time I got to mid-afternoon, I felt frazzled in multiple ways.  I turned to blog posts to refresh me.  I came across several blog posts that talked about the writing process. 

My Hindu writing friend blogs sparingly, so it's always a treat to discover that she's posted something.  And this post mentions me!  She compares her writing process to that of others.  Her writing process submerges her completely.  She starts writing during broad daylight and looks up to realize that it's 3 a.m.

She says, "I wonder at all who write for the love of it. One of my best friends writes in the wee hours of the morning and is disciplined enough to command her pen. She, along with a lot of people whose writing habits I read about, can write for a couple of hours a day and not miss time. She can have normal appointments, meet people for lunch, attend and contribute meaningfully to meetings, and do the same thing the following day! She has amassed a formidable body of varied genres, all because she has the discipline to write a little everyday."

Yep, that's me, writing at 3 or 4 a.m. or even earlier, if I'm having trouble sleeping.  But it's often blogging or e-mailing.  I need discipline of a different sort.  This morning, I began my writing day by working on a short story.  Not surprisingly, I got more done on that short story than I do when I start off working on a blog post.  When I begin by blogging, I often have no time for other writing before it's time to get ready for work.

I envy my friend's ability to dive deep.  She envies my very different situation.  Of course, I can't write the way that she does; I've got a boss that would frown on me losing myself to my writing that way.  We do what we can with the circumstances that we have.

I also came across Kelli's blog post on her writing process, which led me to a different post on the writing process--that post describes a writing process that's like a pirate radio station:  "But when I am writing I have no special time of day to write. My writing is like a pirate radio station, always shifting time and location—from a sunny chair in my apartment, to a noisy tea shop in my city, to my desk at DePaul, to my phone while riding the El."

Yesterday I tried to shift location.  I had every intention of writing a poem before the big meeting in the morning.  I didn't get that done, but I did figure out the last stanza, how to end the poem.  At least when I get it written down, I'm more likely to have a finished poem.

I will need to be adaptable.  I've been lucky to have a very flexible schedule.  Yesterday we learned of a new rule that demands that administrators be at their desks no later than 10.

On the one hand, it's still pretty flexible.  On the other hand, it wipes out the mornings that feel like they could last forever, when my spouse is away at class and the whole morning is mine to do with what I wish.  I'm trying not to feel upset.

Kelli gives great advice:  "So my advice for other writers, is to write daily if you can, and find what creates the spark in you? Is it something you do-- light a candle, do yoga before, meditate?  Is it something you taste, drink?  A certain scent? Something you hear?"  
I will need to learn to find those sparks at work, in addition to other locations.  Here's an idea that I will try.  Just before the new year, I bought this book, a book of daily prompts that Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano created.  Of course, I have yet to use it.  I don't need that kind of inspiration when I'm at home.

So, I will take the book to work.  I will work my way through the prompts.  I will close the door and write a poem just as often as I close the door and listen to a teleconference.  If we're still allowed to take a smoking break, and we are, I will take a poetry break!

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