Writing about writing

Archive for May, 2017

Write SOMETHING…

As a writing instructor at the college level, I spend quite a bit of class time in all my classes (basic college writing classes as well as in literature classes) discussing with my students how even if they have no idea what to write [about]–what to say, they should just write SOMETHING–put SOMETHING down on paper even if that something is “I have nothing to say” over and over and over and over and over again. I have even told them to write their name over and over again if they couldn’t think of anything to write. The important thing, I always tell them, is to come to class with SOMETHING written–never come to writing class empty-handed.

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I spend a lot of class time discussing/lecturing my students on the importance of writing SOMETHING, of never coming to class empty-handed. I have stories of previous students who have written about sitting in their little red truck before class and writing about sitting in their little red truck before class writing because Mrs. Watson said never to come to class empty-handed.

I use the movie Quills as an example of how if the Marquis de Saad could find a way to write, they can find a way to write. (In the movie, the Marquis continues to write in spite of continually having his writing utensils–quills–taken away from him. He finally uses his own feces in his own desperation to write.)

Without always using the words “stream of consciousness,” I teach my students to write stream of consciousness style writing rather than not write anything at all. When they don’t know what to write, quite often just the physical act of writing sometimes helps them end up with a workable document. I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as writer’s block. Those who try to argue that they have writer’s block are simply looking for an excuse not to write–do what needs to be done.

When I was growing up, I was teased mercilessly that I had “dish-pan hands” because rather than doing the dishes after supper, I would disappear into the bathroom–until the dishes were done by someone else.

In other words, we tend to avoid what we don’t want to do and many of us don’t want to write. We put a fancy spin on it by saying we have writer’s block, but it boils down to the plain and simple fact that we just don’t want to write. (I didn’t want to do the dishes, so I used the bathroom.)

As my summer is beginning, I have been excited about the opportunity to have a summer of teaching online only so I can spend my summer writing. But now that the time has come, I’m blocked–apparently I don’t want to write.

Wait a second; let me clarify that statement. I want to write. I am having a ball writing in my journals–I have several and I have written in every one every day since the Spring semester ended. I am writing letters and emails and enjoying every moment of the writing. This is already my second blog entry for this blog of mine in less than two weeks and I have enjoyed writing each entry.

The problem is that I do not want to write what I had originally intended on spending my summer writing and working on: my memoir. While I have a really good draft, I no longer have any desire to work on it at this time.

What I do want to do is color. I have been doing a lot of coloring in my journaling Bible and thoroughly enjoying it. The strangest thing about my coloring, though, is that what I really want to do is just color a whole blank page with the same color.

And that’s exactly what I did.

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 I kept telling myself that I should draw something–I should use this really cool paint pen for something more creative than simply coloring a whole blank page. So I tried drawing a few sunflowers and writing the word “joy” over and over, but I kept going back to coloring the whole page. I colored four or five whole pages….no images…just colored the pages and I loved every second of it.

A part of me felt (still feels) guilty for “wasting” the ink in this cool paint pen with coloring whole pages rather than doing something more creative and artistic with it. The other part of me feels very satisfied with my coloring pages. There was something very cathartic about coloring whole pages with a paint pen.

It was my artistic version of stream of consciousness writing. In spite of our feeling as if we’ve wasted our time by writing a bunch of so-called gibberish or coloring a whole page the same color, there is great value in doing SOMETHING. Writing the same thing over and over again or coloring a whole page one color has great artistic value–because at least I’m doing SOMETHING.

No writing is ever wasted time.

No coloring is ever wasted time.

No ART is ever wasted time.

I wonder what Julia Cameron would say…..

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The Writing Retreat was a Failure…no, it was a success

Why is it that the anticipation of something is quite often better than the actual something?

I know. I know. That’s awfully deep for a Tuesday afternoon.

Sorry. Not sorry.

As you know if you read my previous entry, I had a writing retreat this past weekend. I had been wanting to do something like that for years–ever since my husband gave me a 3-day writing retreat over the Christmas holidays sixteen years ago. I went somewhere with no internet (you have NO idea how horrible that was), no television, no cell service, and no communication with others or the outside world. It was at a chalet in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the beauty of nature: birds [singing], squirrels, a stream heavy with recent rains, trees newly budded, and even a few adorable bunny rabbits hopping around!

Thankfully the only snakes were dead in the middle of the road.

Whew.

The first day, Wednesday, was awesome. We ran errands throughout the morning and arrived at our destination at exactly check-in time. The newness of the situation along with the quiet and beauty of the noise and silence only nature itself creates to instill calm and peace deep within one’s very being. I wrote in my journal. I read for awhile. And I wrote some more in my journal.

The newness of the situation along with the quiet and beauty of the noise and silence only nature itself creates to instill calm and peace deep within one’s very being. I wrote in my journal. I read for awhile. And I wrote some more in my journal.

I had to sleep in a bed. Considering the fact that I haven’t slept in a bed for more than seven years, it was a challenge, but I was able to get enough sleep that I only needed one or two naps on day two.

Throughout day two, I read, wrote–outlined, read, wrote some more–outlined, journaled, and read some more. My friend and I worked on editing an amazing story she is currently working on to be published.

Towards the end of day two, I started to feel “off.” It’s difficult to explain unless you have experienced the feeling, but I began to wonder if I just needed more sleep, if I needed to eat more than I was eating, or if there was something in the air that needed refreshing. By the time I woke up on the third day, I was in trouble.

Even looking at a computer screen let alone paper (or even holding a pen in my hand) made me dizzy and nauseous, so no writing was done at all from the evening of day two on for me.

I began throwing up within half an hour after eating breakfast and continued to throw up every few minutes throughout the next several hours.

My friend continued working on her story while I alternately slept, read, and threw up. Misery is a nice word for how much I felt like death warmed over. Honestly, death would have been preferable to how I felt.

Needless to say, we had to leave in the middle of the afternoon on Day #3, Friday. Thankfully my friend was with me and able to drive me back down the mountain while I spent the drive heaving into a throw-up bag I had left over from December when I was in the hospital having my gallbladder removed.

I spent the next two and a half days hugging the porcelain throne, praying for death to ease my suffering.

Writing?

Ha!

Dang it.

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To make my retreat that much more wonderful, my carpal tunnel decided to rear its ugly head and I was at the orthopedic doctor by Monday afternoon getting a steroid shot.

One thing I have realized during this writing retreat is that I do not really want to write a BOOK. I love journaling and writing blog entries. I can’t stand the whole idea, process, etc. of putting together a book. While I have a number of drafts of books that are workable and possibly good enough to be published–after careful editing, of course, I am not so sure that publishing a whole book is the direction I want to continue working towards anymore.

I love the whole process of relatively short essays and journal-style entries. I love that they are “easy” for me to write and edit and publish. I love that they do not take my readers all that long to read–except for entries like this one when I simply have a lot to say. 😉

I am not so sure that I want to work towards publishing my memoir as a book–as one entity–any longer. I’m thinking that I might continue blogging my memoir and stay with blogging as my medium of sharing rather than sallying forth with a whole book.

The other option that I am considering seriously is to move almost completely into writing Bible Studies–as I discussed in a previous blog (the one about moving into unchartered territory–writing without a net).

For now, I will not make any firm decisions because I realize that such decisions could be coming out of the desperate awfulness of being so very sick and a desire not to do anything at all–writing or otherwise. But these are some possible considerations that I am beginning to consider and pray about.

So my writing retreat was a failure because we had to leave early and I was so very sick, sadly. But it may also be considered a success because I may have realized my real writing focus that works best for ME rather than pushing myself into something I’ve been fighting because it really isn’t the writing format that is RIGHT for ME…

Hmmm……

Writing Retreat

Excitement is in the air! For the first time ever, I’m going on a writing retreat! I’ll be away for three days! Where I’m going has little to no cell phone reception. There are no TVs anywhere on the grounds! I’ll have internet connection, but only because I’m taking mine with me. I can’t write a lot and risk losing any of it, you know!!!

It’ll be private and quiet! No responsibilities. No worries. No cares. No deadlines or grading.

And no people! While I am definitely a people-person–a true extrovert, even people like me need down time–time alone.

I’m especially excited to use this time specifically for writing. I’m going to try not to take a bunch of other things to work on so I can concentrate on my writing. That part is going to be difficult, but I will give it my best shot!

What else would I do? Color. Read. Color some more. Sleep. It’s the sleeping that is going to be the most difficult to avoid. I’m tired. Hopefully, I will be able to sleep enough between now and then so that I won’t be so tired that’s all I do!

This will be the first writing retreat for me ever! Should I plan my writing schedule or wing it? Do I set a wake-up alarm? Do I create any kind of schedule? What should I do during my “down” time–the time when I’m not writing?!

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