Hooked Searches for Time & Space (& Takes a Little Break)

3 05 2012

One of my lit star heroes is Ariel Gore. As a social worker, I pressed Atlas of a Human Heart into the hands of the young women I worked with, one after another. And a ragged copy of her guide, How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead, has staked a firm claim on our boat’s tiny bookshelf, going on its fifth season aboard the Nerka. (Extra points of awesome: an interview with Fisher Poet/’zine  Moe Bowstern appears p140-147!)

Before You’re Dead begins, “Everybody knows it because Virginia Woolf said it: You need money and a room of your own if you’re going to write. But I’ve written five books, edited three anthologies, published hundreds of articles and short stories, and put out 35 issues of my zine without either one. If I’d waited for money and a room of my own, I’d still be an unpublished welfare mom – except they would’ve cut my welfare off by now. It might be nice to have money and a room (or it might be suicidally depressing – who knows?) but all you really need is a blank page, a pen, and a little bit of time.”

Given that Ms. Gore’s words are near-holy to me, I’m embarrassed to admit my recent struggles. Our return to Sitka has been balm for my soul, but hell on my writing. Finding a place to work has been tough. I haven’t made a single sentence of progress on my memoir. The challenge of writing A Whole Book – even one page, one freaking word at a time – feels agonizingly impossible, like riding a unicycle with a flat tire up Everest. Blogging, so seductive with its short story capsules and immediately gratifying writer/reader exchanges, wins my attention every time.

Some days I think Bear should be my ghostwriter.

I chewed on discouragement for weeks, before finally ‘fessing up to my writing buddies. Of course I should’ve turned to them sooner. Beyond generous encouragement and support, they deftly flipped my frustration into a fun writing prompt.

Kari wrote, “Hearing about the places you’ve been forced to write kind of cracks me up. (The laundry room, the payphone room.) Maybe you should use that as a warm-up for your writing sessions. Spend five minutes describing your writing space of the moment. Then post to your blog!”

Pam seconded that idea. “A blog about where you find yourself writing these days is sure to be humorous and uplifting. Your readers will empathize, you’ll get good feedback and have a good warm up, and the positive feedback will carry you through starting what seems to be impossible now.”

These are seriously good friends – as well as excellent memoirists and bloggers. Check out Kari’s blog, Rhymes with Safari, and Pam’s, Putting on my Big Girl Panties.

Their suggestion was well-timed. Just hours earlier, I’d committed to give someone four chapters by the end of May. Breaking my word to this person isn’t an option. So I’m going to step back from all other projects for the coming weeks, fully surrendering to halibut fishing and chapter writing, chapter writing and halibut fishing. For the most part, this hiatus will include Hooked. Necessary discipline for distractible me, but bittersweet all the same. More than readers, you’re friends. I’ll miss our frequent conversations.

But a quick warm-up to get the words flowing, occasionally sharing my often-ridiculous surroundings with you before diving into the chapters, after surfacing from halibut bellies… That might be manageable. We’ll see. Apologies for the radio silence, friends, and many thanks for your understanding and patience. I hope to see you on the other side of the mountain.

Armpit deep in halibut.

Writer friends… Does this sound familiar? What are your favorite writing prompts? Any personal tricks you use for breaking your projects down into manageable pieces? How have you gotten through these funks?


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10 responses

3 05 2012
Julie Farrar

Ah, an interesting question. I’ve used “lack of room of my own” as an excuse for far too long. In my blog post today I started looking at my writing habit. Although I could use better “space” for writing, that’s not my real problem and I know it. That’s why I’m focusing on the habit before the space right now.

We had halibut for dinner this weekend. Wonder if it’s one of yours?

3 05 2012
Julie Farrar

I forgot to add that we’ll miss you. I need to do that writing thing, too. However, I’m waiting just a few more weeks. When I head off to France in June it will be after a serious writing workshop. I’ll have all the information overload from that extended weekend to direct me as I get to some serious work on advancing my own memoir (I’ve been trying to “perfect” the bits that I’ve gotten done rather than producing new bits. Not a successful strategy).

3 05 2012
patriciasands

Dear Tele, there are times when drastic measures are necessary! Getting that novel kick-started is one of those times and reaching the light at the end of the tunnel is another (for me, anyway). I’m writing 12 hours a day now, attempting to get to where I place these words “The End” and it ain’t easy!
Write on, my friend. We’ll be waiting for you.

3 05 2012
fishingblues

I think you are making a good move. I would give anything to be able to stop and focus on one project. Kids make it very difficult to focus on anything. So good for you! I can’t wait to read your memoir when it is published!

3 05 2012
CJ

Let Bear ghostwrite for you and pretty soon he’ll be stealing time to write his own blog on your computer. I know whereof I speak. Sadly, I had to cut Smoke off, although I treasure the blogs she wrote.

She says to tell Bear, “Merow, mate.”

4 05 2012
keneumey

Have faith, my friend. And thanks for the shout out! I’m always here to absorb the venting and dole out writing assignments. :)

4 05 2012
grainsifter

Why of course we understand, and are here in the background cheering you on… live deeply, write deeply!

5 05 2012
Aunt Lynn

Dearest Tele,

Three things that work for me:

One is the morning pages thing, where I write all about how I don’t want to write, can’t think what to write, etc. etc. Eventually – usually by page 1 1/2, I find myself “suddenly” “really” writing, and I just slide over to Buster and type away.

Two is to retype the last half page I wrote and for whatever reason, by the time I’ve gotten to the end of that, my fingers keep going of their own accord. It’s as if I’ve gotten out of my own way and stopped thinking about “what to write.” My writer self KNOWS what to write, when I let go of having to control it.

Three is to use a kitchen timer – or your watch or cell phone – whatever. Set it for 45 minutes and just write even if all you write is the complaining of not being able to. When the timer goes off, reset it for 15 minutes and get up off your butt and do something physical for 15 minutes. Then back to the writing for 45 min. Even if the writing is going well, taking mini breaks like that keeps your subconscious always working on the writing while you give your body permission to breath, move, etc. It’s a system often used by people trying to get through writing long pieces including doctoral dissertations.

SARK’s micro movements are another way to go when you feel stuck. Mostly just keep on writing. Get that first draft on the page and then polish! If I start getting sidetracked polishing as I go, I may have some gem pieces, but later when I have to chuck them because the writing has taken off in a different, unexpected direction, it’s a killer because I am now in love with my own words. Plus the fact I can get stuck in the polishing and never get to “The End.”

You see how my short stories all turn into novels? Once I get started, I can’t stop. Number two is the most successful strategy for me.

Love you and love your writing!!! Tons & tons!!!! Aunt Lynn

8 05 2012
Tina L. Hook

Discovering your creative process is an important first step. Reading author interviews helped me to discover mine.

For me, writing is so much more than sitting down and cranking out a page. There is story mapping. Character building. Research. Editing, Revising. And more editing. When I broke down my recent novel, I spent 8 hours on all this other stuff for every one hour I spent on my initial writing. So now when I get stuck, I go back to playing and experimenting with these other activities. Writing a journal and reading other works similar to the one you are trying to create might help keep your creative juices flowing, as well as providing a constructive activity toward creating your final project.

I’m sorry to hear you are taking a hiatus here. I will miss your words. But I certainly understand.

8 05 2012
Lisa W. Rosenberg

Good luck on your deadline Tele; I know you can do it. In the meantime, Just wanted to let you know I nominated you for both the Versatile Blogger and the Beautiful Blogger Awards! Here is the link to my post: http://lisawrosenberg.com/2012/05/08/versatile-blogger-beautiful-blogger/. No pressure; just wanted to share. If you want to post, they can certainly wait until after your deadline! :)




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