Tag Archives: perceiving

Telluride: Day Two

Not too much to report. No epiphanies, no increases in clarity. I did hike about six miles, late in the afternoon. There were few enough other people that I wasn’t bothered, but there were still enough folks that I wasn’t able to hash out things aloud, which works best for me. Still, getting out and about is nearly never a bad thing.

 

The evening before, at one of the Art Walk venues, the main gallery was hanging photos from Telluride Portraits. During a good chunk of yesterday’s walk, I was thinking about those portraits, and why I was so enamored with them, both individually and with the show as a whole. (I had a chance to talk about this, today, with Amy Levek, who’s lived here 27 years. If I remember, I’ll go over what came out of today’s time with Amy, in tomorrow’s blogpost.) The reason I was so drawn to and effected by them has to do with stories. With these being local folks being photographed, and in environs far outside any studio setting, the mind was drawn in, filling in the blanks, crafting stories.

 

Up until this past April, I would have pooh-poohed any notion that my having seen stories waiting to be heard was anything noteworthy. It seemed a natural, normal, expected thing to have happen. Well, it’s because I’m a writer that such a reaction comes so naturally and unbidden to me. It isn’t any sort of a universal response. Rather, it’s a distinguishing one. One that does set me apart.

 

And because I can be incredibly hard-headed, even about the obvious, I took a FB post quiz to find what career I should have, and (big surprise…wait for it…) the result was, Writer.

 

Huh. Maybe there actually was some clarity, after all.

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Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, Sorting It Out

It Happens

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Sometimes I come to the page and nothing happens. No matter how I stare at the page, no matter how long: zippo, zilch, nada, nothing. Case in point, I’ve been staring at my computer screen for roughly four hours, now, trying to squeeze a blogpost out. Two different post titles, at least four different attempts that each and all died within two lines. (The poet William Stafford once said, “There’s no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.”)

Then I remembered my college English classes, when it’d be mentioned that whomever we were studying at the moment had suffered periods of writer’s block, of dry spells when nothing seemed to be coming. “They coulda written about not being able to write,” was always mentioned, usually in a snarky tone of voice—and sometimes by the professor.

So, with nothing otherwise coming to me to blog about, I’m blogging about not being able to.

In her book, Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg  said you have to be willing “to write the worst junk in the world.” Numerous, countless, other writers and teachers of writing have mentioned how perfectionism makes the words get in the way. Likewise, other writers have echoed James Michener’s, “I’m not  a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” The trick is getting something written so that you’ll have something to work with.

I’m coming back to that Stafford quote. I poo-pooed those earlier posting attempts, discounting them because they “weren’t working,” but they got me to this very post.

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Filed under Staying With the Writing

Why Bother

I was brought up to not bother anybody. During the passing years, this has been transformed into a quiet, behind-the-scenes modus operandi. This is okay and good for dealing with people, especially at work, but it’s not such a good tendency for someone wishing to be a writer, to get their stuff “out there.” Case in point: Susan Tweit had to urge me repeatedly to check with High Country News regarding my essay they’d accepted eight or nine months before, to see where it was in their queue. When I did finally ask, after more than a month of Susan’s persistence, a whirlwind of activity ensued around my essay, which led to it being published not long after my query.

Further, when the local land trust organization recently held a reading at the local independent bookstore, I put off contacting anyone to find out whether I could be added, reading that same HCN essay. Once again, when I finally did ask, just one day before the reading, I was quickly added and included. As it turned out, I was last to read, and was told that my reading gave the event a proper ending.

It’s such a short distance between being brought up not to bother others and seeing yourself as being not worth the bother. In my last blogpost, I showed how this spilled into my perceptions of myself as a writer, and especially with seeing myself as a poet. In both of the mentioned circumstances regarding my High Country News essay, it was only after “bothering” somebody that my writing was finally able to fulfill its intent: to inform and serve.

Of course, this question of, Why bother, also applies at the beginning stages of writing, when envisioning and crafting each piece—even and especially the pieces of writing that never get beyond being just parts and pieces, never becoming wholly completed works. We bother doing the writing, and bother others about our writing, because in each case it turns out to be no bother at all.

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Re:Vision

I had written so poorly for so long, that when I wrote [the short story], “Where the Sea Used to Be,” I didn’t immediately recognize it as being that much better. But later, I remembered thinking that good writing was as much a way of looking at the world as it was a process or technique of writing.  –Rick Bass, interview with Kevin Breen, Poets & Writers, May/June 1993, p21.

I’m still working through quirks and issues with considering myself a poet. While I’ve been something of a writer for over two decades, it’s just recently I’ve included poetry possibly in the mix. My problem has mostly been due to holding poetry and poets above myself and my abilities. Such high regard I’ve held for both, there was no way a schlub like me could reach that high. Sure, I’d dabbled once or twice, but I immediately remanded myself, returning my hands back inside the vehicle.

And then Western Slope poets came to town, one February evening this year. Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, a Facebook friend whose workshop I’d taken last July, emailed me after she’d gotten home, expressing surprise that I’d not read anything at the evening’s open mic. When I explained that I didn’t see myself as a poet, although poets had been quite welcoming to me, Rosemerry’s reply was sharply elegant:

Dear Poet,

You are a poet.

Signed,

another poet.

When April arrived, it was because of Rosemerry that I was included in a FB poetry group whose members posted daily poems due to it being National Poetry Month. With the exception of the first two days, I posted something new each day in April; and I was looking through some of them, last night. The local independent bookstore will be having its second annual Rapid Fire Salute to the Written Word, this evening, which I’ve been invited (once again) to participate in, so I was searching for something of mine to read that’s short. But with the distance and perspective brought by time, I was cringing hard at most of my April Poem submissions. See, not so much a poet, I said to myself.

Yet, here’s the thing. While the crafting of those poems may indeed have been cringe-worthy, they each had a perspective, a way of viewing and seeing the world that distinguished them.

Can writing be taught? Well, the techniques and crafting might be teachable; but you’ve either have the eye for what’s worth writing about or you don’t. Without being able to detect and discern that “heaven in a grain of sand,” you’re left with what Salman Rushdie has called, “humorless, bloodless competence.”

So, yeah, no surprise so many of my poems still need so much work. After all, one: I was cranking them out, one per day; and two, even though I’ve a couple decades of writing under my pen, I’m still new to writing poetry. So, never mind the structural work that’s still needed—that’s the easy part. Any house builder will tell you, it’s the foundation that’s the hardest and most important to get right.

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Filed under Staying With the Writing