Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sibling Assignment #46: Walk the Walk: The Writing Life


What does your writing life consist of? What works for you? What advice would you share with other writers?

This was the topic I assigned to my siblings this week. I am always eager to read what writers do to keep the craft alive and fresh in their lives. You will find Raymond Pert’s here and Silver Valley Girl’s here. soon. I have also used this post for the topic Walk on Sunday Scribblings this week.

One important part of my writing life is time. It sounds simple, but I learned as a writing teacher that writers need time to think, doodle, experiment, draft, play with words, and compose. My goal is to carve out time each day for writing. It may be my school notebook/journal, my personal journal, longer pieces I am working on, samples to share with students and/or my blog. Authors that write for a living mention this over and over. It doesn’t have to be polished prose. The words don’t have to make sense. It is just that act of thoughts to paper consistently that make a difference. It is walking the walk. Studying good models of text is another strategy that helps me with my own writing. I have always been an avid reader. Often I read books so quickly I was only moving through the text to find out what would happen next. I went through my Carolyn Keene, Danielle Steele, Howard Fast, and Belva Plain author tours. I sped through numerous books by Judy Blume, Jan Karon, and J.A. Jance. At some point as an adult reader I stopped to pay attention to writer style and craft. I paid attention to how Anna Quindlen put her sentences together. I reread the way Barbara Kingsolver created characters. I examined how Kim Barnes created a sense of place. Many years ago I had to quit reading Steven King because I just got too scared. I learned much about writing though in his memoir On Writing.
When I read an author’s words now I reread from a writer’s point of view.

I also immerse myself in the text I am writing. When I want to play around with how poets create images in their poetry I read William Stafford, Robert Frost, or Ted Kooser. Seeing ways to compose nonfiction in a poetic style takes me to Diane Ackerman, Terry Tempest Williams, or Maya Angelou. Lauie Colwin sparked my interest in writing about cooking and the kitchen with her entertaining and informative essays on home cooking. I learned as much about writing as I did gardening when I read Ken Druse and Margaret Roach. My writing life has been enriched by creating a community of writers. This may include Sunday Scribblings online, a blog, or another writer friend that has given me support and feedback. My sister formed a group for women to explore their creativity. That helps her keep going with her creative endeavors. She also began our weekly Sibling Writing Assignment which we have now done 45 times to keep us writing each week. I help plan a writing retreat each year that brings writers together for that purpose. Another friend of mine formed a writing group in her community with other interested people. It has made a difference to me to have others reading my writing. It has also helped when people have asked for more!

My last bit of advice is to define your purpose for writing. Originally I began writing memoir as part of my ongoing therapy so I could revisit significant events in my life and look at them from another perspective. What seemed like a horrible thing when I was ten can now be looked at with humor and laughter. Writing memoir also helps me define who I am and where I am in this life. I also helps me be a better writing teacher. I can walk the walk and talk the talk.

My purpose is not to publish and get rich. I don’t want to be a full-time writer. I love teaching too much. I do want that ritual and routine in my life that writing creates. I do want a way to connect my photo images with words. Sharing my words with family and friends with gifts of writing is another important purpose for my writing.

Finally, I give myself breathing room. If I don’t get to writing one day it is okay. If I can only produce trite poems about colors for a week that is okay also. If there is one gem in a pile of rocks in a month I’ll take it. I am just going to keep walking the walk.

If you want to read other Sunday Scribblings on Walk go here.

10 comments:

Pamela said...

I popped over and visited (lurked) at your siblings blogs for the first time tonight.

My daughters blog - but none of my siblings (as far as I know)

Rob Kistner said...

One must walk this walk at a natural pace for it to be of substance... keep it up!

Crafty Green Poet said...

excellent advice, specially about reading slowly and taking in how authors write, though i have sometimes find that gets in the way of enjoying the story - if the story is interesting but the writing poor, that's when I speed through the book!

Crafty Green Poet said...

oh lovely photos too!

Just Jen said...

Time is a difficult thing at this house. My mind often comes up with things to write down at the moment I couldn't get near a pencil and paper. Like just now, I've been interrupted 4 times just writing in this comment box. Writing with distraction isn't easy.

colleen said...

Well said. I enjoyed reading this because I like to see how other writers tick and I live learning about your initial motivation and what your goals are for it now. I'm actually writing a similar overview piece right now as we speak...will be posted tomorrow or the next day.

Patty said...

I need music at times for inspiration, soothing stuff, no words. And then there are times when I am laying in bed, just before sleep comes and in those moments of watching the navy blue sky with clouds racing by, I often think of things to write, then sleep comes and erases all those wonderful words that had once filled my head

tumblewords said...

Seems like writing is a verb! Enjoyed reading the list of authors you read and enjoy as well as your thoughts about why you write. Nice post...and the photos are delightful.

La Page Fran├žaise said...

Very good advice about "walking the walk" of the writing life.

Inland Empire Girl said...

Thanks for your comments. It was a good exercise for me to figure out just what it is I do when I write.