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writer’s issues

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Getting Back into Writing Practice

It’s been a while since I posted here. It’s been too long. I am rereading Long Quiet Highway by Natalie Goldberg, where she shares her life and her insights about the practice of writing. I’ve long been familiar with her other book Writing Down the Bones, which gives some good insight and prompts. Though I read it a long time ago, Long Quiet Highway was what I needed this week. I felt prompted to get back into practice. This is what I wrote down:

I need to make a regular practice with writing. I can take at least 15 minutes a day to write down something in my notebook. That is 15 minutes more than if I didn’t write at all. I can wake up a bit earlier to do this. My mind is fresh then. I can do this after I arrive to work from my commute.

I resolve to be as honest and as candid as I can be in my writing practice. I may not always share this writing with others, but I resolve to get to that scary place where I am afraid to articulate that story. It’s often sexual or something I’m not proud of. There are also things that may be somewhere in between, that I’m afraid I’ll be judged. I have been holding back on my stories and I resolve not to hold back anymore.

To write this stuff down is like getting naked and that’s always been scary. It’s easier in where it’s a naked space like the locker room of a gym or the sauna. It’s a little more like Black’s Beach, but more people are more often clothed than not. It’s a lot more like being on a stage with no clothes on or being an artist’s model. All is out there to see. Writing is exposing and that is scary.

Writing is more interesting when there are those details that show you’re letting the reader in. I’ve always been afraid of that. I worried about what personal detail would be out in the open. I’ve also worried about who I would hurt in the telling of the story.

I take this risk by putting all this down, to write them down in a notebook.I put those first thoughts down as well.

I want to say everything and freeze up when it comes time to. Or, I say everything at once. Here, I can take the time to say one thing at a time. I can always unpack as I go along. I can always revisit it later.

This is taking the time to write a bit every day, to get the first thoughts down.

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This was 361 words in 15 minutes. Kevin Welan resolved to write 250 words a day in his resolution, which I got from Joanne Meschery, a wonderful visiting creative writing professor I studied with in the MFA program. In any case, the word count can sound daunting on its own, but this is about writing regularly. I may post some of this pages. I also reserve the right not to share some if I’m not comfortable sharing. But it is my hope that even being honest and candid in those entries will help me in telling my stories. When I finished the first reread of Long Quiet Highway, I cried. Natalie Goldberg’s story about Katagiri Roshi was indeed moving. However, her discussion of the practice and getting to the energy of those first thoughts spoke to me about how I held back my stories and there was a lot of untapped energy there.

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Reading in this New Year

It's so easy to get caught up in this idea of reading as a writer that it becomes this rule, a dogma. Some writers, like Stephen King in his famous book on writing drives home this point where it's easy to internalize in this way. I have to admit it's easy to feel guilty if the reading falls by the wayside for whatever reason.

When this happens, reading becomes a labor. This takes whatever joy there is in reading a work someone else created out of their own dreams and desires that it destroys the point of reading altogether.

Reading is about listening, hearing the story a writer is telling you. Or, it is to take in the view someone is presenting you. This is what it is to be an active reader.

Sorry, that is the English teacher part of me talking, but it is true. We do live in an age where context is missing and public figures are constantly shouting that that's not what they said. Often, the context is deliberately hid, but a bigger issue is that many of us aren't fully equipped to truly see it, especially when we are caught up in what outrages us.

I got it in my head as a young man that somehow reading a book is like eating it and writing creatively is like shitting out your literary meals. I've never seen it explicitly said like that. However, when you are advised to read to shape your own language and learn the form of wiring, it's easy to come to this view. And I'm starting to realize how warped it is.

I suppose it's better than plagiarism, which is like gobbled up prose that's vomited up too soon and the sick is still very recognizable as the food. Often, it's voluntary like the inaccurate image of Romans going into the vomitorium to disgorge the contents of their stomachs so they can eat more.

This year, I do intend to make reading a more regular practice. I also resolve to get past the baggage so that reading is more the act of listening than it is looking for something to steal. In cultivating the act of listening as a reader, I myself can present my story in a way that the audience can listen themselves.

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Facebook and Orange Haze

Over the years, I have come to have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love the connectedness I have with the various groups of people in my life. I hate that I can spend too much time chasing updates. I like when people share funny or interesting updates. I hate that the updates have now become non-stop articles about the orange haze. No, I’m not going to name that, but I’m sure you have a good idea already.

This has become the great crazy maker (to borrow that Artist’s Way phrase) of our time. I’ve gotten to where I’ve gotten rid of the personal crazy makers in my life such as certain friends, a significant other, and even a toxic mentor and my challenge became to cultivate sane contacts, whether they have been in my life for a while or I starting to know them. Now there’s a crazy maker in the background and I didn’t say yes. It’s more like having someone scream outside my house nonstop and I don’t want to acknowledge him, so I play the music to maximum volume.

I understand I’m not alone. I see it on friends’ posts. The problem has become that it’s all I see now.

Before, my problem was that Facebook took my time, my thoughts, and words. I resented yet, yet I could not stop.

Every year, I see friends give up Facebook for Lent. Forty days they don’t post and then they are back at it again. I’ve never tried it as I try to turn this abstaining practice of Lent into something life-changing. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that is the intention.

Here, I have to acknowledge that Facebook changed my life. I’m not saying that it’s great, but i’m not saying it’s horrible. I don’t always like it, though.

There is the orange haze I mentioned earlier. That it shows up in my newsfeed constantly makes me feel like I’m forced to stare at something with my eyelids cut off. There’s the time suck that was an issue long before. And it has a way of taking up time that can be used for reading or writing.

The funny thing is since Facebook is still primarily a text medium is that it doesn’t add greatly to the reading anyone does. I believe that it’s that the reading one does on Facebook isn’t active. People often react and miss things and context is lost. And outrage takes over everything.

In the midst of all that, I see posts that add up to compelling stories. I see interesting ideas and insights from friends. However, it’s the reactive side of posts I see more.

For me, if I decided to try to quit Facebook cold turkey, I would be back right away. It’s what happened when I tried removing the app from my iPhone and iPad. I re-downloaded them shortly after.

I have found that making these blog posts have helped. I don’t want to take as much time as I have before. I haven’t posted this much this week. It’s an opportunity to rethink how I engage on that medium and how much I want to engage elsewhere. It’s also made me think of how I can use that time for things I want to do such as writing and my artwork.

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