Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Reading Aloud as a Writer

I have gone to many workshops about writing. The process. The product. Structure. Poetry Fiction Non-Fiction Essay Memoir. Oh, I think I even went to one on travel writing a long time ago. And freelance writing, copywriting. Creative non-fiction. Playwrighting. Publishing. Writing conferences and retreats.

Most rooms in my house contain, among the bookcases of fiction and memoir and scripts and art books and mystery, interpreting and translation and language, many books on writing. Writing about all of the topics I've already mentioned. And more - such as "The Portable MFA" and several on critique/writing/creativity groups, being a writer, tips and hints and how-to and how-not-to.

One thing I've read and heard many times in many voices and in various word order choices is that writers should Read Your Work Aloud,. To yourself. You can read it to others, but the most important thing is to read it aloud to yourself, for yourself.

At this point, non-writers might think - why? I get that. I really do. Because, while in theory it's a practice I see merit it doing, it is not something I do that often. Yet every time, in critique group or with a writing partner or with someone I know, when I read what I wrote, I almost always find something which I want-need to change. Almost every time.

Still, I balk.

It takes too much time (the deadline is now; I have to get to sleep; I have to get ready for work; I have a list of things to do and don't have time; the cat is waiting for food; I haven't showered yet).

It's too late (at night; I'm too tired; I'll wake up S; I have to get it finished and submitted now, I have to get up early in the morning, etc).

I've read this a million and two times and I won't catch anything, anyway.

It's fine (not perfect I'm sure, but fine).

My friends and writing partners and critique group and writing conference readers have all read it and it's fine. (Ignoring the changes which have been made since each of those times.)

There are probably more reasons. Oh, and the "I don't want to" excuse. What?

I have been working on a piece of writing. It is an excerpt from a book in process and pieces have been workshopped and edited (repeatedly) and restructured, revised, chopped, rewritten. At the Writing By Writers Methow Valley in May I was given some suggested places where this piece might fit. So, as a good writer, I looked them up and selected one (for now). I read their guidelines, which also included having to cut about 1,000 words. And then there were the other story tightening and cleaning up suggestions.

I've been working on this particular version of this part of the story for over a month. I've read it at a writing group. I've had more people read it. I've read it to myself (in my head).

Finally the piece was where I wanted it to be.

Ready to submit.

But I had not read this "final" version aloud to anyone, including myself.

I forced myself to read it out loud. This submission opportunity felt important, it's a step into another level of commitment to my writing and I decided I owed it to this story and this part of the story to give it my all. I told myself I couldn't go to bed until I'd done it and I couldn't submit it until I'd read it aloud to myself. And I'd told another writer that I was going to submit the piece and read it aloud to myself before doing that. External accountability she called it (and we're doing this mutually in other ways, too).

So I did. I went home after my very late work and I read it aloud to myself.

And I found five things I needed to fix, in addition to one more that S found in her read of the piece. Three of the five things I found felt significant: grammatical errors or awkward phrases which were remnants of editing (overlooked cutting out one word from a previous version; accidentally cut out a pronoun in editing). I even found one phrase which was not a dangling piece of overlooked revision, but an awkward phrase which has probably been in the piece since its inception.

Maybe this time I "get it." I really thought this piece was solid and ready to go. I know that of the five things I found, I probably would only have found one on my final read in my head. If that.

Reading aloud. It works.

I did submit the book excerpt. And I feel confident that this draft is solid.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Little Me Limerick

I don't know what age I was when I wrote this limerick. Childhood poetry is funny.

Thank you to my sister who recovered it for me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Writing Breath

change and patience
color-infused breath dreaming
honor water spirit
creativity in my skin

Redtree Times
Austin Kleon


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Writing Update

Quick and to the point.

Because in 13 hours I will be interpreting a play. And I should already be in bed. But, soon.

Because theater is happening and regular work is happening.

And still, I'm writing.

Last week I made a couple of tightening edits to a short story. Then had to do some major reformatting to the same story because of transferring it to a different system. I complete both tasks and submitted the story to a publication. Patting myself on the back for getting that piece done and submitted.

On Friday 5/27 I finished more edits to the piece I took to the Methow Valley Writing by Writers conference. I had to make some cuts so that it fits the submission guidelines for another publication. Then I got feedback from my critique group, which I read through again, applied as fit my vision for the piece; tightened it up and made some clarifications. And I sent the edited manuscript to my critique partners.

Writing is still happening. And submissions are happening.

All is good.

Now, really, to bed. I have a show tomorrow ... um, later today. ("Grand Concourse" at Artists Repertory Theatre; I'm interpreting the matinee at 2:00.)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Percolating and Sifting and Flow

At this time a week ago, I was returning to my room at Sun Mountain Lodge, near Winthrop, Washington. I had just completed the first full day of the Methow (pronouned MEH-TAU, I learned) Valley manuscript conference put on by Writing by Writers. The day before had been a full day, comprised of 8 hours of driving with another writer along for conversation, checking into our rooms, conference registration, dinner, a mandatory welcome meeting, and then an hour in our specific author cohorts.

Lidia's group at Writing By Writers Methow Valley
But the first day of workshop and panel and meals with the evening activity was last Thursday.

It was a powerful experience. I met some wonderful writers and reconnected with a couple of others from other workshops. I received helpful feedback on my ~15 pages and shared feedback (in the new Lidia-style-critique). I heard great writing. Went on walks and a short hike. Took turns on different patios and decks. overlooking the Cascade Range or the pool or a meadow. Drank in the bar. Attended a wine tasting. And more.

I left feeling energized about my writing. Confident about my writing. I had a better direction to go and left knowing my writing is solid and I can do this and I will do this.

Even after a few days of working long hours, I am still working on my writing. Even after diving into the script and the production of the next show I'm interpreting I am still carrying around the feedback and advice and insights about my writing. I also kept my Tuesday writing time, which I used to edit a piece for submission and that also doubled as my submission for my critique group.

As I typed the above paragraph, I realized that what I submitted to the critique group is double the length we agreed to share for feedback. I just sent the group an email and asked them to ignore half of it. See? Enthusiasm at writing!

Writing by Writers, led by the incredible Pam Houston, was a wonderful writing conference. Worth the time and the money. And I would do it again. They have other writing conferences - generative and manuscript and combination - at other locations. They will be returning to Methow Valley next year and I may return, as well.

With a completed final draft of the manuscript, I hope. I have set a goal for myself for a revised draft completion. I have also identified some blocks of time where I can focus on the manuscript, because part of the work I'm doing will be easier if I have time to focus in and not be distracted by work, and especially not by theater.

It was a great five days in Methow Valley.

I'm working hard to keep the writing flow going, even though the word river has to pass through and over and around some reeds and boulders in the stream. But nothing is going to stop me now.

And I have my Corporeal Writing underwear for the days when I feel doubt trying to take over.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Dream Team of Author Faculty

Do you remember when I went to the coast and I had to finish the writing to submit? Which I did.

I'm here now, in that place where I had to send the writing.

I'm here above Winthrop in Methow Valley, with mountains all around and landscape turning green with the recent rains and wildflowers popping out all over.

I'm here at the Writing By Writers conference, at the end of day two.

This is a beautiful setting. The Sun Mountain Lodge is incredible - the setting, the building, the rooms, the staff. And the beds. My bed is so comfortable that I didn't have any problems sleeping through the night yesterday. Which is not my norm. The food has been good, the coffee plentiful, and we have our own room for dining.

The participants are meeting with one of four authors over the four full days of the workshop: Ron Carlson, Pam Houston, Andre Dubus III, and Lidia Yuknavitch (I'm here). Today we had a whole group panel with the four of them speaking about how to keep going when it (writing) gets hard. This was followed by readings from the fellowship recipients.

After a break and time on our own (about 90 minutes, during which I wrote) and then after dinner, we were treated to readings by Pam and Andre. Delightful, of course. Tomorrow night we will get to listen to Ron and Lidia; which will also be delightful.

I am first up for critique in my writing group tomorrow and I should have been asleep two hours ago. Instead I've been writing and catching up on a few emails and reading over some notes I took earlier today. It's okay. I'll just have a little extra coffee with my breakfast. And I will probably take a nap in our three hours of on our own time on Friday.

Now I really must sleep. Breakfast comes early when the workshop starts at 9 AM, before that, the alarm.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

'happiness does not wait"

happiness does not wait

From the Festival of Contact Improvisation in Water and on Land
in Thailand, March 2016.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Productive Procrastination

Wiritng procrastination can be very productive.

Today I :

  • did my laundry
  • sorted and emptied my office trash 
  • took out all the trash
  • took out the recylcling
  • emptied the dishwasher
  • made the bed
  • cleaned the coffee maker then made coffee
  • strained the kefir
  • concocted a new kefir flavor (ginger curry with vanilla)
  • and am going to do an hour of exercise.

Next? Shower!

Writing? I will get to it.

Writing procastination. Don't make it a habit. But from time to time it helps me complete a few things on my chore list.

I will write today.

I will.

And maybe calling it procrastination is not the most appropriate label. The tuth is that everything on the list was - is almost always - in competition. With having a whole day off (not even a rehearsal), those things need attention, too. And today the other things came in first for completion.

Procrastination? Yes and no.