Sometimes You Just Have to Say No

The nonfiction journal Brevity has a great blog post about ways to avoid overbooking yourself as a writer. The guest author, Lev Raphael, admits that most young writers say yes to everything for the exposure. However, there is  a danger to that because committing to so many engagements pulls a writer from the daily work schedule. Raphael shares some useful advice he learned from another writer during an engagement at a Jewish Community Center. “It’s not just the day you’re there, she (the other author) said, if it’s only a day.  It’s the day before, getting ready, and then at least one day of re-entry into your regular schedule, sometimes more, depending on how complicated your visit was.”

Raphael also notes that writers should consider whether or not the gig will be fun or challenging, and whether or not the compensation, if there is any, is worth it. Raphael’s post made me reflect upon all of the writing engagements and readings I’ve done in the last few years, which has probably neared 100 or so. More recently, most of them have been worth it and have led to book sales and networking with different writers and literary communities. However, when I first started doing this, I said yes to everything. I’ve driven a few hundred miles round trip to read before five or six people. Looking back, I would have said thanks, but no thanks to some of those engagements. Like Raphael advises, guard your time and worry about the work first and foremost.  Research the conference or reading series. Make sure the drive or air travel is worth it.

Joyce Carol Oates Gives Writing Advice in 140 Characters

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012 - Portraits
Acclaimed writer Joyce Carol Oates recently took to twitter to dispense some sound writing office. All of her tweets can be read here. My favorite tweet is “The first sentence can be written only after the last sentence has been written. FIRST DRAFTS ARE HELL. FINAL DRAFTS, PARADISE.” This advice should be included in the syllabus of every undergraduate creative writing class and MFA class. I also like her advice to “Be your own editor/ critic. Sympathetic but merciless” and to “Read, observe, listen intensely!–as if your life depended upon it.” The last piece of advice is especially important as a way to cure writer’s block. I find myself most inspired and ready to write after reading and observing, which require space, time, silence, and patience. To add to Oates’ tweet and to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, poetry is words on the page surrounded by silence. So, if you’re been in a writing funk lately, dig into a book, or go somewhere and observe a scene. It will help, I promise.

Writing Process/Writing Habits

Last week, I attended a free poetry workshop at the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre led by friend and fellow writer Rachael Goetzke. This workshop focused on writing habits/the writing process. I enjoyed the workshop for several reasons, including the fact that it was a workshop I could just sit back and enjoy and not teach.  What I took from it is that I am indeed a creature of habit and do have a strict writing process. For me, writing in the early morning works best, before I leave for work. Later in the day, my mind is simply too clogged to write. I also have a specific place I like to write– at the kitchen table, with notebook if I’m drafting, or my laptop if I’m revising.

After I was uprooted this weekend, due to the evacuation in Kingston from the flood of 2011, I struggled to write. But now we’re safe and not flooded, thank God!  I’m back to my normal writing routine.

The other poetry workshops, including the one I’m teaching, will take place throughout the fall months. All are free, so why not attend? I know I posted this before, but here’s the list again:

September 20–Dawn Leas “Channeling Memories.”

October 4–Amye Archer “Language Poems”

October 18–”Performance Poetry”  Not sure who’s teaching this section.

November 1–Alexis Czencz Belluzi Not sure what her focus will be.

November 15–Jenny Hill “Heavy Metaphor.”
We’ll explore the use of metaphor in prose and poetry and use the library resources to write our own extended metaphors.

November 29–Brian Fanelli will focus on writing about home/place in poetry. We will look at how certain poets depict home/place in their work, and do some writing prompts that tie into home/place.

All sessions held in the Gates Lab.

Final workshop/oration/open mic December 13 (Reading Room)