OctPoWriMo Day 30 – Celebrate
Visit my poetry blog to read more.
OctPoWriMo Day 30 – Celebrate
Visit my poetry blog to read more.
It’s been way too long since a new post, and like forever since any updates to The Road So Far series. By now I have been living in Pennsylvania for over two years. Even after that it still seems so unreal to me. I attempted to dive right in and actually found a job just a month after moving, at a local department store for the holidays. Well it didn’t even last until Thanksgiving. Luckily I had savings and some extra cash due to a retroactive pay raise from my time at the college. So I managed to survive, financially at least. I may have lost my mind somewhere in the house during the winter though.
That’s the hardest part about getting used to living here, there is nothing to do. Even with working full-time now I can go absolutely mad of boredom sitting in the house, and until I start driving I wont have anywhere to go. Even then, it’s not what I’m used to.
Eventually, that first winter passed and I got my butt out of the house and moving. I started going on long walks and passed a temp agency with a posting about a clerical job. I ended up picking up a couple of hours a work in the temp agency office. Due to my impeccable my timing, just as the hours dwindled down, I started working at the local public library. I worked part-time until the end of the year when a fulltime slot opened up.
Things are good at the library, although there is a lot of down time and it’s easy to get bored. I also was disappointed in the lack of writing programs since before I started the job. So of course killing two birds with one stone I proposed holding a writing workshop. This past June I held my first one and have continued monthly since. I can’t believe I get to lead my own workshop. Which I has gone a long way to help improve my motivation and mood in regards to writing. It’s only once a month and it’s rocky some meetings but it’s something I needed pretty badly.
I’ve been really struggling to get into a regular writing routine and finish up some old projects. I had a little success despite my lack of motivation, for last year’s OctPoWriMo I completed more poems than previous years. So far this year I missed a couple of days but am still doing pretty well. Last year’s attempt at NaNoWriMo, on the other hand was plain sad. I guess the time I would and should have spent writing was filled up instead with reading and–more than I care to admit–Netflix binging.
I think sometimes it’s what needed. A little bit of time, especially after a major change, to be easy on ourselves and figure out a new plan. I’ve been really thinking about my situation, my writing, the future and where the hell I go from here. Plus all the reading has made me so much smarter and well informed. (lol maybe) Anyway I think I might just be starting to pull it all together. In addition to my writing workshop, I will be hosting a program for NaNoWriMo. That should give me just that extra bit of motivation I need. I am really hoping to meet the 50,000 word goal and I think I can do it this year.
Generally, things seem to have turned around the past couple of months. I feel more motivated and have been working at ways to squeeze in small burst of writing on my downtime at work, lunch breaks and whenever possible. I scaled back the newsletter from monthly to quarterly; with the small amount of subscribers the amount of time and effort needed monthly just wasn’t worth it. I have ideas of how to build my list, speaking of that you can sign up here to receive the newsletters if you haven’t already.
I’ve been posting this years OctPoWriMo poems to Lex Poetry. Since I’m spending time on poetry, I’m working again on a collection I’d like to publish. Hoping to have a manuscript, at least in rough draft form by the end of the year. I know that’ll be here sooner than I think, but I’m working at it.
I know Seether has a lot of critics, mainly because of their unoriginality. And even I have to admit when I first heard this song I thought it was a remake because it sounded very familiar. But I’m still a fan. Maybe they do borrow some elements from older songs but they usually are pretty original with their lyrics. This song in particular includes a part that I think most writers can seriously relate to.
“All I really want is something beautiful to say
To never fade away
I wanna live forever”
In fact that’s likely the exact ambition and motivation for many writers, past and present included.
In case you are wondering, “Mad World” would the the song that it’s eerily similar to. They aren’t exactly identical, identical but they are close enough that I really did think it was a cover.
But that wasn’t really my point here it was simply an observation about he lyrics themselves. Please feel free to comment with any thoughts, I’d love to hear what you think.
With all the different writing classes I’ve taken over the years, I’ve somehow never taken one on poetry. Which is interesting because my love of writing started with poetry. I very quickly realized it was pretty bad though. In my humble opinion I’ve improved a lot, mainly through reading more poetry and a few instructional texts. I still feel that some more instruction and education on the craft could definitely help me. So I enrolled, for free of course in Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop, an online course conducted by California Institute of Arts.
I’m up to the third week and so far it’s really gone down to the basics. Even with the instructional texts I’ve used in the past, I skipped over a lot of the beginning stuff. I skimmed over a lot of it and skipped almost, if not all the exercises, to get to the parts I thought were really interesting. Participating in this course, I’m more committed to actually putting in the work, which means doing all the exercises even if they seem juvenile. Here’s a couple I’ve completed so far:
This exercise was for the lessons on lines. The following text was presented in a block of text I had to add in my own line breaks.
tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace
from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time;
and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.
out, out, brief candle! life’s but a walking shadow,
a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
The piece is an excerpt from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Check it out, my version made the lines just a bit longer.
For this exercise we were supposed write a poem describing an object. The instructions said to be as literal and vivid as possible, and not to use any figures of speech. Not sure how vivid my image is but I like it. I’ll likely keep working it and who knows where it might end up.
Clear glass heavy in my hand.
Filled with dark liquid and ice
popping ever so often
as the whiskey melts it down.
A sip, cold
goes down with a slight burn.
Today makes it’s exactly five months since my move. I like it so far but it’s a big adjustment. I’m still not even used to the idea of not living in New York City. I’m glad to be out but do miss it, mainly because there isn’t much to do up here. The week of Thanksgiving I visited for a couple of days, hadn’t been gone long and it felt like I’d never left. With the chaos of the move followed by the holidays I’m finding real hard get back on track. Most of my time’s been spent getting to know the area, looking for a job and just getting settled in.
I let myself take it easy, trying to get my office together and working out new plans for my blogs, newsletter and Etsy shop. I’ve been slowly forcing myself to get back to writing, but my lack of concentration has made it very difficult. I did manage to write and publish a few new blog posts, in addition to the last two months newsletters. I’ve been stuck editing (actually rewriting) my novel for a couple of months now, barely making it to chapter five. Between the frustration and lack of structure to my days, I feel like I wasted a lot of time watching TV, playing games online and basically sulking around trying to figure out what to do with myself.
I’ve been working on different strategies and practices to boost my motivation and creativity. I have small library of books on writing with prompts and exercises I’ve tried working with. Also started reading The Artist’s Way again, before the move I got about half way through. I wasn’t really putting much effort into the exercises and tasks. I really like the advice and approach of letting yourself explore your creativity without judgement. That’s not something that comes easy to me and often beat myself up or give up when I can’t meet my standards. It’s been helpful as I start experimenting with other creative art forms.
I just hope that soon things will start falling into place. It’s no surprise that the move would cause so much disruption. I just didn’t think I’d be working at a snails pace to get back on track. At this point all I can do is keep pushing myself.
I started bike riding this year, an attempt to be active and get out of the house more often. I try to make it out everyday but usually it’s only a couple days a week. I’ve found that it’s a great way to clear my mind and sometimes I find sparks of inspiration. My regular route is along Shore Road in Bayridge, Brooklyn. Last week I was out for a ride and focused in on the sound of the waves. Then my mind started wandering. As I focused on the experience and the world around, the word waves kept rolling around in the back of my mind. Without thinking hard, I went through a little free association, and ended up with the line, “I’d rather ride the waves of my mind than keep up with modern times.”
It was a rather quick and random process, I wont bore you with the details. But once the line was in my head new ideas just kept coming to me. Immediately, I thought I needed to catch a picture of the waves to post on Instagram with the line. I also thought it was the great start to a poem. Which I ended up writing later that day. Then I realized that the anecdote about the line coming to me while riding was perfect for a blog post I had been working on about finding inspiration. I’d been working on the draft for a while but it just wasn’t coming together.
One of the challenges of being a writer or any kind of content producer these days is always coming up with new ideas. Most of the time I push too hard trying to force it. But when I stop focusing on it and let my mind drift ideas just pop into my head. This isn’t exactly a new revelation, in many creative fields professionals advise doing something else to jump start creativity. But I thought it would help to see how a simple bike ride led to one line that turned into social media posts and a poem. I’m also even considering expanding the idea further to include other techniques and pitching it as an article to a writing publication.
Next time you feel stuck or out of ideas maybe you should go for a bike ride. If you don’t have a bike, go for a walk, or do anything that keeps you from thinking to hard. The point is to let your mind just wander, see where it takes you and enjoy the ride.
Scanning the web for articles on writing it’s impossible not to come across advice on getting started. Mostly they talk about the blank page syndrome, where people become so intimidated it paralyzes them. For some staring a blank page is the hardest and scariest part about writing. I’ve never really had trouble starting. I think starting is easy, I’ve started writing tons things over the years. For me the hard part comes after I start. For a long time I had to push past the feeling that what I was getting down just wasn’t right. I’ve fallen into the trap of editing as I write which makes it even harder to complete. But in time I learned to continue and worry about fixing it up in the editing process.
The editing is whole other issue itself. That is where I can become stuck and the idea of a finished product can paralyze me. I’ve had a tons of work that after a rough draft they were left abandoned or even completely started over. It’s easier to give up than toil over something I’m not happy with. Unfortunately there are those times I can’t just give up, whether for school or work I have to turn in a finished product. And while I know all good writing needs several edits, I feel like I spend an excessive amount of time on it. I tend to get stuck trying to make it perfect, going over the same sentences over and over again. If one isn’t right how can the rest be. I have things I’ve written that I could continue editing forever and never really be happy with the finished product.
I don’t know when to stop and can’t decide when things are actually finished. When working on deadline, I usually just run out of time and have to hand in whatever I’ve done. Many times you’ll find me anguishing over it up until the last moment before I send it off. No matter what I write I end up obsessing over whether I should have changed a word here or there, added an extra comma somewhere, or even if I should have organized it differently. When I don’t have a deadline I usually just stop working on it when I’m tired of looking at it.
I always wonder how other people decide a piece of writing is done. I’d love to hear some thoughts on the subject from other. Let me know in the comments if you struggle with this too or if you have any advice on how to overcome the anxiety of finished a piece.
I’ve written in the past about how nervous interviews make me and the mistakes I think I’ve made. While I’m still working on improving my interviewing skills I’ve discovered a somewhat new anxiety about writing nonfiction and reporting. These are related to the editing process and incorporating information and quotes from sources into the final piece.
I worry about paraphrasing people and simply how I use the quotes to support the story. I end up obsessing over how the person I interviewed will react to the story. I worry that I might misinterpret their words while paraphrasing or even when using direct quotes they’ll feel it was taken out of context. For whatever reason I feel like I need to satisfy them in addition to readers and my editor. I guess I feel like I do have a responsibility to them since I am using their words and taking up their time.
Though recently I had a big boost. After interviewing several people for an article I sent them all a link to the live story and more than one replied complementing me on the story. It felt like a huge weight lifting off my chest. Seriously, the stress has made me question if I should continue with this work. But those emails gave me the boost I needed to at least pick up one more assignment.
In the past I sent sources stories to review before submitting them, but that’s not always possible when working on a deadline. I’ve also read lots of mixed advice about whether or not this should be done. I wonder if anybody else deals with this kind of anxiety when writing nonfiction, or using sources for any kind of writing. I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have on the subject.
Not too far in my past the idea of pursuing a masters degree would have laughable. When I returned to school, my goal was to at least get a two year Associates degree. But when I continued to get my Bachelor’s I actually started to consider the idea of graduate school. (After a considerable break that is.) But getting an MFA hadn’t really occurred to me. It’s been suggested since graduating, but I just kind of dismissed it. It seemed like most people went for the sense of approval to be a writer and the idea of simply studying writing wasn’t appealing. I was more interested in continuing with media and culture studies. Then recently I found MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction at the library. Reading it I started to see some of the advantages of attending a creative writing program. But still had some mixed feelings about whether or not it was worth the time or money.
So as I read this article, I understood the authors anxieties toward the idea of getting an MFA. In fact, reading the piece kind of felt like taking a tour of my own mind, mirroring many of my own thoughts. As Gersen points out, there is a sense of privilege associated with getting an MFA. I remember when I first found Poets & Writers Magazine, as I conjured fantasies about the programs featured in enticing ads, I couldn’t help feeling like it would only ever be a fantasy. While I’m sure some of it was a lack of confidence in my talent it was more about how distant and unfamiliar to the world I knew they seemed. I guess in a way they didn’t seem completely real, it a part of a life that was lead by people much different from me. In a way it’s part of why I never thought I could be a successful writer, or at least my idea of what a successful writer was. Getting older a lot of those ideas and images changed but nonetheless I still didn’t think an MFA would be a part of my future. I realized one that it wasn’t necessary to be a writer and two that it wasn’t much of a credential. In some ways it seemed like a luxury, one that I definitely couldn’t afford. Even now while I have taken the risk of quitting my full time job to try writing full time getting an MFA just doesn’t seem very practical. But I am starting to see the attraction. At this point it still doesn’t seem very likely but I haven’t completely eliminated it as an option in the future.
I started this series of blog post, The Road So Far, in the middle of last year. I wanted to review my progress as a writer and figure out where it was leading me. By then it had been over a year since I graduated and still wasn’t working in the writing field. Ironically enough I was doing almost exactly what I was trying to avoid when I returned to school in the first place. I was working as an accounting assistant.
During school I was assigned a work study position in the Finance and Administration offices of the college, later obtaining a part time position with the college. I continued working there part time after I graduated, when a coworker retired I started full time in a temporary position. For the next year I worked at paying off my credit cards and saving money.
I tried to continue writing, submitting work, and apply to writing jobs while working full time. But I didn’t feel I was making enough progress with the small amount of time I had to focus on it. I started getting picky about jobs I applied for eventually allowing myself to get lazy with the comfort of having a job. I was beginning to feel like I was settling.
I set a savings goal, I hoped to reach by the end of the year, and would leave even if I still hadn’t found a new job. I was pretty on track with my goal when I found out my appointment would end in November. I ended up too low on the list to get a permanent accounting assistant position. They tried to keep me under a different title but couldn’t get approval for the change. I decided then that it was time to leave. I would be a little short of my goal but I took this as I sign it was time to leave. I offered to continue in my old position until December to help train a replacement.