Tag Archives: Online Writing

How Much Do You Do Before You Click “Publish”?

The other day I posted to a friend in a private forum that if I had known that my Writer Site post was going to be Freshly Pressed I might have spent a little more time on it. I could have read it with a critical eye–expanded some passages, perhaps cropped others. I could have edited more.

As I pondered this notion, I thought I could have added some research, links, more images or videos, and doodads to jazz it up, too.  Or not.  Maybe that wouldn’t have been a good idea. The story needed to speak for itself.

My mind went back and forth and all around, wondering if I could have done more.  Have you ever felt that way?  Like maybe if you could just have a do-over.

But even as I was writing and thinking (thoughts going more RPMs than the written words), I thought how spending a lot of time editing and sweating over each blog post would be like always wearing your best underwear in case you’re in an accident. Or always having the house cleaned in case you have guests. But blogging, when it’s done in a routine, is wearing your everyday underwear and allowing dust to lie on the coffee table. It’s allowing yourself to just live (or to write).

This is very different from other types of writing–at least for me.

In writing my book, which is a memoir, I revise over and over again.  I am not happy with one chapter, one scene, maybe not even one paragraph . . . yet. When I finish the project, it will have taken ten years, or so I anticipate.

I’m planning to start compiling a poetry manuscript.  The only problem is that I am not satisfied with any of my poems. I will think I am, then I get second thoughts and want to revise again. On occasion, I’ve revised the life right out of a poem and have had to delete it completely.  Mostly, the poems get better the more I work on them.

When does revision stop? I don’t know because I am still in the revision process for most of my work. Even my published poems are being revised.

Other than Spell Check and a once through for glaring errors, my blog posts don’t get revised unless I find new information that I need to add to a post, and then I make it clear that I am adding something at a later time. (One caveat: if I do a re-read after I hit “publish” and find a typo, I do correct it).

Fellow bloggers, how do you feel about revising and editing blog posts? Do you do it or just click publish after you write a draft? And if you write elsewhere, how does your blog post writing process differ from that of your other writing?

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Poetry, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing prompt

Hey, You, Where Did You Get That Poem?

You can find a lot of good books about writing poetry.  They usually are divided into chapters such as metaphor, rhyme, rhythm, and image.  

But Kenneth Koch approached the subject a little differently.  He theorized that to teach poetry writing to children, you had only to teach them to tap into their imaginations and to give them quality poems to read.

For his simpler book Wishes, Lies, and Dreams, he created practical writing prompts for kids.   Chapters include Class Collaborations, Wishes, Comparisons, Noises, Dreams, and Poems Written While Listening to Music.  It’s exciting just to read the titles.  I want to sit in his class and start writing.

So that’s what I do, sort of—I use his ideas for poems.  After all, aren’t these great prompts for adult poets, as well?

Still, Koch knew that kids—and adults—couldn’t just stop there.  To prime our mental pumps, we have to read quality poetry.  The more we read, while keeping the gates to our imagination wide open, the more we can grow as poets.  Of course, in the circle of reading and writing, by writing our own poetry, we enrich our reading experience of the poetic greats.

In Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?, Koch structures this interconnection of reading and writing around ten poems by masters such as Blake, Donne, Whitman, Steven, Ashbery, and Rimbaud.  I’m sorry to say that he did only use poems by male poets.  I’m not going to make any excuses about that tremendous oversight.  Ahem, let’s continue.

Koch introduced the children to Blake’s poem “The Tyger.”

He didn’t want them to stumble over Blake’s “language and syntax,” so he tried to connect the poem to the experiences of the kids, asking questions, such as had they seen a dog’s eyes glowing in the dark.

Here is the prompt he eventually gave them, and it’s one you can use too:

Write a poem in which you are talking to a beautiful and mysterious creature and you can ask it anything you want—anything.  You have the power to do this because you can speak its secret language.

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Filed under Poetry, Writing prompt

Cruel April’s Fool

Welcome to National Poetry Month!  Dedicating April to poetry is a great way to remind us to enjoy the wealth of poetry we can turn to for sustenance.

One of best known poems of the early 20th century is T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land.”  The first few words, “April is the cruellest month,” have become part of the language, even if many people don’t recognize where they come from.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept
us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with
dried tubers.

When you read the second part, about how winter kept us blanketed in forgetfulness, it comes clear why April which awakens us to life by stirring both our memories and our desires, can be seen as cruel.

I’ve never been one to like being kept in the haze of winter as I delight in that which flourishes when the spring rain nourishes those “dull roots.”  Sometimes what grows is dangerous or sad, but I’m willing to take that risk. In some ways, I’m just a fool for life ;).  And a fool for poetry, too.

Either because photos are poems–or just because–here are some photos of northern California spring splendor I took in March, when California spring really begins:

This last photo shows the blossoming almond trees in the background.  For more on the almond trees, here is a photo and short-short piece on Cowbird.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Poetry

Another Meaningful Moment

At the end of the week I travelled to Los Angeles to visit my daughter.  She had surgery on an ovary on Friday (all went well), and I stayed this weekend to take care of her.  My small stone for Friday is of a personal nature because it took place at the medical center.  But yesterday I shopped and cooked for her, and my small stone turned out to take place during the cooking.

She owns a cookbook by Giada De Laurentiis called Everyday Pasta.  I made Rotini with Salmon and Roasted Garlic for dinner.  I added steamed asparagus cut into two-inch pieces.  It didn’t last long and was the first real food my daughter could eat.

After dinner I made Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables (see photo above), and it was also a big hit.

Here is my small stone:

Inside the onion are circles inside circles.  Halving the zucchini, I notice the small seeds which lie dormant.  The mushroom caps plump like ovaries. Even the peas are small spheres into themselves.

After the penne dish, I made devilled eggs.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Poetry, Writing prompt

Let’s Try a Month of Meaningful Moments

Have you heard of the Mindful Writing Challenge for January 2013?  I read about it on Writing into Radiance and loved the concept.  It’s about being mindful of the physical world.  To foster that appreciation, write one “small stone”–a very short prose or poetry piece–which responds to beauty one encounters that day.  Actually, it’s not just beauty–that’s my leap.  And my mistake.  Don’t look only for beauty.

Their short version is very simple:

1. Notice something properly every day during January.
2. Write it down.

The idea is to write one a day for the month of January.  It’s your choice how to share or collect your pieces–singly or in a group.

OK, I admit it:  I was still confused after I digested this idea.  What did small stones look like?  Loose pebbles?  A gravel pit?

From reading up on the notion still more, it seems that Haiku is fine, but so are a couple of descriptive lines which evoke the experience for readers.

I tried one on January 1:

Against the sky’s palm,

black sprigged ropes crisscrossed

until a boom ignited a thousand birds

scattering abroad, alone

OK, so it’s not a poem.  It’s not very good.  But it begins to capture the experience for me.  By focusing I can be “in the moment” with the birds.  If I wanted to begin a poem from this image, I’d have to figure out how to convey that empty-handed feeling after the birds are gone.  Then I risk going into the “one in the hand” cliché and that’s the end of the poem.

On January 2, I tried another:

The mountain splits the sunlight in half, and the oleander tree, its leaves glittering as though wet under bright rays, sidles up to the bare January tree which waits in shadow, dry and brittle.  The sun slips a degree, illuminating the green leaves which reflect onto the bare trunk of the tree next to it.  Now both trees shine.

I wasn’t sure what kind of tree that was, winter-naked as if it were Michigan here in Arizona.  It just looked like January.  I guess I can omit the word January.

The next day I felt frustrated and wanted to spend more time on my moment and less on figuring out what a small stone looks like.

Light tricks skewer the ground.  I’m not sure where to step along the wash, barricaded by shadow and scrub.  Stumbling on a half-buried boulder, I try to right myself, but there’s nothing to clutch and I fall.  As I haul myself up, I’m haunted by the weight of what isn’t there.

Lots of shadows and light and black in my early January stones.  I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet, but I started having fun walking the wash for this last one, so I will keep trying until I get my gravel pit.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Poetry, Writing prompt