01 April 2016

writing the river

Over the last six months, I've been everywhere but home, which has made writing an interesting endeavor at times. I like my coffee just so, like I like my writing space. Being on the road for so long has given me some insight into what it takes to be adaptable. Not that the journey hasn't been lovely, this long strange trip. Makes me feel lucky.

To acknowledge that it has been challenging isn't a complaint. It's taught me a few things:

1. Be warm. Granted, it's winter. But I've discovered that whether I'm at a busy coffee shop or the quiet space of the Cardinal Stafford Library at the theological seminary, it's easier to focus if the space is warm. Noise and movement aren't huge factors, but give me a cold draft, and out goes my creative process.

Word cloud made with WordItOut
2. Spread out. My life is less of a linear outline and more of a word cloud. Whether I'm at a big desk or tall bistro table, my books and notes roam around as if they have a life of their own. I need space for my Black Warrior pencils-of-choice and whatever inspirational books I'm packing at the moment, Willa Cather to Philip K. Dick. And a good cuppa coffee.

3. Make time. I've heard other writers talk about needing time to get their head in the current work, and in practice, I've discovered that's true for me. I need time to get in, and once there, I need a enough time to stay in. Especially working with the complexities of multiple characters on multiple levels of awareness, from the character to the narration to the story consciousness. The process reminds me of doing geometric proofs--get in and stay until the solution reveals itself. Let's me work in cohesive arcs of story.

4. Activate the Omega 13. Every writer gets stuck, and I am no exception. When it happens, I've learned to switch writing projects. Sometimes working on an unrelated piece is exactly what I need to be able to come back to my stuck-point with new eyes and ears, and the writing opens up before me. From story to poem. Novel to flash. It can feel frenetic, but perhaps that's my brain-skill (see #2). Plus it guarantees that I'm always working on something, which keeps the writing reflexes engaged. Pretty sure I'll always need an Omega 13 or three in my back pocket.

One of my writing heroes Jim Harrison once said in an interview for the Paris Review, "In a life properly lived, you’re a river. You touch things lightly or deeply; you move along because life herself moves, and you can’t stop it." (read the full article). I remind myself that it wouldn't matter if I was away from home or not, life carries me forward. My joy is that I can write it back to itself along the way.

On this day, April 1, I remain grateful. No foolin'.

  ~ sherri 

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