My Writing Practice

Over the course of my life and especially the last nine months I have a established a practice of writing that works for me. It is multi-faceted, layered and requires some planning and organization on my part. Using multiple resources, I am able to grow my craft and learn new skills to make my talent work for me. Any form of creativity requires talent and drive, but more importantly, learned skills and collaboration. 

Finding a writing community can be difficult, especially if, like me, you don’t live in a city. Fortunate for writers like myself and thanks to the pandemic, we’ve got Zoom.

STORY CIRCLE NETWORK

Some years ago I became a member of The Story Circle Network. SCN provides an on-line writing community for women and it is wonderful. Three days a week, members of my WIP (Work In Progress) group check in with one another to share goals, share our current reads and brag about our writing accomplishments. It is a way to hold yourself accountable and to know you are not alone. SCN puts out a newsletter and provides enriching workshops that cover a variety of genres and writing skills. I serve as a reviewer for SCN’s book review web page and I am a juror for SCN’s annual Sarton Awards. SCN continues to help me grow as a writer.

WRITER’S LEAGUE OF TEXAS

Although I have been a member for several years, I have yet to take full advantage of my WLT membership. WLT offers so much regarding editing and publishing your work. As of now, I have attended some of the workshops. Every WLT workshop I have attended have been well worth the time and money. I always come away with new skills to add to my craft.

LET’S WRITE CLUB

A month or two ago, Amy Isaman, author and writing coach, started a virtual group with the goal of “let’s write the damn book!” Not only is it an honor to be a founding member, but it is also quite helpful. Amy has scheduled several writing sessions a week when we meet via Zoom and write for a two hour stretch. We all work on our own WIP’s, hold each other accountable and support one another. Amy also provides excellent workshops and Q&A sessions. The concept might sound a little strange. We are all working from our own homes around the country and we are writing. You might wonder why we can’t just write on our own. Well, we can. But coming together provides a sense of community, we get to share ideas and it’s less lonely. 

WORKSHOPS

Not only have I attended writing workshops offered by Story Circle Network, Writer’s League of Texas and Amy Isaman, but I am currently taking a five week course from The Attic Institute of Portland and have registered for another. 

There are millions of workshops out there and I recommend doing some research before committing to any one. Don’t waste your time or your money. Evaluate your needs and look for good reviews. Research the instructor. You don’t have to have an MFA to be an excellent writer. Finding a community of writers and good workshops are super helpful though. Again, talent and drive can only take you so far. Writing is a craft requiring learned skills and a community of collaborators. Writing is communication; it is useless to write into a void. 

JOURNALING, MORNING PAGES AND PRACTICE

For several decades I gave up on journaling; I am not sure why. When the pandemic started and we went on lockdown, I began to journal again. I wanted to make sure to have a personal account of all the incredible things that were (are) happening in these unprecedented times. I am so glad to be back in the habit again. It helps my overall writing.

 I have also started the habit of Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages.” Every morning instead of scrolling through the news and social media feeds, I pick up my “Morning Pages” notebook and write stream-of-consciousness three pages in long-hand. A lot of junk comes out of that, but there is good stuff too. 

Besides journaling and morning pages, I practice. That is, I play with words, sentence structure and experiment with writing styles and cadence.

MY BLOG

Another form of practice is this blog. I am committed to posting something new each week. Since January I have missed two weeks: the week of my daughter’s wedding and the week of an impromptu family reunion. Some weeks I have to force myself to “throw” something out there, anything. Other weeks are more successful. Ironically, the posts I put less effort in are often the ones that get the most feedback. Go figure. The reasons for having a blog are as follows: it serves as a platform to share my random thoughts; the feedback feeds my writing by building my confidence as a writer; it serves as practice; it reminds me that people actually read what I write which makes me work harder at writing better and makes me careful about what I say and how I say it. 

WRITING ABOUT WRITING

 Writing about writing as I am doing now, provides me with the metacognitive insight to better understand my own relationship to the craft of writing. I am also sharing my experiences with others and maybe helping other writers in their own writing journeys. 

READING ABOUT WRITING

There are a lot of crappy books on writing, find the good ones. In a future blog post I will share an annotated bibliography of some of my favorites.

READING

Reading is the single best way to become a better writer. Read everything. Read all the time. 

PLANNER/WEEKLY ASSIGNMENTS

Every Sunday I make a list of things to accomplish and add it to my weekly planner. I follow this list and my calendar religiously. If it’s on the list, it gets done. This serves as a guide and gives me a sense of accomplishment. 

POETRY

Every time I sit down to write, I start by reading a poem or two. This has been my habit the whole of my writing life. Poetry influences my prose writing and I believe poetry is reflected in my writing and makes it better. 

This is how I scaffold my own writing practice. It is a combination of all of the above and it works for me. Find what works for you and dedicate yourself to it. And create!

Story Circle Network https://www.storycircle.org/

Writer’s League of Texas https://writersleague.org/

Let’s Write the Book Club https://amyisaman.com/letswrite/

Attic Institute http://atticinstitute.com/

Workout Queen

My most athletic moment until now happened during the first week of junior high. Much to the frustration of the gym teacher and my teammates, I was the scrawny girl who ducked when the volleyball came my way. I was the last to be picked for a team and also the last to care.  So, imagine my reaction the day the school librarian came to the gym in search of a girl to volunteer to be the student library helper. Not only was this a chance to avoid the torture of PE class and the humiliation of the locker room, but to get to spend time in my favorite place at school! Ah! Such an opportunity. I stood up faster than you could say “foul ball.” I raised both hands and waved them about. I am sure some shouting was involved, maybe some pushing and shoving too. That year for the first and last time in my life, my report card showed straight A’s in PE since officially that is the class I was in.

After that, physical activity for me came and went in phases. In high school I bravely took ice skating lessons. I was the gangly string bean on the rink trying her best to look graceful. In college, I donned leg warmers and attended aerobics class on campus—always in the back row where my inability to keep a beat might not be noticed as Marvin Gaye belted out his song about dancing on the ceiling. After my daughter was born, I began to run and participated in 5K’s for a while. I really enjoyed that, but life got busy and I allowed my body to depreciate.

Finally, at 55 I wanted to get in shape. I wanted to get in shape because my husband gave me a paddle board for Christmas and I wanted to feel confident when I used it. To get in shape, I purchased a DVD for a “12-minute work-out.” For a while, every day I got up extra early and did my quicky workout that was supposed to be a miracle. “Get the body you want and your life back,” the DVD cover said. The trainer on the video instructed the viewer while three athletes of varying ability modeled the moves. However, I quickly became bored and resentful of the buff man telling me what to do. But more than that, I was never sure if I was holding a position correctly and I would sometimes hurt myself.

I had to try something different. My husband had recently joined the gym and gotten a trainer. He was not only losing weight but was becoming muscular and had more energy. I joined the gym and signed up with a trainer which is something I never imagined myself doing.  The cost for a trainer is absurdly high and far beyond my budget but I did it anyway.

All the time I was thinking that I would learn from the trainer for three or six months until I got the hang of it and then go it on my own. But then, I began to see dramatic changes, not only in my body, but in my confidence, my self-esteem. My posture improved. I became less clumsy and more coordinated (I have always been one of those people who trip over their own feet and break things). I lost no weight, but I was able to fit in clothes again that had become too snug. I was gaining muscle weight and loosing fat. I became aware of my body in new ways. I learned about diet and exercise and anatomy. I learned what to do for a pulled muscle or an injury. I learned to make mistakes and not care what I looked like at the gym.

That is when I realized that I was capable of being a truly active person and that I actually enjoy working out. By working out, I can do more every day. I am more focused, and I am happier. My trainer works me hard. She pushes me beyond anything I ever imagined, using kettle bells, ropes, machinery and doing things I thought was only for athletes. She also has a sense of humor which is so important to me. Sometimes it seems like laughter is intended as part of the workout! She smiles a lot and acts like she is proud of my progress. That makes me feel good and makes me want to work harder.

I committed to another 6 months. On any given day, you are likely to find me at the gym with my trainer, paddle-boarding or kayaking and jogging. My lifestyle has changed dramatically. I am eating healthier and drinking less. I am busy. When I workout now I feel like I am better at everything I do; I am a better me.

While I know I cannot go on forever paying for a trainer, I have changed the pattern of my life and exercise has become second nature for me; something I will always do now. Without one on one time with a trainer, none of this would have happened.  It really is possible to change your lifestyle. I highly recommend joining a gym and finding a trainer.  And, by the way, paddle boarding is great fun!

Return

Perhaps returning to my blog will create a higher level of commitment, some structure and purpose to my writing.  So many ideas and so little time overwhelm me. The thing is, I have much more time than I am willing to admit. I waste it because I simply never know where to begin. I suffer from attention deficit, this I know. Everything interests me, so I constantly become distracted by the proverbial squirrel.

Also, the writing here does not have to be perfect. I must tell myself this or I will never put anything out there at all. So, apologies in advance for imperfections.

My blog, I have decided, can be that place where I write about anything and everything as it flits through my little mind. My list of novels that need to be written, the memoir that I feel a compulsion to write, my opinions and simple observations—all of these can be placed in this junk drawer blog. Weekly or monthly something can be placed here. Eventually, I will reach out to a larger public and see what happens. People will be interested or not. It doesn’t matter a lot if I am writing. Because, if I am writing in this way, I will write what matters to me which is the above-mentioned novels, short stories and memoir. In addition to writing about them, I will write them. One at a time.

Why would any of this matter to anyone else? Well, because I have been through some stuff and I know others suffer in the ways that I have suffered and maybe what I share will be helpful to someone else.

I am going to keep the name. It’s bad luck to change a boat’s name and this is my little ship of life. Besides, My Little Cabin holds a special place in my heart. I lived there during a very important time in my life. That cabin changed me. I am a better for having lived there. I am myself for having spent so much time alone up on that little hill. Place matters. Places are like people; our relationships with them shapes us and the places we love, we love like the way we love the people we love. They fill our hearts. They complete our souls. So, the name stays.

I will write about writing; the importance of reading and books; bookstores; library adventures; dogs; my writing and research journey; drinking; motherhood; running; gardening; kayaking and paddle boarding; nature; kindness; life; book reviews; geography. In other words, anything goes.

My hope is that this will lead to structure, practice and accomplishments.