Writing Is Art

Writing is art. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, but it’s a phenomenon that I’m sure veteran writers have been dealing with for ages. What I mean when I say writing is art is that even if the writing is labeled “nonfiction,” it is a creative endeavor. It is not intended to represent the whole truth, nor can it. It is a slice of life, a snapshot, one angle on the truth in any given moment. That is not to say nonfiction writing is a lie – it’s not! But it is a piece of writing. It is not meant to convey the totality of the feelings and intentions of the writer.

writing is artNeither should the writer attempt to explain, justify, or soften the writing. This can be very slippery territory indeed. I’ve never published anything I regret, but I do wish I hadn’t answered questions about some of my pieces, and I have vowed never to do it again. Once, after reading a poem I’d placed in a lit journal, a well-meaning relative asked, “Was this about so-and-so?” She already knew who the poem was about, I’m sure, because enough of the details were recognizable. So the question caught me off guard and I answered, “Yes.”

“I thought so!” She sounded pleased – she’d solved a puzzle. She knew the inside story.  And I instantly regretted affirming her suspicions – because the poem didn’t tell the whole truth. It was only one piece, one facet. If you read that poem and thought, “This is what Jennifer thinks about so-and-so,” you’d be wrong. Did the poem represent a thought I’d had once about so-and-so? Sure. A recurring thought, even. A poetic thought. But it wasn’t the complete story. A poem can’t be the complete story. It’s a poem.  Continue reading

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First Friday Freewrite #66: “My favorite mistake…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

If you’re a newcomer, here’s the deal: I’m a writer, and I’ve found that I desperately need accountability.  Regular writing exercises help me keep my writing fresh, keep me honest and – most importantly – keep my pen moving.  Join me, and post your response to this month’s writing prompt in the comments.  It’ll be fun!  See below for details…

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each first Friday of the month.first-friday-freewrite-square

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the Friday Freewrite post title above to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “My favorite mistake…”

Happy Writing!

First Friday Freewrite #65: “In the light…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

If you’re a newcomer, here’s the deal: I’m a writer, and I’ve found that I desperately need accountability.  Regular writing exercises help me keep my writing fresh, keep me honest and – most importantly – keep my pen moving.  Join me, and post your response to this month’s writing prompt in the comments.  It’ll be fun!  See below for details…

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each first Friday of the month.first-friday-freewrite-square

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the Friday Freewrite post title above to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “In the light…”

Happy Writing!

First Friday Freewrite #64: “When it’s over…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

If you’re a newcomer, here’s the deal: I’m a writer, and I’ve found that I desperately need accountability.  Regular writing exercises help me keep my writing fresh, keep me honest and – most importantly – keep my pen moving.  Join me, and post your response to this month’s writing prompt in the comments.  It’ll be fun!  See below for details…

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each first Friday of the month.first-friday-freewrite-square

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the Friday Freewrite post title above to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “When it’s over…”

Happy Writing!

Missed-It Monday Freewrite…Or, First Friday Freewrite #63: “Thirst…”

Alrighty then!  As one of my more vigilant and devoted Freewriters gently pointed out, I completely forgot to post a freewrite on this past “first Friday.”  So, better late than never, here it is…

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

If you’re a newcomer, here’s the deal: I’m a writer, and I’ve found that I desperately need accountability.  Regular writing exercises help me keep my writing fresh, keep me honest and – most importantly – keep my pen moving.  Join me, and post your response to this month’s writing prompt in the comments.  It’ll be fun!  See below for details…

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writingFriday-Freewrite-Image prompt, each first Friday of the month.

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the Friday Freewrite post title above to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “Thirst…”

Happy Writing!

First Friday Freewrite #62: “Going without…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

If you’re a newcomer, here’s the deal: I’m a writer, and I’ve found that I desperately need accountability.  Regular writing exercises help me keep my writing fresh, keep me honest and – most importantly – keep my pen moving.  Join me, and post your response to this month’s writing prompt in the comments.  It’ll be fun!  See below for details…

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writingFriday-Freewrite-Image prompt, each first Friday of the month.

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the Friday Freewrite post title above to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “Going without…”

Happy Writing!

Ready. Set. Write! (week #5 for me)

My writing theme for this week: back to the notebook.

Ready Set Write!1.  How I did on last week’s goals:

I abandoned them and worked on something else instead, and I totally don’t regret it because I got over a huge hurdle with another WiP.

2.  My goal(s) for this week:

Write a chapter of the new thing (Is it a book? A collection of essays?  A novella? Only time will tell.) and work on Where I Write.

3.  A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised:

On a Wednesday afternoon, she asks me to fetch her rings in their little box from the bedroom. They are too big for her now, so she isn’t wearing them. She shows me the different ones, telling me which is which, although I already know. She wonders if she should give me a particularly special one now. I’ve always coveted that ring, but I want to wait. I’m not ready to take Mama’s rings.

4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write):

Attention Deficit Disorder

5.  Something I love about my WiP.

I’ve finally given myself permission to write it.

Ready. Set. Write! (week #4 for me)

As a monumental improvement over last week, I’m actually remembering to post this on Monday.

Ready Set Write!1.  How I did on last week’s goals:

I did okay. Would have liked to put a bit more time in, but I made a lot of progress with Where I Write.

2.  My goal(s) for this week:

Get Where I Write into submittable form.  Period.  Write another blog entry.

3.  A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised:

She wants me to tell you that for as long as I can remember, I have written every chance I get: at school during recess; in the back seat of our family car on the long drive to Yellowstone; in the bathroom through a thick haze of red wine while my boyfriend slept; in the fluorescent-sharpened break room at work.   Tell them, she urges.  Tell them how the only thing that mattered was your writing.

4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write):

Lack of energy.

5.  Something I love about my WiP.

That this week it feels more authentic.

Ready. Set. Write! (week #3 for me)

I cannot believe I forgot to do this yesterday.  Well, yes, actually, I can.  I can forget just about anything on a Monday.

Ready Set Write!1.  How I did on last week’s goals:

Great, actually!  Blog entry – check.  Where I Write – coming along!  Thoughts – marginally organized, but congealing.

2.  My goal(s) for this week:

Get Where I Write into submittable form, or at least one revision away.

3.  A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised:

I write in the shade of restless eucalyptus trees with their strands of peeling bark.  I write their dusky, pungent scent.  I write from the bottom of my grandparents’ swimming pool where I scrape my nose learning to dive the summer of my ninth year.  At night I write from the stars of Orion’s belt, the first constellation I can name.

4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write):

Distractions!  Weird interpersonal crap (which I seldom have to deal with) that had to be dealt with. Not exactly drama, but close to it.

5.  Something I love about my WiP.

That I can still surprise myself when I write.

CASH GIFTING AND BARBECUE SAUCE: On becoming a “real” writer

A wise friend once told me that I can discover what I want in life by paying attention to what I envy in others. So, when I ordered the Great American Poetry 2005 anthology from Amazon and felt a pang of resentment upon reading what I considered to be an inferior poem, I realized an important truth about myself: I secretly wanted to write and publish. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so jealous of these supposedly paltry poets if I were sharing my own writing with people.

getting paid to writeMy first attempt at becoming a “real writer” was clumsy and misdirected. I responded to a Craigslist ad offering money for SEO (search engine optimization) Internet articles, which needed to conform to strict guidelines (2% keyword enriched, 400 to 600 words long, and 60% original with the keyword in the title). I treated the articles as writing exercises and made each 100% original. I googled statistics and vetted sources. Although I relished my newfound status as a “professional” writer, the novelty of the articles quickly wore off, and churning out 20 pieces on a single keyword became tedious at best. After being assigned the keyword “barbecue sauce,” and then later “cash gifting,” I decided that perhaps I needed to expand my horizons. (The prospect of writing ten articles about a popular condiment and a notorious scam can do that to a person.)  Continue reading