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 #60: “In cars…”

Welcome back to the First Friday Freewrite! 

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.

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 First-Friday-FreewriteMind.)  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 post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “In cars…”

Happy Writing!

A New Skin (a poem)

Recently, I had the supreme pleasure of participating in a workshop (I actually organized the workshop, because when you are a poet in a small community and you want to go to a workshop, sometimes this is what you must do) by the incomparable Susan Wooldridge, author of poemcrazy, among others.  If you haven’t had the pleasure, you really must contact her immediately and find out when her next workshop is.  If you live on the other side of the world, then at the very least purchase a copy of poemcrazy and give yourself over to Susan’s completely accessible yet infinitely wise approach to the creative process.

Sgoat rock beachomething magical happens in these workshops.  Somehow, as Susan stands barefoot on a couch waving an uncapped marker and making birdcalls out the window (eliciting an outburst of raucous barking from a nearby dog – and believe me this is all part of Susan’s plan), I forget myself.  I forget that I call myself “a poet” and that my poems are supposed to be perfect, profound, and publishable.  I forget that since my mom died I have written about virtually nothing else, that my notebook is now a jumbled collection of brooding snippets into which I hope may someday waft a whiff of redemption, at which time I may or may not organize said snippets into a pseudophilosophical collection that I most definitely will not call The Mother.  I am reminded that I am a writer because I love words, that when I find the right ones, and put them in the right order, it inexplicably makes me a better human being.  

The following is a poem written at our recent workshop; it is virtually unedited from when I scribbled it in my notebook that day.  Susan led us in generating a “wordpool,” a list she wrote on an oversized piece of paper taped to the screen of our hostess’s TV.  The words were gathered from various publications that Susan distributed , urging us to comb through them, find words we liked, and call them out to her so she could add them to the “wordpool.”  We were then given a prompt (“my shadow says…”) and asked to use those words in a piece of spontaneous writing.  I have underlined the wordpool words and prompt so readers can appreciate the process and see how working from a list of words can take one’s writing in unexpected directions. 

A NEW SKIN

In the molten coastlight
of moon on sand
my shadow says to me,
“You don’t listen.”

Erasing those bruises
to discover what’s left whole,
what’s worth saving,
is no work of vanity.

Still, as if plucked
from the seamless water,
my shadow shivers.
Digressing currents bring snatches of empty envy,
inexplicable loss

“I am sorry,” I say
even though it isn’t a crime
to not know better.

Unearthing this blame
is the beginning.

The rest
is up to the moon.

Written at Poemcrazy workshop, 4-18-14, from the prompt, “My shadow says….”
Wordpool words underlined

First Friday Freewrite #59: “Waiting…”

Welcome back to the First Friday Freewrite! 

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.

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 First-Friday-FreewriteMind.)  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 post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “Waiting…”

Happy Writing!

First Friday Freewrite #58: “Into thin air…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

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.

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 First-Friday-FreewriteMind.)  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 post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “Into thin air…”

Happy Writing!

First Friday Freewrite #57: “In between breaths…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

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.

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 First-Friday-FreewriteMind.)  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 post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “In between breaths…”

Happy Writing!

Freewrite Rewrite – FIRST Friday Freewrite (#56): “An Old Friend…”

No rules – Just write!

First-Friday-FreewriteOkay, that slogan may be a play on the words of an Outback Steakhouse commercial, thus making it a pun of highly dubious cleverness…but it really seemed to fit my approach to this “new and improved” Friday Freewrite, or Friday Freewrite Rewrite, if you will.

What’s New?

  • NO TIME LIMIT (unless you want one).  In the past, I have imposed a time limit (90 seconds).  This was put in place to unblock us as writers, not to limit us.  When “freewriting,” I have found it is important to write fast, ahead of our internal critics that tells us “wrong word,” and “that doesn’t make sense.”  A time limit forces me to get my words down as quickly as I can without pondering them, second-guessing myself, and crossing things out. What I’m hearing from others, though, is that the time limit is stressing them out and getting in their way…so, no mas!  The bottom line is, rules can help us stretch as writers, but as we’ve all heard, they were made to be broken. What’s most important is that we write, with regularity and with honesty.  The rest is immaterial.  So, if a time limit helps you, use one; if not, then don’t.  Let go, have fun, and write!
  • ONCE A MONTH.  The new Friday Freewrite will appear each first Friday of the month only.  This will remove pressure for those of you who feel you are freewriting constantly (you know who you are).
  • WHATEVER YOU WRITE IS “RIGHT.”  This isn’t new, but I want to emphasize that you can’t do the Friday Freewrite “wrong.”  Did you see the jump line ahead of time, and now you’ve thought about your response and it feels contrived?  Maybe you saw today’s topic, then decided to check your e-mail, burned a piece of toast,  let the dog out, and then made another piece of toast.  Should you worry that you’ve now had time to think about the topic?  Absolutely not!  Just keep going. The point is to write.  I write on the Friday Freewrite prompts, and I’m the one who’s conjured them up, so you know my responses aren’t totally organic.  It’s okay!  Just put pen to paper and keep going.  That’s it!  Remember:  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out. Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

With that said, welcome to the First Friday Freewrite!

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.

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 post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “An old friend…”

Happy Writing!

Friday Freewrite #55 – “In the midst of chaos…”

Welcome back to the Friday Freewrite!

Friday-Freewrite-small

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each Friday.

YOU put pen to paper and write for 90 seconds. (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 post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  In the midst of chaos…

See the comments below the post for responses.  Happy writing!

Friday Freewrite #54 – “When it is time…”

Image

Welcome back to the Friday Freewrite!

Friday-Freewrite-small

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each Friday.

YOU put pen to paper and write for 90 seconds. (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 post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  When it is time…

See the comments below the post for responses.  Happy writing!

Friday Freewrite #53 – “I love myself most when…”

Welcome back to the Friday Freewrite!

Friday-Freewrite-small

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each Friday.

YOU put pen to paper and write for 90 seconds. (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 post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  I love myself most when…

See the comments below the post for responses.  Happy writing!