How Revision Brings Us Closer

This first Friday in July, I’m thrilled to offer a guest post by my friend and colleague Monica Wesolowska. Her memoir, Holding Silvan, will blow you away.  And she’s got some nifty insights here, too. 

Thank you, Monica!
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At a recent reading from my memoir Holding Silvan, a friendly young man in the audience asked how I’d managed not to be angry or bitter in the book about the people who’d failed me while Silvan was alive. I had to laugh. I could have said the memoir just came out like that because I’m naturally a lovely person, but catching my eye from the second row was Lindsey Crittenden. Lindsey’s in my writing group.  She read my rough draft.  She and I both know it wasn’t that easy.

Holding Silvan is a love story, one that I couldn’t write for years. Silvan was my son. He was a beautiful baby—physically perfect with his olive skin, long lashes—but he was severely brain-damaged during birth. My husband and I chose to remove him from life support and let him live his brief life in our arms. It was an agonizing loss, but a beautiful death. That is the raw material, the true story, upon which my memoir is based.

For years, Silvan’s story remained just that: a private memory. Sure, I talked about Silvan to the people in my life. And I had the diary I kept while he was alive. But those versions seemed too raw, too sad, too angry for strangers. When the story did come popping out, a terrible silence usually followed as if I’d given, as they say, too much information. And that only made me sadder and more angry.

So what compelled me to make the leap from personal to public story, to reveal all to strangers? As a writer and a mother I suppose I felt that Silvan’s story belonged in the world. We never could have made the choice we did alone. And I wanted to test it again, to ask ourselves these questions: Did we really love Silvan well? Was his death a “good death” for him as well as us? And would revealing the hidden story of choosing to let our son die really benefit the living?

One day I was ready. Eight years had passed when the rough draft rushed out. With the strength of distance from my story, I sat tight as Lindsey and my writing group went through that first draft line by line. They teased me for writing about Silvan as though he were the most beautiful baby ever. They chastised me for writing as though I’d behaved better in crisis than anyone on the planet ever had. They questioned me as a narrator, someone who’d been changed enough by my own story that I had the wisdom to come back and tell it. They did all this by crossing out a word here, a word there, asking me to be more and more specific.

OK, so maybe they weren’t really teasing or chastising, but it felt that way.  At first.

Writing is a solitary act, but language itself puts us into communion with others. The more closely I worked with my own language, the wider my world became. And that, I told the young man in my audience, is one of the gifts of writing. I wrote myself right into compassion. I saw how closed we all can be. And I realized the power in my story was less my grief and rage and more my love. Here, my book says, is Silvan. You can hold him. Come on. Don’t hesitate. Now’s your chance. Hold him the way we’d all like to be held in the end.

—Monica Wesolowska

 

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Formula One?

Before beginning the post itself, I’m happy to report that my piece on agreeing to disagree on matters of faith is in the July/August issue of Spirituality & Health, hot off the presses!  As I write this, the piece isn’t yet online, but I hope it shows up there soon.  Otherwise, you can look for it the old-fashioned print way.

Here’s the post:

Saved cats.
Two pillars.
Four themes.
Three juggling balls.
Eight points.
A snowflake.

No, it’s not a found poem, though it could be.  What these six items have in common?

They’re all formulas for story structure.  I put out a call yesterday at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, where I have an office, for advice on what to do.  I’m stuck.  Stuck.  Stuck.  Stuck.

Plot-structure-wise.

I’ve revised my novel (not for the first time) and have about 75 pages go to.  I’ve written those pages already, but I know they’re not working.  I need to think outside what’s already written.  I need to try big changes.  I need a formula.  As wary as I am of reductive  formulas, I’ve decided one or two might help.

I’ve tried outlines and timelines and index cards and flowcharts.  Now I envision scattering them in the air, like playing cards in a game of 52-Pickup or Smoke, Smoke, Fire.  Seeing where things land, seeing if new connections form.  Does the queen have to follow the jack?  What does she look like next to the 2?

I’m holding my deck, ready to fire. My Grotto colleagues have come forth with quite a few good recommendations—the Plot Whisperer, Robert McKee’s book on screenwriting, Blake Snyder’s book on screenwriting, and others.

I’m not starting from scratch. I’ve got my story, my conflict, my characters, my anguished question (what all successful fiction starts with, Wallace Stegner reportedly said).  What I don’t have—yet—is a clear, compelling climax and resolution. I’ve got several ideas for one, and it’s hard to see past them to something new and clarifying.

Part of the problem is that I’ve got more than one protagonist.  I’ve got four characters with “death stakes,” four characters with their own discoveries to make.  Yes, they’re interrelated, but still.  Every see a ball of tangled yarn?

But here’s the thing:  I’m convinced that the solution lies in that tangled yarn.  That the cat’s cradle of Eileen & Jeremy & Chris & Naomi will, once I find the pattern, knit together the right ending.  So I’m looking at pattern books.

I’d love to hear what’s worked—or not—for you.

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Coming Out of Traction

First, a few announcements this first Friday in June:

Summer writing classes at the Grotto are now open for enrollment.  I’m excited about teaching a weekend workshop in August, on using existing models to craft short fiction.  Check out all upcoming classes here.

I’ve started planning on another new class, Developing the Memoir, at  UC Berkeley Extension this fall.  Watch for details.

We’ve extended the deadline for the Summer Fiction Intensive at UC Berkeley Extension!  Get that writing sample out this weekend to make the 6/10 cut-off! (Yes, the online catalog says 6/3, but it’s really 6/10 .)

What a treat it is to fall in love with a writer.  Just discovered Elena Ferrante, whose novels now feel imperative.  Finished My Brilliant Friend. The Lost Daughter coming up next.

And now, onto Traction:

The challenge of keeping a blog is, of course, keeping a blog.  That is, posting regularly on topics we hope resonate with readers.  Some weeks, the topic introduces itself—based on an event, an overheard conversation, a particular problem of the recent past.  And other times, I think I’ll never again find anything remotely new to say.

So it’s with a wee bit of hesitation that I offer up a post once again drawing on … yoga.  I can’t help it.  Last night’s Upper Back and Shoulder Care workshop left me not only with happier traps but another nifty parallel to the writing life.  So here goes:

We had lined up our mats, tied our belts to the wall ropes and cinched them to a 30-degree angle (which looked more than 45 degrees to me), lain down, and put our heads in the loop of the belt so that the taut  belt “caught” on our occiput, which our teacher (Yoga Loft senior Iyengar instructor Anne Saliou) pronounced with a wonderfully French accepted final syllable.  We then scooched our bodies slightly away from the wall, until the base of the skull pulled gently away from our necks.  (Medical liability disclaimer goes here.)

It felt divine.  Especially afterward, when we lifted our heads out of the belt (using our hands, not our just-relaxed neck muscles) and placed them on the folded blanket.  And even more, when we sat up and registered a delicious, floating sensation.  Not like being stoned; no, there was nothing “altered” about this state.  Instead, it felt like a return to the alignment and lightness that we’re meant to feel when we’re not hunched over a keyboard or steering wheel all day.

But here’s the key.  We didn’t sit up right away.  Delicious sensation of lightness, yes, but not immediately.  Transitions matter, Anne reminded us.  Don’t jerk your body into movement right away.  It is too harsh on the nervous system.

The transition she directed us through was intentional—and I could feel myself resist it.  I knew that if I’d been at home, practicing head traction in my living room (with the belt attached to the doorknob), I’d have removed the belt, rolled properly to my side, and sat right up.  I’d have enjoyed the sensation of the traction, but when the pose was over, I’d have moved right on.  Time to start fixing dinner.  Time for a load of laundry.  Time for…whatever.

Transitions are the toughest part of writing.  Not just transitions on the page—how we get from scene to scene, sentence to sentence, chapter to chapter—but transitions in the act of writing itself.  I’m in one now.  I just handed in 29 pages to my writers’ group, which means that when we meet next Tuesday, I’ll have feedback from them.  Wednesday morning, I’ll have plenty to do as I go through their notes, make decisions, begin revising those 29 pages.  But today?  I’ve finished those 29 pages, so now what?  I have a piece of journalism to start researching, I remind myself; I’ll spend the day on that, once I get this blog up.

The longer I’m away from the desk, the tougher the transition.  Monday mornings, I struggle to get back into the groove of the week before, even I followed Hemingway’s supposed trick of ending a writing day with an unfinished sentence so you know where to begin the next morning.

And two-week vacations?  It takes me days to find my way back.  So it’s a little unrealistic to expect me to finish my most recent 29 pages of the novel on Thursday and immediately start working on a piece of journalism on Friday. Yes, I have an outline due in two weeks.  Can I go from fiction to nonfiction just like that?  Or should I let my head rest a bit on the folded blanket before I sit up?

My head feels lighter already.

How do you tackle transitions?

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Will Write for Food

A guy I knew in grad school used to wear a T-shirt with those four words on the front.  Every time he wore it, the rest of us gave knowing chuckles.  The statement aptly captured two assumptions of student life:  meager grocery budget; desperation for payment, any payment, for one’s words.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that shirt.  The spirit behind it seems both sincere—a willingness to do what it takes—and ironic.  Food?  You kidding me?

What about free?  You kidding me?

The debate sprouts up on Facebook, professional writers’ list servs, and heated email chains: when is it okay to “give away” our writing (and why am I using quotation marks?) and when isn’t it? Or:  Is it never?

I can see both sides.  Writers are professionals.  We deserve payment.  Words; cogent analysis; creative genius; insight:  these things hold value in our culture.  We recognize value by paying for it.  Can you imagine a T-shirt reading Will Perform Brain Surgery for Food?  I have colleagues who boycott Huffington Post because HuffPo doesn’t pay its writers but certainly reaps value from their bylines.  I also have colleagues who believe that the act of putting our work out there matters more in the end than payment.  That we write to be read, not to be paid.  That, up to a point, there is value in contributing regardless of payment.

Gross oversimplifications of both perspectives, perhaps.  And yet when I find myself grappling somewhere in the middle, I think in extremes.

I’ve gladly written for free when the recompense comes in other ways.  For good will, good karma, a good cause.  That’s what I’m doing in this blog, after all, and yet isn’t there embedded in the very act of blogging—at least for a working writer—the idea (however flawed) that social media exposure equals, at some point, paying readers?  That by saying I have X followers on my blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, I can show the marketing folks at ABC Publishers that I have a following?  And yet, as one colleague recently pointed out, how much of a following is it when we can now purchase “followers” to pad our numbers?

Or do I keep giving away my words for free because I enjoy writing, every few weeks, several hundred words that go up there with the click of a key?

I remember the first payment I got for my writing.  Fifteen hundred dollars, in 1996, for winning the Writers@Work competition.  I put it in my savings, wanting to keep it unsullied, intact.  It was writing income!  I didn’t want to fritter it away into rent, groceries, and afternoon coffee.

But if we’re working as writers—if writing is our profession and our livelihood as well as our vocation—well, then, shouldn’t our writing income go exactly for rent and food, for the cost of living?   That’s not frittering, that’s supporting ourselves.

Many journalists and bestselling fiction writers do just that on writing alone, but most of need to contribute by teaching, freelance editing, waiting tables, legal proofreading, supportive spouses.

Is it too simple to suggest that when we’re starting out it makes sense to take a gig—any gig—just to get our names out there?  That we write (or blog) for free because doing so will open lucrative doors down the line?  Or are we lowering the bar for ourselves as well as our colleagues by writing for free?  And at what point do we stop?

I made good money as a magazine writer ten years ago, so good that I took a leave from teaching.  I made more on one article than for a ten-week class, and I was working with an editor who seemed happy to buy every article I wrote.  Yeah, I was naïve.  Because the inevitable happened—the editor left the magazine, a new editor came on, and what followed in the Conde Nast building was what insiders term a bloodbath.

Yes, I found new editors and wrote (and sold) new pieces—for a few years.  Then I took a break to write a memoir, and start a novel, and pretty soon I lost the traction I’d made.  So when, one day, chatting with another writer, I complained about the art an online editor had chosen to accompany a piece I’d wrote, she commiserated.  And then she asked if I was getting paid well.  No, I said, I’m not getting paid at all.  It’s a nonprofit.

She took me to task, not unpleasantly but firmly.  We writers have to demand fair payment. I mumbled, changed the subject as quickly as I good. Was I a gutless fool for disguising my chumpness in writing for free as some kind of karmic good-will deed?  The truth is, I didn’t need the money to keep a roof over head—and neither did she.  But that wasn’t the point.

Recently, I’ve started doing magazine work again.  I’ve sold two articles to be published this fall (I’ll provide links when the time comes.) Like a tonic, the very fact of a printed countersigned contract with a deadline and payment amount has imposed a certain clarity on my priorities.  I told my husband over dinner the other night, This is fun!  And the prompt checks in the mail do something that a good day spent working on my novel doesn’t.

But does that mean I shouldn’t keep plugging away at the novel?  Of course not.  I woke up this morning with one clear thought:  I’m going to work on my novel.  So far, unsold.  Unagented, even.  The prospect of getting any money for the years already put into the novel is risky, at best.  But I don’t stop working on it (even if, this morning, I’m writing this blog post with no prospect of payment, first).

I just took a little break to check Facebook.  Someone in my hometown group had posted about our first-grade teacher, and I had to weigh in.  In reading through my wall, or whatever FB calls it these days, I saw a friend’s post:  Another T-shirt, this one reading Save a Writer, Buy a Book.

Exactly.

I’d love to hear how others have grappled with, and continue to grapple with, this issue.

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Borne Back

I sat down this morning, a week late, to blog about deadlines and writing for money.  And then I opened my email in-box.  As the new messages tumbled in like dominoes down the left-hand side of my Mail window, one caught my eye.  “Gatsby Tops Knox.”  I grinned.  I didn’t have to open it to know what the subject header, from PW (Publishers’ Weekly) Daily, meant.  The classic American novel, published in 1925 and staple of every high-school American Lit class since, had topped the memoir by Amanda Knox, the American convicted in 2009 of murdering her roommate in Italy.  (The conviction was since overturned.)

As anyone conscious during the past two weeks knows, “Gatsby” refers to more than Fitzgerald’s novel, backlist-favorite that it is.  Gatsby’s topping of Knox comes from the new Baz Luhrmann movie, which has also inspired a new Fitzgerald Suite at the Plaza (at $2,800 a night) and  Tiffany’s new Great Gatsby Theme Collection.  Billboards and bus posters all over town show a dapper di Caprio and a flappered-out Carey Mulligan as well as jewelry models wearing cloche hats.  (Doesn’t anyone remember what Fitzgerald had to say about billboards?  Forget Dr. T. J. Eckleburg at your peril.)

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m thrilled that Gatsby—the book—has topped Knox.  Nothing against Knox, and nothing against memoirs, although yes, something against overhyped sensationalist memoirs.  (Knox reportedly received $4 million for her book; Fitzgerald got $3,939 in 1923, or $52,406 in today’s dollars.)  To be fair, I haven’t read Knox’s book.  But I have read Fitzgerald’s.  Everyone knows the story:  American dream, gone bad.  Boats beat back, etc.  Girl with a voice like money.  The Buchanans’ red-white-and-blue living room with its wine-colored carpet recalling Homer’s sea.  (OK, I was an English major…)

And, yes, no doubt about it: the theme of Gatbsy comes to mind first.  Opulence and great dresses, and just about every kind of decline imaginable.  The corrupt American Dream is just as pungent and relevant now as it was in 1925.

So what bears examination and re-examination and awe and reverence and joy?  Fitzgerald’s sentences. Yes, the famous ones about boats beating and the orgiastic future, about the green light and the foul dust.  But also these, so acute in metaphor and modifier and just a sampling:

  • …Tom would drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.
  •  …motorboats slit the waters of the Sound
  •  …gust of wind that scarcely corrugated the surface was enough to disturb its accidental course with its accidental burden

And my favorite, that I read over and over for years without thinking much about, until one day on a couch helping a high-school student with her American-lit essay, I read it again.  There, distilled into image, gleamed the pitch-perfect description of despair, as Gatsby sees “an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.”

I shivered, too.  (And, yes, some might point to an overdoing of adjective and adverb, but don’t verbs like slit and corrugate more than make up for it?)

So I’m happy that Jay is ahead of Amanda in sales right now, though I know it has mostly to do with the glitzy, stylized movie.  I’ll go see the movie—how can I not?  But when I need solace and inspiration from the pure pleasure of words, I’ll pick up my dog-eared copy and read again.

What are your some of your favorite books for language?  Which novels make for great movies (The Godfather and Gone With the Wind come to mind) and which fall short?

 

 

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Heart Openers

My friend (and former student) Callie Feyen is teaching the writing portion of a writing-and-yoga class in Gaithersburg, Maryland. She shared with me the worksheets for the first class—Enter, Discover, Journey.  The yoga teacher, she added, will be teaching poses to “open the heart” to complement the writing portion.

Sounds like the kind of thing we’d do here in California, and for a lot more than $100 for seven classes.  (Maybe the price is a typo…)  Seriously, though, I love heart openers—the yoga poses, I mean.  Here’s one of the simplest:  Take a block, place it length-wise on its side and lie back, your thoracic spine over the block.  You’ll need a folded blanket under your head and perhaps your hips.  Bending your knees and placing the soles of your feet on the floor will avoid strain to the lower back.  If you’ve never done yoga, check with your physician beforehand.  More to the point, check with your mood.

For years, I took Iyengar yoga classes from a woman named Barbara.  Somewhere in her seventies, with the body and mobility of a child, Barbara had bright, bird-like eyes and a wide smile.  She ended each class by visiting every mat to rub the backs of our necks as we lay prone in savasana (corpse pose).  I learned a lot about alignment from Barbara, and I’ve never forgotten her advice about heart-openers.  “Be careful,” she told us, after a class of supta baddha konasana and supta virasana and the aforementioned chest-over-block.  “You’ll be more open to the world.”  The skeptic in me thought, Yeah, right, but here I am these ten years later telling you Barbara’s story:  A man had been pursuing her, a man she wasn’t particularly attracted to, but when he called after she’d been doing a series of heart openers, she couldn’t say no.

Think of a cat, asleep on its back, belly exposed.  (Or, if you prefer, a dog.)  The cat (or dog) wouldn’t get into this pose unless he or she felt utterly safe.  Poses like the ones accompanying Callie’s writing exercises make us vulnerable.  They’re called “heart openers” for a reason.  In yoga, if we do a series of them, we might follow with some forward bends (not right away)—to change that outward openness to something more protective, more inward.

The past few mornings, I’ve been sitting on my meditation cushion for twenty minutes in the mornings, as I read and contemplate the psalm appointed for the day.  As I’ve done so, I’ve felt a strong physical desire to lie over a block.  I spend most of the day hunched forward—at the keyboard, over the steering wheel, in front of the dirty dishes.  In the pool, I do some backstroke, but I do a lot more crawl—face down.  So it’s no wonder my body wants to drape its upper portion over a block.

What, you may be wondering, does any of this have to do with writing or reading or teaching or craft?

Here’s what (in addition to the trigger of Callie’s class):  I’ve been struggling all week to write a scene of confrontation. I don’t like confrontation.  I avoid it in real life, and I avoid it on the page.  I’m not good at it.  I crumple, I prevaricate, I whimper.  I’m getting better at standing my ground, but mostly I slink away.  But I write fiction, so I can’t avoid confrontation on the page for long.  Fiction depends on conflict.  And yes, there can be the subtle conflict, the passive-aggressive conflict, the human-versus-environment conflict where nature provides the antagonist (snow in the Yukon or the wolves surrounding Pa Ingalls’ horse).  But I write character-driven fiction, so conflict depends on, well, character.

In grad school, I wrote a story about a young girl who wanted, more than anything, to go to Marine World on her birthday.  Her sister, a few years older, wanted their father to come home.  When the mother anted up the trip to Marine World, the older sister thought that Daddy wouldn’t be far behind.  But he never showed.  In the first draft of the story, I used imagery to convey the older sister’s disappointment and anger.  In revision, I realized that this girl—so buttoned up, so cautious—needed to explode, and needed to do it in scene.  She had to have a temper tantrum.  I was afraid to write the scene.  Whether I was daughter or mother or both, I feared letting down my guard. But I did it, and the story—“What Her Sister Wanted,” in my thesis and later published in The View from Below—benefited.

Now, in my novel, two women face each other in a scene that has to do more than it currently does.  Yes, I realize I’m being rather vague, and that’s because I haven’t written the scene to my satisfaction yet.  I stare at the page, I move words around, I get up for another cup of coffee.

What do heart openers have to do with confrontation?  Isn’t opening your heart about not being able to say no, as Barbara cautioned us?  Doesn’t conflict depend on No?

Sometimes.  But saying Yes, lying belly-up in the sunshine, feeling safe and trusting can be just as dangerous, just as risky as any guarded confrontation.  That’s the conflict I want to effect in this scene:  that of utterly exposed yearning and what happens what it bumps up against another desperate, giddy open heart.

What physical movement complements your creative output?  Hinders it? 

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Caveat Lector

Yesterday the carpet cleaners came.  In our household, this means picking up the piles of books, laundry too dirty to put back in the drawer but not dirty enough for the laundry basket, and various not-yet-read magazines in order to clear space from said carpet.  In so doing, I faced the fact of all those issues of AWP Writer’s Chronicle and Poets & Writers.

I started reading Poets and Writers back in its black-and-white newsprint cover days. When I left New York to start a graduate program in creative writing in the wilderness of California’s Sacramento Valley, my publishing colleagues sent me on my way with a gift subscription.  Ever since, I’ve had an off-on thing with the magazine.  Getting a new issue in the mail made me feel, in the early days, like a real writer.  That is, some days, eager to pore over the listings for places to send early stories, contests to enter, and writing wisdom to sop up.  And on other days, consumed with dread or possessed by the not-so-little green monster.  Some 22-year-old had just won a grant.  An editorial assistant I once ignored at the coffee machine in the Random House kitchen was being hailed at “fiction’s newest champion.”  Reading about other people’s publishing success could, on a bad day, plummet me into a nasty vortex of competitiveness, despair and my own failings.  I began to feel—in fantasy only, please remember—like the Tonya Harding of writing competition.  Not that I’d ever wish injury on someone, just maybe a little less sudden stellar success.

Come to think of it, on a bad day, anything about writing could wreak this havoc on me.  Books like John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction and Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction (the latter of which I now recommend to my students) could do such a number on me that I’d throw the book across the room—or drop it in a stupor.

“Describe a barn as seen by someone who has just committed murder. Do not mention the murder,” Gardner says.  Huh?  Now, of course, I see where he was going with that particular exercise, but at the time, his oh-so-serious, oh-so-self-important tone made me feel I’d never make it.  Don’t. Fuck. Up. 

What was wrong with me, that those how-to-write books in front of which others knelt in abject homage left me bereft?  Clearly, I didn’t have what it took to write.  But I kept writing.  I kept fucking up.

And then I discovered Bird by Bird.  This was before Anne Lamott became the star she is today.  After writing beautiful novels that barely sold, she hit the big time with Operating Instructions and then wrote Bird by Bird.  Probably because I’d already read and loved a few of those early novels (Rosie; All New People), I trusted her.  And the fact that I’d heard how she’d had to scrape by before hitting it big didn’t hurt, either.  Yes, John Gardner and Janet Burroway paid their dues, too—but Anne Lamott made me laugh. She wrote about radio station KFKD (K-Fucked) and Shitty First Drafts.  You will fuck up, she pretty much came out and stated.  What relief!  You will feel like Tonya Harding. Phew!  Yes, you will get miserable with competitive angst and do a number on yourself if you pay too much attention to who won what prize in Poets & Writers.

Around that time, too, I began to go to writers’ residencies and conferences, places like Ucross and Writers@Work.   I’d won entrance to such places, which meant I got my own little blurb and photo in Poets & Writers.  But the real benefit of such rewards came from sitting around the dinner table or the sofa in the lounge late at night, discovering that I wasn’t the only one who dreaded the arrival of Poets & Writers in the mail.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I still get the magazine and I recommend it to students.  But I also suggest that it’s OK if the back issues pile up, waiting for a day when you feel strong enough to encounter an article about someone half your age winning a prize you’ve entered twenty times.

How-to books on writing fill shelves and shelves, and continue to sell.  We look to them for a trick, an answer.  We can’t help it.  Just this morning, going through email, I clicked on Alison Presley’s blog with its header of “Writing Advice from Writers.”  It shows photos of  writers’ hands, on which are inked various tidbits: Write. Finish Things. Keep Writing.  And Start the Next One.  And the best of the lot, from Lev Grossman:  Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.  By necessity brief enough to fit on the palm of a hand, they remind me of the quotes I’ve clipped from articles over the year, pasted to my wall and magnetized to my fridge.  Another favorite, from Samuel Beckett:  Fail.  Keep trying.  Fail better.

I love this stuff.  I eat it up.  I just try not to take it too seriously.  Maybe I should, though, if only before the next carpet cleaning.

What’s your relationship to writing advice?  What’s helped you?  Hurt you?

 

One idea for accumulated back issues -- wallpaper!
One idea for accumulated back issues — wallpaper!
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