Monday, October 1, 2007

Blog Post for Wed 10/3/07

To Write about Annie Dillard:

"The best memoirs, I think, forge their own forms. The writer of any
work, and particularly any nonfiction work, must decide two crucial
points: what to put in and what to leave out" (41).

According to Annie Dillard in "To Fashion a Text", she decided what to
put in -her parents, Pittsburgh's history - and what would not find its
way in - her summer in Wyoming, previous gentlemen callers. She was able
to divorce her nostalgia with her childhood in order to create a piece
of literary nonfiction.

1. Thinking of memoirs you've read or are currently reading - do you
notice the authors deliberately piecing together a life or including
every memory for memory's sake? In other words, have they been willing
to "cannibalize their own lives for parts"?

2. [follow up] Are you willing to cannibalize your life for parts? If
so, did you attempt that in your first piece or in a draft of your
second piece? How hard is that?

In "Lifting the Veil", Gates offers some advice to memoir writers: "be
prepared for the revelation of things you don't even dream are going to
come up" (148).

1. Can you comment on this advice in relation to your own writing?
If so, when you have "lifted the veil", what revelations, insights,
truths, epiphanies.....have you discovered? Elaborate.

To Write about Stephen King:

To write about the Stephen King book, On Writing, I would like for you to explore what he says about seeing yourself as a writer and changing your action and spaces to reflect your perception of yourself. Write about these:

1. Do you call yourself a "writer?" Why or why not?
2. Do you have time set aside, like King suggests, to write every day? Or at least regularly? Why does he say you need to write every day? Do you agree with him or not?
3. King says we all need a space devoted to writing -- where we can shut the door. Why does he think we need this space? Do you have it? Where? And do you agree with what he says about it?

Click on "comments" and copy/paste your comment into the editing window. Hit "publish" and you are done!


Daisy said...

Hi Amy, can’t wait to see everyone on Wednesday! Love, Daisy

1. I see myself as a writer, but I feel like I’m a first grader. There is so much to learn. I’m just beginning on this journey, and I’m so excited and thrilled about everything I’m learning. Just like a six year old, nothing seems impossible. I have the honest faith of a child about my writing, and I feel like the world can’t wait to see what I’m going to share with them!

2. I have never set aside time for writing before, but I am now. After reading King’s book, I see how very important it is to write every day. As I was reading King’s book, my mind felt like a sponge soaking up everything he was saying. His words on page 170-171 really helped me. “Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot…You can learn only by doing.” I love these words. I can learn to be powerful writer, but I will only succeed if I read a lot and write and write and write!

3. King said that we all need a space to write where we can shut the door so we don’t have any distractions. King’s words on page 151 are so true. “The closed door is your way of telling the world and yourself that you mean business; you have made a serious commitment to write and intend to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.” I agree with King that I need my very own writing place. My house is very small so my writing place is at my kitchen bar. There’s no door that I can close so I get up early before anyone is awake. Being a morning person, I love sitting at the bar with my cup of coffee, my notebook paper, and my mechanical pencil. I write and write until I hear my husband’s alarm ringing. The other morning my husband came walking into the kitchen and said, “Writing again-you’re serious about this thing, aren’t you?” I am serious. I feel that God has planted this vision in my mind of some books that will help children, and I’m not quitting until these books are published. Like King said, “If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”(p.147)

Hi Tracy, see you on Wednesday. Love, Daisy

1. In the memoirs I have read, I see the authors deliberately piecing together a life. The authors are being honest about the stories they are sharing. They want you to get a real picture of what they are writing about. The authors do not want you to feel like you have to sit and watch a ten hour video of their life. They are just giving you real honest “snap shots” of the most important parts.

2. In the first paper I wrote, my focus was about the impact that poem I found the morning of my mother’s funeral had on my life. If I wrote about everything my mother did for me or her positive influence in my life, it would probably be a 1000 page book. When you love someone, you want to tell everything about that person. Yes, it was hard writing only this one event about my mother because there are so many other wonderful things that I would like to share about her life.

1. When I was “Lifting the Veil” about my daddy‘s life in my paper “His Giving Spirit”, I felt very proud of him and very proud of the many things he did in his life. When people are reading my memoir about my daddy, I want them to get a vivid picture in their mind, heart, and soul of this wonderful man. I believe now, more than ever, children need a hero. Children need to know that a hero doesn’t have to be the fastest, the strongest, or the richest person. Sometimes a true hero is just the person that is honest, works hard, and is always there for you. This was the kind of man my daddy was, and I believe reading about his life will help others see that life is what you make of it. Even when life is hard, you can be kind, be honest, and keep doing all you can to help others.

Tara said...

1. I am firm believer in the idea that anyone who regularly writes is a writer. So, yes, I do call myself a writer- but perhaps only to myself. My being as a writer is, for the most part, private. Writing for me is an outlet to record thoughts, mull them over, and spit them out. Writing is cathartic.
To take this a step further, from the very first day I get a new group of students, I call them writers. I think even the youngest writers do better when they think of themselves as writers (and know that others do, too).

2. I try to write each evening-which ends up being 3 or 4 days a week. I think King is right in his suggestion that writers should write every day- if you wish to become a published and/or prolific writer. To accomplish this, I think it helps to have a regular time set aside. But I also think you can do some amazing writing without writing every day. Sometimes my thoughts seem to come to me in spurts or because of circumstance. Forcing myself to write when the thoughts are not there has never really led me to much satisfaction. I also find it difficult to have a sacred time devoted to writing each day with the hectic schedule I carry.
I’m a much more prolific reader than writer (because I can read a book curled up in bed before I drift off to sleep). I like King’s quote on p.142 “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write.” I agree that rampant reading is a must for successful writing.
King says that he writes every day so the story stays fresh in his mind and the characters stay alive. He doesn’t want them to become simply characters that live on paper instead of real people he interacts with (148). He also says the story stays fresh and the excitement doesn’t fade when he writes every day. I see his point, but I don’t think everyone has to live by his credo. I think that’s what worked best for him to stay motivated and creative in his writing.

3. King says we all need a writing space where we can shut the door in order to tell the world and yourself that you are serious about writing and are committed to “walk the walk” (151). I don’t really have a place where I can shut the door. I often write when I sit at my computer and type, music playing in the background, my cat curled beneath my feet. My other favorite place to write is outside. I love to take a notebook and sit out on an Adirondack chair on my back patio, a blanket at the park, or a chair at the beach. The quietness of confinement in one room with the door shut is not my most productive setting. Kudos to King, for he is the one with oodles published. For me, the door shut makes me feel stressed and claustrophobic. :)

Isabel said...

I began calling myself a writer when I took a year off of teaching to write a novel. I finished it, although I decided to put it aside and begin again. The year was far from wasted; I don’t think there’s any possible way I could have learned to write a novel without writing one. No one, apparently, no matter how badly they want it or how “good” a writer she is, is born with an innate knowledge of scene structure or character creation. Now I write every day at the same time—right after my tea, whether that’s in the morning (on weekends and rare holidays) or in the afternoon after class. During my writing year, I learned to be consistent, so that now, even though I can’t do what I’d like (write every morning at the same time), I can replace a consistent time with a consistent ritual. My husband was an anthropology major, and he’s spent a lot of time studying indigenous religious practices from around the world, and he assures me that the ritual is the most important precursor to the religious or meditative state, which writing surely is. The habit is half the battle, I’ve found. As long as I sit and drink my tea and know that when I’m done, I have to write, I start thinking about the work and am up and writing before I even finish.
About shutting the door: I learned that lesson from Stephen King the last time I read his book, forgot it, and learned it again this time. For awhile, I found myself coming to my husband (my “first reader”) after every successful scene, nagging him to read it. What I realized, though, was that I was setting myself up. Once I’d given it to him, it was public property—which meant it could be criticized. Which, of course, meant that it was open to my own criticism, which is always the harshest. I would begin to see the scenes, not as they appeared in my mind’s eye as they do when I write, but as some ┼▒ber-critical publishing-house editor would read it, which wasn’t fair, since the book wasn’t finished or edited yet! Once it was “out there,” though, I couldn’t stop myself. So now I don’t tell my husband anything about the novel at all except whether it’s going well (which he can always tell by my mood anyway), and that way I don’t go back and edit until I’m all the way finished and can see the form and structure of the whole. Also, he’ll be able to give me better feedback, since he’ll be reading it the same way others will—unprepared, unbiased, and not already confused by six versions of the same chapter!
I don’t have my own space, per se. We have an office, but it’s in the middle of the apartment, between the living room and the bathroom, so he goes in and out sometimes. Also, I have to share the space with the guinea pig and two rabbits, who do NOT respect the writing process. Nonetheless, I do close the door, and John respects that unless he’s standing outside jumping up and down with his legs crossed, and it’s a blessing. With the doors closed, I can’t be asked about dinner or vet appointments, cajoled into getting up from the computer and going to lunch, or dragged into complaints about work; I have to write. Which, after all, is the point.

Teri said...

1.I am very much in the process of seeing myself as a writer. After teaching writing for 30 years, I was sure that becoming one was just a matter of following my own advice. WRONG! Reading the King book, I realize how much I need to switch from perception to reality. It's one thing to constantly read and analyze with a critical eye and quite another to devote the time to getting it on the page yourself. I feel very comfortable with the former and pretty challenged with the later.
2. I was setting time aside regularly to write but as usual family and life has intervened and knocked me out of the habit. I just need to say no more often and schedule my time first before the day slips away.
3. I do have a wonderful space that it private and my own to spread out in and create. Unlike King, I like a bit of a view and enjoy one on the marsh out of the window above my desk. My challenge is to just get up early and do it. If I wait until evening, my energy has ebbed and my husband has gone to sleep. My study corner is adjacent to our bedroom and I feel as if writing at night will disturb him--of course, I could move the laptop computer in another room but you know how excuses go!

john caspian said...

1) Somedays. But I see myself as lots of things. One day I'm a writer. Another I'm a photographer. I can also be a painter, a coffeeshop barista, a nice guy, and a commitaphobe.

2)I go through times where I try to write the same sentence every day for a week and nothing seems to happen. Sometimes I get frustrated and just write the lyrics to a song because I like the way words look on a page. Eventually I get ticked off enough and spend the day taking photographs or painting, and wait for the next fit of creativity to come about.
I guess, though, in a way I'm always writing. Even when I walk down the street I'm playing with words in my head, trying to figure out sequences that sound good, or internalizing some moment in time until it just kind of spills out in one mad rush. That's when I have the most fun.

3. Fast and French on Broad Street, tucked in the corner with headphones on. Or a bookstore, where I can grab a book if I don't feel like writing. If I have the day off work, and "feel" like I'm going to have a good day writing I go to one of my usual spots throughout the city and just kind of wait until something happens. My spots always seem to be surrounded by people, but where I don't have to interact with any of them. Thus the headphones. I guess I could also make a sign that says "I'm not social". But music is better for me. It helps me get in a rhythm when I write.