Saturday, December 01, 2012

Writing notes.

Today, I went down to the Salt Lake Roasting Co. for some magic writing time. I say "magic," because the Roasting Co. has been, heretofore, a location in which I have been able to wring drafts from dross, revise like a wizard, and even develop new material. Something about sitting upstairs in that building, looking down onto the street, makes me feel free of ordinary obligations and more focused, more intent, on writing itself.

Here are today's results.

First, yet again, I wish I were a person who wrote everyday. I always think, at the beginning of the academic year, that this will be the year I am a person who writes at least a few times a week--by which I mean that I would move my attention to writing that many times, and write some things down. However: I am not that writer, at least not at this moment in my life. Paul Lisicky observed that his once-partner, Mark Doty, considered to be a prolific writer, usually wrote in a couple of big bursts a year, and otherwise wrote only sporadically. That's me, too. So when I say, as I did a few weeks ago, I'm going to find some time to write for a few hours before the end of the year, it means either that I'm hoping for that kind of burst of writing (not likely), or that I'll be looking at things I've already written, hoping to add more to them, or transform them in some way, and maybe along the way I'll jot down a note or two that might become a freewrite that might become a draft that might become a poem. We live in hope.

Second, my friend Kim often says that for a poet, everything is writing. That fetishizing the sitting down at your desk part is just about the same as equating typing with writing. I think this is a healthy way to look at things. All the same, I do sort of believe that regularly experiencing the turn to write (or type), and acting on it, tends to prime the pump. Maybe. I sat down today and looked at the last set of notes I made. They were about a rabbit. And not much more than the word "rabbit." I keep thinking that if I were writing more often (typing), I might have more than this furry little word.

Third, there was a time when I felt moved to write a poem--a draft--often. That is not how it is these days, except for the lucky times when there's a burst. I had such a time this past summer. It was awesome. Now, though, I feel like I write in layers: I have a piece that I turn into a draft, and then the draft takes a long, long time to realize itself. I take the poem out and see if I can identify what it needs, and then I try to write in that direction. Or I've taken the draft to my writing group, and I have their notes, and I meditate on what those notes might say to me that I can use, and then I try to write or revise in that direction. The process is additive for a long time. And then it might be subtractive. Another poet friend talks about having the patience to stay in the writing moment when a poem presents itself. I get that. I'm impatient a lot these days. Sometimes I think, I'll just write the quick notes down and come back to it. But if a poem is on its way, that occasion warrants some patience. Not that any of this happened today at all.

Fourthly, sometimes you have to just feel the revulsion about your work. Just feel it, let it have its moment. And then get back to work.

Fifthly, sometimes your magic writing place won't really do the trick. You're just going to have to live with that.

In other news, I have decided that this month, each day until Christmas, I am going to post a short video of Christmas lights in my neighborhood. With comment. Sometimes my comment, perhaps occasionally the voices of others, and occasionally music. Here is Day 1 of the Lights Of Christmas Video Cavalcade:


  1. I don't know which part of this post I like the best, but it was so insightful and the video made me smile out loud. I can't hardly wait for the daily videos...

  2. Feel the revulsion about my writing. Ayup.
    Another stellar post, and one of many that could/should be turned into something longer for wider consumption. If, you know, the damn coffee store would get off the snide.

  3. On a slightly related note: your voice(!) in the video is so familiar to me. I think that I have seen you at a poetry reading. If the person I think was you is actually you, you were wearing a blazer. It was in 2005 or 2006 at the down town fancy library in SLC. yes? no? I hope it was you.



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