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What we attend to, what we love

butterflytree_smGood morning, good morning. It’s dark and warm outside my Oakland city window this morning. We’re having a heat wave in the middle of winter, which is all fine and good until the reservoirs run out of water. My candle is lit and the coffee (decaf, but still) is brewing. This morning I woke steady and restless, ready to write and also wanting to burrow down under the covers for another several hours’ sleep. Do you get like that when there’s too much to do and you want to do all of it at one time?

I want to apologize for being absent here. These days I am doing a lot of other writing, mostly (as you may have noticed!) away from the blog. I spend my morning-pages in the notebook, and then open one of several book projects and get to work at editing. Last year I generated hundreds of pages of material for these different projects; I’m now wading through those words, reading to see what I’ve got, how much of it makes sense, and what more needs to be added.

This poem is my mantra these days. I’m working mostly offline on writing tasks that need more than a single sitting to generate, shifting myself away from the fragmented immediacy of social media, including the blog. I have created a writing schedule, and am allowing myself to focus in and deep — because, well, let me tell you a secret:

Although I love and believe in and will continue the writing groups, what I always really wanted to be was a writer. First and foremost.

They say what you attend to reveals what you love. I set forth an intention, in this new year, to attend more to my writing. I have four projects I’m actively attending to these days: Sex Still Spoken Here, the Erotic Reading Circle anthology (which I’m co-editing with Amy Butcher and Carol Queen); a book of essays and prompts for trauma survivors (and others!) who want to use writing to heal and transform; a novel about three sisters who have to learn how to relate to and trust other (and the rest of the world) as grown women in the aftermath of their stepfather’s abuse during their adolescence; and a collection of short pieces from the Coming Home project (about reembodying our erotic self after sexual trauma). There are others, too: a couple of ebooks about transformative writing practice; collection of things that might be called poems (but I would never be so presumptions as to call them that); a gathering up of the pieces I’ve written and performed recently about femme; and, naturally, new novel.

It’s a lot.

Plus, there are blog posts to write and edit (especially for the extra:ordinary project), emails, articles, letters of recommendation. There’re book and writing group proposals. There’s writing to read and respond to for my manuscript group, and workshop sessions to prepare for. There’s writing all around me, all the time. I am immersed. If you’ve contacted me recently and haven’t heard back, it’s because I’m deep in the aftermath of finally deciding that I need to get my work out into the world. This intention takes as much attention as I can give it, since there are still those voices in me that want me not to forget that I’m a fraud and a laughing stock, not to mention a terrible writer, and should take my fingers off the keyboard and go back to what I’m good at, which is helping other people get their work out into the world. Period.

So I go slow, and I focus. I don’t talk about the various writing projects very much, except to give their barest descriptions, until I’m well on my way toward completion. The more I talk about a story or essay or book, the more I lose creative steam for its writing. It’s as though, if I talk the story out, I’ve accomplished what writing would accomplish: putting the words into the world. So I keep the tension inside, and let it emerge through the pen and keys.

These days I’m often offline — after several hours writing and editing, the dog will need to go outside, and I have to shift to another way of being in the world. We go for a run, we go to the beach or up to the hills, we move our bodies. I spend time with people I love. I check email just once or twice a day. This is a good balance for me. I breathe deep, I stretch and move, I read, I cuddle. I sleep, wake early, light the candle, and begin again.

What are you attending to this year? What would it mean to give something you love, something that maybe you have been neglecting, more of your attention? Are you getting ready to believe that you deserve what you love, what has drawn itself to you in this lifetime? Rumi said, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” What if you believed that for ten minutes today? What would that mean for your writing, or your life? Give yourself some space with this idea in your notebook, and let the words draw you someplace surprising…

Thank you for being here with me, for reading these words, and for all you share with the world. Thank you for the generosity of your attention. Thank you for your words.

 

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in the slog

white graffiti on red brick -- the image is an outline of a headscarfGood morning — it’s April first! What foolishness are you getting into today? Outside my window the rain is making me believe I’m back in the East, like there’s some real spring happening, what with everything in flower and the tender transplanted roots of vegetables in the garden drinking up what the sky is offering. How about that for the first day of National Poetry Month — April’s the month to celebrate the necessary power of poetry, and/or to write your own.

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Today I woke up and spent some time with morning pages, then worked on my novel for about an hour. I’ve hit page 600 in the book. 600. Six-hundred pages of what now? Of backstory and morning writes and snippets generated during workshops and character development and rambling and the slow build toward plot discovery and story. The book isn’t done. It’s not quite near done. It’s certainly through the halfway marker, and we might have crossed the three-quarter point, but there’s still a lot of writing to go.

And this is just the first draft. Continue reading “in the slog”