Tag Archives: writing process

it’s all useful

graffiti of stick figure walking, nine different figures in a square, some walking in the opposite direction“No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.”
Erin Bow

Some mornings it’s hard to get started on the writing I want to do — I have to clear out the pipes first, should do a little notebook writing, often end up just typing a little journal writing into a new document and saving it as a morning write. Do we ever go back and read those morning writings, to get a sense of the trajectory of our lives, the folds and foibles that our hormones and emotions lead us through on a regular basis, to trace where our desires have driven us to (and from)?

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driving through the early morning

graffiti inside a brick-lined tunnel -- we can just see the mouth of the tunnel ahead

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
E.L. Doctorow

Sometimes the writing is hard, like pulling teeth — no, like dragging something out, forcing myself down a road I’m not at all sure I’m meant to be walking on. Is it like that? Wait, is this supposed to be what happens next? How can I know until I write it and find out?

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my favorite part of the day

young person, folded up, arms around legs, maybe dreaming -- bubbles lifting up from their head...The garbage trucks agitated the puppy this morning, so she’s sitting with me in the office this morning, gnawing on a rope bone, being generally excellent. I hear little bitey sounds, the scratch of her claws against my bag.

Here’s what’s true: it’s still painful every time the alarm goes off at 4am. I have to pull myself up, drag the body away from sleep and dreams. There’s a snap, and I’m sitting up, pulling on a sweater, walking into the kitchen to light the burner for teawater. And then I’m in front of the computer (no candle, no notebook, not right now) and the illumination from the screen is way too bright for human eyes. I yawn, stretch, rub the sleep away from my face over and over. Why am I doing this? I open the document for this long story, and read through yesterday’s writing, or last week’s, finding where I’m going to touch in today, and suddenly I’m with these women who I’m coming to adore, I’m getting to spend part of my morning learning more of their story — the truth is that this is my favorite part of the day, this deep dark writing time, this morning imaginary, this tea-lined playhouse.

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small steps

graffiti on a post: where do you want to start?It’s supposed to be 80 degrees in Oakland today — only in the low 60s in Dublin (Ireland), though. We have to keep track of these things sometimes.

The puppy won’t settle. She thinks it’s time for breakfast, and keeps pushing at my hands. She finds a treat on the table, and responds to my Off, but then paws at my leg to give her the treat for doing a good job. Smartie.

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it adds up

graffiti -- mosaic sunflowerBack to the regular schedule today — good morning out there!

Today the clouds are bulbous and full of pink. What’s the sky like outside your window?

The forecast is for 56 degrees in San Francisco today. I talk to Kathleen in Atlanta, where it’s been in the 90s with tremendous humidity. What can we say about summer except hello?

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the right time

graffiti of a flower, a bee hovering over, maybe a microphone in the background?Good morning! The birds are quiet today — maybe this blue-grey wakening day is subduing them.

What do things look like outside your window? (That’s a great place to begin writing, btw — if you’re just opening the notebook and wondering what to say. Start anywhere — say anything. All the starts are just opened doors that you can walk through, that your writing can walk you through, to get you where it wants you to go. So take that square of windowpane: what’s on the other side? What exactly do you see, or don’t you see? The descriptions will pull you in to the writing, the process, the flow. Let yourself get pulled, notice what associations, what words or phrases or characters start to bubble up, and let those down onto the page next, then follow them.)

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use everything

graffiti of a short haired woman raising her fists, next to the words 'Tu ne perds rien pour m'attendre'(Some explicit language of sexual abuse in here: so you know it. Be easy with you. xox, Jen)

He was in my dreams last night (the memory of him, the shadow of reaction and response to him that still lives in my neocortex, my hypothalamus, my frontal lobes and hind brain both the same), but I can’t quite remember what was going on. He was in my bedroom, or I was in his, I had been in the house alone, he’d been kept late at work, at a training. He said, They kept us late, with a kind of wistfulness, like if he’d been there sooner, he could have joined me in my nap, or in the bath, he talked to me like he was my lover, again he was talking to me that way, just now it was in my dreams. The room was soft, full of shadows, afternoon moving into evening and I was going to have to talk my way out of having sex with him — or was it too late for that, and so what was under the surface of his speech was that layer of disappointment that I was supposed to collude with: too bad we didn’t have enough time. I wake up not quite remembering, but just feeling lost, gone, over.

I was in their old house, but all I’m left with now is the oily, gentle, sure way that he’d smiled, like everything about him was greased inside,  like he was butter-soft and kind, like he thought I was stupid, like he thought I had no memory — like I would believe his pooling gentility the way that people in the outside world did. Like I didn’t remember how vicious he could be, like I didn’t remember the names he could call me, like I had forgotten his violence, like I didn’t have that hold on my own consciousness. Because what he wanted was control over my very consciousness — not just body and actions, but how I viewed and engaged with the world.

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vozsutra: who have you become, to be thinking about this

street art -- silhouettes of swallows, painted black on white brick, flying around, maybe out of a cage

(all the images on the blog are clickable, linked to their source -- this one comes from a graffiti blog based in the UK)

Ok — so I found out yesterday that writing ourselves whole didn’t get a grant from Horizons that we applied for. Today I’m disappointed but not knocked down — could it have something to do with not feeling so isolated, not so alone in the work? I’m grateful, today, for all the folks I get to work with in building writing ourselves whole to something sustainable and stronger.

Here’s exciting news — last night we ate the first of our own tomatoes with our dinner.  Deep orange like a peach but with tomato flesh, and still warm from the vine.  The first my-home-grown tomato I’ve had since I lived in Maine: I mixed it in with the guacamole, and it was so good.

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you can see the light and dark of us

Six Persimmons, 13th century ink painting by Mu Ch'i

"Six Persimmons," Mu Ch'i (image from nidrayoga.com/)

In my dream, we’re driving out in the country — maybe it’s Maine, maybe it’s here — and we’re with friends, or someone new. We’re showing people where we used to live. It could be backcountry Maine, or Nebraska.  It feels familiar.  Or maybe Fresh! wasn’t there at first, and I point out to a friend, there behind that poster/picture/board sign of a bear (?), we lived a few miles down that road.  She smiles, thinks it’s wonderful.  Then we’re out on that road, and another friend and I are driving up a dirt section, he wants to see something, we’re in a car; Fresh! says, Uh, Guys? like he’s trying to warn us about something, but we’re off, and it’s not til I get to the top of the road that I can see an enormous tornado off in the distance. I shout to my friend, who’s driving, I say Turn around, turn around, turn around, turn around, and yank at him and the car the way you would turn a horse.  We get back down the hill and Fresh! already has a little tornado on him — he’s turning around, keeping it to his back, then gets out a lighter, and puts the flame to the base of the tornado. The flame diminishes it, then it disappears. I feel proud, like, of course he knows what to do when he has a tornado on his back. Everyone is relieved, and we drive back to a big house fast to shutter it up before the enormous tornado gets to us.  We listen to weather reports on the radio, like at home, in NE. The house is a mess, and I have to shower.  Why?  I go in to the shower room, a huge bathroom that has a shower section on one side of a half-wall, with a break in the middle of it to walk through from one side to the other: bathroom side, shower side.  I take off my clothes and shower, then trade out with someone else. She has to shower, too.  I think we might have been washing something off, but I can’t remember.  We smile at each other, friendly, comfortable — not sexy. Then I go down to try and help clean up. Why was there mess everywhere? I have to close the big heavy doors on some of the larger rooms, they’re the double or more sets of doors that you pull out of slots in the wall, inside doors to close off a room from the rest of the house.  The rollers on the doors keep coming out of their tracks, and I can’t get them to close.  One of the rooms has two, then four or more doors to keep it shut. I can’t close it off. As I type this up, I see some metaphor in it.  The kitchen is filled with trash and mess, dirty dishes — is it our mess? I had thought about telling people to board up the windows, so that glass wouldn’t break all over us when the tornado hit, but then I thought it was sort of showing off to say that kind of thing, and anyway, we never boarded up our windows at home during tornado warnings — we just got into a safe place.


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honoring our own rhythms: daily writing practice

Here is my second morning of getting up first thing and blogging — a new daily writing practice for me. Usually my daily writing practice looks like this: wake up, make some peppermint or ginger tea or some decaf coffee, grab my notebook (now edged with coffee stains after I put my coffee mug into my bag before it was entirely empty), light a candle (if it’s still dark; that’s mostly in the winter) and settle into one of three spaces in this new house: a corner of the couch, the straight-backed chair in the living room, or one of the decimated ironwork chairs out on the little patio that were left for us when we moved in. That last has been especially exciting since we moved from Oakland — given where we lived, right on Lakeshore, across from Lake Merritt, there wasn’t really space for me to sit outside my home and be in some quiet.

Here, though, I can sit out in the back, and maybe the baby next door is awake and I can hear hear shouts, how she’s testing her voice, how she’s learning the indelible strength of her lungs, and I can hold hope for her that she never has cause in her life to unlearn that knowledge, and maybe there are car doors now and again slamming shut as folks get in to go to work, or stop at the cafe across the street for their breakfast and coffee, and maybe I am up late enough that the guys across the street at the concrete place have opened their screechy roll-up door, have started shouting across to each other what is getting loaded up to go where, maybe one of the workers has rumbled up on his Harley, but otherwise, what I hear are birds. And there are moments of quiet in amid those. I hear the mourning doves and the jays, but more it’s the other birds, the quieter, songier ones, whose names I don’t know yet. Part of this writing, maybe, is an impetus to learn their names.

Mostly, over the last year or more, my daily writing practice has been just to write three pages, Julia Cameron’s “morning pages,” three pages, freehand and freewritten, filled with whatever free association comes to mind. A kind of post-dream-time core dump, just getting whatever wants to get out on the page, out onto the page. (often it’s relationship processing, a place to spin out whatever I’m struggling with just to take a closer look, or feel I’m getting a full hearing somewhere.) Sometimes I would feel like I was getting into some “useful” writing, like, writing I felt I’d be able to use elsewhere, in a blog post or review or workshop, but more often than not, those three morning pages were only useful for my crazy head, a place to get the rattling thoughts out. I like the ritual of it, and by that I mean regular practice, and a sense that inherent in that regular practice was some devotion to self and space. In those three pages, I could get spacious. (I could forget that, really, all I had time for was three pages, written fast fast, before I snapped the notebook closed, tossed it back at my shoulder bag, rinsed out my coffee cup (or, more often, took the still-undrunk coffee or tea with me into the bathroom), and started getting ready for my workday.)

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