Writers’ Conferences

YES, SAY YES TO ATTENDING AT LEAST ONE WRITER’S CONFERENCE!  I have been to a few and would like to attend more.

The first one was a five-day long conference held in Ashland, Oregon.  I worked with one poet/instructor, Kim Addonizio.  At the end of the conference, each of the participants had produced some work with depth.  Five days with one instructor and a cohesive group, allowed us to explore in an atmosphere of ongoing  inspiration and safety.  This experience proved to be invaluable.

The second writer’s conference I attended, South Coast Writers Conference, has been held annually in Gold Beach, Oregon.  This was a three-day conference with an array of instructors from  several different genres.  Examples of some of the topics might include: “Healing through the Written Word,” or “Are You Allowed to Joke About That?,” or “Hero Quests and Graphic Novels,” or “Making Money in Magazine Articles.”  Participating writers could choose the classes that were of interest to them.  The instructors and themes vary from year-to-year.

The third was more of a poetry writing workshop, two days only.  This was just a lot of fun and introduced variety into the usual things I do as a writer.  Not to mention that I got to meet other writers and poets who, sort of, understand you…because they face what you are facing as a solitary writer.

Some of my deepest and most focused writing has come directly from these conferences.  Or they re-initiated, baptized me again in some way, into the craft I love.

For Your Consideration:
If you want to jumpstart your writing, go to a Writer’s Conference or Workshop. Just do it.

cropped-cairnfinal.jpg

Find and Follow

Is there an artist, past or present, whom you admire and want to get to know?

If you’ve gone to art school or had English as your major, it is likely that you were introduced to artists, poets and writers, some with whom you felt an affinity.  Once you graduated and moved on, did you lose track of this favored creative?

Whether or not you went to art school or had English as your major, why not choose an artist that you admire as your “mentor” of sorts?  Follow his or her career, become so familiar with their art, their process, their life that they feel like a friend.

One of my favorites, not especially because of her art, but mostly because of her creative lifestyle is Tasha Tudor.

(Click the play arrow and then click on “Watch this video on YouTube” above and it takes you directly to the video.)

Viewing this short video, you might think that Tasha Tudor lived in the 19th century.  However, she was born in 1915 and died recently, in 2008.  She illustrated children’s books.  She lived in Vermont, off the grid, making her own clothing and keeping a garden that photographers have loved to photograph.  One published book being Tasha Tudor’s Garden, by Tovah Martin (author) and Richard W. Brown (photographer).

For me there is something romantic about  her lifestyle.  Though I can see it is a labor intensive life, it is an inspired one.  Living close to the earth, experiencing the natural rhythms seems to be an integrated, ethical and grounded way to live.

And yes, it seems like a thing of the past.  That someone could create that lifestyle in these times doesn’t seem possible.

Creative Contemplation:
Have you found and followed an artist or writer’s career?  Or looked to one for your own inspiration?  If so, what about this artist’s life attracts you?  Why have you claimed them as your “mentor?”

 Please post the name of your favored creative person under comments if you like.

The Single Story

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer of novels, short stories and nonfiction.  The “single story” is a term she coined in reference to the generalizations and stereotypes that we make in regards to cultural, racial, gender, creed, etc. identity.  I cannot say this in any better way than she does in this Ted Talk.

Please make yourself a cup of tea, light a candle and sit for twenty minutes to learn from a fine teacher.

“The Danger of a Single Story” Ted Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

Contemplation:
Consider the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as you go about your day, encountering others.  Gently notice those times when you classify someone according to first impressions or any other “single story” responses.  This is an exercise in self-observation.

Practice Doesn’t Mean Perfection

I’ve been practicing how to draw and paint faces.IMG_9403

As a ripening artist, I fall in love with each painting…even when it is far from perfect.  Like this one.  Learning a new technique taught by Sara Burch in Paint Your Heart and Soul‘s year-long online painting and creativity course, I realize that one eye is larger and a bit lower than the other.  Yet, this painting captures something for me that I was having trouble expressing in words.  This painting helped me to bring some disparate feelings together.

Learning and practicing a new technique was the primary purpose of this new-to-me process.   Perhaps there is a time and place to strive for excellence (rarely perfection?) or even one’s personal best.  As I am learning, there has also got to be plenty of room for play, experimentation and error…sometimes happy accidents.

****

With writing, is it any different?  Writers strive for perfection as they craft their prose or poetry.  Do they ever reach it?  Levels of perfection are relative, it seems.  For with any final piece preparing to leap into the world, the writer decides, at some point, to let it go.  This is not based solely on whether a piece is “good enough”.  There is an inner sense of completion.  What wants to be said has been said in a way that is “kin” to the writer.  In using the word kin in this way, I intend that the writer has expressed him or herself in a way that is unique, particular or inherent.  When that goal is reached, then a painting or piece of writing can feel complete and ready to be launched.

When you write about someone, you look for the dissonant detail.  Perhaps this is also reflected in your greater body of work–that you allow the dissonant details into your writing thereby,  making a work your own.  Those details–which could be seen as imperfections–mark your work in some way.  Those details reveal to the reader “your style”.  Offering your work, with all of its perceived blemishes, does make one feel vulnerable.

Contemplation:
Do you find fulfillment in practicing your art or craft?  Are you tolerant of “mistakes” as you learn? Are you patient with your development as a writer or artist?  Can you spot the dissonant details in your work that make it stand out as YOURS?

****

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take
if we want to experience connection.”
Brene Brown, Researcher, Story-Teller, Author, Lecturer

Hasn’t it all been said?

crow2

Say “hello” to your inner critic. WHY WRITE? HASN’T IT ALL BEEN SAID? AND MANY TIMES OVER? DO WE NEED ANOTHER BOOK? ANOTHER POEM? ANOTHER WRITER? ANOTHER BLAH, BLAH AND BLAH?

Is this a common argument for you not to write. Or is it merely an excuse, avoidance?

This is what I’ve found.  Each one of us has a unique voice, a unique way of saying things. Your writing will connect with the “EARS” that can hear your voice.  I also believe that in these times, it is necessary to think and write outside the box.  As you do your own deep work and write from that place, there is the strong possibility that something new will be revealed to you.

Have you had this experience yourself or witnessed it with your children? Your mother gives you a lecture on, for instance, why you should practice the habit of saving part of your allowance.  You are half-listening while inwardly saying “yeah, yeah, yeah…” Then, your favorite aunt or uncle says the exact same thing but in a slightly different way and you begin tucking away part of your allowance every week.  Alright, maybe that’s not the best example…a child has to rebel against parental authority.

However, the point is, some writers reach us while we dismiss others who might be saying the exact same thing in a different way.

Do throw your voice into the ring of writers if this feels like something that is important to you.  These are not the times to be timid or quiet if you have something you want to say.

****
In other words, as said before in a different way, inspiration is everywhere and in everything.  Ideas and images adrift in a universe and you, the writer, snatch the ones for which you feel a passion.  You extract what is of value to you, command the language, wield your wordy power and shape, fondle and create something that might have been said before, but now it’s made new or renewed through your particular voice.

Author and poet, Kwame Alexander recommends that you say “YES” to writing as “…language has the power to alter our perceptions.”  That’s no small thing.

WRITING PROMPT:
What in the whole universe are you writing about today?  Are you being true to your writer’s voice and allowing what wants to come forth to come forth? Is there something else you’d rather be writing?  WRITE YOUR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS IN YOUR JOURNAL.

CELEBRATE YOUR UNIQUE WRITER’S VOICE.

Remember Your Body (part two)

We call our bodies, vehicles…we drive them here and there and have great expectations of them.  We realize the body has needs and we give it sustenance–a snack on the fly, perhaps?  As writers or artists, we can become so engaged with our craft that we put the body’s tender loving care at the bottom of the list—maybe we’ll get to it–tomorrow.  For instance, that exercise program that you know is going to be good for you that gets postponed until…when?  Or that healthier way of eating to which you want to ascribe–one day…when?

I have driven, pushed and prodded my body.  I plant myself in front of the computer, at my writing desk or art table.  I expect–performance.  When I’m in the creative flow, it’s easy to forget that my body is an animal with actual needs.  Typically, I’m good at feeding myself healthy food.  I walk daily. I’m not so good at regular exercise or showing up for my tai chi class. Stretching, yoga, heart rate exercises, etc. These are areas in which I need to make a conscious effort.

What about you?  Do you have an exercise routine, a good eating regimen, an overall healthy, balanced lifestyle?  This is something a writer needs to organize into his/her daily routine.  It is intricately connected to your balanced writing practice.

Is your body your “horse and hound”?  May Sarton, the poet, wrote about her body in the following poem:

Question

Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen
Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt
Where can I go
without my mount
all eager and quick
How will I know
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure
when Body my good
bright dog is dead
How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door
and wind for an eye
With cloud for shift
how will I hide?

****

Read this poem aloud at least two times.  What is the author is saying in these few short verses?

Today, there is no writing prompt.  As a writer, contemplate how you care for your body’s daily requirements.  If you don’t have an exercise routine, how might you begin one.  Start off small; check in with your wise body to see which way it would like to move…that way you are more likely to stay with it.

Happy Body Day.

RememberYourBody2

Incubation and Looking for a Flow

Incubation:  It means literally to provide body warmth so eggs
can hatch.  For a writer, it means giving yourself the time and
space to grow to your full potential; to build strength, gain your
power and define your voice.

nest

Writers desire to be in the zone where their writing flows; they show up as the willing scribe, following where they are lead.  This is a wonderful state for a creative being.    It’s also a state that we have to, in a sense, earn.  Paying dues is something we hear about in other professions…the ice skating champion who practices endless hours to perfect his/her performance; the marathon runner who runs daily to improve stamina; the painter who paints endless hours to perfect certain techniques, etc.  While an artist or writer may appear to be born to it, they also have to practice their craft in order to capture the flow. And flows can be interrupted by many things.

Daily life has its own responsibilities and responses.  We get diverted.  We also may experience what has been termed writer’s block or dry spells.  I prefer to call these periods either incubation or the fertile void.  Within this pause in your creative expression, something is brewing.  You cannot force it.  You cannot prod, poke or otherwise push it.  The best you can do is wait with it and be attentive.  From this place, when the time is right, something is going to emerge.  Trusting your process isn’t easy at such times.

I’ve found that if you can put your creative energy into some other form, which could be rearranging your living room furniture, or planning a garden bed, even cleaning the house, things begin to move within.  The muse is never really far…she takes an occasional hiatus so that you can process and integrate in preparation for what is next.

WRITING PROMPT

What has been your experience of incubation and/or the fertile void?  Describe it in detail…this odd terrain that we’d rather circumnavigate.  How is it useful to you?