writing

Life Backwards

I love school supplies, journals, and notebooks. So many journals of my girlhood start with a commitment to write and record my life but end prematurely after a few weeks, if I'm lucky. This is a consistent pattern for calendars, planners, and other life projects. Each time I commit to a journal or project, of course, I think, "yeah, this will be good." I have hosts of plans, ideas and then something happens where I lose focus or interest or get wrapped up in something else. My life is littered in the incomplete. 

Soren Kierkegaard writes,

"It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards. A proposition which, the more it is subjected to careful thought, the more it ends up concluding precisely that life at any given moment cannot really ever be fully understood; exactly because there is no single moment where time stops completely in order for me to take position [to do this]: going backwards." 

One of the texts I assigned this Spring semester, a graphic novel by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba titled Daytripper  engages directly with this idea of understanding life backwards as it is a non-chronological glimpse into one man's life and death(s). As part of our class discussion, we talked about the idea that it's difficult to understand (deeply), life as you live it. Time to reflect, to look back is required. My reaction to Daytripper and its themes was significantly different from that of my students. I think it was probably different than it would have been a few years ago, as well. The idea of understanding backwards, of seeing what has come before, grappling with meaning felt like a very true process. I kept thinking about the stories I tell, the way I go over a moment trying to see it and make sense of it, the way I anchor it to myself or dismiss it. I thought about blogging, about the reasons I started the practice and why I continued. I realized that I've been trying to do what Kierkegaard writes about: understand the moments of my life. 

It's been over a year since I wrote in this space. I was in a different literal and figurative place then. To say things have changed would be an understatement. We moved in July of 2016 and much of my summer was focused on moving and getting settled. There didn't seem to be time, space, or energy to write the way I wanted to. I wouldn't say I was burned out exactly, but rather my attention was focused elsewhere--in the living of life forward. Besides, I wasn't sure what I would do with the blog (I wrote about this last April), a space, technically a variety of spaces where I've been writing for over a decade. There was a part of me that knew I did not want to give it up completely, but I also knew that I was busy and not always creating time necessary to writing the way I like--through multiple drafts, in response to current thoughts or prompts. Many forces converged, causing me to leave my previous blog host and I needed a new space. Instead of porting the old blog over completely, I wanted to make something new that (like life) carries things over from past iterations. I'm still working on broken links and images as well as creating a schedule of posts to be more consistently present here. I'm working on a project that will require space to work out ideas and pieces of essays and I hope that will push me to share more here. 

Summer is a good time for fresh starts and goals, for making plans and for secret road trips, spontaneous afternoons, good books, great music. For me, summer is a time for refueling, catching up on TV shows and movies, friends' lives and everything else that takes a back seat during the academic year. As a kid, summer used to be a time of less rules and in many ways, I've taken that spirit into my adulthood. Finally, some breathing room, thinking space, time to write and play. I'll do what I can to make sense of it all, here: forward and backwards.  

 

 

#reverb14: on writing

On writing: Chances are, if you’re participating in #reverb it’s because you like writing. Or at least want to like writing. Writing is like a muscle. Use it or lose it. What do you do every day to hone your craft? Or, what would you like to do each day to contribute to your writing?

I'm not a very disciplined writer. I don't write at the same time every day or set certain hours aside. When I have a deadline, I do better about writing more steadily but I still don't designate certain hours daily. As a creative writing Master's student, I never created that structure for myself because so much of my life was writing. I was writing in classes, during study hours, in writing groups, at bars and in cafes, at parties, at dinner with friends. Writing was constant, so much so I did not think about it. It was like breathing. But now, the demands on my time are so different that I write when I can.

I try to write every day though it's not always possible.Of course, blogging helps my writing practice when I make time for it.  I have a lot of unfinished drafts in folders, pieces I've started and plan to come back to. I will work on them for a while, and sometimes they turn into something else: a blog post, a writing exercise, an introduction, a full-blown story. Other times, they remain drafts. When I'm teaching, I write the in-class exercises, and small pieces of writing along with my students. There have been a few of those pieces that I later blog, or work on further. I love when that happens. M and I like answering the prompts from 642 Things to Write About Journal just for fun. And I also have a book called Write Brain: 366 exercises to Liberate Your Writingwhich I will use in classes and sometimes if I'm stuck.

Whenever I'm working on something, I re-read the draft each time. Usually I read it through once without making any changes. If that inspires me, I will begin drafting right away. Then I go back and read and edit as I read wherever I notice something I want to revise. This is my process no matter what genre I'm writing and no matter how long or short the piece is.

Whether I'm writing something academic or personal, I like to write to music and I need coffee. While working on my dissertation, I had a Pandora station called Writing Radio and now when I use Spotify, I will jump around my various playlists, which works pretty well. There's something about setting the mood for writing that I need. I like to have books around me, notes and notebooks spread out with my pens littering the table. I've been known to take up a whole table with my stuff. I wrote my dissertation in cafes and restaurants, places that were noisy, busy, full of people and conversations and food. I like having stuff around me; I focus better that way. It's tough for me to work at home, even in my office. Bottom line: I don't like it too quiet.