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This place matters

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I should be writing

I have piles and piles of notebooks, cheap and spiral bound; journals. I started my first journal when I was ten, after reading Harriet the Spy. Harriet had a speckled composition notebook, and so I did too, and I wrote in it every day. Or I think I did. At least I tried. From fifth grade until college I always had a speckled composition book, and sometimes I wrote pages and pages a day, and sometimes I went months without writing. I'd say I wrote one a year, and that seemed like a lot. I still have them all, here and there. They have names. One is Back there Someday, after the song from The Muppet Movie. I don't remember ever not loving this song. I think it may predate Bruce.

One is Ask Me, from the poem by William Stafford. I'm not sure what it means, or I'm not good at putting it into words. But it means something now, and it meant everything then.

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

One is called Her Kind, after the Anne Sexton poem. Once in a poetry class we had to write a poem piggybacking another, more famous poem. I wrote one piggybacking Anne Sexton's version below. It was the best poem I've ever written by far and utterly worthless to me by virtue of its skeleton belonging to someone else.

I have gone out, a possessed witch,   
haunting the black air, braver at night;   
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch   
over the plain houses, light by light:   
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.   
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.   
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,   
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,   
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:   
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,   
learning the last bright routes, survivor   
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.   
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.   
I have been her kind.

In college, I took a writing class with Sr. Mary Dennis. It just occurred to me that the teachers who have most inspired me to find my voice as a writer have been nuns. I wonder what that means. Anyway, I took this class and we read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, who deserves her own post some day soon. It's a book about journaling, or more appropriately, writing practice. She says her personal goal is to fill a notebook a month. I was like "Seriously lady?" Granted I was taking 18 credit hours and had three jobs, the idea of filling a notebook a month was a little on the preposterous side. But for about a year, up until September of 2010, according to the entry I'm looking at just now, I did just that. Speckled composition books got too unwieldy for the speed writing I was doing, so I got the spiral kind, with Hello Kitty and Chococat and Butterflies. Stacks of words and words and words.
Natalie writes a notebook a month, no matter what else she's working on. To which I say, "Seriously, lady?" I've been writing a novel since roughly September of 2010. Granted I spend 40 hours a week writing at work, and I've got the blog, and then I've got to squeeze in noveling, but I do feel something missing, like my writing would be better if I were still journaling. 
Stephen King says he tries not to spend more than six weeks on each book. Granted, in some of those books, it really shows, but man... I don't see myself being done with the thing by September of 2011. I'll be thanking my lucky stars if I finish before April 2012.
All of which makes me wonder whether I'm doing this thing right.
Funny, though. My novel's a thriller, a mystery, a romance. Exactly the sort of thing I would have considered selling out, back in my intellectual English major days. It's not Art, you know. But it's what came to me. It's the story my mind wants to tell.
I'm being all sorts of rambly and not so much with the informativity. Ah well. I'm a writer. It's my prerogative to ramble.
I'm a writer, dude. Saying that never, ever gets old. I'm a writer.

My first tattoo


Bonnie Jacobs said...

Is your tattoo a quill? In high school, I joined the writer's club, which we called the Pen and Quill, or some such. I seem to remember "quill" in the name, anyhow. I'm also a writer, dude. A published writer, even, since the mid-1960s. And that doesn't count the stuff published in school newsletters and literary magazines when I was in junior high, senior high, and college. Ramble on, my friend. I enjoy what you have to say.

Things to Do said...

I wish I were more disciplined, I read about people who write according to schedule, but I'm so much more of a sporadic writer. I journal when I get inspired but then silence. Can't wait to hear more on your progress.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to say that I saw something else you wrote on a feed. Thank you.

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

Working on a bigger, better version. I didn't feel like I was doing it justice.

The Vegetable Assassin said...

That damn Harriet was responsible for me keeping journals as a kid too. She was so cool. I also liked to pack a tiny rucksack and carry useful spy tools ready for any adventure.

Good luck with your novel. I keep stopping and starting one, myself. I too would like to write something artistically satisfying but I still end up writing some kind of chick lit. :) Hey it's writing.

Nicholas J. Carter said...

Did 4,000 words on my latest story today. Read it and weep. Someone has to.