April was National Poetry month. Writer’s Digest online magazine posted a daily writing prompt on their poetry blog and interested writers composed a poem on that subject du jour, for example, begin, settle, city, monster. Shortened to PAD, April was a month of deliberate, mindful writing.
In the aftermath of Poem A Day, I picked up a couple books set aside for the duration. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett is a collection of essays about writing life and then on to adopting a dog, a husband, a collection of interesting people, not necessarily nice strangers, but attention-grabbing. Patchett’s observations on writing describe her maturation from beginning wordsmithery to studying and writing fiction.
“Why is it that we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration?...If a person of any age picked up the cello for the first time and said, ‘I’ll be playing in Carnegie Hall next month!’ you would pity their delusion, yet beginning fiction writers all across the country polish up their best efforts and send them off to The New Yorker.”
Patchett also writes, “If a person has never given writing a try, they assume that a brilliant idea is hard to come by. But really, even if it takes some digging, ideas are out there. Just open your eyes and look at the world.”
As sometimes happens when reading, my mind left the page and taking a curved left turn, remembered The Pen and the Bell, Mindful Writing in a Busy World, by Brenda Miller and Holly J. Hughes. Specifically Chapter Six, “Practice, Practice, Practice”, where Brenda describes a change in her yoga practice, “My body retained the memory and the poses felt different.” She continues, “Now I think of writing the same way. Once you reach a certain comfortable level in your writing, it can be tempting to stay there…That’s fine for a while. But at some point we want to push ourselves further or find a coach who will guide us to another level. To feel ourselves stretching.”
This month of poetry definitely stretched me; now I have the challenge of merging practice writing with a balanced life and see what shape my writing takes. For her contribution to Chapter Six, Holly offers a compatible insight from a weekend workshop in the North Cascades, “Sit, Walk, Write: Nature and the Practice of Presence.” “…during one of our periods of meditation, I sat on a low, flat rock above the lake at the end of the log boom, noticing how the surface is agitated outside the log boom, serene within. It seems a perfect analogy for the last few days; we’ve seen how sitting, walking, and writing in silence enables these ripples to smooth out, at least until the next disturbance comes along.”
What follows Brenda and Holly’s observations in each chapter are contemplation practices and writing practices offering opportunities to build personal experience into each chapter’s theme. My month-long experience of pushing words around a specific foci has left me needing the contemplation, the deep breathing, the being that will allow more words to flow to the paper. PAD 2014 was a marathon effort and I’m glad I succeeded. But replenishment and balance will bring ideas, and with deliberate practice, satisfactory writing.
Write. v., wrote; written or writ; writing. 1. to trace or form characters, letters, words, etc. on the surface of some material, as with a pen, pencil, or other instrument or means. 2. to express or communicate in writing; give a written account of. 3. to fill in the blank spaces with writing: to write a check. 6. to produce as author or composer. Some special verb phrases are: write down, write off, write out, write up, write-in.