Tag: writing

Getting Past Your Doubts to Finish

My main, aka longer form project that I am working on right now is about baby sleep, or more like surviving it when you have the most horrible sleeper on the block.

I’m passing through the middle, where I start to think, I think it’s getting boring? Who is going to want to read this anyway?

My thought process of hanging in there goes something like, I’m trying to get it out of my system, clear my mental desk, and keep the pipeline going. Besides, I do have a few things to say about the topic, which is why I stuck with it so far.

Sharing a couple of sources that I feel much comfort from in this state:

This diagram from Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon (stolen from Maureen McHugh) that tells me that’s the way it usually is.

And this quote from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

Even if you made a truly rotten piece of art, it may be a necessary stepping-stone to your next work. Art matures spasmodically and requires ugly-duckling growth stages.

And yes, you do learn from actual writing and finishing. More than from any reading or learning about various advice and tips.

What I Learned from Putting Together Two Little Books of Poems

An Appreciation of Poetry Collections

It all started when I was sifting through my notes of hundreds of scraps of rhymes written over the years. I had thought of these as almost throwaway pieces but for some reason on this day I opened my mind to considering what these could become and realized that they clustered into a few themes. 

Turns out, there is an art form to stringing together all those separate pieces into a cohesive whole. Even with the very same pieces, their order may give them a whole new meaning.

I found myself moving back and forth between four different activities. 

1. Deciding what to include or exclude in a particular collection. 

2. Editing the poems.

3. Ordering the pieces. Considering the themes, repeating words, contrasts, lengths or strengths of the poems, and a sense of narrative or growth and evolution.

4. Writing new poems. Just going through the poems as a whole sparked new ideas. Other times I wrote to fill a hole in the collection.

The first time I tried this, with Techtopia, the process took months. Even though it is chapbook length and has one fairly clear theme. How to order the pieces was a real headache and I tried many different versions. Many times it came down to some hard to explain feeling.

The second time with Nothing Wrong the ordering was a bit easier as there was some sense of chronology and changes in understanding. I also trusted my intuition more. Still this too took a few months as I found myself writing more pieces to add to the collection. Granted, I only had short bursts of time each day to work on the project.

As with anything, trying this myself gave me a much bigger appreciation to what is involved in putting out a book of poetry as opposed to just writing individual pieces. Even before things like cover design, thinking of a compelling title and even chapter titles, the front and back matter of the  book, and other nitty gritty details of publishing that will enhance the whole experience and bring more clarity to the overall vision.

For me, poetry has the fewest of words that take the longest to read and also to write. It may take a surprisingly long time to build up a collection, years even decades. It was validating to hear of the “tectonic pace of the poet” but I can’t recall where I encountered this. Of course there are prolific exceptions. But in general, word count has little meaning in the world of poetry. 

I also noticed that compared to prose books, a book of poetry requires much more effort into formatting. Making sure it looks just so in each format, even though mine don’t have that much visual elements.

This is also why I’d like more people to create, even if it’s not “good enough”. Because we learn so much more when we try to make things ourselves compared to when we simply consume what others have made. You also enjoy a deeper level of appreciation and comprehension of others’ work as well.

Many thanks to this article by April Ossmann, poet and editor, which I referred to multiple times throughout the process when I had no idea what I was doing.

Side Projects as Creative Problem Solving

There are times when I get sidetracked to a totally new or long forgotten interest. I become quite consumed with it. At least for awhile I act like I just might make a plunge into this totally new field. It may be why neither myself or anyone else around me could make any sense of what I’m supposed to do. I finally realized though, it just may be my way of solving or enduring through an obstacle. Following are some phases that I went through and what I think they were attempting to solve.

1. Gardening and the Initial Creative Process

Gardening teaches patience for due time for new life forming. You may doubt the potential of a seed invisible under ground, but most of the time, with patience and tending, it eventually grows, blooms, and becomes whatever it was meant to be. At the difficult point in the beginning of a creative process where you can’t see where you’re headed, gardening was at once a distraction and a concrete reminder of the process of making something new.

2. Cooking and Writing

Writing I feel is quite close to cooking. Perhaps that’s why quite a few writers cook or bake. The material for writing: love, hurt, disappointment, the cycle of life, the pursuit of dreams, is shared by most people. Just like the many common food ingredients: meats, fish, vegetables, grains, herbs and spices. What each person makes of it though, is what makes all the difference. Depending on the ingredient, you could enjoy it raw, or you may go through more and more elaborate cooking processes. Elaborate cooking may impress people, but if the ingredient is of exceptionally high quality, simpler cooking may be the better choice.

3. Painting and Recording

Music recording, especially with today’s technology is similar to painting. Each different sound is like a different color that you use to create the soundscape. When I was stuck and not making progress because I got overwhelmed by all the technicalities, painting gave me a hands on way of thinking about this. And gave me some possible ideas to overcome the obstacles in getting started and making progress.

4. Jigsaw Puzzles and Multiple Projects

When you have varied interests and many projects that you dabble in it can be easy to get discouraged and wonder if something is wrong with you. Jigsaw puzzles are a great reminder that while each piece on its own does not seem to make a lot of sense, all those pieces will eventually come together into a complex whole.

First Post

It took a decade to finally write this post.

My first inkling that I wanted to write was more than a decade before that.

So what happened?

Why was I stuck for years, even decades?

I think I finally have a clue and would like to try and share what I’m learning more openly.  I’m sure there are others like me, who need to dig deeper than most to free themselves from the yoke of forced silence.