Archive for July, 2019

Steering My Craft: Sound of Words Part 2

July 31, 2019

This blog post is part of an effort to refine my own work as a writer. For each exercise, I’ll provide the directions, my effort, and a short reflection.

The Assignment: Write a(nother) passage that wants to be read aloud, this one dealing with a particular action, feeling, or emotion. Here’s where I landed:

Yes.
Please.
Thank you.
Tight words, terse voice, hunched shoulders, a tightrope walk of everyday actions and interactions carefully strung together: brow set, breath held, until-

Until alone, when the pin pricks begin, poking, pulling, needling, loosening, then unraveling the grief that has wrapped, spooled, tangled and knotted itself in and around her heart. She senses a slackening, and before she can catch the strings they have spun out and away, leaving her naked, open, in a shuddering, deepening darkness.

It is there she sits until she is ready to gather threads, knit herself back together and back into the world.

My Reflection: Grief always seems to follow me, nosing its way into my writing. Even though the topic itself is a weighty one, I had fun with this exercise, and I like how the imagery of knitting came up as I was working.

Steering My Craft: Exercise 1-The Sound of Words

July 28, 2019

This blog post is part of an effort to refine my own work as a writer. For each exercise, I’ll provide the directions, my effort, and a short reflection.

The Assignment: To craft a short passage that asks to be read aloud. The object is to have fun playing with words and their sounds. Here’s what I came up with:

She stepped off the ship and drank of the air. Not the polite, genteel sips of a carefully-poured glass of wine, but the deep, full-thirsted gulps of clear, teeth-chilling water. Filling her lungs full, fuller, fuller, she began to wonder when she had last truly breathed, or if she had truly breathed, or when her lungs had last known how joyous it was to quench their thirst. Or…had they ever?

My Reflection: I enjoyed this exercise, and I think I crafted a passage that uses the sound of language well. At least, I know that I can hear the words when I write them, and I do enjoy reading it aloud. Did I go so far as to play with words? Mmmm…I’m thinking I may have stopped short there. Perhaps I’ll revisit this one with more of a playful eye – and ear.

Steering my Craft: Ground Rules

July 26, 2019

I’m excited to spend time working on my own writing over the next several weeks in the hope of becoming a stronger writer. But I won’t lie. The task is daunting, and I’ll have to face my demons.

Perfectionism: I get so caught up in my ideal vision that I either won’t begin, or I’ll mire myself too deeply in self-doubt and revision. That, or I’ll chicken out before sharing because my inner voice is a jerk. C’mon. Nobody wants to read that stuff.

Shiny Toy Syndrome: When I was a Campfire Girl, I had to recite the Bluebird Pledge. The hardest promise? “To remember to finish what I begin.” It’s easy to get on a kick, but it’s harder to maintain the discipline to see it through, especially when things get tough.

Self-Worth: As a mom, teacher and grad student, it’s easy to let other roles and obligations overshadow my own personal development. So when I do have time and mental space, it’s easy to sit back with a book, or to catch up on dumb TV, or scroll through a Twitter feed because I’m not obligated to anyone. Trick is, that leaves me. I need to honor my obligation to me.

So, as I begin, here’s how I’m going battle these demons. My plan:
1. Write something every day. Even if I don’t like what I write.
2. Complete exercises from the book at least 2 times a week.
3. Avoid revising the exercises, unless it’s called for. (This one will be difficult. I’ve already revised this post four times.)
4. Share all of my exercises, even if I don’t like what I wrote.

<<inhales>>
<<exhales>>
<<dips toe into water>>
<<shivers>>
<<shrugs>>
<<holds breath>>
<<leaps>>

Steering My Craft

July 24, 2019

I’ve long had a resistance to writing fiction. I’m not quite sure what it is, but perhaps it’s because it’s like art in many ways. I might see a horse in my head, but I can’t get myself to produce what I see. Similarly, I can’t get myself to create fiction that matches the movie I see in my head.

As a writing teacher, I carry a lot of guilt about this. I’ve been trying to write alongside of my students, to go through the process that they do. It helps me understand the magnitude of what I’d really asking them to do. Plus, I’m not going to lie. It gives me a bit of street cred when they see I can write too.

It’s so easy when we’re working on personal narrative or poetry. And I can pre-write fiction with the best of them. But when my kids launch full-on into their stories? They leave me in the dust, marveling at their fearlessness.

I’m determined to make this the year that I draw upon my students’ courage and challenge myself more fully as a writer. It’s time to get brave.

This summer, I’ve committed to improving my own writing through the exercises set forth in Ursula K. LeGuin’s Steering the Craft: A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story. * I’ll be posting my experiments in this blog, and I’ll hopefully use my learning with my students.

I welcome any feedback. And, if you’re up for writing along with me, send me a link to your work. I’d love to read it!

Bon Voyage.

©Lainie Levin, 2019

*Thanks, storyteller extraordinaire Sue Black, for the original inspiration to take up this challenge.