Monday, July 22, 2013

Creating a Daily Writing Habit

Hello, dear reader. If you're still with me, well by gosh and golly gee, you must really like me, my poetry, and/or my silly little blog musings. It's been a while, and even before then updates were less frequent. I can't promise to be more frequent, though I should promise. Not-blogging is similar to not-calling a friend you haven't spoken to in a while: the more you wait, the more awkward you feel about reaching out.

Well, awkwardness be gone!

Writing has always come to me in waves. poetry, blogging, essays, stories, emails, descriptions of pretty hair accessories - whatever I'm writing, the words are never steady. I'm a good writing-sprinter. This process works for many, many writers.

A few weeks ago I decided it doesn't work for me anymore.

If you know me, you're probably used to my dramatic, sweeping lifestyle changes. Every few years or so I have a new job, life path, hobby, partner, apartment, and favorite snack (Triscuits!). But these things have remained mostly the same after year one here in San Francisco. Still a poet, 4+ years with Sal in the same apartment (good god I never want to move again). And while the last two years were full of many new things, as I begin my third year in San Francisco this month, I realize that I've kinda got this down. Perhaps that's why I'm doing so well with starting a new daily-writing habit.

My new friend (ok...) therapist pointed out last month that it seems like I don't take my writing seriously. How could this be?! All I do is writing-related! And that's it right there. Related. Not writing, not mine. I've got Submission Bombers, Weave, teaching, copy writing, readings, submitting, etc. but none of these things boil down to Butt-In-Chair (BIC) Time (trademark pending...).

Most of the time, I decide to do something and then do it for a day and then forget. Or I do it for 5 minutes and get distracted. Occasionally I do it for a few weeks and then forget. And sometimes I decide to do something and I do it. Today. Yesterday doesn't matter (though I'm proud of it), tomorrow will come (though I do prepare for it). Today is most important. Today I spent four hours in a cafe (mostly) writing, which included the following exercises:

  • revising old poems
  • revising more recent poems
  • reading old journal entries
  • writing word lists
  • pilfering words from the Hayes Valley Newsletter
  • pilfering words from word lists
  • writing 11-syllable lines
  • turning 11-syllable lines into a sonnet

I also spent time doing the following non-writing things:

  • writing postcards (doesn't count as creative writing for now)
  • posting pictures of tea and breakfast to Instagram
  • Tweeting too much
  • IMing with Sal about Justin Timberlake & Jay Z concert tickets
  • securing said Justin Timberlake & Jay Z concert tickets (24th row!)

My estimate would be at least 2/3 of my time was spent on writing, which is pretty good for me. I'm not so distracted because small exercises like word lists or 11-syllable lines count as writing time. I never have to draft a poem even. It helps that I'm reading Jane Hirshfield's Nine Gates simultaneously. She describes both boredom and interest as distractions. I don't write because I desperately want to in these morning hours: I write because it's my job, my art, my life-work. I'm developing habits so that later in life I'm not struggling with the same old tired issues, and I can learn to concentrate, in that poem-making way, on what it is I have to say.
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