“Small Stones”: Meditative Writing to Start the New Year

A New Year discovery this morning—and yes, I know it’s not Monday Discovery day, and it’s already the tenth of January:

jan13largeKaspa & Fiona at Writing Our Way Home have launched their third Mindful Writing Challenge (previously known as the River of Stones) during January 2013. It seems a fine opportunity to quiet the mind at the beginning of each day, before the writing work or the housework or the errands or the other distractions of the day take over.

Kaspa and Fiona call these bits of writing small stones, which they define as “a very short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment.”

What a lovely idea, to stop and capture a moment, observe it for all it’s worth, and write about it. So I’ll try writing a small stone a day for the rest of January and post them here.

For January 10, there’s this:

Distant thunder. Rain sheens the deck, scattered with the last brown leaves.

Maybe this could be a haiku? That’s what “small stones” remind me of.

Distant thunder rolls.

Water sheens the deck, scattered

With the last brown leaves.

So here’s to mindfulness, always good for the writer’s eye.

How do you enter writing mode? A cup of good strong coffee? A few minutes of meditation? Tell me how you prepare your mind for the task at hand.

The Five Stages, Or Facing Up to the Re-write

Hi there.

After completing the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge, I’ve been absent from this space for a while. I wrote twenty-five posts during the challenge, many of which were emotionally grueling. (Here’s a sample post, just about in the middle: Age Twelve: The Great Void.) I’m glad I finished, although I wish I’d done what a friend of mine did. She’s stretching her memoir posts (way to go, Lara!) out over a number of weeks. Smart blogger, that one.

Anyway, I’m back, and I hope maybe you missed me a bit.

I’ve been busy re-writing–for what I hope is the final time–a 300 page novel. The bones of the novel are strong, I think, but there is this one subplot, you see, that needed to be fleshed out. And flesh I did, for several hours every day for a week.

“Child Crying And Lying On Grass” by imagerymajestic
Image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

It occurred to me during this process that facing up to a major re-write is a little like Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief. Let me explain:

First, Denial: There’s nothing wrong with this character. (Substitute subplot, setting, dialogue, structure . . .) It’s certainly not bad. Maybe it’ll squeak by if I’m lucky enough to have someone read it. Like an agent.

Then there’s Anger: How dare my readers suggest that the book needs more work! I poured my heart, my brain, my sweat and tears into it! I have carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ve had to get stronger glasses. I’ve sacrificed two years of my life! It’s done, and nobody can tell me otherwise!

Next? Bargaining: If I move this one scene about the preacher, then the problem with the flashback within the flashback within the flashback will surely go away. That’s fair, right?

Ah, Depression: “I can’t do this. I’ll never pick up a pen again. I’m worthless and stupid. Why did I ever think I could write a book? I can’t even put a decent sentence together. I can’t even spell. I don’t know a cliche from a bon mot.” Destroy the files. Shred the backup CDs. Go to bed with a bottle of wine and a good book. Somebody else’s book, of course.

Finally? Acceptance. I will go on. I’ll never be the same (poor little bruised writer-ego), but the work has to be done.

I would add a stage of my own, one I experienced over the last few weeks, and that’s Determination: I will tackle the problem, and over time, I’ll solve it. I’ll have a eureka in the middle of the night. I’ll dream the answer. I’ll write it over and over again until I get it right. Whatever it takes, I’ll get it done because it’s necessary. It’s what a writer does.

From helplessness to empowerment: yes, that’s the ticket!

Obviously, dealing with a re-write is nothing like dealing with real grief. We all know that. But in the moment, when all seems lost and the book (or story or poem or memoir) seems impossible to save, haven’t we all felt these emotions? Those who grieve eventually get on with life, and we’ll get on with the book. Won’t we!

How do you cope when you get discouraged with your writing? What or whom do you rely on to find the energy and the will to press on?

Starting Tomorrow: October Challenges!

Bring ’em on—the October challenges, that is! Starting tomorrow, I’ll participate in two writing challenges of different sorts.

 

The Submit-O-Rama is the brainchild of Khara House, poet/blogger extraordinaire at Our Lost Jungle. Khara has offered several levels of commitment so we can submit our work during October at a rate we’re comfortable with. I’m going with the one I think I’m most likely to do–the Submit-O-Rama Choice Challenge–wherein I make my own rules. And my rules will be to submit one story a week over the next month–not the same story each time!

 

 

My parents, before I was born.

 

 

The other challenge I’m subscribing to of my own free will is the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge hosted by Jane Ann McLachlan at Join the Conversation. You’ll learn more about this one and my motivation for participating when you read the first memory blog post tomorrow: a memory before the age of two! Jane Ann has encouraged us to be creative, so we’ll see how it goes.

 

 

Both of these challenges are great practices for the writing life!

Visit Khara and/or Jane Ann and join in the fun. It’s not too late! And please do come back here tomorrow to see where the memory lane leads me first!