Tag Archives: practice

November 2022

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another, and evenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations. (Anaïs Nin, 1903 – 1977)

So many months–18!–since last I posted here. Y’all know all the climatological, viral, and political shenanigans that we are all operating under, with, beside. Those are nothing new under the sun, in the big picture, though yes yes yes the speed of climate change is human-sparked. Not so speedy as a meteor crashing into the planet but still. We are influential.

Re: influence: I asked my elder young-adult son for his perspective on his role, as a white male with all its attendant privileges, what he sees as his role as vis-a-vis BIPOC, and he thought and then said he tries to not take up space. H’mmm, I thought, maybe that’s what I’ve been doing by not-blogging: I’m not-taking-up-space.

Being silent is a form of influence, too. The silent treatment was regularly deployed in my family of origin and to this day silence triggers my body’s fight-flight-freeze response. (Which I will refer to from now on as the FFF response. Which sounds, IMO, the way I feel when panic is short-circuiting my nervous system. I often also say f*ckf*ckf*ck so this works on two levels.)

I can notice this reaction before choosing my response more frequently than I used to. I often opt to ask a question, or just take a breath and wait.

But when I received a “friend” request from someone I knew years ago, someone who is one of my #metoo experiences, I FFFed and freaked and blocked and chose silence rather than engagement.

And then felt cowardly, wimpy, weak: I don’t even have the ability to say no, retroactively! On the other hand, maybe that was a case of manifesting my body’s wisdom: life’s too short to engage with someone who no longer has no influence over me or others.

I argued both sides of that proverbial coin in a long conversation with an old friend, a conversation wherein I was the opposite of silent, and her influence helped me untangle myself. Steady myself. Re-orient myself.

Nothing new under the sun, indeed. We hurt each other. We learn from each other. We need each other.

May it be so.

It’s been a year + …

… since I’ve posted a blog. My silence due to a combination of overwhelm logistically, personally, professionally, with a dollop of self-doubt on all fronts.

My last post, about being kind to ourselves and giving ourselves permission to disengage from situations and individuals that damage us, received an ugly anonymous response (I don’t allow anonymous and/or hate-full comments). Since then, I’ve heard that some experience my reflections about my difficult experiences as “white woman tears” and thus not worth considering.

And I bought into that. I thought: I’m a person of privileged social, economic and educational class. I don’t really suffer. I don’t have anything to offer to the unfolding bedlam. I put my head down, finished my MFA, quit blogging here, and prioritized family and personal matters.

That withdrawal put me back in a headset that I’ll call “juvenile,” reflecting that stage of development when we have inklings of our gifts, but not much mastery over them, or power in the world.

Reading Women

As when I was an actual juvenile, chronologically, I’ve spent a lot of this withdrawal reading. Muriel Spark and Zora Neale Hurston and Mavis Gallant; Deborah Levy and Penelope Fitzgerald and Zadie Smith. All writers who happened to be women, all writing despite bedlam of various degrees, all writers who tell Truth and truth.

I’ve been reminded by their Truth and truth that it’s not what others think that’s important, it’s the showing-up-and-writing that’s important. Maybe my stories will be meaningful, maybe they won’t; maybe they’ll be beautiful, maybe they won’t. But it’s not for me to say: it’s for me to write and publish.

Why have I needed to go through this cycle of self-doubt and -awareness, again? I don’t know. I wish it didn’t suck up so much of my time. But it has, and so far as I can tell, there’s nothing to be gained by lamenting what has been.

So I’m taking my own advice and sitting down and writing. Trusting the stories will show up if I do. Remembering these words from Alexandra Stoddard (note hole at the top: I’ve pinned this card to many bulletin boards in front of many writing desks):

Slow down calm down

May it be so.

Craft Matters: Timing is everything. Or is it?

We whirl through our days amidst commitments internally- and externally-imposed; some weeks we have to squeeze in our writing while waiting for the doctor, the oil change, the vet and yes that is my upcoming week.

But today I read this terrific post by Noa Kageyama, whose equally terrific blog, The Bulletproof Musician, frequently addresses matters of effective practice and discipline that applies to all of us aiming for artistry. This one looks at a study that examined how efficient learning is when it’s done at night rather than in the morning.

Don’t mess with my morning mojo, my writing muse whispered. You can’t write after three in the afternoon! I will not watch the sunset with you! 

No matter how gorgeous the sunset, my muse thinks evenings are Not a Good Time to Write. I'm going to see if she's right.

No matter how gorgeous the sunset, my muse thinks evenings are Not a Good Time to Write. Is she right?

 But the *evidence* shows that people learn and remember their learning more efficiently and effectively if they tackle it in the evening, go to bed, and then practice again in the morning. Huh. Is my muse really so special that she will be exempt from evidence-based research? Actually, is this really about my muse, that elusive spark of inspiration, or is this about the simple learning and practicing of craft?

I think it’s the latter. If I want to get the compound-complex sentence down cold (my current craft focus, inspired by David Foster Wallace’s jaw-dropping application of basic grammatical tenets), I need to learn its form and practice it.

Although I’d like to think I’m very special, I suspect that I’m no more special than anyone else when it comes to my grey matter. So based on Kageyama’s post, I am going to ignore my muse and set up some evening craft reading-learning-practicing exercise sessions for myself, followed by next-morning follow-up craft reading-learning-practicing exercise sessions.

I’ll let you know how it goes in about a month–and if you have any experiences with how you’ve learned specific writing craft, tell us all about it in comments below!