Archive for February, 2009

Like most writers, I keep a notebook in my purse to capture story ideas, pieces of dialogue, possible names of characters and plot ideas that occur to me during the day. I also keep a list of road signs and whatever that, to me, have possible symbolic significance to life in general. A recent sign in the window of a clock maker was “Grandfathers and Cukoos Fixed here.” They weren’t taking referrals… to my disappointment. One of my favorite sayings for the writing life, perhaps not really a sign but certainly a frequently used saying, is “Must Be Present to Win.” To me this is advice for the writing life…that one has to be present, at the computer, ready to work every day. Even if nothing results, the muse cannot find you if you are not in your usual place.


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One of my favorite memories is my first writers conference–the AWP in Austin, 1987. I had been reviewing books of poetry for the Kansas City Star for the last three years. Since I was recently divorced, the income meant a lot, and the editor sent me every single new poetry book for about five years. What riches.

At the conference, I started seeing people whose images were on the back covers of those books–Stephen Dunn, Jonathan Holden, Steve Corey, Art Homer, Patricia Goedicke, many others. For me this was a thrill. This continues to be a good conference, although it just does not have the intimacy of those early years.

Conferences are a chance to enjoy the company of like-minded people. I have a rule that I have no ambition at these conferences–no manuscripts to send around nor job aspirations. That works for me. I hope some others in the Chicago area can attend either the conference or some of the events open to the public. See: http://www.awpwriter.org/conference/2009sched.php Denise

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I am reading a wonderful book, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield.  It might just as easily be titled “Choosing Yourself”.  

The book is about Resistance (his caps, not mine), which manifests itself as procrastination, unhappiness, fear, fundamentalism, and more.  The author describes it perfectly.  I saw myself in almost every page.  The second part of the book is about turning from amateur to professional, which is his way of overcoming Resistance.  And the third part is about the allies we have in the war.

I generally object to using a war metaphor.  I believe that we give energy to what we focus on, and I don’t want to give any energy to war in the world.  This metaphor works for me in this book, however.  Resistance is a seductive enemy, one I’ve dealt with all my life.  I welcome ways to help me out of its clutches.

The book is very short, and at first I gulped it down.  Now I’m going slowly, rereading and thinking.

I started reading it on Wednesday night, and I’ve worked on my novel each day since then.  That’s only three days, but it’s a good start.

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I heard a riveting interview with author John Edgar Wideman while driving home from Sioux Falls, South Dakota today. He was on Minnesota Public Radio talking about writing. He said that, as writers, we can’t control how well we write, but we can control the energy and discipline we put into our writing. He also mentioned that the publishing industry is feeling the same squeeze as bus drivers, secretaries and steelworkers. But that it doesn’t matter. All it takes is one reader and one book. That’s all we can hope for. To connect with that one reader. He also reminds us that just like every basketball game starts at 0-0, every day we write, we start from the beginning. We fight the same fears, the same doubts each day even if just yesterday we won a Pulitzer prize.

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