On Writing: Why Prewriting Matters

deskIn the past, my writing style typically leaves out the all important first stage of writing—pre-writing.  When I write, I tend to write and then rewrite but rarely ever do I engage in pre-writing.

Needless to say, when I started taking creative writing classes at UMass Amherst UWW, I learned that I was cutting out an integral part of the writing process. Jumping right into the writing phase works if you know what you are going to write about, but when you’re stuck pre-writing frees up space and opens up the creative channels.

Reading Chapter 1 of Connie Griffin’s text, To Tell The Truth in my Magazine Writing class gave me a keener understanding of how to use pre-writing as a strategy to break free from writer’s block. The creative process needs the freedom to be expressive, and pre-writing can be seen as a fun exercise in letting go, while also trusting one’s subconscious in a “nonjudgmental and forgiving” way. (p. 5)

The Getting Started (p. 6 – 7) section in Chapter 1, helped me to understand that pre-writing is comparable to a dancer warming up with exercise and practice, or a painter sketching in a rough outline on his canvas in preparation for creating his painting using the tools of his craft. When seen in that light, I suddenly found how pre-writing should and could fit into my process. Continue reading

Writers on Writing: Jane Bernstein

Reading Jane Bernstein’s essay “How and Why” brought to mind my own very speculative mind and spirit that is in constant query as to the how and why’s of things. As a writer, my speculative mind and spirit causes me to look deeper into my own heart and mind, and I feel that it also grants me a strong intuitive mind that understands what is deep within other minds, connecting me to depths of humanity and life itself.  Reading “How and Why,” I could identify with Bernstein’s running, in that I walk, to clear my mind and “mull” things over. (Griffin p. 11)

When I am walking outside in nature, I lose myself into the landscape that envelops me as though I am one with it. When I am walking outside in nature, I tune out any extraneous real world soundtrack and tune into the concerto of bird song or the rustle of the leaves or marsh grasses whispering in the soft breeze or perchance keening in the wicked wind. My mind becomes clear, empty in that process of immersing myself in nature and it is then that I mull, as Bernstein does when she is running. There is a space in a clear mind that creates from a point deeper, more connected to the soul, which is a vital point of connection needed to write in the first person about one’s self and life.

Jane Bernstein’s essay “How and Why” is available in Connie Griffin’s book “To Tell the Truth: Practice and Craft in Narrative Nonfiction.” This book has been my go to book throughout the past two years studying Creative Writing at UMass Amherst University Without Walls. It has also served as textbook and reference book for four classes I have taken with Connie Griffin, including two core classes, Frameworks of Understanding and Writing for Experience, as well as Magazine Writing and Creative Non-fiction. 

The practice of reading other writers on their struggles with their craft is so helpful. All writers struggle with finding their voice, creating the right space to work in, shutting out their inner critic and getting past self-doubt. Those are just a few of the issues that writers face. As I continue to work through my own issues with writing and work to shape my first memoir, look for more posts here on Writers on Writing.

Quote of the Day: Joan Didion

Writing has always been a part of me. Thoughts I could not express in verbally came easier to the page. Yet I still struggled to understand that writing was part of the integral path in my life that cried out for me to follow. I follow that path now, struggling sometimes to force the words to the page, and hoping that those words resonate with others. Sometimes it feels like I looking for something hidden deep within a haystack. I persevere. I draw inspiration from memoirist’s like Joan Didion as I work on my own memoir.

I knew that I was no legitimate resident in any world of ideas. I knew I couldn’t think. All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was. Which was a writer.  ~ Joan Didion

haystack

Food For Thought: The Road of Life

hitting the road

I often muse on the road or path that our lives follow for the road and the path such perfect metaphors for the trajectory of our life. Where we go in our life, what we do, the detours we take, these are all aspects of traveling through our lives to get somewhere, or to just be, to just be in the moment and savor the journey.

Today, I remind myself that as I travel the road of life, I am grateful for the varied terrain, the gentle slopes, the tough hills, the steep canyons, the winding roads and the clear path ahead that have all been a part of my life. The journey was never meant to be easy. Continue reading

Musings: Stone Walls

There are troubles, that brew in my heart and mind, which are weightier than the stones stacked precariously upon each other forming centuries old walls across the landscape. I question the existence of my troubles as I question where did these stone walls come from?

stone wall

Who moved these stones from place to place to build these walls that block my path? Who took these stones from the earth and stacked them just so, creating boundaries where once there were none.

I am a woman with few boundaries, except when it comes to my heart, which I shield with stone walls, keeping love a bay. This is my truth, though I rarely speak it.  Continue reading

Old Dories on the River Bank

old dories on river bank

The two old dories sat patiently on the river bank, watching guard over the dory floating quietly in the river, tied to the dock below.

“One day you’ll join us here,” the two old dories said.

The dory in the river replied, “I know, but for now I’ll just be here in the moment. Peaceful and still on the river.”