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.

My Writing Life: Little Red Pays a Visit

I was hoping my move to the river a few weeks ago would provide me for good inspiration for my writing. It has taken me sometime to settle in to my new place and that has been a distraction from school, and of course my writing. The inspiration is starting to kick in, I am happy to say.

Writing has been my life and I’ve never fulfilled writing what I really wanted to write about so I am working on that now while I am working on BA at UMass Amherst University Without Walls where I am majoring in Creative Writing and Communication in the Digital Age.

I had a visitor to my front porch this morning. A little red squirrel who eventually started tearing into an old cushion on beat up wicker chair with a basket of fake forsythia in it. I grabbed the cameras. And then I grabbed my big 8.5″ x 11″ journal and started writing. I”ll take it… one page at a time.

Little Red Pays a Visit: Continue reading

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Cooler weather is upon us now in many areas of the country, including New England, where I live. I find myself looking for things to cook that require turning the oven on so that I can heat up my apartment without turning on the heat yet.

I have no idea where I found this recipe (possibly my food writing class over the summer), but it sure does look good and looks easy… I think I will be trying it sometime soon and when I do, I will post more about it.

Cranberry-Pumpkin Muffins Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
½ cup chopped walnuts

Directions:
Heat oven to 400°F. Grease 12 regular-size muffin cups or line with paper baking cups.

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Stir in pumpkin, oil, eggs, cranberries and walnuts until just moist. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan to cooling rack. Serve warm.

Enjoy!

Daily Affirmations: Take Time For Myself

We all need to find and or make time for ourselves…

“Today, I will remember to stop and take time
for myself. One person can only do so much,
and I must remember that I am one person.
Today, I will pause long enough to appreciate
myself and pamper my heart and soul, if only
for a few short moments.”
– Pamela J. Leavey

I recently moved to a new apartment and I have been on the go since my move. Unpacking, arranging, finding places to put things. In addition, I have been playing catch-up with my online class at UMass Amherst UWW. I’ve finally caught-up with my classes, and the unpacking is as good as it gets for the moment. Today, it is time to take time for myself…

snowyegret

Food For Thought: Learning From The River

Decades ago I read through almost all of Hermann Hesse‘s novels hungry, in fact, voracious in my appetite for knowledge. That has not changed, for I still love to learn. Having spent my lifetime teaching myself a wide variety of things, I am now, finally, almost 3/4’s of my way through classes to finally get my B.A. in Creative Writing and Digital Communications at UMass Amherst University Without Walls. But that is a different story… Today it is about the river.

I have learned so much from the river. I live in the estuary region of the Merrimack River and I spend a great deal of time watching the river flow, sitting in deep contemplation, meditating on the lessons of life. Every day, the river shows me the meaning of going with the flow and being in the moment. It is in constant motion and it is the source of life. It is complex, it is simple, it is calm and it is powerful. It offers no opinions, it just is as Herman Hesse describes below…

“But he learned more from the river than Vasudeva could teach him. He learned from it continually. Above all, he learned from it how to listen with a still heart, with a waiting open soul, without passion, without desire, without judgment, without opinions.” – Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

sunset at point shore with heron

Sunset on the Merrimack River