Monday, February 20, 2017

Minding My Muse 02

By the end of last summer I found myself in a serious writing slump. That’s when I found Priscilla Long’s wonderful new book titled Minding the Muse: A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators. I spent September reading and responding to the writing prompts at the end of each chapter. With Priscilla’s permission, I will post those prompts and my unedited responses over the next weeks.

Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 11
What is your work practice? Do you work every day? Do you place various unattainable conditions on when, where, or how you can work, resulting in a sporadic work habit? If so, how might this be improved?”

September 12, 2016
I am not working every day. I have done little actual new writing this summer, though I have completed a load of editing – four manuscripts represent a fair amount of work! It’s the morning pages and timed writing I’ve let slide, the creation of new work. In part because I want the old work re-published and in part because the new memoir is slow in coming.

I definitely place conditions on the where or when or how that I write. I feel I need to do morning pages in the morning! And when I don’t, I can’t seem to find another time to get that private writing into my routine. Maybe I could get fifteen minutes in bed instead of reading at night if I’ve skipped morning pages or thirty minutes in my campus office before leaving for home. But more importantly, I need to explore how to use the timed write/morning pages to re-enter the memoir and to create new work for the blog.

Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 11
What specific products do you aim to achieve during your next period of work (week, month, year)? What are the steps to achieving them? “

September 12, 2016
My next project is to read, edit, and submit Moving Mom. Possibly change the title. First I’ll read Marcella for Pam and share my thoughts. I’ll try to do that this week and next Moving Mom I’ll aim for Christmas, or by the end of winter break. To do that I need time at my computer reading. This is not morning pages time. This will be Fridays and Saturdays, and maybe scheduled afternoons.

At the same, I need to re-enter the Mexico memoir enough to establish startlines. These, as well as exercises from What if? These could be my startlines for Louisa’s (Fridays?) and Uptown practices.

Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 11
“Do you work on more than one piece at a time? Do you allow the pieces to interact with each other and influence each other?”

September 12, 2016
The only short pieces I do are for my blog. I tend not to submit short pieces, though I know Priscilla would insist I should. At the same time, I do let my blog and my long project (memoir or novel) as well as morning pages interact and influence each other so I suppose that’s on target. My biggest challenge is to re-enter the world of daily writing, daily focused writing. Once I do that, and once I feel my publishing schedule is as it should be, I should be able to re-enter The Ex-Mexican Wives Club as well as weekly or bi-weekly blog posts.

Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 11
“When you next complete a work, what will you do to reward yourself?” Which work will this be?”

Rewards? I’m not so good at rewarding myself. I suppose I see the book itself as the reward, or the number of views to a blog post. I see writing as a hobby rather than a job; completion makes me happy. It’s its own reward.

But then people comment on my productivity, speed, publications. Maybe I do need, or needed a break. A reward. Maybe that’s why I haven’t succeeded yet to dig deep into the Mexico years and find the story, the memories there that are needed for this third memoir. Maybe I needed this summer of distraction – Erin’s wedding, a houseful of friends and family, Booktrope going under, taking the time to re-edit before re-releasing with Bookadelphia. It’s been a long summer break from creation, and soon I need to return.

February 20, 2017 Update
I am slowing re-entering the world of Mexico 1979-1985. I continue to gather memories, and I’ve made contact with an old friend I once knew there, a friend with whom I share memories. But I question how far I should go with this searching for details through another’s memories. John Irving addresses this quandary in his memoir, The Imaginary Girlfriend:

“Of course I could phone Andre Dubus and ask him if it was his chest or Crumley’s that was splattered with Boston cream pie; I could call David Plimpton and ask him if he threw the pie, and whose chest he hit. But I believe the gaps and even the errors of my memory are truthfulness of another kind: what we fiction writers forget, or what we get wrong, is part of what a “memoir” means to us.”

Prior posts in this series:


Sheri Nugent said...

Hey Arleen - I just want you to know I check your blog every day to see if you've written something. I always enjoy your work - and am eager to read the Mexican book once you extract it from your brain. :-) Sheri

arleen said...

Thank you, Sheri. The extraction continues. A slow process.

Pamela said...

Sheri--I want to see what that book will be, too.