Friday, March 31, 2017

Minding My Muse 06: Doing vs. Feeling

Priscilla Long’s Minding the Muse A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators includes the  following writing prompts at the close of the fifth chapter titled Feelings are Unimportant. I’ll admit I was taken aback by that title given I’m one who lives by emotion. But as with all of the writing prompts found in this book, I found the exploration fascinating. Perhaps you’ll give it a try yourself.
Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 38
“Do you find your work process overly influenced by your feelings? Are there times your feelings sabotage your work? Does your energy for working rise and fall according to your cycle of hope and discouragement?

September 14, 2016
My feelings are affected by life around me and my struggles to stick to some kind of regular writing schedule. My feelings also come into play with memoir in two ways. First, it’s a struggle to remember honestly and clearly the events and emotions of thirty years ago. I struggle to remember and to pull this Mexico story together. And I wonder if anyone cares, if there will be an audience. So I remind myself that I write for me, perhaps for Erin, so she knows her mother better.

Feelings also come into play, especially when I write memoir, because of my concern for the feelings of that small audience – my siblings – who will very likely read my work. The re-release of The Thirty-Ninth Victim is bad enough in their eyes, but Moving Mom followed by The Ex-Mexican Wives Club? They will not be happy that I’ve returned (as they’ll see it) to memoir. They don’t and won’t understand that I wrote Moving Mom back when Mom was still alive between 2008 and 2013. That I wrote as a tool to process those very difficult years. So I let my feelings, my fears, blind me. I try to read and edit with my siblings in mind. I try to figure out what will upset them most and I try to soften my words. This is not how a memoir should be written. Or perhaps it is. I should write with honesty and clarity, but I need not be cruel. Soon I’ll begin the re-read/edit of Moving Mom. It’s been awhile since I’ve looked at it. I’ll see it with new eyes and try to imagine how they will see it. So yes, feelings come into play.

Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 38
“Do you have way too many unfinished works? In what ways could you develop more resilience, a more steady and unflappable approach to working on your art?

If anything, I do not have enough unfinished work. I am a finisher! I have The Ex-Mexican Wives Club that I am working on, and I have stories of Erin’s childhood that I may or may not choose to do anything with. That’s it. No other projects. According to P. Long I should probably have more, but I do not work in short forms. Well, not exactly true. I have a large collection of blog posts. I should/could review and rewrite them to create a collection: Observations on Life. Another collection: Muddling Memoir. Another (already collected into one solid piece that I think I submitted): Finding Home.

There are pieces to polish, pieces I could submit for magazine publication, but it has never interested me to do so. Maybe someday, but first I want to finish the long memoirs. After that, we’ll see.

March 31, 2017 Update
As I read that last unedited paragraph from six months ago, I ponder again about diversification and the importance of regular submissions. Teaching full time requires I prioritize my writing time. I allow feelings to shape my choices. My passion: book length work. Unlike others who devour essays and short stories, I always reach for a book. Books are what I prefer reading and what I enjoy writing. I can lose myself in books. So until retirement, I will continue in the same vein.

Prior posts in this series:


Sheri Nugent said...

I never read short stories - I'm with you... I always reach for a book. The longer the better. I want the deep dive into characters. I want to get lost in the story. So keep writing books! Long ones. You have a faithful audience here. :-)

mary rowen said...

I'm feeling a lot of the same doubts as you, Arleen. After the publishing upset and then the election of #45, I began to wonder if if was worth it to write more fiction. I'd sit at the keyboard, but nothing would move from my brain to my hands, and eventually, I'd go read some more disturbing news. The biggest concern for me is finding an audience (even a small one) who'll care enough to read my work. And although I don't write memoir, the new novel I've written has a main character based on my late dad, so I'm not sure how my mother will react. My guess is that she won't like it. Oh well. For the record, I think The Ex-Mexican Wives Club sounds fascinating, and Moving Mom is probably a good book for many adults with older parents. I'll read them!!

arleen said...

Dear Sheri and Mary,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for your support. Good luck to both of you on your own creative journeys.