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Process

I’m becoming more and more conscious of my process as a creative writer, and what practices are beneficial or counterproductive for me. 

Excerpted from my weekly response: 

DeSalvo’s discussion of contemplation, discipline and ritual (p 100) in terms of developing a sustainable, meaningful writing practice was the most valuable takeaway for me. For the past few years, I have made several unfulfilled attempts to write and submit the work I had produced without getting published. The primary culprit was a lack of discipline - I would generally write when the inspiration hit me, rather than integrating it into my life in a balanced way. When I stopped getting ideas, I would become discouraged about my calling to be a writer. Or, I would engage in behaviors that compromised my mental health just to feel something worth writing about, yet my mental state would be too scrambled to permit me to even write about it in intuitively. That’s a huge reason why I signed up for a writing class, so I could have a regular deadline to meet that would encourage me to plan my schedule to effectively write, without relying on precarious stimuli.

Related to that, I am beginning to develop a ritual after observing my habits on a weekly basis and adjusting things to improve my ability to write creatively. For instance during the first week, I didn’t get started on the readings until a couple of days after they were posted, and when I started writing, I felt like I didn’t have too much time to process the readings and I felt rushed to meet the deadline. I also put a lot of pressure on myself to write at a high standard, and was frustrated when I didn’t feel I was achieving that. Since then, I have given myself more time to read and synthesize the material, and have given myself more realistic standards of the work I can produce now, which makes me feel more comfortable with getting out of my head and just getting words on paper that I might not even use at the moment, but could be valuable later.

With writing, I have often found that I would start with an idea or an area of expertise and then develop a narrative around that; I feel that incorporating contemplation as a way to learn from what we end up writing about will reduce the pressure and expectation I put on myself to start something to be a finished piece, and allow myself to just write freely and be open to whatever comes out of it. 

DeSalvo also highlights the importance of a process journal, so that we can look at our work from the outside and see what it is doing to us as a writer and as a person. That’s kind of why I started this blog in the first place - because I was determined to track my progress as a writer. But without having a sense of discipline and ritual, my contemplation fell short. I am going to try to this blog justice as my process journal.

For instance, last week’s submission was far less agonizing. Even though Krystle was visiting, I gave myself enough time to do the readings and let the ideas percolate before I sat down to get some words out on the page. Even though I didn’t end up using the first few hundred words I wrote, I avoided the anxiety of sifting through those unneeded words at the last minute to get to the heart of what I wanted to write about. By the time Monday came along, I found the story I was looking for, and on Tuesday I found the words to breathe life into that story. I wasn’t working until the deadline, I was pretty much done in the afternoon and had the rest of the evening to enjoy my time with Krystle. 

I’ve replicated that this week, working on writing exercises just for practice, and tomorrow I am going to begin editing my submission. It’s becoming more and more manageable to see myself as a writer—not getting ahead of myself and seeing myself as someone trying to get published, but rather seeing me write on a regular basis towards the completion of a project that is meaningful and important to me. 

Transformational Writing

I’m in my second week of my UCLAx course in Transformational Writing. My first submission was due on Tuesday and it was agonizing to get through. The nature of the writing in this course is using writing as a way of healing - treating traumatic issues in detail, being specific about certain events and how they made us feel; connecting those two things is paramount in this type of writing. 

My first submission was about the first time I saw a psychiatrist. I had a hard time thinking about how to be specific, at least in terms of sensory description. In that state, back in 2007, I existed in a fog so it was really difficult for me to remember certain details. 

I am thinking about writing from more of my present struggles, as they are happening and seeing how effectively I could do that, since I can kind of access those memories more easily, and they aren’t processed as much. That’s something I want to play with, but I can bet I will find some trigger points when I come across subject matters that make me shut down. Namely, immigration, which is largely what I’d like to tackle anyway. 

In my free write, I think I came to the conclusion that if I were to pursue an MFA, it would be me using the resources I had - my creativity and financial support from my family - to achieve my goals. If I were a different person, I would have different resources to work with, like perhaps more mental stability and professional drive, which might lead me more down a path in an office or some sort of employment that would get me sponsorship. It was hard for me to accept this before, because I felt the guilt of being a financial burden on my family and I was down on myself about not being able to get my shit together enough to pursue work, but I need to move past that. Also, the work that I do want to do is more creative writing in nature, so I think taking this time while I have it to re-organize my brain and focus on a lifestyle change that I can devote to writing might be good for me. I should be happy to be so fortunate that my mom and aunt are giving me this opportunity - just the way I might feel happy if I had greater mental stability to tackle an office job. 

It’s time for me to stop beating myself up about what I don’t have and make the most of what I do have, and for now that is time and family support. And with it, I will write. 

Excerpt from today’s journal entry pertaining to writing

…i’m also planning to celebrate canada day with jolene tonight. it appears that her apt has a volleyball court and fire pit because she mentioned something about playing volleyball and making smores. i also have the motive to use this as a therapeutic session to chat with her and others about our visa situations and what we’re doing to make it in america. i hope that will give me some perspective and hope. i also hope i don’t get distracted from my creative writing dream.

i’m meeting with suzanne tomorrow at annenberg for some guidance about how i can stay afloat until i get a green card. since i emailed her a couple of weeks ago to set the appointment, i have been resolute on pursuing the antioch mfa. even when i was talking to erin about moneymaking career paths i could take that might satisfy my creative hunger, i was still set. i hope that my meeting tomorrow will also give me some perspective and hope without distracting me, the way i have been distracted these past few summers.

i start my creative writing course next week, so i think that should keep me on track too. i need to focus on that, rather than perhaps taking a copywriting workshop. 

before i see suzanne, i have the 826 ell camp training. if i get good vibes from it, i think i can commit myself to volunteering everyday throughout july. i think that is something that will keep me in the creative writing mindset and also focus on how it can be used to serve the community, and perhaps give me even more fodder for my antioch application. i know i have always been strategic about these things as long as i maintain focus, and since my focus was so diffuse when i was on the antidepressant trial i’ve been out of practice, but i think the more i push myself, i can make this happen.

bernadette from antioch gave me a reading list of work that was completed while in the program. i’m glad to have started a dialogue with her, she’s been readily available each time i’ve reached out to her. that in and of itself is a positive sign about the support i’d receive in that program.

i’m sitting on this patch of grass that was once in the shade, but is not so much anymore since the earth rotated a few degrees. i don’t know whether or not to sit here and wait till it rotates a bit more, or follow in its path and move my blanket to where the shade went. it’s pretty fucking annoying as it is beautiful to type with the sun in your eyes. 

i decided to shift back into a pocket of shade that i hope is protected from the earth’s rotation. 

i read one of the memoir essays from the list that bernadette sent to me. it was about an la teacher and his plight to feed students with knowledge much like the lunchero was feeding them with affordable, nutritious food. i’m trying to pace myself through reading from the list bernadette sent because i want to process learning/writing points from each of them.

i also started reading just kids for the cocktail philosophers book club. i am so glad that i am not only able to feel but also think critically about the use of language and poetic devices because patti smith’s memoir is rife with them. i’m only one chapter in, but i’ve highlighted many phrases and techniques and jotted a couple of notes in the digital margins of my kindle copy. i’m torn between pacing myself and binge reading it. it’s a fairly quick read so i think i can accomplish a combo of both. one or two chapters today, one or two tomorrow. one or two the next. 

i’m looking forward to this writing course because, although i’m conscious of the techniques being used and what they accomplish, i have yet to thoughtfully synthesize how i can creatively apply them to my own work. 

i did a free write last night followed by a rework to the introduction of one of the short stories i conceptualized and made some progress but also found myself stuck before i freed myself from that process to go on a walk with lani. getting stuck in general has always been crippling to me, and plunged me into several depressions. the fear of getting stuck creatively has preempted so many of my attempts to seriously pursue a creative writing practice, but now i am committed to facing that fear and seeking ways to either avoid that creative stuckness or ways to work through them and not getting discouraged so easily….

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