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This Writing Life…

Twenty Pages.

Actually Twenty Creative Pages.

This is my commitment to writing. My commitment to me. Six days a week (I don’t write on Shabbos or Holidays). I also take a break if I’m suffering, especially when my body fails to cooperate, or when I require rest.

Some writers dedicate four or five hours a day to writing. Others measure writing through projects or completing tasks. This never worked for me. I don’t always have time nor ability to write for hours. I measure in page count.

How do I define twenty creative pages?

First, I don’t consider the following part of my “Creative Twenty”:

  1. Critical essays, writing responses for other writers.
  2. Editing for other writers.
  3. Book reviews.
  4. Blog posts.
  5. Social media posts.
  6. Curriculum development.
  7. Book proposals, bios, cover letters, etc.
  8. Marketing, business, “work” writing.

This helps me define what IS my “Creative Twenty”:

  1. Journal entries that are first drafts (I hand-write first drafts)
  2. Restructuring projects, including essays, narratives, or books.
  3. Any phase of editing or revision.
  4. Any combination of my projects. For example, I might work on a poem that is two pages in length, then flip to a ten-page essay, then diagram a new short story in my journal only four pages long. This would tally to sixteen pages and I would need to find four more pages somewhere in my life, to work in a  creative way.

Why does this approach work for me? Everyone has a method or a system of some sort. Even those without a system–THAT’S their way.  I prefer to write towards inspiration versus a start-to-finish approach. “Creative Twenty” affords me the opportunity to work on anything at anytime and then file away.

It’s the filing system that matters the most.

I currently have five book projects. Two are collections. Two are full-length novels. One is memoir. I sort my content into projects. One of my writing challenges is some material doesn’t “fit” into a category. At least not yet. Often essays or shorts turn into something more later. But sometimes they retain a “stand-alone” strength and I can submit them for publication as they are, all by themselves. I have a “finished” and “unfinished” filing system for these delectables.

The strength “Creative Twenty” offers is consistent inspiration.

I’m also a system-oriented analytical thinker. I work far better with a method in place, especially creative work, which can become daunting (to me) if not organized.

This is my writing life, how I approach the page, how I keep several working projects organized. My goal in sharing my method isn’t to encourage other writers to emulate this, but instead, to find their own way. Find a way to write that keeps you excited every time you arrive, pen in hand, blank page, blood pulsing, and a sense of eager energy to begin.

Keep the good words flowing.

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This Writing Life…

I recently wrote a 2,000 word fiction story.

In a day.

It’s fairly solid. On first read, aloud and to a colleague, it made sense. I wrote it at midnight in my journal, then woke at five a.m. and tapped it into my laptop. I set it aside for a few hours. Revised it. Corrected overuse of descriptors, reworded my “to be” verbs into something more urgent or interesting, cut unnecessary lines, the ones that proved unable to move the story forward. In the final draft, the word count totaled 1993.

It took me much longer to write the two lines of synopsis.

A day later, I submitted. Or better, I offered.

You might ask, where did this story come from? There are two answers.

The first:  a writing competition. This particular challenge gives a genre, a character, and one other device. The interpretation of each parameter offers some latitude for writers to morph for the sake of art and story. The word count must equal up to 2000 words and the turn around time for this portion of the competition is 72 hours. I love this stuff. It gets me out of my essays and into pure creation.

The second answer proves more difficult. This story has dwelled within me for almost thirty years. I’ve thought about it. Studied these characters. Absorbed the philosophy behind it. Researched answers, even in my twenties, unaware I would use this information later. I’ve marinaded this tale as I’ve walked through life. Its existence in my head began first in my heart and, sometimes, you just need the perfect prompt(s) to pull that one story out of you, to the surface, and onto the page.

The story? I’ll let you know how it measures and, if it does well, I will share.

Keep writing the good words.


This Writing Life…

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” Maya Angelou.

I was surprised with the recent publication of my essay, “Harnessed”. It wasn’t only the fact that I finally felt a writer, meeting the literary criteria of a journal. It wasn’t simply because this was a fresh piece of prose, put to the page late July in Benjamin Busch’s class at Sierra Nevada’s MFA program. There were painstaking hours spent with this work, in my early journals while in the Air Force, and later, marinading in my heart to brave up and pen it to paper. Once written, Busch asked us to surgically hone our narratives to less than half, to something so concise that only the essential story would remain.

This was tough work. But the edit did not surprise me.

What caught me off guard was the response once the piece published. The out-pour of support through texts and emails. Messages from those who knew bits of my story and secretly rooted me on from afar. Those I grew up with and those only recently met. There were also those who were concerned.

“I didn’t know you still carried so much anger, so much hatred,” someone told me.

I didn’t expect the conversation to open this way, but I realized there is a grand misunderstanding about how someone might process their own life. For me, I no longer held rage and the fact that I could write or talk about aspects of my life was proof that I was healing.

No, I haven’t written everything down about my journey. No, I don’t know that I will be able to share portions of myself, submit them for publication, even if I do draft them into an essay. No, I may never be able to open up, even to myself, and ink out the darkest times. I’m okay with all of it.

But that conversation prompted me to reach out to my family and close friends and tell them to not worry about me, that finally speaking out and breaking my own silence was a good thing, not a sign of my past wounding. The funny thing was that in the dialogues that followed, we finally cut through the quiet and talked about something that had remained unspoken. Most of them shared how they worried for me over the years and how they prayed for me and wished, somehow, they could’ve stepped in and intervened in my suffering. It was the type of talk that helped us all.

I’m thankful “Harnessed” made its mark in Gravel and out into the world. I’m full of more gratitude that in doing so, it changed and encouraged those close to me to know that I am doing all right. My hope is that it will reach those I may never cross paths, those who may have faced or are enduring similar circumstances and that, in reading this short piece, they will know that they are no longer alone. They will, I pray, have a glimpse of hope.

https://www.gravelmag.com/rebecca-evans.html


This Writing Life…

Writing is water.

I need it to survive. I find myself at the page, lost in the words. I cry and laugh aloud when I write. I put things on paper that I would never say out loud. This is my safe place, my best friend, my therapy.

I don’t feel worthy to keep a writing blog. It’s hard to arrive and feel like a writer. My hope was that in blogging about writing, especially revision, I would stay the course and finish my bigger project, my manuscript and hopefully inspire others to write as well.

But I don’t need the blog to write. I need only to write. Life water to live.

Instead, this blog has become a sort of process for anyone that needs encouragement in writing through a busy life. This year, I’ve irked quite a few people with my unavailability to preserve my treasured time, my gold nugget, my writing time. This is new to me. This is new to them too. They don’t get it. To sit, with peace, coffee, a candle and a pen is ecstasy. It is all that is needed.

I’ve spent the last two months reorganizing my files. To date, I have 52 short stories, 20 horrific poems, two screenplays, one manuscript and 12 flash fiction pieces. These are in a constant state of revision. But this organization process has given me clarity – a sense of how I can now combine these pieces–thread them, weave them–through theme and emotional arc. Part of this awareness was the realization that my manuscript, which I had hoped to revise over the summer, would be completed.

It doesn’t really work that way.

I’ve only revised half the manuscript. With that, I began to pummel “unproductive” self.

But then, half is good. These are hard revisions and I’m still in grad school and producing new material along with revising other shorts. I’m a writing-manic.

I know writers who can focus on one thing. One story. One book.

I’m not THAT writer.

My life is full of interruptions. I embrace the breaks because it is usually my children, pausing my work for a need. I love that I’m still needed by my sons.

Besides, I have to marinade ideas.

My brain soak is done in the kitchen and garden. This is the space I sort out dialogue, character development and problems with my work. I make sun-dried tomatoes with garlic from my garden or create new recipes, like smashed sweet potatoes with a hint of Wasabi. This is part of my writing process. The “think time”.

For me, this works; the interruptions and the time away from the page.

I’m learning to encourage the writer-me more, cheer her on and tell her, at the day’s end, this was a life worth living and she indeed has been “productive” enough.

Favorite passage is an excerpt from my short narrative, “Garden”:

“A new routine would begin each morning before the children woke. I’d rise, and with coffee, tend this garden. This morning was no different. I was finally here. My garden. This would become the place I could return when there were in-between moments needing filled. A place to grow a habit, something grounded, something I could count on. It offered both a sense of release and control.”

 


This Writing Life…

Three chapters revised. Twenty-nine to go. Though at this juncture, there are two chapters that I think will be entirely cut as they really do not contribute to this story. The thing that I’m loving about this process is the time that has passed since I wrote the early draft. I’m far enough removed from the material to truly rewrite and revise.

Favorite line in the last week: “She presses Zach to her chest. His heart against her. She slows her own breathing and tries to feel, maybe even hear, the little extra click in his heart.”

For other writers reading this blog, feel free to offer your input. The one aspect that I’m most struggling is the POV. I’ve gone back and forth between first and third person (limited). It is nonfiction, and I know that traditionally, nonfiction work is in first person. But I like the feel of the “hero” being un-named and in third person for numerous reasons and creative ideas.

For the remaining goals in the last week or so:

  1. I’m counting anything fluid that I consume as “water” from here on out.
  2. I’ve done either core strength, stretching or meditation daily.
  3. My weekly family excursion was to Hagerman. This was extremely exciting for my youngest son who wants to be a Paleontologist. He loved the fossils, the teeth of ancient beasts and their eating habits. We ate at the Snake River Cafe and had a picnic along the river on our return home.

The backyard “oasis” is complete! Writing and creative space near a few chimneys and firepits along with my garden and flowers. The chickens are happy. The pugs are happy. The Chiweenie and Bearded Dragon seem to be living a life of bliss.

I need to carve four hours a day to writing. This is my goal. I know, realistically, I cannot write four hours in a row…but the sprinkle of time throughout my day is what I know I need to get the job done.

Wish me luck. Offer help. Keep on writing.


This Writing Life…

Twenty-eight pages. That is a good day of revision. One of my goals with this long narrative is that each chapter can be published as a stand-alone. Today, I feel that this chapter is complete and could carry the weight of story all on its own.

Best writing for today:  “I didn’t know I had so much blood inside of me. Feeling dizzy, I tenderly lowered myself onto the glass, lying on my back as if I were used to a bed such as this. I stared at the ceiling while waiting for Mrs. Heights to come help. The ceiling was the same gray cement color as the floor. There were thick cobwebs in the corners, and the ceiling seemed lower than I remembered. I watched as a spider dropped and trembled on a thread above my face. I was afraid of spiders. I tasted bile and my body began to shake.”

I know every writer has their own system, their method to “warm up” to write. I have a beautiful fountain pen with deep purple ink and I love both the sound of it scratching on paper and the way it feels as I write in my journals. It isn’t writing in a creative manner, I’m actually copying poems from my past journals into one place. This process connects my mind to my heart, my heart to my hand, my hand to pen and finally, pen to page. It is a quiet process. And slow. I have a permanent purple ink stain on my finger where the pen rests that looks like a deep bruise. This is one of those warm ups into writing.

Family Adventure = Bowling at Big Al’s. My gutter ball was so slow that it stalled in the gutter and I had to flag down a staff member to walk onto the lane and retrieve it for me. My youngest son beat us all in the first game. My disabled son won the second. I lost every time. I consider myself the entertainment factor for bowling as I roll it down the lane carefully so I don’t hurt my neck.

Water = forget it.

Core Strength = I held in my stomach most of today.

Guitar = it hurts to play. I can strum, but not pick and am only decent at three cords to date.

New Dish = Chicken Tortellini – Kosher, of course. Coated in salt, cracked pepper, olive oil, rosemary and a titch of lemon juice.

New Discovery = I enjoy my mid-life hot flashes. My feet are always cold and having this new internal heating pad doesn’t seem such a bad deal. At least for me.

Staying Bright.

 

 


This Writing Life….

This writing life is more full of life than writing.

The last few days have been mostly dramatic. Parenting is not for the meek and weak. Parenting teens requires only the bravest of soldiers. And when a crisis rises to the surface, every other corner of life is placed in the holding pattern.

So I did not write Friday or Saturday or Sunday.

Not writing feels like not breathing for me.

But there was only so much room in which to operate my life. So here I am. First thing Monday and almost wearing an oxygen mask to get to my manuscript and, yes…finally write.

Best lines  this morning: “She pulls on her sports bra, mashing her breasts against her chest, a reminder that Zach is feeding with a tube instead of through her. She pulls on a sweatshirt two sizes too big and leaves the leftover make up in tact. Her skin around her belly is loose and hangs over the band of her pants. Normally, this would bother her, but she doesn’t have time to worry about feeling fat right now.”

Water = nil.

Core strength = a bit.

Sleep = a pinch.

Family Adventures = pends on how I define “adventures” this week.

Writing on!


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