On Writing

Two things lead me to write on the topic of writing. First, I’ve been doing some reading about teaching writing in The Writer’s Jungle by Julie Bogart. Why teach writing if it isn’t important? It is extremely important to be able to communicate clearly and effectively in writing. I like Julie’s Brave Writer approach to writing because it is about coaching and joining the process, not just assigning a report and expecting your student to be able to do it well. The process of writing is sometimes lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. There are other writers all over. And there are readers! There are audiences when you read your own writing. Writing is a form of communication, and it is not something to learn or do only when you’re not busy doing more important things.

Second, I’ve experienced the ineffectiveness of talking. A conversation happens and I don’t have enough time to think clearly, so I say something that is relevant, but not exactly the truth. The other person takes what I said (which was only a part-truth) and uses it in the whole conversation, thinking it was the whole truth. It would have been so much better for me to write a letter to this person. The conversation did not go well. I could not clearly talk my way to the truth, and I was frustrated and wanted a break. I really wanted to just write what I knew.

Writing allows the mind to think and revise, to be more precise. Writing this post has allowed me to chew over two very different things running through my brain the past week and relate them to each other. Synthesis. I don’t find much synthesis in my verbal communications. I find jaggedness, weariness, confusion, words I wish I had a delete button for, clever things that struck a wrong note. Unless I’m free-writing in a stream-of-consciousness mode, I can avoid those awkward things in writing. So here’s a hip-hip-hooray for my blog! I love writing, and I enjoy knowing that someone is out there reading my writing, even if it’s not very many people. If I relied on verbal conversations alone, I’d be a weird, silent person. Someone who doesn’t have a great personality. I don’t feel that way at all in my writing. Writing adds dimension.

Read, read, read

I don’t have much to say lately because I’ve been so engrossed in three books. My downstairs book: Lila by Marilynne Robinson (just out this fall!). My upstairs book: The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories by Sarah Orne Jewett. My treadmill book on Kindle: Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. (I’ve finally found a reason to really like my e-reader. It is easier to hold while walking on the treadmill. All other times, I’d rather read a real book.)

As usual, when reading a well-written book, I have an urge to write stories of my own. Now I’m reading three well-written books, you can imagine what I’m going to do next after I hit the publish button! Okay, yes, I might read some more. But I should write. Do you think I can do both at the same time?

What I’m writing about now

It has been almost a year since my collection of stories, A Flower in the Heart of the Painting, was published. I get asked when the next one is coming out. I sometimes wonder if people are disappointed when I tell them, “Not for a long time.” More often people ask me if I am writing another book. Now that’s a different question. Yes, of course. I was writing that first book of stories for ten years or so. I’m not about to stop the habit of writing. Am I writing anything that might be a novel or another collection? I sure hope so.

I used to believe if I told people what I was currently writing about, it would somehow doom the project. I would try to be close-mouthed about my endeavors. That sounds like superstition, and I’m not superstitious. So here’s to all you curious readers out there: I’m writing a long story (hopefully it will extend into a novel) about a family who has moved from suburban life to a dairy farm. The father, who made the decision, is changed, and the rest of the family tries to understand how to live in all the upheaval. The mother is an artist (of course!). And the nearest town is based on a town I am familiar with, which boasts many outdoor sculptures. The sculptures will be important/interesting as the story goes on, and I have an idea that the sculptor’s direct descendant might be an important character in the story as well. I’m not very far along yet, so the story is very malleable.

I’ve been reading a lot of Bronte and admiring their excellent characterization, and their captivating dialogue. I have read Portrait of a Lady by Henry James twice, but I’m feeling like I need a reread now. I love the psychological depth of his writing. And I’ve been interested in the “stream of consciousness” idea. I’m not sure I can do that sort of writing to its full extent, but when I try, I come up with some interesting ideas (and the first few lines generally need cutting).

I hope to write another post in the near future to let you know about the publication of a shorter work. I can’t always be working on a long piece:)