Tripwire, Cigarette, Pencil

Tripwire, Cigarette, Pencil–in that order.

THE TRIPWIRE–TO TRICK AND CATCH ME, KEEP ME LOOKING, ALWAYS LOOKING WITH ALL OF MY SENSES, KEEPING THAT INTUITION SHARP AND PARANOID.

THE CIGARETTE–FOR ATTEMPTED ESCAPES, FOR GRANDIOSE TAIL-CHASING, ESCAPADES IN THE BIN, SMALL REWARDS FOR BAD SHORTCUTS, COMPRESSED AND REPRESSED PASSIONS, DIRTY GOODNESS AND SNEAKY REMORSE, THE ULTIMATE CURSE FOR ALL OF US THAT WRITE OR PAINT OR PLAY AND COMPOSE–BECAUSE WE DON’T CARE ABOUT OUR BALANCE IF IT’S GONNA TRIPWIRE THE PROCESS; BECAUSE WE KNOW WE WILL NEVER PERFECT THAT SONG, THOSE WORDS, THAT VISION, THAT SOUND IN OUR MINDS AND HANDS, PLAYING OUR BODIES AND ABUSING OUR MINDS THAT NEVER REST.

THE PENCIL–ALL I HAVE.

When Shit Gets Scary, You Know You’re Writing Something Real

Best Books on Writing

This is a collection of some of the (most of) books I’ve read to help me along with writing the memoir and other personal essays and stories over the years. Great stuff.

 The Eleventh Draft: ​Craft and the Writing Life 11th_draftfrom the Iowa Writers’ Workshop by Frank Conroy

The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative by Vivian Gornick

Description:Vivian Gornick presents readers with examples of some of the best essays and memoirs of the past century, analyzing how the idea of the self has changed. Gornick explores the truth speaker in works by Edmund Gosse, Joan Didion, and Oscar Wilde, and discusses how to recognize truth in your own work.

Published in 2002 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Description:The author of the memoirs The Liars’ Club (Viking, 1995), Cherry (Viking, 2000), and Lit (Harper, 2009) draws from decades of experience as a writer, reader, and teacher to spotlight this complex and powerful form of storytelling. “Memoir done right is an art, a made thing,” she writes in the preface. Including unique insights and examples of the author’s personal favorites in the genre, The Art of Memoir provides a humorously candid examination of the literary form Karr has influenced over the past twenty years.

Published in 2015 by Harper

I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory by Patricia Hampl

Description:“A writer is, first and last, a reader.” Patricia Hampl’s collection of essays explores the depths of writing created from the most personal memories—in works by Anne Frank, Czeslaw Milosz, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, and others—and provides insightful reflections on her own writing life as a memoirist.

Published in 1999 by Norton

Ernest Hemingway on Writing by Larry W. Phillips, editor

Description:​ “All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time​.” This book is a collection of Ernest Hemingway’s comments on writing and reflections about his own process, gathered from his stories, essays, letters, and interviews. Hemingway’s insights offer helpful advice to writers on the craft of writing, work habits, and the writing life.

Published in 1999 by Scribner

Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art by Judith Barrington

Description:Teacher and memoirist Judith Barrington offers practical advice drawn from years of personal experience on how to overcome difficulties, and take risks when writing your own memoir. The guide covers everything from questions about truth and ethics to craft, and each chapter concludes with writing exercises.

Published in 2002 by Eight Mountain Press

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

Description:Author Steven Pressfield offers a practical guide to identify the enemy within and create a “battle plan” to overcome the obstacles faced in creative endeavors.

Published in 2012 by Black Irish Entertainment

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Writing Prompt from a Quote

Bukowski
Bukowski

So I came across a post at a blog I follow by Ryan Lanz called The Writer’s Path (excellent posts and advice, let me tell you–I don’t think he knows how many times I re-read his stuff).  He does “Ten Quote Tuesdays” and I of course am late for it but I’m also going to take a different spin on it.  There are inspirational quotes in the post on writing and then there are prompts; I have chosen to use one of the quotes as a prompt for a post.

I couldn’t decide between Viktor Frankl’s (amazing survivor and writer) “What is it to give life must endure burning.”  Or Natalie Goldberg’s “Kill the idea of the lone, suffering artist.  Don’t make it harder on yourself.”

So here goes my simple blog post, Ryan, on “Kill the idea of the lone, suffering artist.  Don’t make it harder on yourself.”

 

My cousin Mike is on the phone, my lifelong best friend.  He’s sculpting on the other end and I’m sitting here, smoking in front of a blank screen.

“Hey, Amos, just pull a Hemingway,” he sounds distracted but concerned–he can always do a lot at once.

“Meh, I don’t got enough meds left and there’s no 7up for the gin.”

“Well shit man, I started on my Shandy’s since noon, got this sculpture just about licked.  Just get a couple drinks in ya, sit down, and just write.  Just let it come to you.”

111hemingwaydrunk

So I get off the phone, bust out the wine, feeling like less of an artist because I don’t have bourbon.  I don’t even know what bourbon is.  I set up my laptop on the living room coffee table, turn on my Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder album, and wait.  And drink.  And wait.  Surely my demons will arise if I’m intoxicated, they’re here every other day of the week.

Before I know it my face is on fire and I’m quoting the lyrics from “Wild Horses” in an essay attempt to my sister,

...childhood living is easy to do…

of whom I’ve been having an on-going argument with.  I write as if she’s going to die, and tears are streaming down my face.  I can’t get past the lyrics so I sit.  And stop and think.  And drink.

Fuck this.  Fuckn’ A, Hemingway, you either started all your writing drunk and bloomed from there, or you didn’t really drink when you wrote.  I should know this…but he was brilliant!

I play sadder music.  A more complicated tune like Radiohead’s “National Anthem” to get me thinking and not focusing on words but guts.  I tried doing something high once–in my apartment in Eau Claire where I lived with three other girls.  I secretly and for the first time got stoned by myself, and I was going to write something Alice-ish.  All I did was draw though–and even the stoned-drawing felt presumptuous.  Rehearsed.  I have learned I cannot or maybe I just refuse to really allow myself to tap into what I have to say if I’m in any way intoxicated.  Man I wish I could.  I always imagine the freedom that must come with just saying “fuck it” and writing a master piece.  Clearly, this is not realistic thinking.  But it’s the romantic idea of an artist’s life.

Let’s face it, we suffer enough.  Even when I was really down and out and the “lone sufferer” I couldn’t write then, because I was too close to it.  It takes time, I hate to say, but the scary thing is how much time? Because before you know it the book never gets written, and you have a couple dozen poems and essays published that really, well, mean nothing but personal approval that “hey, I can write–they say so.”  This post depresses me.  TIme to really clear my head and go write!

Amy Jo

 

 

Czeslaw Milosz’s Poem on Writing

Ars Poetica?

 

I have always aspired to a more spacious form
that would be free from the claims of poetry or prose
and would let us understand each other without exposing
the author or reader to sublime agonies.

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John Updike on Writing

(taken from Fresh Air: Writer’s Speak with Terry Gross)

“…you can take painful and bad experiences and somehow just in writing about them you get rid of the pain…Writing as a release, a kind of therapy…when you write about something in a strange way you become lightened of it.  Writing is my sole remaining vice; it is an addiction, an illusory release, a presumptuous taming of reality, a way of expressing lightly the unbearable.  In the morning light one can write breezily without the slightest acceleration of one’s pulse about what one cannot contemplate in the dark without turning in a panic to God.  In the dark one truly feels that immense sliding, that turning, of the vast earth into darkness and eternal cold, taking with it all nature and scenery, and the bright distractions and furniture of our lives; even the barest earthly facts are unbearably heavy, weighted as they are with our personal death.  Writing and making the world light in distorting, pitifying, verbalizing approaches blasphemy.  …I think there’s something demonic in the complete writer…an ideally nice person would probably not become a writer…we are cruel beings and all of the shadow sides of one’s self-knowledge goes into writing and in a way energizes it.”

lines from the greats on life and writing

Do I contradict myself?

Very well, then I contradict myself,

I am large, I contain multitudes.      

                                                           —Walt Whitman

Artists must be sacrificed to their art, like bees, they must put their lives into the sting they give.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.  –Virginia Woolf

A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.    –Mark Twain

Self-command is the main elegance.   –Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.  –Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Men at some time are masters of their fates:

the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

                                                   …Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

An artist is a creature driven by demons.  He doesn’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why.  –William Faulkner

As for style of writing, if one has anything to say, it drops from him simply and directly, as a stone falls to the ground.  –Henry David Thoreau

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.  –Thoreau

The writer must write what he has to say, not speak it.  –Hemingway

Brevity is the soul of wit.  –Shakespeare

What another would have done as well as you, do not do it.  What another would have said as well as you, do not say it.  What another would have written as well, do not write it.  Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself and thus make yourself indispensable.  –Andre Gide

An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.  –de Chateaubriand

No man does anything from a single motive.  –Samual Taylor Coleridge

*Words are the physicians of a mind diseased.  –Aeschylus

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.  –David Hare

For words, like Nature, half reveal and half conceal the Soul within.  –Alfred Lord Tennyson

*Nobody knows what’s in him until he tries to pull it out.  If there’s nothing, or very little, the shock can kill a man.  –Hemingway

To penetrate one’s being, one must go armed to the teeth.  –Paul Valery

*Learn what you are, and be such.  –Pindar

The time is out of joint.  –Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.  –Shakespeare

In memory, everything seems to happen to music.  –Tennessee Williams

Such as we are made of, such we be.  –Shakespeare Sonnet CXVI

We never live, but we are always in the expectation of living.  –Voltaire

He alone deserves liberty and life who daily must win them anew.  –Goethe

…on literature…

The essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything.  –Samuel Taylor Coleridge

When a man can observe himself suffering and is able, later, to describe what he’s gone through, it means he was born for literature.  –Edouard Bourdet

The short story is the art form that deals with the individual when there is no longer a society to absorb him, and when he is compelled to exit, as it were, by his own inner light.  –Frank O’Connor

A biography is considered complete if it merely accounts for six or seven selves, whereas a person may well have as many as a thousand.  –Virginia Woolf

Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.  –W. Somerset Maugham

Those who lose dreaming are lost.  –Australian Aboriginal proverb

*Experience is in the fingers and the head.  The heart is inexperienced.  –Henry David Thoreau

Experience, which destroys innocence, also leads one back to it.  –James Baldwin

From error to error one discovers the entire truth.  –Sigmund Freud

*Not to transmit an experience is to betray it.  –Elie Wiesel

All things must change to something new, to something strange.  –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Beauty without expression tires.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

We ascribe beauty to that which is simple; which has no superfluous parts; which exactly answers its ends.  –Emerson

A great man does not lose his self-possession when he is afflicted; the ocean is not made muddy by the falling in of its banks.  –Panchatantra

Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.  –Miles Davis

Music is the shorthand of emotion.  –Leo Tolstoy