KaBooM WritersKaBooM Writers

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!


The KaBooM Writers Notebook: Our Blog

How Do You Slice the Pie?

(Photo source: trapezoidal.wordpress.com)

I finished up my day job on January 31, and since then I’ve been figuring out what it means to live a writer’s life. I’ve discovered there’s more to this than sitting in front of my computer or scribbling in a notebook. A life of the mind must be nurtured by many food groups.

Here’s a partial list of those groups:

  • I write,

AND

  • I belong to a writing collective,
  • we share work in progress and provide feedback to one another,
  • we take turns posting entries to this blog ,
  • I lead workshops for adults and children,
  • I facilitate a book discussion group,
  • I participate in readings/I attend readings,
  • I submit work,
  • I meet with students who are working on manuscripts,
  • I copyedit manuscripts for publication,
  • I take workshops and attend conferences,
  • I read—books, newspapers, magazines,
  • I attend a revision workshop focused on the novel,
  • I’m trying to decide how much of my own web site I can create, and
  • over it all hovers the question of whether or not to tweet!?

While I acknowledge the importance of these activities, I’m constantly working to find the right balance. If not vigilant, I can spend 95 percent of my writing life doing everything but writing. I can subsist on a diet of reading alone, for example, or I can happily gorge myself making suggestions on other people’s manuscripts.

From time to time I must pull back from these literary indulgences and chant a line of poetry I first heard back in 1981: “The real writer is one/who really writes.” (From Marge Piercy, “For the young who want to”)

How do you distribute the time allotted to your writing life? How do you keep yourself focused on writing?

 

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Still sneaking up on the muse ….

"sneaking suspicion" -- cat at the wall

(Photo from: http://bit.ly/CatSq1)

This Monday morning when the muse again felt so many miles away all my inspiration might as well have taken off to Mars, I finally quit banging my head and — miracle — mercy dropped in.   An entire stream of thought, from nowhere I could have seen coming.

Well.

On reflection, this development shouldn’t be surprising.  Yet an old truth, newly rediscovered, certainly feels like revelation.  Writers have long known that the muse, like happiness, tends to flee direct pursuit.  There is a part of my conscious brain that knows this.  And yet.  And yet…still and again, I need to discover this truth anew.

As I read in a post by Misty Massey years ago, the best course of action is to remember that the best bait for inspiration is to “… lure it out into the open by pretending you don’t care. Before you know it, it’s curling up at your feet.”

At one level that doesn’t make much sense, does it?  Pretending you don’t care about your creative product can feel dangerous.  And sometimes, you may be so emotionally invested in the work that you cannot see anything but frustration at what you perceive as failures.

Every now and again, though, I can get just exhausted enough to learn something new—by finally letting go of the struggle.

(Photo from: http://bit.ly/Senv6b)

 

Turns out, all ll I needed this morning was to tell myself I had no time for the project that’s recently been frustrating me,  to sort of turn my back on it, and—sneaky, padded cat feet— it crept up behind me, purring to make its presence known, in a way I’d have killed for days ago.  Between its teeth was a tasty morsel; oh, sure, stolen from something else.  But I’ve got no scruples when it comes to such treasures.  I’ll take them however they arrive.   I simply need to remember that the arrival is more likely to happen when I can turn my back on my anxious, demanding mind and instead settle quietly,  entering a gentle waiting-that-is-not-quite-doing-nothing; entering an expectant interlude, a sympathetic distraction.

It was Kafka who famously said: “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet” (from his translated Reflections on sin, pain, hope and the true way).

Here’s to finding ways, always, to welcome the world,  and then, to finding it rolling in ecstasy at our feet.

Wandering in the Woods

Gardner 003

I’ve been carrying around a copy of John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction this summer. In addition to getting sand in the binding, waterlogging one corner, staining a few pages, and bending the cover, I’ve also read this wonderful book all the way through. Summer travel schedules meant our group has met infrequently these past couple of months, but during that time Gardner has made a terrific writing companion.  His insight and analysis provide helpful information. Even more, the depth of his thought about writing fiction affirms the value of this strange work we do.

One of the things I find satisfying about the book is its understanding of the creative process. Gardner appreciates, as well as anyone can, the powerful role of the unconscious and its symbolic language in shaping the strongest and most resonant writing. In a discussion of description he writes:

To the layman it may seem that description serves simply to tell us where things are happening, giving us perhaps some idea of what the characters are like by identifying them with their surroundings, or providing us with props that may later tip over or burn down or explode. Good description does far more: It is one of the writer’s means of reaching down into his unconscious mind, finding clues to what questions his fiction must ask, and, with luck, hints about the answers. Good description is symbolic not because the writer plants symbols in it but because, by working in the proper way, he forces symbols still largely mysterious to him up into his conscious mind where, little by little as his fiction progresses, he can work with them and finally understand them. To put this another way, the organized and intelligent fictional dream that will eventually fill the reader’s mind begins as a largely mysterious dream in the writer’s mind. Through the process of writing and endless revising, the writer makes available the order the reader sees.

Gardner reminds us that we have more resources than we can know when we start to write. It helps to remember that when we’re wandering in the woods, trying to find the path of the story. Giving ourselves to this work is an act of faith in a process that has no map. There’s nothing comfortable about that. But in spite of how it feels, not knowing where we’re going doesn’t mean we’ve lost our way. We know more than we think we do, but only as we work does it come to light. Maybe that’s the best reason of all for writing.