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

The Art of Finishing

 

Blog photoGreat is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When we moved this summer, I found these words tucked into a pile of old clothes.  The yellowed half-page torn from a steno notebook nearly thirty years ago had hung on the back wall of our walk-in closet above the small desk where I wrote.  That walk-in closet was the “room of my own” I claimed in our brand new house in 1984 as I mothered three children aged eight to one.  I knew I was good at starting things; I wanted to remind myself that finishing a piece of writing mattered.

Though I have finished books of poetry, an MFA, and a novel since those days of writing in the closet, I still find finishing a challenge.  Most writers struggle to complete a work and wonder if it is our fault that it takes so long to get it right.  The form we glimpsed as we set out on our poem or novel becomes less clear as we write ourselves into the interior.

Thanks in part to Louise DeSalvo’s book, Writing as a Way of Healing, I have learned the value of reflecting on the writing process for each piece I undertake.  I set down what I have realized and what I plan to do next.  Capturing insights and seeing a way ahead has been so important in my work that I’ve incorporated keeping a process journal into the assignments for the classes I teach.

Here’s an excerpt from one of these:

September 16, 2009

And now for my fifteen minutes on the novel — the assignment I gave the Finishing class.

It’s one thing to write about the novel and have its stacks of pages safely out of sight  . . .  It’s another to read those pages and see what’s there and despair of ever making a coherent book out of them.  . . .  But it was necessary for me to see that my coming to know the story, to see its end and feel a general shape for it, was not the same as . . . having worked it out on the page for myself.  What was needed was for me to accept that I still had a period of wandering in the wilderness ahead of me, and that I had to surrender to that if I were to write the novel I want to write.

 

I wish I had made entries like this more systematically as I drafted my novel.  And that I had not buried them in the pages of my journals where I cannot easily access them.  Louise DeSalvo says in The Art of Slow Writing that she keeps her process journals on the computer where she can search them easily.  She accesses them to remind herself of the stages in finishing a work: “Whenever I’m stuck . . . I turn to an earlier journal and . . . learn that I habitually think about abandoning a project just before I see how the book should be organized; this helps me reengage with my current work more confidently.”

I was wise to post Longfellow’s words in that closet.  Finding a way to the end of a piece is an art in itself.  An art that isn’t only about finding the best ending, but also about having the patience to discern the story I’ve wandered into, to receive its wisdom and work out the techniques I need to tell it well.

A Peek inside Some Old Journals

When we moved back to the farm, I promised myself that writing would once again become the fulcrum of my life. I set to work on crafting the 3 books at hand. As 2011 wound down and the two years I’d spent writing and editing started to a slow trickle, I began to look around for the journals I had packed away in an attic. The next writing project might lie in there. Or at least the last three decades of my life, the part of my life that represented the 30 years I spent determined to write.

When I was 28, I swore that whatever else happened to me, I was determined to live like a writer, as if what I wrote mattered. Faithful to the journals, even when they were read without my permission, I kept writing, feeling, moving, living, trying to record the truths and the fictions, trying when I caught myself asleep to wake myself up, recording my dreams, observing my endless to do lists. A life. 30 years of a life.

I went to the attic where I had tucked away all those journals that I had written since I was 9 years old. And I brought them downstairs. I replaced the research books I’d used for the last 2 years with these journals and I have begun pulling them down to find out where I was as a writer as all those years ago.
September 23, 1980
The thing that holds me back, prevents me from even beginning a new story, is the fear that I don’t understand it {my life} enough, that there is some storehouse or arsenal of secret longings, dreams, hopes or fears hidden inside, so much there, but that I am so afraid of it, of what it might do if I understood it, that I would then have to hide myself from my Self.

November 7, 1990
View one’s life as a text awaiting translation. See it as some ancient tablet that has shattered and when found it be pieced together, along with the lacunae and errata; that is, the gaps in the text need to be filled in intuitively, and the mistakes made by scribes during the transcription recorded and supplemented with intuitive impressions on the true meaning.

October 15, 1995
If your desire is to be a true artist, know that this is a private matter which can be proven only to yourself through your efforts to become one.

 

I am reading and making notes. At the beginning of the year,
this year 2012 when the world is predicted to end (hmmm), I am busy trying to
figure out where I have been. It’s the least I can do to prepare myself for the
day of reckoning, whenever that comes.

 

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