This week’s exercise in A Year in the Life was to write about a word we’d learned from someone else, and the context in which we’d learned it. I wrote about the word prescient, which I learned from my best friend, Katrina.
Today’s exercise in A Year in the Life was to write about the current season. I waffled over whether May 31 should be considered spring or summer, and I went with spring. This was one of those exercises that had me writing until my hand got sore, which is what’s interesting about writing from this book. Some of the exercises are done in ten minutes, and I don’t feel particularly moved by them. Others have me going until I’m surprised at how dark it’s getting, or, if I’m writing outside, how sunburned I’m going to be. But, without further ado, spring.
Yesterday was my last official day as Teen Services Librarian for the Marshall-Lyon County Library. My heart is sort of breaking over it–I loved that job so much, but it was a two-hour commute, one way, once a week. I’m still processing all of that, and might blog about it more extensively, but for now, I’m working on a new writing “job” to help take my mind off it. I’ve started doing the weekly exercises in Sheila Bender’s A Year in the Life: Journaling for Self Discovery. Before embarking on them, she encourages you to “hire” yourself as a journal keeper. I found this exercise very empowering, because it allowed me to reflect upon how freakin’ qualified I am for the job. I definitely encourage other writers to try it. Below are some of my entries from the exercise, consisting of the Job Posting, My Application Letter, and the Interview.
I’m writing again, and I finally have a plan.
It’s been two months since I finished the second draft of my YA novel, and as usual, I was taking a “break” between projects. It was a productive break, as I managed to write a handful of poems, a short story, and lots of journal and blog entries. But two months tends to be sort of my “breaking point” between projects, when I start feeling a little batty for lack of writing structure. So when I woke up earlier than usual yesterday and had a whole blissful hour for writing, I decided what my next project is going to be: writing exercises.
I admit, it feels a little like a demotion to go from writing novels to doing writing exercises. In the past, I tended to scorn writing exercises (although I had no trouble doling them out to students!) because they took time away from my “real” writing. Well, I’m not ready to start a new novel, and Story-a-Day May revealed to me how productive exploring can be. Also, I ended up telling my mom about one of the stories I’d jotted down in my picto-journal, and as I told her about it, I realized it could actually be developed into a good short story. So I’m going to take some time to work through reading and doing the exercises in Wild Ink, perhaps in conjunction with revising my novel. After I’m through with Wild Ink, I may be ready for a novel again (it may be November by then, after all!), or I may want to spend some time continuing to explore within the short story genre. Either way, I plan to have a full notebook of ideas to draw from. And I can’t wait!
So, another one of my tips for poetry month was to imitate another poet. I did an exercise like this in college once and loved it, except it was with prose. Essentially, I took a paragraph and replaced verb for verb, preposition for preposition, noun for noun, comma for comma. The result was a paragraph in my own words that flowed strangely like Annie Dillard’s. In theory, the same sort of thing should work for poetry. But man, did I wrangle with it tonight. Here’s the section of poem I chose to imitate (don’t worry, it’s in the public domain):
What though the radiance which was once so bright (11)
Be now for ever taken from my sight, (10)
Though nothing can bring back the hour (9)
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; (12)
We will grieve not, rather find (7)
Strength in what remains behind; (7)
In the primal sympathy (7)
Which having been must ever be; (8)
In the soothing thoughts that spring (7)
Out of human suffering; (7)
In the faith that looks through death, (7)
In years that bring the philosophic mind. (10)
(Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, 175-186, by William Wordsworth)
I chose this poem because I used it in a story back in my sordid days as a fan-fiction writer. I also love the cadence. You may wonder what all those numbers are about. Well, at first I thought I could do the same sort of swap-out I’d done with prose several years ago, but that proved to be more of a challenge than I was willing to bear this late at night. So instead of replacing word-type for word-type, I decided to match syllables and rhyming scheme instead. Here’s what I finally wrung out:
Even as a memory though still so clear (11)
Lay now still throbbing and without you here, (10)
For everything converged upon that day (9)
Of shimmering in the snow, of green through the gray; (12)
I did not speak, still I knew (7)
Whispered love was coursing through; (7)
In our final journey then (7)
We broke on through to see the end; (8)
In the melting drifts that crept (7)
Near to both our hearts and slept; (7)
In the tears that washed dirt clean, (7)
Were ties that bound me together with you. (10)
It’s not fantastic, but it’s better than my earlier attempts. Feel free to call me on miscalculated syllables. Math is not my strong point–especially right before bed.