Sunday, May 14, 2006

Writing your lifes moments!

Let's address the following questions which have been coming to me as I have asked my mom friends to contribute.....

"What Should I Write About?"

Write about what you know about: your work, your yard, your shadows.....Write fast, write slow, keep your eye on the subject, write without worrying what anyone thinks, write honestly, not charmingly or seductively. Trust your instinct to find you an audience, not your audience to find you an instinct, even if you are the only audience.

So the rule is: write what you yourself really want to write (which might actually be something you know very little about) and when you've found what you want to write, do it again and again. Write a whole series of poems on one subject and let each poem go more deeply, more bravely down into it than the last.

"How Can I Say What I Really Mean?"

Poems, like dreams, have a visible subject and an invisible one. The invisible one is the one you can't choose, the one that writes itself. Not a message that comes at the end of the poem, more like a pathological condition that forms every word - a resonance, a manner of speaking, a nervous tic, a pressure. And this invisible subject only shows up when you're speaking the language you speak when no one is there to correct or applaud you. Remember that language is the whole skill of writing well.

How hard is it to sit under a tree on a beautiful day and pretend not to be happy? Or to break your heart and pretend that you haven't broken your heart? Well, it's particularly hard for writers, we who have so many sophisticated and deceptive words at our fingertips; which is why children and non-writers and folk poets will often come up with the best poems.

The secret is to find some strategy for quieting down the ego. Ted Hughes taught people to approach their poems as if stalking an animal - utterly patient and focused and swift. My own practice is different - something I've developed over the years and now do automatically whenever I sit down to write. It's a primitive kind of echo-location, I feel it, hope I’m right and it isn’t a stomach flu, sit down and just start typing.

(This is from a workshop manual that I am developing for doing workshops with seniors next year.)