Dreamwood, by Adrienne Rich
Strange, dark dreams last night; some good writing-news yesterday and today. Needed a poem.
transcribing some pieces of a little flash fiction (non?) and remembering what was. what they don’t tell you about getting older: how much time you spend looking back, not out of regret or pride but because past and present are much more jumbled than you could have ever anticipated.
one of the loveliest songs about my former home. whenever i hear it, there is something deep inside that vibrates in recognition … and then it too slips away, lost, like all those days of old.
So much on my mind that I can’t recline
Blastin holes in the night til she bled sunshine
Breathe in, inhale vapors from bright stars that shine
Breathe out, weed smoke retrace the skyline
Heard the bass ride out like an ancient mating call
I can’t take it y’all, I can feel the city breathin
Chest heavin, against the flesh of the evening
Sigh before we die like the last train leaving
1. Write. Not just what you know but what you are. You don’t know the life of a Novosibirsk shoe-fetishist hitman, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t write it if you gave him your own heart.
2. Keep writing. You’ll have to go back and rework from time to time - in fact, it’ll give you more momentum as things fall into line - but if you rewrite chapter one thirty times it’s still chapter one. The same amount of writing in a straight line gets you a finished draft.
3. Write unrestrainedly. Narrative discipline can be imposed; excitement is much harder to add to a lumpen structure. Use the shapes and words you want. Be profligate, then cut. Don’t let anyone tell you to avoid Latinisms, adverbs, or semi-colons. They exist. They belong to you. If you don’t like them, cut them, but they are no one else’s to forbid.
4. Write now. Don’t wait. You can get useful work done in a ten minute window. Five. Three. On the other hand, learn to bank the urgency, let it out when you can. Life will not always afford you five minutes, and that too is part of the gig. Part of your job is to be in the world. Someone who can’t ditch their desk for half an hour to hug a friend who’s had a bad breakup may or may not be a good writer, but they’re definitely an asshole. Contrary to what you may have heard, that’s not a requirement.
5. Write again. Write, cut, rework, reshape, up-end, restructure. A storyteller can begin the narrative anywhere and make it grip. Now again, and again until you feel wrung out. And again until it stops getting better. It’s never finished, you just come to the end if yourself - or your publisher’s schedule. It’s a stamina game.
6. Let it go. Show it. Accept exposure, admiration, misunderstanding, praise and contempt. Accept also that the book everyone is talking about, enthusiastically or not, is not the book you care about, because you’ve been in love with the new one since somewhere in the middle of stage 5.
7. Repeat. Learn. Improve.
Ladies and Gentleman; Nick splendid bastard Harkaway, just Harkawaying along with some advice…
OK. I’m not usually a big fan of writing advice of any stripe, but these are pretty good.