Some days, and today is one of them, I ask myself what makes me think I can write.
I had the opportunity to put together a short piece for our local monthly magazine on community dinners sponsored by area churches. On Monday, I went to watch and interview a few volunteers and several of the guests. About half the guests are homeless, the others are working poor who struggle to put food on the table.
But here’s the thing. As much as I wanted to tell this story well, the words wouldn’t come. Without making too many excuses, I’ll say that having to turn it in Wednesday morning didn’t give me as much time as I wanted or needed to craft a strong essay.
But that wasn’t all of it.
I didn’t ask good questions or spend enough time observing. Later, when I read over my notes, I found few strong quotes to help tell the story.
Struggling, I realized that part of the problem was distance–my own from what I was trying to do.
Powerful storytelling means tapping into emotions, using a photographer’s lens, and not simply writing a chronology of events. I had forgotten.
My next story is a personality profile of an elderly woman who lives down the street. I want to find a way to tell her complicated, lovely story and do it well.
She deserves that.
Narrow passages ribbon their way
Around backyards and back lives.
A city layered in mounds of green ivy
There is a noise in the silence, a humming blending into nothing.
This bridge to history tells stories,
but more joy comes in peeking around bushes and vines.
What peace comes from sheltered havens of green?
A path to solitude, a place to hide
The spaces speak their own language
I’m putting finishing touches on a workshop I’ll be leading for the Virginia Association of Independent Schools this fall, for both lower school and middle/upper school teachers. We’ll take a look at ways improve student writing using a variety of digital resources. I’m grateful for the NWP site, DigitalIs and Troy Hicks’ book Because Digital Writing Matters— so many people so willing to share.
Once I’ve finished, I’ll post links to the examples I’ll offer as well as the work we will do that day. The event is not posted on the VAIS website yet, but once it is, you’ll find it here.
Hope to see you!
Three days. Water views of the Potomac and Herring Creek, calling ospreys and cawing seagulls, gentle breezes tilting branches in the blue sky–how could I not be inspired to write?
And yet, the process did not come easily. Under the direction of Elizabeth Ayers, a friend and I worked through various writing pieces, using strategies Elizabeth has developed over the years. At times, we squirmed with discomfort. Elizabeth pushed me to lose my “super ego,” which she says blocks me from producing. I’m sure she’s right. Words eventually came. And came. And came.
I felt at home on St. George’s Island and the surrounding area as if I had lived among the boats and shores forever. A re-visit is definitely on my list.
But now, I have work to do.
- They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
- ~Andy Warhol