Draft 9/20/2014

“A lumbar laminectomy is also known as an open decompression and typically performed to alleviate pain caused by neural impingement that can result from lumbar spinal stenosis.”

Her yellow skirt, draped
long across scuffed boots,
followed her into the waiting room
where we sat in hard chairs
drinking cold coffee, watching
repetitive news on the television,
may I interrupt? she asked, raising
her hands above her head
if you need or want a prayer,
please come forward, we will
pray up here together, if you
feel the need, she said
I dropped my chin, stared at
the stain in the carpet while
the family of blond women
with red fingernails trooped up
making a circle around the woman
One by one they rose from
their chairs, and she prayed
for us all as I sat there glued
to my chair, wondering why
they hadn’t cleaned the carpet.

 

Community–and Alone

IMG_0290I haven’t talked much here about my meditation practice. I started more than a year ago, working to still my mind and provide space for quiet.

It’s hard.

A kind friend started me with Sharon Salzberg, which helped quite a bit. Then I moved to group meditation, online practice, and –then I stopped. Yeah, I’m a quitter from way back. But I recently read 10% Happier by Dan Harris, and I realized I missed those quiet moments. Tonight, David and I attended our church’s mediation practice. First we did 10 minutes and then 15. Let me tell you, that’s a long time.

But finally, I was able to calm down and sit. I’m so glad I participated.

Last night, our studio hosted a local authors’ reading. I loved hearing the various styles. And we had a full house. We haven’t had a physical place to encourage writers to gather. I’m hoping this grows in manageable ways so we can continue to be a home for like-minded people.

Finally, my press. She’s beautiful. I’ve managed to print a couple of practice things, but this week I should be able to set up a time to produce some cards and posters. I love the ink–getting my hands dirty–and creating. Ah, letterpress.

 

 

Hearing Truth

4366761552_0a671b63b5
I’ve been thinking a lot about feedback lately. In our writing/arts studio, we want creative people to feel free to explore and play–with words, paint, fiber.

For some of us, that’s enough. But others are looking for more, for feedback to finish/publish/sell a project.

So we’ve created different spaces for our various stages of production. If we’re exploring an idea, learning a new skill, or simply letting our creative side bloom, we go to Our Words or an Art Experience. If we need to know whether our project needs refining, polishing, or even tossing, we attend a Writing Workout or perhaps a private consultation with an artist.

But taking constructive feedback is difficult. Many of us struggle with perfectionism. We have trouble failing.

I love the 30/90 percent idea I read about this morning on 42floors.com:

We call it Thirty Percent Feedback.  It’s a trick I learned from our investor, Seth Lieberman.  It came about because I once asked him for feedback on a product mockup, and he asked if I felt like I was ninety percent done or thirty percent done. If I was ninety percent done, he would try to correct me on every little detail possible because otherwise a typo might make it into production. But if I had told him I was only thirty percent done, he would gloss over the tiny mistakes, knowing that I would correct them later.  He would engage in broader conversations about what the product should be.

I think writers often don’t recognize we are at 30%, rather than 90%. We begin to focus on commas, when we should be reworking language (or revising the heck out of something).

I love giving labels to ideas.

 

Writing Memoir

gull

Writing about yourself ought to be easy, right?

Our first class with Steve Watkins filled me with ideas, and I couldn’t wait to get started. He asked us to turn in 5-7 pages by Sunday night. No problem, I thought.

First, I wrote about a memory I had at age 4 when I cut off all my sister’s hair. A couple of paragraphs in, I stopped abruptly. Nothing left to tell. Next I tried to write about an incident when we were 15 and 17. Many more details came to mind, but I wasn’t sure why I was writing it. The details were there but the reflection was not. I tried to write about my summers in RI, my travels as an Army brat, and my first days alone in Virginia. Nothing.

Finally Friday night around 10pm, I began to journal. And the topic came to me like a Rhode Island beach wave. My dad’s death. This was the one topic I didn’t want to write about. This is not because I didn’t want to share. No, I feel like I’ve written about it so much in poetry and blog posts, I wanted to tackle something new.

But there it was, so I wrote.

I’m looking forward to hearing what Steve has to say about everyone’s work. But I’m already thinking about next week’s piece. Hmmm, anxiety may be showing its ugly face.

Find Your Voice

sky

When I decided to open a writing studio, I was led by a woman I’ve never met. I’d stumbled across her online, ordered her book, and devoured it.

Pat Schneider continues to speak to me in the decisions I make, in the way I work with other writers, and as the supportive coach I need when I am feeling like a failure. Her year-end post takes us back to her early days as a writer….

I was a young poet, published in a few small journals, but I didn’t yet have a book of poems, when another poet in my neighborhood who did have a book, suggested we exchange poems and give each other critical suggestions. I was flattered – after all, she was a published poet! We exchanged poems, wrote our comments on the pages, and when I read her comments, I was devastated. (read more here...)

Last year she wrote about fear…

The good news is, we are writers. The good news is, there are always more stories to tell, more songs to sing, more poems to give birth to. The good news is, we each one hold an immeasurable treasure of craft – the language that came down to us from our ancestors: ancient, beautiful, already ours in our unconscious minds. And the good news is, we have all of our lives practiced the language of our own contemporaries – all day every day as we talk in words, think in words, and at night when we dream in words.

The bad news is, if we are doing writing that matters deeply, it is much of the time going to be scary as hell. And every distraction will seem a better option than our art, our writing.

One of my goals is to be less distracted this year. Onward.