When the Words Won’t Come

UntitledI’ve been having a hard time writing lately. My dreams are of presses and type, my spare moments have me reading instead of composing. The words roll around in my head. Until they decide to take some shape, I will ignore the guilt.


Who knew?

Besides artist and author, Nin was also a publishing entrepreneur. In January 1942, she sets up her own small press in a loft on Macdougal Street, and soon set out to print and self-publish a new edition of her third book, Winter of Artifice, teaching herself typesetting and doing most of the manual work herself.

I totally get this:

You pit your faculties against concrete problems. The victories are concrete, definable, touchable. A page of perfect printing. You can touch the page you wrote. We exult in what we master and discover. Instead of using one’s energy in a void, against frustrations, in anger against publishers, I use it on the press, type, paper, a source of energy. Solving problems, technical, mechanical problems. Which can be solved.

moving forward


Our Wednesday writing circle at the studio is one of my favorite times of the week. I offer a prompt, we write for ten minutes, and then we share whatever has come out of that. Often for me it’s trash, nothing worth using. I am not a someone who can spin a piece of writing into gold without time and effort. Actually, “gold” is not how I describe any of my writing. But what does happen is a release of sorts, a letting go of whatever is on my mind.

Without the writing, I can ruminate on, analyze, and project my worries about a topic forever. Once the words appear on paper (or keyboard), they have morphed to a new place. I love this quote by Tobias Wolff– we all want to get things right. Writing helps us move forward with clarity.

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

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.