Monday, October 2, 2017

Writing While... Doing Something Else

Fiesole (FI), Italia

My friend Sara Burnett* has as an insightful blog titled, "Writing While Parenting." She's balancing writing and parenting a young child. I love her posts about her path, which includes some goals and successes while focusing on the path. Week 4 hones in on lowering her expectations and finding joy in writing. I highly recommend reading her blog and following her journey.

We're all writing while ... doing something else. I've been juggling (and sometimes dropping) three main balls: online teaching, parenting, and writing. I'm also getting settled in Italy and carving out some time to see the sights and travel with my family. As I find myself repeating to friends, this moving-abroad-adventure has been stunningly exciting and beautiful, but also irritating and frustrating. That is to say, this is life. Everything exists simultaneously.

The trick is to find time to, at the very least, think. Try to give yourself a moment of stillness and regroup. Then, maybe, read something published that inspires you or your own work first thing in the morning. Keep it in your mind as you do fairly mindless thing, like washing the dishes. Look around during your day to try to catch a surprise moment of light or laughter somewhere. If you are open to it, you will likely find it.

An important part of writing is to start with seeing. That is to really see what is around you and then build on that with emotions, metaphor and more. We were in Amsterdam recently and took our four year old to some museums. Did he love being in the museums? Not entirely. But we did have a few good moments in which he was in my arms, close so we could hear each other, and talked about what we saw in the paintings. He usually noticed something unusual - an expression, perhaps - rather than the composition or the larger scene. He doesn't yet have context to understand what the artist did that was novel in that moment in time or what the scene represents to that historical moment. But he can see color, figures and location and draw his own conclusions. That's the sight that allows us to function in the world and then create something new.

Hopefully with some organizing and a notebook or app open near you after seeing, you will write something down. Your muscles - and their memories - might surprise you as you start writing and launch yourself (back) into the habit.


*You might remember Sara Burnett from earlier posts here:
Poetry and the Process of Unlearning
The Next Big Thing Interview Project


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