Saturday, May 16, 2009

Some Writing is Like Weight-Lifting

Berry and DVDS


I love that word. And I love when it happens to me.

The other day I ordered a book from the library, but it turned out to be a 6-DVD series on writing that was the exact resource I would have ordered for my daughter, had I known. Lately, she's been filling notebook after notebook with stories and poems, and she has a lot of questions that one writer alone (me) can't really answer.

Enter the DVD series: published writers, fiction and non-fiction, talk about everything from how we word-people get inspired, to dealing with character development, writer's block and rejection. (Since these series are EXPENSIVE, you'd want to get it from the library; it's called Writer's Workshop: Fiction and Non-Fiction and is put out by Films for the Humanities & Sciences I didn't see it on-line, so maybe it's no longer available for sale, but perhaps in the stacks one could find it).

My daughter has begun watching the series and appreciates the various perspectives. Some writers don't believe writer's block is real, for instance (and it is better for her to hear that from someone else, since I already tried the delicate advice, JUST WRITE!). Some of the writers think ahead about the market and others say they just write for themselves. Almost all of them agree that the best way to be a good writer is to first be a good reader.

What struck me, in listening to these people talk about how to write and in hearing them read their own words, was how many good writing skills can be practiced by reading and writing poetry. No one was saying that outright, but they talked about the need to focus on details, encouraged us to learn language rhythms and slow ourselves down when experiencing texts in order to feel the impact of words, and discussed the need to play around with and free one's voice. Poetry is the ideal context in which to hone these skills. Think about it. Great writers like Wendell Berry and Mary Karr don't just write essays; they write poetry too.

The problem is that too many of us think poetry is for lovers, kids, English-class students, or high-minded people; we don't realize that reading and writing poetry is a form of writer's weight lifting. It challenges our word muscles, pokes at our weak spots and dares us to strengthen them in a way that meandering prose opportunities do not. Once, a friend of mine (who has written 36 books) said the best way to practice writing is to write 'short'. We could do that by writing ad blurbs (I served some time that way), or we could really flex our muscles and start lifting words into poems.

So why not take Laura's challenge, maybe win a free book while you're at it, and get those writer's abs in shape?

Berry Book and DVDS photo by L.L. Barkat.

Fun feature of the basic me at Andrea's place
Check out this great little new blog, Children of Eve.
Book Giveaway: Stone Crossings, at Holy Experience

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

m a s k

i lie still
where i have been placed
cool dark earth
envelopes my smooth curves
to what resides within me
it calls for me to reach out
toward the light
i hear the voice and answer
the darkness is shattered
a new life
is made out of the old
as i rise into the light
ready to become
what i was meant to be
my strong limbs extend
green leaves appear
white blossoms gently open
accepting the gift
to bear the fruit of renewal

8:30 PM  
Blogger Stacy said...

Thanks for your encouragement. Hope that your expectations aren't too high :).

God bless,

11:32 PM  
Blogger Prairie Chick said...

Oh, I think this is SO true. Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog about missing my poetry. I'm quite sporadic about it, I know. I guess I have too many creative outlets, =) I always feel like there is a poem just waiting around any corner though, and it's going to jump out and sieze my fancy when I least expect it. So who knows...

12:45 AM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Very very interesting post, L.L. Yes, you've got me thinking anew and afresh again. I just need to take the dive and start to do it.

I need to develop more of an appreciation for poetry. I've really always loved poetry as I understood it. But sometimes if I don't understand it, and am hard pressed to get other things done, than I simply let it go.

I have to admit, writing has becoming a bit boring to me lately. So maybe poetry will lift me out of that.

Biggest problem I have is a time problem. But you just go from scratch and keep going from there, I suppose. And like you say, read some good poetry (which seems plenteous on this blog, lately).

9:13 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

...of course you are my poetry teacher :). how else would i learn if i had not stumbled over here from ann's?

thank you for your encouragement on my meager lines. it is getting more enjoyable for me. i find myself tasting lines at the oddest times. i do believe it is making me a better writer.

we read about the villanelle tonight. i'm afraid i lost them, but i'm going to try to write one to illustrate to them that it can be done!

i'll have the drawing on friday for the poetry anthology. thanks for letting others know. this is a great book to add to any collection (and the dvds wouldn't be too bad either).

:) Laura

9:15 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Writing is hard work, really hard work. For me, anyhow ...

I think the struggle for me has been to move from one fairly structured kind of writing -- news -- to something else on my blog. I don't always know what that "something else" is, but it's fun to try new things.

As I've told you privately in emails, poetry is a big stretch for me. What you describe as weight-lifting, I see as running a marathon. Yet it's oddly satisfying to try it.

It's been a joy to come across you, L.L. I'm certain I wouldn't have attempted certain things in my writing, were in not for your encouragement in various posts.

I will continue to grow in my writing, and I will stop by here for inspiration.

Another of your "students," sitting quietly in the back row

11:41 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

nAncY... a seed finds life... :)

Stacy... we begin where we are, we move forward, we grow together, we read each other's work and are inspired. Thanks for joining us...

Prairie... hoping for a capture soon. :)

Ted... when writing bores us, I always feel like it's time to read. Maybe read things outside of our usual fare. Maybe, just maybe it's time for you and Billy Collins?

Laura... so curious... how old are your kids? I was reading Billy Collins to my girls yesterday and it was so nice to revel in language together, to laugh, to sigh, to play with words.

Jennifer... even so, I love your poetry. Whether you huff and puff to produce it matters not. I'm on the sidelines waving my Jen-flag, holding out the water bottle, laughing, shouting, smiling.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Cheri Bunch said...

I really love this post! Thank you for your encouragement on my blog. I have had a really long day and I am spent, but I might just give this a try in the morning. For now my vocabulary is drowsy.

I am so glad that I found you today.


10:32 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Billy Collins?

I have two books I'm supposed to review. And really another one. But I'll have to look into this Billy Collins.

I did try my hand at a poem. I posted it on a comment back to you on my posting on silence. Not much to it, though it does kind of express the day I went through at the Silent Retreat on Saturday.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Cheri Bunch said...

Dear L.L.,
Thank you for the challenge! There is much satisfaction in standing on tippy toe reaching beyond our comfort zone. I appreciate your gentle nudge. Check out my page and see what you think.
ps. I am biting my fingernails anticipating your visit!
: )

11:46 AM  
Blogger sojourner said...

i like this comparison - i understand it because i've done both - i'm submitting my RAP early b/c i'm leaving out of town for a week

11:01 AM  
Blogger A Simple Country Girl said...

Ma'am, many thanks for stopping by my blog too! It is a wonder how we click and type and end up at amazing places. Recently my trip started out with the familiar morning stop at Ann's, then to Laura's (I had been there before, once), and now here to meet you. What an online literary vacation!

May God bless all that you do this day.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

A timely challenge, as we're moving on Saturday, and I needed a creative outlet. A short contribution to this week's efforts is at my blog:

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Bradley J Moore said...

Okay, you have really got me thinking more about poetry. Some day, some day, I'll throw something out there.
Hey, maybe that could be a poem!

Okay, you
Have really got me
More about poetry.
Some day, Some day,
(I say)
I'll throw something out there - Hey!
That could
be it -

7:52 PM  
Blogger sojourner said...

how blessed you are to have her leave such a beautiful poem here!

9:52 AM  

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