What I Learned From Thinking About Teams: A Midpoint Check in!

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A glimpse of UC Merced

You may not know this about me, but I teach professional writing at the University level, and I love it!  There is a practicality to this writing style that aligns with daily aesthetic, a sense of order and audience awareness that, in the vast openness that is the creative path, offers my brain relief.  Not sure where to start?  Consider your audience.  Identify your purpose.  Find a way to deliver information that is quick and easy to digest (and use headings and lists because that often helps!).  In this way, professional writing realm really can resemble that plug and chug formula that (yes, I admit) I sometimes  crave.   (So, before you get all huffy, dude, I know…the prof writing forms can still have style and personality, but you and I both know that we can churn out, oh, say a blog post, in a matter of hours (or days if we are being a bit picky) while a story or essay or poem can take us years upon years  to complete…and then more years to have someone decide to publish it…)

Anyway, this is all to say that my two worlds – the professional writing world and the creative writing world – rarely intersect.  And yet, the practical professional writing approach CAN help us creative types approach our own work better.

And so, today, I want to offer advice I learned from my course readings about working in teams. Continue reading

Day 12: Writerly Catnaps (“Tuesdays with Nari”)

Often on Mondays I ask my writing students to name the highlight of their weekend. I receive a variety of replies, from the sarcastic “revising my essay” to the provocatively nebulous “doing stuff with friends.” Every now and then a student proclaims “Napping!”, to which I respond “Awesome!” Although many students might think my rejoinder sardonic (and this is usually a safe assumption), in the case of napping it’s always sincere.

I love napping. Long ones, short ones, deep ones, dozy ones, naps are–as much as this admission may not commend me–one of my favorite pastimes. I close the blinds, set my alarm, pull up a fleecy blanket, and slide into sleep. And when I wake up, the tasks that seemed hopeless before suddenly stir with possibility.

On Wednesday of last week, I reached a stage of drafting that felt endless. While I was close to finishing my essay, which I’d started in 2011, I’d read its sentences so many times I didn’t really see them, let alone hear them, anymore. Some words didn’t sound right, but I wasn’t sure why. The structure had kinks, but I wasn’t sure how. My Writer’s March hours passed with minimal progress. Finally, I decided to nap, and by “nap,” I mean “take a break” from my project: I wrote poetry. I drafted one poem during my last hour of writing on Wednesday, another during my writing time on Thursday. On Friday I returned to my stubborn essay, my vision clear, ears alert. The draft improved at a rate I hadn’t seen in a long time. I sent the draft to a writing buddy that afternoon, and yesterday she proclaimed it, aside from a few line edits, “done.” By the end of this Writer’s March, I’ll have sent it out to be read, ridiculed, rejected, and–perhaps–picked up by a magazine editor.

I believe in writerly catnaps. Not multi-week comas, not evasions, but brief respites–a half hour, hour, couple of days, taken only when needed–during which the writer whimsically concocts something new. This other creative project is key. A writerly catnap isn’t a complete vacation; it’s a succinct foray into some other imaginative articulation that keeps one’s voice alive, just channeled in a fresh way. The benefits are (at least) two-fold: First, the writer will regain stamina for her main project. Second, she’ll have started something she might not have otherwise written. One of my new poems was a satire on bad romance novels, the other an acknowledgment of someone I’m worried about. Maybe I’d have gotten around to them at some point, but I’ll never know because I don’t need to find out–now they’ve been formed into existence and when I flesh them out someday they’ll have a chance at becoming resonant.

But whether a writer “naps” by crafting a poem instead of revising her novel, or flash fiction instead of memoir, she must do it with a time limit, then stretch her artistic muscles and return to the original piece in progress–that cantankerous, obstinate, inimitable first love.

Day 31: The end is the beginning is the end is the beginning…

Of all the posts and all the pep talks and all the writing advice I’ve shared/relayed/attempted to give during this Writer’s March, this post feels the most important.  Yet, in many ways, it also seems the most unnecessary.  Dare I say it?  If you’ve made it this far, what advice do you need other than this:   Keep going.

I’ve heard it said that it takes thirty days to make a habit, but ninety days to make that habit a part of your every day life.  Instead of thinking of today as a finish line, please think of it as a milestone.  A road marker.  A pit stop.  You’ve made it here.  Be PROUD of that.  But change your tires.  Get back behind the wheel.  And keep on driving.  It’s a long road, but man, it’s a beautiful ride, isn’t it?  (okay, so a cheesy metaphor, but endings bring it out in me…)

Where Do “We” Go From Here?

Today marks the “end” of the 2012 Writer’s March.  I’d like to offer a profound thanks to Jennifer Simpson (Fridays with Jenn) and to guest bloggers, Marisa P. Clark and Lenore Gusch.  I would also like to thank everyone who dropped by to visit, who sent writing exercises or writing advice, and/or who engaged in writing conversations through comments both on this blog, on facebook, and in person.  Without your help and support, this endeavor would not be possible.  Writing daily–and blogging daily–are  daily challenges.  All of you (named and unnamed) have become a huge part of my writing life.  If you weren’t there, I wouldn’t be here.

This year, I would also like to follow up on our challenger goals, both as a way of acknowledging everyone’s hard work, but also as a way of thinking about how to shape the blog next year.  Please take a minute to submit the following form:

Additionally, we also want to hear your success stories.  Publish a poem or three or eight?  Place your short story?  Your essay?  Get a novel or memoir picked up?  Win a contest?  We want to know, and we want to promote you.  Keep an eye out for the “Success Stories” page.  I’ll get it up as soon as possible (and there will be a place to submit a form there).  In the mean time, if you haven’t already, polish up all that hard work, and get it into the world!

And finally, please take the FINAL CHALLENGER POLL

Best of luck to everyone out there.  And whatever you do tomorrow, I hope more writing is in your future.

Challenger Update #1

In lieu of a post, I thought I’d use this Tuesday for two things:

1.  Take this Poll & Let’s see where we all stand!

2.  Post a comment & Update us on your goals!  And remember, the idea is to make yourself want to write, not to make yourself feel bad.  Feel free to revise your goals (up or down) depending.

As for me,

Daily Goals:  3 Hours/day.

Progress:  On these, I’ve stayed consistent though they are not always three days in a row. I work better when I work through them consistently, so my goal for the following week is to write for three hours in one sitting.  The Good news: A few of the days (like today), I was even able to exceed my daily goals!

Monthly goal: 100 pages by the end of March.

Progress so far: The good news: I’ve written almost 30 new pages (and revised roughly 20)!  The bad news: probably 10 of those 50 are usable as is and over half of them need to be completely reworked (and if you know me at all, you’ll understand that reworking takes me three times as long as getting them down).   But hey, there’s progress!