Monday coffee: A month of living dangerously

For many creative writers who have writing lives on the internet, November is a month in which one walks softly and carries a big coffee cup. Why? Because November is when all the challenges Douwe Egberts koffie kopcome out of hiding, and it’s so hard for a writer to resist. To name just a few:

And these are just a few of these events.

Each of these events has detractors. And they are often right to point out problems. Some argue that really good writing needs to happen in its own time and under its own steam. Others believe that the process of creation is more important than the goal (whether that goal is a number of poems written or the number words on a page), but that some of these events focus on goals and discourage mindfulness. Some people need to move on – to pass up the “game” feeling and do the serious, ugly work of revising. Still others have tried one of these events and found the month to be frustrating if one has more than one outside responsibility.

So why do any of these things? Last year,  I did two of these events simultaneously.One of them was the November chapbook challenge. But the other? That was Nano.

I’ve always said I could never write a novel – I’m a short form gal – and I decided to put my money where my mouth isn’t. I decided to prove myself right by trying to write a novel while taking care of my kid (who has some special needs involving lots of doctors and therapists) and holding down a full time job. And I felt GREAT. I was sleep deprived, and overworked; I got carpal tunnel, and the resulting novel was and is truly lousy. And I still would not trade that month for anything.

What I learned was that, really, when all is said and done, I may not be a novelist, but I love writing. I love the words, I love the turn of phrase, I love the transfer of images from my head onto the page. That recognition – the recognition of one’s self as a writer? That’s priceless.

So will you share with us? You know you’re an artist (a writer, a painter, a sculptor, a director…) or you wouldn’t be here at this blog. Are you participating in any or all of these writing events? What does participating, or not participating, tell you about your own creative heart?


Monday-ish Coffee : Cast a Wide Net

I’ve been thinking about the results of That Poll on how our creativity and our loved ones interact.   If you’re a numbers fiend, here are the poll results in order of how many votes each choice received:

  • Being part of a supportive writing community: 25% of the choices that people made included this choice
  • Being a writer is a lonely life; at the end of the day, your support system doesn’t do the writing – you do: 18%
  • My dear ones are supportive of my writing, so it’s never been an issue: 14%
  • Other: 13% (which included everything from meeting your friendly neighborhood librarian – a great idea! – to waiting to show your work in real life print )
  • Hermitting: 11%
  • Creating a supportive community: 10%
  • Putting a firewall between my writing life and my other life : 7%
  • Therapy : 2%

I found a lot to be heartened about here : for example, that many of us have supportive people to hang out with when our daily support system isn’t quite working for us.

I’m also impressed at the complexities we encompass: we can simultaneously love people and understand that they can’t be everything to us all the time; we can be solitary in creation but we nurture that process through interactions.

File:Woman mending a fish net.jpg

 In short, we’re good at casting a wide net to help ourselves create, whether that net grabs us a “room of one’s own” or a support system to be part of.

One thing I didn’t poll on is the professional support that creative people sometimes need/choose to have: editors, agents, publishers, typists, translators, transcribers, teachers, writing groups. I’m going to let Andrea introduce her wonderful editor, but I wanted to mention the editing company because Write Helper is running the Burning The Midnight Oil Poetry Contest, a rare contest that provides cash prizes for the winners, plus a free critique for all entrants. So if you’re a poet casting your net for new places to place your work, the contest is open now through next week (Oct 31st) – throw your net out onto the waters, see what comes back to you !

[ina’s note: This was supposed to be Monday’s post, but we had a time dependent notification to put up yesterday. So, we’re having coffee a day late. Y’all don’t mind late coffee, I hope? We can even make it decaf if you like 🙂 ]

Monday coffee: Writers keep writing

I’m amazed to see what a nerve Ina hit.Coffee perculator fountain

“What do you do when your dear ones are being less-than-supportive about writing?”

The strange part is that we tend to tell everyone how those who surround us respond instead of describing what we do. Heartbreaking descriptions pour out, like this from Judith on She Writes: “I was surprised at how many of my friends were not supportive when my novel was optioned for the big screen.  My husband said it was because they were jealous.  I didn’t want to believe him.  I thought good friends were happy for each other when they achieved some success.  My husband’s response was, ‘these were not your good friends.’”

And Dana writes: “Happy to vote on that question.  I’ve had an in-law that wasn’t supportive at all, but then she was never supportive about anything and hence the word ‘had.’  My immediate family, very supportive. This community was incredibly helpful (without really knowing it) during some of the down times.”

So what do we do? We join writing communities.

And what else: It looks like we continue writing.

Extending the Poll! And…


Seriously Bad Pun Alert

The answers are pouring in from (literally) all over the globe. So we decided to extend our poll  on how creative people manage the intersection of the creative life and a social/family life  until Wednesday of next week to give people a chance to chime in.

Many thanks to those of you who’ve already taken the survey – what a fascinating array of approaches, analyses, and resolutions are being discussed! Once everyone who wants to has a chance to votes, we’ll post the results. Look for them late next week.

Oh, and didn’t I say something about kittens?

Kitten Laptop

Briefly, Wednesday. And a kitten.

In Our Books is taking the day off. Well, not really, but Ina (that’s me) is in the depths of Ugly Data Analysis Hades (do not get me started) and Andrea is in the basic-services-for-living-aren’t-working-and-don’t-even-ask-about-internet-connectivity Ring of Hell that Dante would have written about if he’d known about it. So this is just a quick hello to our lovely fellow creatives and a reminder to add your input to our poll before we close it on Thursday night, and a promise that we’ll publish poll results on Friday. Oh, and  a kitten.

Stray kitten Rambo001

See you all Friday!

A poll: how do you remain true?

Hello, dear readers. A knotty problem today, waiting for your thoughts.

A blog I follow has a post about a problem that many writers I know (and many more that I’ve only read about in biographies) seem to run into (in Western cultures particularly – some day we’ll have to talk about why there’s so much variation in attitude between cultures). The author describes the problem like this:

You see, friends, my immediate family simply doesn’t understand me.  They don’t know why I like to do what I do.  They don’t have any interest in things that I love.  They just barely fall short of making fun of me for doing what I am so passionate about..It’s all about being true to oneself, isn’t it?  Rarely an easy thing to do, but made even more difficult when those immediately around you will not lovingly accept it.

The trope of the Misunderstood Writer has a long and venerable history. But behind the trope is a truth that many writers live and struggle with every day. It’s a little annoying when The distrest poetyou’re confronted by a relative stranger at a party or a school meeting who comes out with:  “You’re a writer. How do you pay the bills?” or “I don’t remember hearing your name – are you any good?” But it’s just plain hard when this vibe comes from someone you care  about, or love and trust, or someone to whom you’ve devoted your own life.

I want to dispel a potential misunderstanding here: the author of the blog, Cooper Robbins*, is not a whiny wanna-be (“If I only had a supportive family, I’d be a best-seller, but no, I’m so beat by the end of the day I’d rather watch re-runs”); this is an author whose creative life includes a novel, a screenplay, and a fair amount of “&c,” on top of maintaining a home and taking care of young ones. Her post (and this post) aren’t about people who want to be writers but don’t write…this is about how we as writers keep writing in the face of resistance from those whose opinions we most value.

Nerr0795 - Flickr - NOAA Photo Library

Camouflage, demonstrated by the Graceful Kelp Crab

Robbins does this in part by developing and participating in supportive writing communities – in a way, that’s what her blog is about.  Some people (and I include myself here) have a sort of damn-the-torpedoes approach, which generally involves shutting certain people out of the creative part of one’s life. Other people hermit (to hermit: to isolate one’s self, creating a shell, and then decorating it with camouflaging materials, such as PTA meetings or banker’s three-piece suits, as needed).

So here’s my question. What do you do? What advice would you give to Cooper Robbins about how to cope with being surrounded by people who are either baffled  or skeptics? NOTE: The poll should let you vote for as many choices as you want – if it doesn’t let you, tell me and I’ll go give it a strong talking to 🙂 [IOB: ina]

*unsurprisingly, this is a nom de plume – sometimes everyone needs a place to vent.  I happen to have a venting blog too, and no, I don’t link it to my name and, no, I haven’t and won’t link it to this blog. Which probably says something, don’t you think?