I love the imagery in this description of the writing process from Tim Wynne-Jones:
"Making up stories is all about wanting more – taking the ordinary, turning it upside down and shaking out whatever it’s got in its pockets.” Tim Wynne Jones,12/5/10One of my all-time favorites was a post called, "Time and Patience" where Brad Kessler talked about his life on a Vermont farm raising goats and making cheese:
"I like that my cheese is called a tomme, because making a cheese is somewhat like making a book. Both take raw material from the world and transfigure it into art. Both are the products of rumination–animal and human. When you make a cheese you do a little work with the milk then wait and come back later and do some more, and wait again. It takes months to make a cheese. A book takes even longer. You can’t make either in one go. Time is the essential element. Time cures the imperfections, one hopes, in both.And the best answer (in my humble opinion) to the question, "What's the hardest part of swimming?" came from Caroline Leavitt:
The conditions in the cellar seemed almost perfect for aging a tomme, 59 degrees and 90 percent humidity most days. The walls were stone, the floor earth. We had no idea if the right microorganisms would thrive there or the tommes turn out okay. There was nothing to do but make the cheese and see." Brad Kessler 7/18/10
"The self-doubt that comes on like muscle cramps. The realizing that there are better swimmers who are further out there, and that no matter what I do, they’ll always be further out (which leads to the realization that it’s not a competition and that’s a mighty big ocean out there). When I can’t get something right, self-loathing sometimes rears its ugly head. Sometimes I forget that I know how to write, that I’ve had story problems before and solved them, and I sink into deeper despair." Caroline Leavitt, 7/11/10Another of my favorite responses came from David L. Harrison on 3/28/10. In response to the question, "what keeps you afloat..." Harrison says,
"I love the word game. Anyone can draft a rough copy. I could be a sculptor if all I had to do was knock the edges off a block of granite and call it a dog. Just so, a draft merely knocks the edges off an idea to expose its potential substance and shape. Writing comes after. Writing is the process of giving the dog a nose to read the wind, curious eyes to track grasshoppers in the garden, a busy tail to sweep flowers off coffee tables. If I’ve revised eight times, on the ninth I’ll notice hair on the sofa where the dog never goes, a detail that thought to sneak past me." David L. Harrison, 3/28/10On March 21st Anne Mazur and Ellen Potter talked about their book, Spilling Ink, a handbook for young writers:
“There is a lot of time wasting in writing. Make up your mind that this is the way it is and don’t let it bother you. Writing doesn’t always have a clear ending or beginning. There isn’t any one way to do it. And you usually have to throw a lot of it out.” Anne Mazur and Ellen Potter, 3/21/10And starting off the new year on Jan. 10, 2010, a quote from Kyoko Mori’s memoir, Yarn: Remembering the Way Home:
"Knitting had taught me to plunge into color and swim through it, each row of stitches like a long lap across the pool. Though the motion seemed repetitive, the rows were adding up to a larger design just as the laps were adding to the actual distance I had traveled. My writing, too, had to be a movement and not a repetition. If I could match the perfect knitting tension in my head–holding on and letting go at once–then the words and the sentences sometimes veered away from where they were going and guided me to a new thought that surprised me. I found myself suddenly on the other side of the muddled, tangled phrases, with words for what I didn’t know before. Those were the moments to write for." (p. 146) Kyoko Mori, 1/10/10And last, but certainly not least, from Bruce Black, our beloved Wordswimmer himself, this insightful comment regarding Facebook:
"What I have to remind myself each time I sign on to Facebook is to be careful of deluding myself into thinking that writing horizontally is writing vertically. It’s not.Indeed. Thanks, Bruce, for giving us another wonderful year of Wordswimmer!
I also have to remind myself that time is a rare commodity. It slips away too quickly, as this anonymous Latin poet so poignantly suggests:
'Death plucks my ear and says,
Live—I am coming.'" Bruce Black, 10/3/10
These thoughts on writing helped J. Irvin Kuns keep swimming last year, and, with luck, as the new year begins and we enter the water again, perhaps they'll help you find your rhythm and pace as you set off on new journeys.
Enjoy these gifts from the sea, and let us know in the year ahead how your journey is progressing the next time you step back on shore.
PS - Here are a few sites to check for inspiration in the year ahead: