Sunday, December 09, 2012

Beacons of Light 2012

As the year draws to a close, I'd like to offer thanks to the writers who kindly shared their insights into the writing process with Wordswimmer's readers over the past twelve months. 

These writers were willing to put aside their own work and deadlines, their time for reading or playing with their children or working in their gardens, in order to help other writers find their way into the water. 

Perhaps it's because these generous souls love stories so much that they can't resist offering other writers clues about how to get words on paper.

Or perhaps it's simply that they sympathize with the plight of anyone trying to tell a story, and their hearts can't help reaching out to others drawn to pen and paper as mysteriously as sea turtles are drawn to the sea.

Whatever the reason for their unstinting generosity, these master craftsmen and craftswomen are beacons of light for the rest of us, and their insights over the past year have helped illuminate the process of writing for us as we searched for our own words and stories.

So, please join me in offering a round of applause to thank our Beacons of Light for 2012, and then sit back and enjoy these excerpts from the interviews that appeared on Wordswimmer this past year:

Cynthia Lord: When my writing isn't going well, I always promise myself that I'll write for 15 minutes. I show up ready to work, open the file, and set the timer for 15 minutes. At the end of that 15 minutes, I can quit if I want or do other writing jobs (answering mail, etc.). But I don't usually stop when the timer sounds, because by then I've crossed the threshold of getting started. Sometimes opening the file and getting started is the hardest part!”

Erik P. Kraft: “Dry spell or not, you have to go to the pool (or the lake, or the ocean, etc.). If you’re not there, you can’t swim. You show up, you get in the water.”

Barney Saltzberg: “I noodle. Doodle. Strum. Write. An idea will always poke its head out and challenge me to get busy.”

Lee Bennett Hopkins: “You ease into water slowly, inch by inch, step by careful step, until the water is totally tested. Then you plunge in and keep going until you’re exhausted.”

Marilyn Singer: “ The hardest part of writing?  Each project has its problems, from character and plot development (Where is this character going?  Where am I going with this character?) to the difficulty of working in a form such as the reverso (two poems—one reverso: read the first down and it’s one thing; read it back up with changes only in punctuation and capitalization, and it’s another).  But I’d say the hardest part is not giving up when there are many rejections.  A huge part of a writing career is persistence.”

Francesca Lia Block: [What keeps you afloat …for short work? For longer work?] “The treasure at the bottom of the sea.”

Ellen Wittlinger: “I start with all the time-wasting procrastinations available except for housecleaning: morning news, email, Facebook, Etsy, Solitaire, etc. But when I finally push myself off the diving board, I remember what it is I enjoy about writing—the mystery of it, the unpredictability of my characters and of my own mind, the way words carry you places you never expected to go.”

Chris Lynch: The part I love the most is when I hit it--a phrase, sentence, paragraph, a characterization, chapter, whatnot--and I know, my subconscious editor knows, instantly, that I got it right, achieved the elusive it. And whatever happens to the piece from there, wherever it goes, almost doesn't matter because I just got the thing, the thing of all things, that makes writing so special, so singular for every last one of us who does this at any level, in any form.”

Augusta Scattergood: “I have one writer friend who'll read almost anything I email her at the drop of a hat. (Thanks, Janet!) Another who seems to be waiting for my phone call when I most need her. (Leslie's great at brainstorming.) And of course, my critique groups. I may be swimming alone for long hours, holed up in my quiet spot at the public library, but I'm never really alone.”

Bruce Hale: Just like when I swim in the ocean, I like to ease into a day of writing rather than doing a cold plunge.  I generally start by doing a quick-and-dirty edit of the previous day's work -- just enough to get my head back into the story, but not enough to get bogged down in minutia.”

April Pulley Sayre: “Dry spells, for me, are more like floating. Just trusting that a wave will come, or fish will gather, or birds will fly overhead. Inspiration will arise. But you have to rest and let it go and get into the most relaxed state possible. That's hard and you may feel listless, useless, and insignificant in the world while you are recovering from one project and awaiting the next.  Friends and family help. Nature helps. Doing other arts helps.”

I hope you'll find inspiration in reading these interviews. Best of luck with your stories and poems as you search for new places to swim in 2013.


laurasalas said...

What a great roundup, Bruce! So inspirational. I'm off to share this...

Bruce Black said...

Thanks, Laura!