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Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Process

Yesterday I started working on a new poem. Wrote a pretty strong first stanza. Wrote a second stanza with a good image but too wordy, too loose, but nonetheless a strong image. Started a third stanza. Got stuck pretty quickly. Quit. The whole thing took me less than 30 minutes.

I had more time yesterday that I could have been writing, but I didn't. I was done. I used to feel guilty that I can sometimes only write for short bursts of time. I felt wasteful since there are very few days when I have longer than a short burst, and on those days I may still not write more than a short burst. But I've stopped feeling guilty about it and realized that in the early stages of my process, when I am still working with something formless, all I can do at a time is 20 to 30 minutes. That's it.

Later when I am reworking, rewording, revising, I can work for hours at a time. Once there is form, I can think about a word or a phrase or a line and rewrite it and rethink it for hours. But when I am trying to find form in formlessness, it's a short burst and then I'm done. At that time, my subconscious works pretty hard on the problem, and then my conscious mind sits down to try to hear what the subconscious has done, and transcribe it, and that's it. Then I've got to wait some more for my subconscious to do the heavy lifting.

So I woke up at 4:50 this morning thinking about yesterday's poem. I have a block of time this afternoon when I have to wait for a child to finish an activity, and it was at that time that I was planning to do my writing today, but here it was 4:50 on a Sunday morning no less, and the poem was calling.

So I got up and looked at it. The first stanza was still good. The second stanza, which differed completely in imagery (I had been going to do alternating stanzas of contrasting images that would come together in the end somehow) now was clearly a different poem entirely. So I moved it out--it's still a good idea but it doesn't belong with yesterday's poem. Thus the third stanza  became the second, and I worked on it, got further along. It's still flabby and missing something, but I made progress with it. That took all of 20 minutes, being that I'm still in the fairly formless stage, and I went back to bed.

I'll work again later today when I have that block of time waiting for my son. I'll probably get 20 or 25 minutes on yesterday's poem, and 20 or 25 minutes on the poem that will come from the old second stanza, and then I'll have more time to wait, so I guess I'd better take some reading with me. Or papers to correct. Or something.

Too bad I don't have a poem in the hopper that's further along in the revision process since I happen to have that kind of time today, but I don't. That's how it goes.

That's my process, and now that I've written in down, it'll probably change radically. Let's hope not. It may not be the most efficient process, but it's one I understand.


Mari said...

Jessica, I see you've deactivated your FB account -- good for you. And we found a place down south! Will write to you about it more privately at some point.

I'm glad to learn you're writing. Freeing oneself from the Face Beast, if only temporarily, is definitely key to creating space for daydreaming and for new work.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Hi Mari,

Yep, I realized that reading FB was making me, daily, multiple times daily, feel worse instead of better. When I first started with it and was catching up with old friends, it made me feel happy. But now it just makes me feel bad and disconnected and far away. So I decided to take a break.

I'm sure I'll come back again, and at that time I'll probably have lots of catching up to do and it'll be fun again. And then when it isn't, I'll disconnect again.

That's my plan.

Yay you found a place! Definitely want to hear about it! And I saw somewhere (the dreaded FB?) that you located the parrots of Pasadena.

Hope to hear from you when your life is in order and calmed down.


Mari said...

Yes, FB can have a dehumanizing, depressing effect, I've found -- not unlike how I feel after too much mochi or Thanksgiving dinner: it tastes good going down, but the aftereffects aren't pleasant. Periodic breaks are good for the soul. All that "connectivity" isn't natural. The psyche needs space.

When we were staying in South Pasadena last week there was a flock of wild parrots that frequented the neighborhood. There was also a flock in Highland Park, where we stayed in September, so the area seems to be popular among wild parrots, which makes me happy!

I'll send you a brief update in a bit. Take care, and good writing to you.