Gwyn and I were at the piano labeling chords in her lesson book; she’d just learned tonic and dominant, one and five and their corresponding Roman numerals. Because piano practice can be grueling, we do it before school when Gwyn’s most alert, but this also means an awful time crunch, so when Gwyn leapt from the bench to stand in front of the fireplace, I had little patience. She pointed at the clock on the mantel, a fancy one with Roman numerals. “Now I can read it!” she proclaimed, and told me it was 8:40. She had cracked the code.
Which was all so exciting she couldn’t practice, she wanted me to write one through a hundred and I started while Emily did her hair, but then I remembered why we use the Arabic system—Roman numerals are cumbersome, laborious, and there’s no way I could write a hundred before 8:50, when we needed to leave. “But you promised!” she wailed and a meltdown ensued, a full-fledged, stiff-bodied temper tantrum. I kissed a timely school arrival goodbye. (more…)
Hidden deep within the writing process is a powerful tool for social change.
I know; that statement can’t be substantiated. But let’s try on the idea for a moment.
If you’ve ever penned your thoughts or memories or imaginings, you know that the writing process surprises you. Writers say they write to find out what they think. The process of writing is revelatory. We see differently for having written. This is “re-vision”, even if you’re just writing a journal or first draft. (more…)
Whenever I speak about writing and inevitably mention revision, people roll their eyes. Even experienced writers. Even published writers. A few years ago I pitched my book about revision to a series of editors at the Associated Writing Program’s conference; each and every one laughed at me.
Revision is dreaded, universally. Even those like myself who thrive in revision understand the sentiment. Change is hard. Changing the way we see our creations and then changing the creations themselves is especially challenging. But it’s even worse than that. To change the way we see our creations, we ourselves have to change. We have to willingly step away, shift positions and perspective, and look again. Ugh! (more…)
I can’t tell you how many times writers hand me a stack of pages and ask, “Is it any good?”
I’ve stopped answering this question. Sure, some writing is better than others. Sure, I have strong opinions about what makes a good story. But I’ve become increasingly wary of writers’ need to ask this question and my ability to answer it.
When a work-in-progress is deemed “good” by a reader, what purpose does this serve? All artists—all humans—want and need external affirmation; to continue hard work, we need our efforts affirmed and the essence of our endeavors recognized. (more…)
As a privileged white woman I sometimes wonder what to do with my strong commitment to racial justice. Much as I want to join the Black Lives Matter movement on the streets or participate in my church’s educational programming around white privilege, as committed as I am to supporting my native brothers and sisters in their fight to protect their land from pipeline invasions, I know that’s not where my energy belongs. My money, yes, and my whole-hearted support, but not my energy. My clear calling is to write, teach, mother my child, tend my home, and tend my partnership.
Despite this clarity, I sometimes regret that I’m not doing enough. Recently, however, I got some insight into how teaching writing and writing well myself might further the work of racial justice—in ways however hidden, however small. (more…)
Recently I plunged into Minneapolis Park & Rec’s latest phenomenon and started swimming across Lake Nokomis. The lifeguards tow enormous orange buoys out for the course, then hover alongside in their kayaks. The first time I was ecstatic—such freedom! such a great workout!—except that, without my glasses, I couldn’t see the buoys and kept veering off course.
So I bought prescription goggles.
Now you have to understand that I’ve been both terrifically near-sighted and an avid swimmer since I was nine. When I got my first pair of glasses, I was amazed that trees actually had leaves. (more…)