Free image courtesy of KathrynMaloney at Pixabay.com

We are a thing-ful culture. A quick scan of my writing desk, and I realize I’m awash in things: a mouse that needs batteries, a coffee mug, an old manuscript in a box, a calendar, a laptop with more calendars inside, kids’ immunization records, a rolodex (I know, I know, welcome to the 21st century), a mouth guard for teeth-grinding I need to boil and use, a note card with an illustration of the Eiffel Tower (a really big thing made small), a recorder that also needs new batteries, a birthday card leftover from June, a fabric-covered box with love notes from my kids inside (things inside of thing)…

Paper-things many of these, but things, nonetheless.

For a minute, Marie Kondo’s less-clutter-more-happy idea made me disdain of my multitudinous things. Pandemic 2020 made me happy for them again, especially the stacks of books I’m still reading. I guess you’d call this relationship with things complicated.

Which brings me to my spot of writing advice for today, which was inspired by today’s feature over at Parhelion Literary Magazine, where I was recently promoted from features editor to associate editor. I encourage you to check out this short essay; in it the essayist, Darcie Abbene, calls upon authors and poets, including Ray Bradbury, Terry Tempest Williams, and William Carlos Williams to help her with her own writing. In turn, her essay helped me in my thinking about my writing–and it might do the same for yours.

As for those pesky things…Williams was a poet, whose most famous poetic phrase (probably) remains:

No ideas but in things

William Carlos Williams–from his poem “A Sort of a Song” and repeated in his epic collage titled Paterson

As a leader of the movements of modernism and imagism in poetry written in English–it makes sense that the poet was concerned with things. Of course, my things are not his things, just as yours aren’t mine. Williams was a physician, and I like to imagine how his professional things–and place things like a hospital or even (ahem) a red wheelbarrow–informed his thinking. So, things before ideas.

I’m paying close attention to things in my reading today. Working down my stack of withdraws from my local library ($1 each–sad, but lucky things for me), I’m currently reading Spy of the First Person, Sam Shepard, playwright, musician, and novelist’s, final fiction. So far, I’m flooded with things: a rocking chair, a beach, a cot, corpuscles both red and white… But I’m having trouble seeing the forest for the trees (the idea for the things?). I’ll keep working on it.

Which brings me to my own writing (Lord knows something should!). I’m back at it, my novel-in-progress, working in fits and starts, but working. And for all my anxieties over the things of my current state of life: 3-ply masks, school uniforms, new kids’ sneakers… It’s things–those concrete simple images set down on paper–that keep me writing.

Maybe it’ll work for you, too?

What are you writing? What are you reading this week? Any exciting weekend plans?

Interested in Rust Belt author interviews, book reviews, essays, and more? Check out my handy-dandy categories, above. Are we social? Find me at FB and on Twitter and IG @MoonRuark

16 thoughts on “a bit of writerly advice…for July 31, 2020

  1. Feels like it’s been forever since I did any writing. My only exciting plans for this weekend is to watch season 2 of The Umbrella Academy. We’re in lockdown here and house bound. Good luck with getting back into your writing 😊.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I keep hearing about that series, though I haven’t seen any of it. (I’m always at least 5 years behind.) My husband and I are currently watching that History Channel series, Vikings. Thought it might be a bit too gory for me–what with all the fighting with axes–but I’m enjoying it. Plus, everyone on that show looks like they have pandemic hair! Enjoy your weekend. Thank goodness for good TV right now, right? And thanks for your comment. I tell myself, even a scene now and again will get me through this draft, but I need to push myself so I keep a good flow!

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  2. Congratulations on your promotion! We’re so up and down with “the coof” as Gabe calls it, which always makes me smile and is why I love to give my characters funny ways of talking… I feel bad for my son. The “famed” Cornell project groups were what he went there for. All gone. 😦 The best character traits right now would be flexibility and perseverance. Writers should do great haha! Glad to hear you’re writing. Me too, but I’m revamping my book, in response to a how-to I read on scene. There’s so much about this I have yet to learn! Because I have a writer’s group, I’m trying to press on with my current WIP, which turns me all around. Aha…uptown problems. Enjoyed your motherhood post, too. Had a comment and got interrupted. Never finished and posted. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Kelly! Up and down I understand–in writing and in life. I feel terribly for college students (and parents paying for college students). Maybe that generation will do well translating it all online? I wonder how many kids are deferring for a year, but then I’m sure any job is hard to come by. The remote schooling didn’t work for my little guys at all in the spring–they were uninspired, unmotivated, and uninterested (and they typically like school). Thankfully, their new school has small class sizes and is able to social distance–they’re putting up the desk shields, etc., etc.–and having “modified classroom” instruction Mon thru Thurs and Fri remote from home (so the school can be deep cleaned each week). We’ll see how long it lasts. I’m glad you’re revising–the book I read? (I thought it was great!) I can’t wait to be revising my thing–need to get it all out of my head, first. I read a good book years ago, The Scene Book, which helped, I think. Happy revamping and drafting–turn around and around enough, and I guess you’re dancing!? Thanks for being here!

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  3. The pandemic has affected all of us in different ways–and we’re all finding ways to cope. I’m struggling to finish editing the last 30k on my manuscript and feel like I need a lot of luck! All the best with yours, Rebecca.

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  4. I found comfort reading the list of what’s on your desk. I won’t list my contents, many of the same things you stated, but on the shelf to the left of my desk is Marie’s book … hmm … maybe I should read that again?! I also have a stack of items sitting on the floor next to my desk that I want to donate to Goodwill, but haven’t made the trip there. I think they’re open. Do you find that there is a sweet spot in each person’s life for things – just the right amount is really what Marie is talking about? When that sweet spot is out of balance, it affects our thinking and our writing. As always, I so appreciate your posts, they get me thinking!! PS – congrats on your promotion and for keeping on with your writing despite all the chaos in life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do think there’s a sweet spot in life and in writing for things, Shelley! I love that you have things-in-transit, too: your stack of items awaiting a new home through Goodwill. I feel like those things have a lot of story imbued in them–or could! And thank you for your congrats. It is so instructional–and fun–to help shepherd the essays and stories of others out into the world. Never enough time for it, but it’s all juggling–things, loves, and roles in this too-short life!

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  5. I would actually call your relationship an ‘entanglement’ 😛 On my side I have just been trying to learn the ropes of SEO and trying not to kill anyone in the process. I’ve been putting more work and effort into my blog and funny enough it feels as though it’s just getting less and less views. My house is cluttered like your desk, my life feels a bit more structured but also a bit of a mess lol How do you Marie Kondo life?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, an entanglement–I love that. And if I could tell you how to detangle life, the way Marie Kondo cleans out a closet, I’d be making a million bucks in book sales! Ha.

      Well, you are a trooper for becoming a student of SEO! I will forever be an amateur at this whole blogging thing, because I just don’t want it enough to study up on SEO!

      So, my friend and fellow-blogger, Lorna, (she’s got the blog Gin & Lemonade (ginlemonade.com) is super savvy about real blogging (as opposed to my old zine-like attempts). She recommends (and uses and is an affiliate, I believe) this Blogging Concentrated digital marketing tools: https://bloggingconcentrated.com/members/aff/go/lornadh?i=72

      Maybe it’s worth a look-see? And good luck!

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  6. Wee! Glad to hear a fellow writer getting back on the novel train. I myself am in the rewrite/editing phase of my current WIP and I long for the days when I can do nothing but just write. Wishing you all the best and thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Stuart. I find writing advice helpful, even if I sit on it for a while. Checked out your latest post–great advice there. I’m following your journey and wishing you all the best for your writing, too!

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