poetry, Uncategorized

Trash those dreadful drafts?

trashdraftsRecently I tweeted about throwing away my rough drafts, and how posterity might frown on such a practice. The more thought I gave the subject, the more I concluded that tossing those old scribbled up legal pad pages isn’t such a bad idea.

However, I have writer friends who save every scrap that they’ve ever scrawled upon. “You never know when you might need to look back at your prior thought processes,” they defend, and while I see the point, I can’t help favoring efficiency and space over reflection. I wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I believed that everything had to be preserved “just in case.” I was well on my way to being the subject of a “Hoarders” episode.

These days, I’m a bit more pragmatic in my approach. Everything will eventually be dust anyway, so why not give myself some mental room and clarity? I’m not a fully devoted practitioner of feng shui, but I do see the merit in having “flow” in my surroundings. A bunch of old chicken-scratched drafts won’t help my process anymore than having a mulch pile in the middle of my writing room. Both are about equal in function.

Lest the reader think I’m a minimalist, allow me to clarify: If something adds beauty or merit, then it should stay. This is true in poetry as in life — lots of professors believe that adjectives and adverbs are tools of Satan, and in some cases, they are. They add fluff and window-dressing, often where none is needed. However, just as the writing room demands certain little accoutrements to make it home, so too does the poem. An occasional descriptive won’t kill the bigger message or theme, no matter what Dr. Killdarlings says.

The issue of tossing out drafts and prewriting is personal to every writer. Those of us with visions of Ken Burns documentaries based on our lives may hold on to those ugly reminders in the hopes that our penmanship, like that of Sandburg or Frost, will be looked upon as history. But for this writer, I’d rather people remember the final version. Time to go take out the trash.

poetry, Uncategorized

Hometown Fellowship — A guide to being inspired where you are

A view of Central Avenue from my new short-term writing space.

Recently, I decided to invest in my writing using a different method. Plenty of my writer friends pay some high-priced writing retreat or conference a handsome sum for the sake of privacy and different surroundings. Still others win residencies at noted creative spaces like Yaddo or The Studios of Key West. My objective was to experience this same “getaway” mentality without the hassle of airlines, rental cars, or questionable bathrooms.

I decided, simply, to invest recent prize winnings of mine in a “loft.” Here in my city, we have lots of historic buildings downtown with inexpensive space for rent. My thought was, by providing myself with a different perspective on a usual place, my writing would be renewed. So far, the new view has generated one piece, and I’m hoping, of course, for more.

I also gave myself a deadline and a project: for three months, I will use this office space as a creative venue outside my usual lake-view “writing room.” During that time, my plan is to produce a chapbook-size accumulation of work inspired by this new locale. Notice, I did not say “at least 20 poems,” or “at least 30 pages,” or any other precise measurement. By leaving the project somewhat open-ended, I have allowed myself the luxury of defining my own parameters as time proceeds. After all, I’ve only paid for three months here, and using the space judiciously is imperative.

By giving ourselves, writers and artists, permission to invest in our passions, we are assuring at least some level of productivity. There is also a tradition to be observed here: plenty of poets, novelists, and creatives have similarly allowed themselves the liberty of “lofts” or “studios” over the centuries. The views from these spaces have produced some of our greatest masterpieces. If I can achieve even some small slice of that same motivation, my objective will be achieved.

In the meantime, I would ask my fellow right-brainers to consider something similar if they’re in a funk or need a breath of fresh air.  A small getaway can result in the greatest returns, I’ve found. Hopefully, my little experiment will pay several creative dividends as the months pass. Updates, as usual, will follow.

A second view of Central Avenue from the new writing space.