[Results of a freewriting exercise from The Aspiring Poet’s Journal]
poetry is the excavation and the expanse
poetry is an arm that stretches back and inward
to emptiness or elsewhere
poetry is a blackbird’s wing, inky and slight
poetry is my unhinged jaw fluttering
poetry is veils of meaning
poetry is magical thinking
poetry is the vise that cleaves
the cork from my throat
poetry is dried blood on the old wound
poetry is passage
Hello!! It’s almost that time of year again, that most wonderful time, National Novel Writing Month (AKA November). It’s always a highlight of my year, and a wonderful reminder to keep creating, because our stories matter.
This year will be a little different for me because I’m taking on the role of Municipal Liason for the Skagit Valley region. (Whether that new role will help or hinder my word count remains to be seen.) Regardless, I’m looking forward to getting to know fellow writers in the region and helping them tackle their novels.
I haven’t formally decided on what I’ll be writing this November, but that’s what October is for. Preptober, as it’s often called for NaNo purposes, is all about setting yourself up for success in November. For me, it involves two main areas:
- Novel prep: Brainstorming, planning, and outlining, as much or as little as desired
- Life prep: Planning everything outside the novel to carve out as much time as possible for writing in November!
Since I’ve seen a ton of resources online for novel prep, I’m going to focus more on the second point. For me, this usually involves meal planning and prep, event planning for big events (for Thanksgiving and my daughter’s birthday, as well as ML-hosted NaNo events), general housekeeping, and self-care. It also involves coordinating with other people (partners, writing group, babysitters, etc.) to create a team to help support you during November.
I plan to post more on these topics during the weeks of October as I’m going through the process myself. Happy prepping!
I went to your river
at its lonesomeness,
that wildness reflected in
the bingo halls, the Wheeling factories
all empty now.
I looked for your grave
and wished for words.
I thought I heard
something. But it was just
that dirty river, moving past,
keeping its own secrets,
like the dead. I wonder about
my own wasted life.
What can I say to you?
I’ve loved you like no one
else since I first heard
your voice, one dark wing.
Ever since, I’ve searched for you
in truck stops and back alleys,
the polluted waterways of America.
Did you ever really leave Ohio?
When you return, will you find
the same thing as I?
when bamboo flowers, famine follows
those flowers bring the rats
every thirty years or so
the rats devour it all
flooding the landscape
squirming black appetites
bequeathing us disease
we dwelt in phapian paradise
shrouded by our excesses
as the flowers poked carmine noses
out of stalks that lingered
relegated to the garden
gratuitous satanic clockwork
we knew we were doomed when
the bamboo leaked indoors
a suffocating canopy
stalks snaking up furniture
angry roots in the carpet
catching ankles and breaking toes
once it’s here you can never be rid of it
you have to tear it out by the roots
or burn down the damned house
relinquish your sackcloth and gather the ash:
hold it in your cankered hands
it is more precious than gold
it is more filling than dirt
it is more natural than sin
25K written, halfway through.
Here’s an excerpt from what I wrote today–obviously very rough, weird draft. Sorry, if it’s not clear what I’m going for, it’s supposed to be a page of a letter from the main character, this wellness guru/religious leader. It’s roughly modeled off of Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians and Song of Songs, so hopefully that explains the strange tone somewhat.
Love is another illusion. It is one of those grasping, desperate attempts to outwit your natural solitude. You may fool yourself for a while, but sooner or later you will recognize love is an illusion that cannot be sustained for long.
Ultimately, it is a betrayal. Sometimes this betrayal is like cold, slick metal between your ribs. Other times it is a dull constant aching, like a cyst, like a cancer. Either way, it will eat you from the inside. You will be changed. Look at me. I was in love once, I was cut from the inside out. My whole body, a thousand tiny cuts. I will bleed away, eventually.
It is like that wonderful dream where you have found the Other, the one who completes you, the one who can look into your eyes as if they were her own, the one who seems like they can reach into your heart, and gently, gently, cradle it. They have entered your bloodstream, and you feel overwhelmed with joy. You feel as though you have found what you had been missing all along. That precious, vital thing that had been cut out of you so long ago, returned and now you are whole. You are, at last, yourself. Only, of course, you wake up. Everything is the same as before. You are not changed. You are the same person you’ve always been, half empty and bewildered. You grieve the loss of that feeling of wholeness, like a sawed-off appendage, even as you realize it was never really something you possessed to begin with. That is the essence of love. That is when you realize what the poets say is, somehow, true. He cannot contain you. You will vanish into thin air.
Ask yourself, for how long can you keep your beloved? You cannot possibility expect him to stay in there, inside your head, alongside those incessant thoughts, the gruesome doubt, the internal screams that keep you up all night. There is no room for him, either.
It’s November 4th. It’s been an exceptionally busy week (Halloween + my birthday + my daughter’s birthday), but I’m happy to say that I’m not even *that* behind on my writing.
I’m at 5,000 words!
But I have been getting a little discouraged in my story. As I write, it’s painfully apparent that I have no idea where to story is going (not shocking since I spent hardly any time planning). Even though I knew this would likely be the case when I went into the month, it is a little daunting, sitting down and free writing, no editing, just whatever pops up. I keep thinking, “you’re going to waste your whole month with this?” “This is going nowhere.”
It takes a lot of effort to keep telling myself that this is to be expected, that it’s part of the fun, and that it’s maybe even necessary to get at the soft underbelly of what I want to say–the real story. If I spent all November writing meaningless, disorganized drivel, but came away with a solid kernel on which to base a “real” story … that would be worth it. Or, even if that doesn’t happen, if there are no breakthroughs and no kernels, I still wrote something, and maybe it was something that needed to be written, that will pave the way for ideas later down the line. Maybe it’s just something I need to get out before I can move on to something better.
I do, honestly and from the bottom of my heart, feel that it is really important to trust the writing process. You might not get what you want out of it, but you get what you need. Regardless, it is challenging, to come back to the keyboard day after day with some vague hopes and a whole host of self-doubts. There are so many other things I could be doing, things where success is much easier to gauge, things that are instantly gratifying. So many things that don’t seem as likely to make you look like a complete and utter failure.
Anyway, I just wanted to be honest about how quick and easy it is to fall into this mindset. Hopefully, I’m the only one in the world who feels this way, but I doubt it.