Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

Today, I’d like to re-post a piece I wrote in March of 2010 that talks about some of my writing habits.

But first, I wanted to point you toward two bloggers who were kind enough to read my ebook. Check out their reviews at:

intense sensations
Bound & Determined to Find a Good Read

The following re-post is a good companion piece to a guest post I wrote for poet Mark Stratton’s blog, Aggaspletch. For his ongoing series, I describe my writing space–that is, where I do my writing. Here, I describe what I write with and on.

Do you have any rituals that you perform when you sit down to write, whether it’s your masterpiece book or a blog post?

Odds and Ends

Longhand is the only way I can write poetry.  Longhand feels more organic to me than typing does, I feel more connected to the words. I hate pencils, but if there is nothing else around I’ll use one. Otherwise, any decent ball point will do if it slides across the paper smoothly. A roller ball is fun because it is wet, sloppy, and smudgy.

Whether with pen or pencil, I cross out all mistakes, never erase, and when I’m thinking, I draw a box around the crossed out words and fill them in really dark. Sometimes if I have to think for a long time, I tear the page from coloring in too much.

I have tons of notebooks to write in. However, my preferred practice is to grab some paper that is going to be thrown out anyway–like a bill stub, an opened envelope, or a computer printout–and write on the empty side. I usually keep pretty good track but over time I’ve lost a couple of poems, one of them I mourn as my best. I think about it a lot but I don’t know if I can write that one again.

When I do write in a notebook,  I never start at the beginning and work my way to the end. Rather, I randomly open the book to a blank page, trying to stay a few pages away from another entry, mostly because those pages are wrinkly and the ink from my boxes show through the back, and sometimes it leaves a mark on the facing page. I rarely use the same notebook twice in a row.

When I was younger, my favorite topics to write about were romantic love, social causes, and the occult, in that order. Nowadays, the aspect of the occult I believe in the most is intuition. I want to live by it but I don’t want to be a fool. We need to be aware of social causes but I’m too self-centered these days to want to write about them.

As for love, that’s for another post. When I get to it, that’s going to be a hard topic for me to talk about.

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2010-2011.

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Comments on: "A Writer’s Writerly Habits" (42)

  1. That’s an interesting post. It reminds me of something I wrote recently on my blog. Great job. Keep up the good work!

  2. ‘have tons of notebooks to write in. However, my preferred practice is to grab some paper that is going to be thrown out anyway–like a bill stub, an opened envelope, or a computer printout–and write on the empty side’ – have tended to do the same- although now am trying to make use of envelopes, stubs etcs – in an attempt to re-use/recycle paper!

  3. Nice post. My intuition tells me that you will one day find the wonderful poem you mourn.

    I am reading your ebook and enjoying it.

  4. I never know what is going to work best – keyboard or longhand – until the moment the words start to come. And I can’t find anything consistent about it. It’s purely what feels right at that moment. If I start the wrong way, it soon obvious. and I switch over.

  5. Previously I used to write on anything I got my hands on..then a point came when I could hardly decipher what I had written..now I directly type out..its more easier that way..Good post.

  6. Love hearing how the artist creates. We all have our ways and it is so interesting to see yours are close and yet so different. A great pen is so important for me. I understand that when writing comes from the heart I need to write it long hand. When it is more objective and instructional I prefer the computer. Enjoyed your post.

  7. I try to write by hand, but I find I get frustrated with the way it looks. Here, it is all neat, and I can find my many spelling mistakes.

    Thanks for this Adriene. I WILL get to your book once my Rule of Three thing is done. I’m swamped and can’t keep up with all I want to.

    • Not to worry, Stu. I appreciate all the support you give me. I do think you’d enjoy the book as you commented on many of the poems originally. Here, you’ll be able to see my commentary on each poem. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of the Rule of Three. Congratulations on your success with that project!

  8. I organize longhand — outlines, bios, etc … I love journals. My handwriting has gotten terrible though, so I don’t do a lot of it. I have a hard time holding pens these days.

  9. A very interesting post. Funnily enough, I don’t have any writing ritual. I write everywhere, when I have some time. It might be in a notebook, or on my computer. Writing seems to be a prolongation of my thoughts, and I can’t get to ritualise it. believe me, it would be easier if I did!

  10. I don’t have rituals when I write. I have an obsession with buying journals that remain blank in my cupboard, but oh I have high hopes. Maybe this is a ritual, if I have an idea for a piece (like now, am keen to right a true story poem, including the rhyming… I know the theme, even the title, but I can’t write it until I see the first sentence in my head). I like how you write poems free hand, it does seem how they should be created. If I had legible writing I might consider this option, but alias the keyboard is where I am most productive. I do tend to write about passions a great deal, it’s a complex subject.

    • Getting the first sentence before doing anything else … I truly think that a lot of the writing process happens in the head, thinking it through. It may seem like there’s no ritual, but maybe it is so complex it’s hard to identify.

  11. Once I had a ritual of writing those morning pages – remember Julia Cameron’s directive in The Artist’s Way to get down three pages per day, preferably mornings? This went on for years, I’m sure. The premise for this discipline is to get the creative juices flowing, so that out of the void genius will finally emerge. I did this religiously. Then one day I stopped. It had begun to feel like I was rambling on about nothing. Once in a while a gem did appear among the slush pile, but more often than not I was venting or ranting. Oh, and during that period I went through more journals than I can count! Now I have boxes and trunks in which they are stashed, gems and junk alike.

  12. The way you organise yourself is interesting. I see are splashes of me. I love fresh clean paper, I like to sniff the paper and I am so fussy with the pen I use. I actually prefer pencil but also love a pen that slides wet and inky over the paper. I write the most amazing stuff when I’m out walking and by the time I get home it’s gone. Can’t take pen and paper ’cause dogs have possession of my hands.

  13. I love to walk and take a small recorder with me. Old with tapes but I talk all my ideas into it. I come home with a wealth of thoughts to put down. Loved this post. Missed you around here.

  14. I thought i was the only person that wrote my ideas on to a scrap of paper. My excuse is waste not want not, my real reason perhaps is it makes me have to be concise as lack of space.

  15. I agree. Poetry can only happen with paper and pen/pencil.

    I also like to revise prose on paper for your same reasons. Crossing words out. Writing in the margins.

  16. Penelope J. said:

    Writers’ writing habits and rituals are always interesting to read about. Therefore, I very much enjoyed reading about yours. You are essentially a writer of extraordinary beauty, intensity, and thoughtfulness so I can imagine that longhand would suit you better. I also wrote longhand and have boxes of notebooks with everything from poetry to journals, observations, descriptions, and first drafts of novels. However, since I write books, I turned to typewriter and then computer though I always felt like I’d lost something along the way. When I have a difficult scene or description, I tend to write it longhand. Often, I will write blog posts longhand as ideas come to me as I’m out walking.

    • When you have a whole scene to write, maybe you would lose your train of thought if you had to write it longhand, whereas longhand allows more time to process the thoughts. Penelope, thanks for your words of encouragement. They mean a lot to me coming from such an extraordinary writer as yourself.

  17. Each writer has different quirks and habits…fascinating to read yours!

  18. You know, I often feel like a fake writer because I don’t have writing traditions like you do. I absolutely loved reading about your creative process and which I had something similar! For me, there’s so much pressure to writing. I try to get out as much as I can all at once and then edit later; otherwise, my perfectionist side takes over and nothing comes out at all! =P

    • Actually, that’s the best way to write, Sam. Just get it all out first without censoring and refine it later. It seems you just described your tradition. You’re a real writer after all! ;p

  19. How poetic it is to write in longhand in a notebook nowadays!

  20. Anonymous said:

    Nice post Jean, it’s odd the little habits we develop as writers isn’t it. I always use a laptop when I write, hardly ever a pen (which may explain my shocking handwriting!)

  21. That poem has a life of its own now. Bon voyage!

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