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More Memos on How to Frame Writing from Heighton

Steven Heighton extended that memo to himself I linked to a couple days ago. It now includes these among others,

1 Could anyone else have written this thing? If Yes, start again.

4 In the long run, curiosity and stamina trump talent.

14 There’s nothing less enjoyable than writing well, because it means excising the superfluous, self-indulgent matter that was the most pleasing to write.

29 Refuse to feel ashamed of the autonomous observer that more and more detaches from you and in times of crisis, grief, elation, humiliation etc. hovers to one side coolly jotting notes.

30 There comes a point when an hour of sketching objects from life or learning to play an instrument will make you a better writer than another hour of writing or reading will.

Read more: National Post column

The first I’ve heard come past often enough. What would it be mean to write something only you can? It could be this cultural habit of needing to be individualistic. Personal, distinct inflection or recognizable spin of pet elements, which can become self-caricaturing and an affect. Or it could mean writing what you have insight into because of lived experience and your particular eye for the kinds of thing you notice and how you piece a picture.

4. is encouraging and certainly the 10,000 diligent practice hours seems to be back it. How many people are competent or utterly brilliant, just not particularly interested in taking it as far as they might.

14. is a reply from another direction to the perplexing statement of one of the writers festival panelists who said she never has fun writing. Although from what she read from her book, the most interesting and enjoyable parts were those which she didn’t overwork and had fun with.

29. It never occurred to me to be ashamed of it. I’ve worked to keep brain in parallel frames of worldviews, flipping between various schemes of How Things Are just as mental exercise since I was a kid. It’s good to hear whenever there are others whose brains are tucking details away and working it to story in real time. How else can one be?

30. Have to agree with that. Trying to always shunt observation thru reflections in words gets one trapped in one’s own processing, an extra step away from perception. Direct drawing, or transcribing without messing with of sound or shape or motion still works with selection and framing one facet of the world but uses a different part of the brain and brings back to what is, not the writing of what could be, or what would work.

The next issue of the Influency Salon is up with more ponderings on poetry.

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6 Responses

  1. Heavy emphasis on creative destruction and
    invention. #2 looks great after #1: it ain’t what
    you do, it’s the way that you do it.

    I have seen “..never has fun writing..”. The horror.
    Much retirement money has poured into
    Master’s programs for extremely competetent
    but emotionally flat-lined work. It makes for
    wrenching readings. Got to “give it up”. Maybe
    intensive lessons in method acting or a strange
    affair with be more useful. Compare with those
    striking kid’s poems: they aren’t ‘ashamed’ of
    personality yet.

    Does anyone address the drama/passion/play
    issue at workshops?

  2. Interesting post, you have lovely page :)

  3. …thanks.
    yours has feeling to it!
    Informative, too. I didn’t know lanterns.

  4. Yes, I hadn’t run across Lantern poems before Marinela either.

    I find one can only take so many reading in a given period of time. if they’re bloodless content, or nerve-wracked readers pluming with room with stress hormones, or affecting enactments of terribly important things, or blunt “real” “raw” spun for performances, there’s a need for keeping the main life being your own, not poetry, not tv, not news, not novels, not social, not Out There. the ratio of one’s own life has to be stay balanced. maybe I speak too much as an introvert in that.

    does anyone address drama/passion/play issues?

    do you mean in performance or in process?

    in performance there was a workshop on that.

    in process, yes there is discussion of not over-editing and where to draw the line.

    in the memo he also talks about keeping drafts and reinject it later.

    by play, do you mean not taking yourself too seriously? Some of the other points in the memo was not to buy into the idea of self as VIP writer nor play the cool game, just proceed on doing what you must write.

    PearlMay 20, 2010 @ 11:32 am
  5. thanks all.

    PearlMay 20, 2010 @ 11:32 am
  6. Your experience with going to readings
    way exceeds my rate, Pearl…heh.
    Hats off!
    Makes sense it seems draining. I take
    a few hours to chill after an event..
    In addition to the reader’s stress, poetry
    has more intensity than reading the paper
    or a book.

    As far as drama/passion/play, I mean
    mainly in the process. Even when an
    Ashbery piece is rambling politely
    along, there is that wicked sardonic
    playing when you realize you’ve been
    talked off the edge a cliff over tea.
    Mainly in the printed product. The
    ‘question mark?’ readings drive me batty.
    I can bulldog through a weak reading
    though. A non-commital writing can’t
    be recovered.

    Play is what I see in the anti-sense
    that substitutes for passion in the
    structured. I guess it’s all generally
    under the heading “personality”.
    Trying to avoid the term “persona”
    so many people are grated by.
    “Flavor”? There is a strange play
    in the thorazinic deadpan of Tao Lin,
    applied across wrenching or bizarre
    circumstances. That’s the ‘flavor’.
    For Anne Sexton, the vehemence is the
    thing. Oddly enough, Kurt Schwitters
    sort of summed it up as the “poetic feeling”
    many po-avs and surrealists refer to.
    Some special reason to pay attention,
    other than an intricate, color-correct
    description of a petal… the ‘prize’.

    The sense of play in eagerly messing around
    with your stuff is a different play, I guess.

    It’s all good stuff, especially for those
    starting and being too methodical.
    I would only add: never forget someone
    else is reading this. Someone who expects
    to be grabbed by the lapels,one way
    or the other. Many editors say that
    different ways. Daunting but exciting.

    Keeping drafts is great. My brain can’t
    handle it, though. I do usually remember
    other incarnations when looking at the
    current one.

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