Process and Prosody

One of the questions most often asked of writers is: What is your writing process? By this general question, all of the following are really implied:

1. What time of day do you like to write?
2. What days of the week?
3. Where do you like to write?
4. What writing implements do you use?
5. Do you have any strange rituals or habits to stimulate your writing practice?
6. Etc.

Even though I've really been writing poetry since I was a child, I never had a writing process. Even when I was taking writing workshops in college, my process consisted of just hoping something would "come to me" before the deadline. Whenever I sat down on the bed or the couch with the intention of writing, I would rarely succeed unless I already had the seed of something with which to start.

Now, left to my own devices as an adult, I have no more excuses for this sort of laziness. So I've been trying out different practices with the hope of their turning into process. Finally, I think I've hit upon something and I owe it to a typewriter. With my previously stated goal of writing one poem a week even if it's crappy, I began by,
throughout the week, making a list of individual words that I've collected from books or articles I happen to read or movies I happen to watch that have caught my attention as a word I'd like to incorporate in a poem. I've always been a collector of words. They need not be anything exotic; it's really only a matter of letter sounds and connotations of meaning that appeal to me in the moment. My previous blogpost is an example of one such list. Then, in the late evening after I've had my dinner, I sit down at my kitchen table with my list of words and my lovely manual Remington typewriter with the assignment to free-write. I also keep a few books of poetry handy should I require extra help. The past couple weeks I have had Louise Gl├╝ck's The Wild Iris, Sarah Hannah's Inflorescence, and Ashley McWaters' Whitework to help me generate poetic thought.

The wonderful thing is: this process is working! Even if I'm not satisfied with the results every time, I am still writing something every time. The typewriter is a very stimulating instrument for me. For some reason, I feel less inhibited when writing with it. The empty Word document on my computer screen is just too much blank space. Writing in my notebook feels too permanent a thing--with the pages already bound in the book, I feel more pressure to not make any mistakes. When using the typewriter, I feel like I'm just jotting down ideas on a worksheet or piece of scrap paper (that can be thrown away or burned if too embarrassing or incriminating), so I find myself able to type my first poetic thoughts even if they aren't brilliant. They may develop into something closer to brilliance. With the typewriter, I feel the ability to essay poetically, in that wonderful verb form of the word.


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