Saturday, April 26, 2008

In the eyes of others

A lot of my process is incredibly personal. I write on my own inspiration and until I am extraordinarily happy with my work, I don't share it with another person. But the process of sharing, the process of opening up this little piece of yourself to another human being and preparing for some form of rejection is a terrible, terrifying and absolutely necessary part of writing.
The most helpful thing I can do for my work is expose it, to breath the life of fresh air into the piece and let others help me do so. But just choosing a poem, just placing my faith into myself and putting it out there can be so trying that I want to give up. Unfortunately for the side of me that desires to give up, I tend to take work shopping courses, where the effort of exposing ones art is a pivotal part of the grade and the class. My first college experience of sharing my work was not pleasant, and actually induced a writing dry spell for a month or two where it would hurt to go back to my work.
But why would one be so sensitive? Well, my art is part of myself- it is deeply connected to my experiences, my emotions and my sanity. I feel like I am so great at this thing, this passion of mine, that even being slightly knocked off the pedestal is a sharp fall from my own opinion. But I need that fall sometimes. I need someone to say 'Cecy, I don't understand this metaphor" or "Cecy, why is this word capitalized?" Because even when I am writing the poems on to paper, even when I speak them out loud, without an audience or a critic, the whole thing is in my head.
So, as a necessary evil, there are some rules that have made later critical experiences much more helpful and rewarding and not so damaging.
  1. They are critiquing your piece, not your Work. As a writer, I'm connected to almost every piece I write, but when I walk into a workshop or any editing area, I need to accept that it may not be as great as I assume, and if it isn't that doesn't mean I can't ever write anything great.
  2. Choose a piece that is good, finished and flawed. Everything has flaws, no matter how many edits you perform, no matter how much love is infused with the piece. Instead, embrace the first two concepts when choosing- does the poem satisfy you? or Does it linger? It should not only evoke an emotional response, it should then make some effort to heal it or answer it.
  3. Don't be so serious. Even if some girl you really respect tears into your piece (or just a part) take it with a grain of salt. If, at the moment, you are really hurt, don't read her critique first. If you need to, find some positive feedback to focus on and expand upon and visit the critical parts later. There may be some truth the critiques of others, and there may not, but until you can be objective, you can't do your best by your work.
  4. Finally, Catalogue the experience. Editing, exposing oneself, being critiqued, they are all painful. We all want to feel like we are good and don't need work and being told otherwise is an emotionally jarring experience. But use it, instead of losing yourself to it. Write about it, about how you felt hounded by their critical nature, or change the experience- offer a comical outlook on certain painful comments. The point is, to keep writing through the discomfort and to keep work shopping. Your outlook will mature and the experience will be much less painful every time.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Letting Change Happen

The issue at hand is a matter of removing one's own limb or something equally painful. You see, I have no problem editing. I edit papers, edit stories, I even edit other's poetry and find no issues with doing any of those things.
But when it comes to my own work? My own poems?
It's like they are my children, they are abstract emotion that I feel I can not hone to any degree.
I can accept criticism on the poems but it is extraordinarily difficult for me to find fault within them.
As a wise woman put "You are not as great as you think you are, but you are not as terrible as you fear."
So sometimes I just blindfold and hand the poem to someone else's mercy, but people are scared to be critical, scared to hurt one another. Poetry is personal, but to be really good, yo need to make it very public.
The best method I've found?
Last night I was tearing my hair out, trying to vainly edit what others refused. I had a very sweet friend (who I happen to be dating) help me calm down, and then we talked my poems out. He made me feel so much more calm and collected, as well as let me air and hear the problems I couldn't merely read.
After the initial help, I was able to utilize other strategies to refine my work- to make it a better version of itself. But without that push and that voice, I couldn't have even understood what the poems needed.
So I thank Andrew greatly for his help, as well as offer this advice to writers-
Don't just read your poetry out loud. Find an audience- it could be a close friend, it could be a group of people, and share not only the poem, but your thoughts feelings and intentions, so they can help you (and you can help yourself) clarify them.
Finally, don't be scared of editing. I used to believe I didn't need to edit, because I did love my poems, and I thought editing would remove something.
However, editing can only enhance the original work and give you a better chance to be published because others will understand your work, rather than just give it kudos for sounding nice.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Doing the Shoulds before they become Should Haves.

Long title, I know.
Lately I've done a lot of reflection on my decision to pursue a creative writing degree. It's probably one of the most impractical fields, and I could always write without the degree.
It's probably, to a degree, based on the very fact that I love to write so classes based on that craft are so much more interesting.
I guess the thing is, I'm only planning on getting one degree ever. Life might throw something else into the mix, but for now, this is my only intended degree. So the point is, I guess, that I have a dream and I've decided to follow it.
Yes, that creates a hollow in my stomach. Yes, I know it's crazy. But the problem with too much safety is people often become encumbered by their 'protection'. Their safe choices become their life and it's no longer a matter of passion, more a matter of making it through the day.
I want to be more than breathing- I'm aiming to be really and truly alive.
Right now, that means taking a big risk, and betting on myself. If it bites me on the ass, it does, but no should will become a should have, at least for my art.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The first time-

It is tedious and mundane, and we will forget all introductions within minutes. It takes months of sitting across the room to finally recall the name, repetition and science make no dent. However, introductions are necessary.
I am Cecilia I. I write poetry.It seems simple, a little starry eyed girl writing love poems and giggling to her peers. But poetry is more than an art, it is an obsession, it is a lifestyle. Poetry is my passion and I will not be dissuaded from writing despite months of writer's block or lack of material. I will write a villanelle about a shoe if I need, but that is the very point.
Writing is a need, not a want. Writing is everyday, tidbits here and there, a collage of words that spill on to the page and promptly take their place.
So why read this blog? There are millions of blogs out there and I'd bet a thousand of them cover poetry.
Well- I've been writing poetry since third grade, I've been published twice, and I'm obsessed with the craft, from the lines of others to the exact process that I go through myself. And I intend to document it all, every moment of sweet obsession.
So why read? Because how often are you in someone else's obsession? Perhaps you will be swept by my passion and go out and write your own. Perhaps you will guffaw at my over sweeping statements of self-importance.
But it still proves to be interesting, so why not stay tuned?