Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.
Today I welcome Christi Craig to The Writer’s Handful. You can usually find Christi over at her own very fine blog, “Writing Under Pressure, The Blog” where she generously gives writing tips and prompts, interviews authors, recommends books, and does so many other things for the writing community. One of Christi’s endeavors that I am particularly excited about is her writing workshops for seniors, the folks who really have the stories that must be captured. This is good and important work, I think, and I very much enjoy reading about these workshops now and again on her blog.
Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?
Yes, I wrote today. Because I followed my first rule of writing: do NOT go home. Before I left the house this morning, I loaded my arms with too many notebooks, my laptop, a cup of coffee, a bottle of water, a wallet full of dollars for that blueberry muffin I didn’t need but knew I wouldn’t pass up. I dropped off the kids at school and then, I kept on driving.
I know: if I go home, I will breathe in the smell of a 1929 Bungalow too dusty for my own good and see the pile of laundry on the couch and hear the dishes call to me from the sink. I will answer the committee in my head that says, “No time to write. Think of all you need to do.” I will answer them, Yes, first I’ll clean, then write. But, that never works. Ever.
So today, I drove straight past my house, jumped on the freeway, and pulled off at the exit for the train station. I considered boarding the train, just for the day, and writing all the way to Chicago and back. Who would know? Think of all I’d see. But instead, I parked next to a perfect coffee shop right across the street. My favorite coffee shop. I set up camp at a table in the corner near the window: I plugged in my laptop, put in my ear buds, turned on the music. I admired the sky outside, wondered about the bridge in the distance. I whispered a prayer of gratitude for coffee in a porcelain cup and free Wi-Fi and a few hours of uninterrupted time.
Yes, I wrote today, a blog post on writing that included an image from a recent trip up north, where a walk in the woods did my writer’s soul a whole lot of good. I have not written everything I want to say. Not yet. But, man, it felt nice to leave the dust behind and make a start.
What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?
I have poems that I wrote in the sixth grade, dark and depressing, though I don’t remember putting pencil to paper back then. I’m not even sure why I keep those poems, maybe as a memento of the tortured soul I once was (but aren’t we all tortured souls back in middle school?). The stories I most clearly remember writing, the ones I “felt possessive of” (as Rob Roensch so poignantly says in his post on The Writer’s Handful) came out the summer I turned sixteen, when I crushed hard on a tall boy with long, curly red hair. He barely gave me the time of day, and his inattention drove me to fill a small, green, spiral notebook with ridiculous love stories, in which the girl always gets the guy. I still have that notebook, though I never got the guy.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading the e-version of Christine Baker Kline’s Orphan Train and starting a real, live book of short stories by Stevan Allred (A Simplified Map of the Real World) and studying scraps of paper with my own work scrawled on them.
What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)
Keep at it. Maybe I heard this from my first writing instructor, maybe I read it recently in an article on writing. Either way, those words surface again and again, at exactly the right time, the moment when quitting feels like a viable option. Writing is hard, that’s the truth. Also true is the fact that the more we practice, the better we get. I didn’t believe that in the beginning, not really. Then, years later, I read some of my early work, my early published work, and I thought, I should burn those stories! But, I’ll keep them as reminders that—good days or bad days (published or not)—the more I keep at it, the better I become.
If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…
Because I am allergic to anything with fur, and the word “animal” sends my sinuses into a tizzy. If I were an animal, I’d be in constant battle with myself, my body insisting on maintaining its current furry form, yet resisting every inch of dander that results from it.
Then again, that description suits me well as a writer: in constant tension. One day, I am deep in the despair of self-doubt, ready to shut down the blog, kill that novel, go belly-up. The next day, I take a good walk around outside, and, with the sounds of the city as background noise, words of a sentence pop into my mind and take an old story to a new place. And, there I am, skittering down the sidewalk in a hurry to get back to my computer, or at least to get pen on paper, so I can write, write, write and never let go.
Okay, then. Call me the stinkiest, fluffiest, dander-filled beast of a critter you can think of, who hasn’t bathed in days. That’s me. Then, pass the Zyrtec.
Christi Craig lives and writes in Wisconsin. She facilitates a creative writing class at Harwood Place Retirement Community, works as an Assistant Editor at COMPOSE Journal, and is teaching a Flash Nonfiction Workshop this August at RedBird-RedOak [http://redbirdredoak.com] in Milwaukee. Her stories and essays appear online and in print, and she was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Family Matters Competition. Visit her website, www.christicraig.com, where you can find out more about her writing and her workshop.
→Thanks, Christi. As always, delightful sharing writing talk with you. -PMc←