Jo Stafford Sang at My Wedding

“Today, celebrate three songs that are significant to you. For your twist, write for fifteen minutes without stopping — and build a writing habit.”

Oh, all right, might as well stop complaining about these Do-Not-Edit twists. Nobody’s listening.

Fifteen Minutes:

I can’t think of three songs that are significant to me. I can think of the four that were played/sung at my wedding; they’re significant, I suppose. But I’ve written about them elsewhere. What’s significant is that I chose two and the groom chose two, and our choices differed so widely.

My hand stopped. This is hard to do on a computer: it’s too easy to go back and fix things, choose another word. Even when you’re trying not to. Cursive is easier.

Anyway, David supplied recordings of “A-You’re Adorable” and “La Vie en Rose” (Jo Stafford). We opened with the Adorable song, and that set the tone for the entire day. Emily Post ran up the aisle and out the door in disbelief. But the guests visibly relaxed, and that was a good thing. No tension, no worries. Even the bride had a good time. After she saw the caterer’s van parked in front of the fellowship hall.

My songs were “Simple Gifts” and “The Prayer Perfect.” My gift to myself was a trained soprano to sing them.

***

Saturday morning I’ll spend two hours writing as Natalie Goldberg prescribes. David and I belong to a practice group called 15 Minutes of Fame. We write/read/write/read, etc. We’ve done it for years–I met him in another practice group–and I enjoy it. But we don’t publish our work. Well, we do, if we want, on our blog, but we clean them up a bit first.

And I never write on computer in practice. Cursive is faster. If schools stop teaching cursive, how will students ever be able to scrawl a note? Or write in a margin? Or practice writing their names in different styles? Educators need to think.

***

 

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One Pure Thought From My Wild Mind

Never again.

 

That’s what I said when I received my M.A. No more school. I’d learned enough. More to the point, I’d stayed up for thirty-six hours at a stretch drafting and typing reams of literary criticism too many times. I’d tired of having to take off the weight (peanut butter) that appeared with each paper. The Idylls of the King alone added five pounds.

Six years later, after receiving library certification, I said the same thing. Enough.

Now here I am in summer school. WordPress’ Writing 101. Post every day in June.

Several years ago, I tried posting every day for a year from January 1 but fell out around March. It was fun but exhausting–sometimes Emily Dickinson had to step in for a guest post–and I had no energy to write anything else. I don’t write fast. I revise and edit as I go. (Please don’t bother telling me I shouldn’t.) I suffer; how I suffer.

But last night I saw the word challenge, which is the emotional equivalent of chocolate, and my resistance is low, so I cratered and registered. It’s just one month with weekends off, so perhaps I will last it out. The catch is that WP provides a topic and a twist.

Today’s topic, or goal, is to unlock the mind: free write for twenty minutes. Follow Natalie Goldberg and access the pure thoughts and ideas of your wild mind.

Today’s twist is to post the free write. It doesn’t matter, says WP, if what you write is incomplete, or nonsense, or not worthy of the “Publish” button.

Yes, it does.

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2I respect Natalie Goldberg, but I’m not about to put my wild mind out for the public to view. I will display irony and self-deprecating humor, keep my tongue lodged in my cheek, and present myself as flippant, superficial, frivolous, shallow, and self-absorbed.* My thoughts, which are seldom pure and never simple, thank you Oscar Wilde, plumb a depth those who read my blog and listen to me talk cannot imagine. And I don’t share.

That’s one reason I’ve cut down on Facebooking: It’s too easy to record what I think.

This free write has gone on for an hour and will go on until the manager of the book store tells me my car is about to be towed for violating the three-hour limit on parking if I don’t make myself stop.

To introduce today’s prompt, WP quotes Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, on what all writers face:

You write because you have an idea in your mind that feels so genuine, so important, so true. And yet, by the time this idea passes through the different filters of your mind, and into your hand, and onto the page or computer screen — it becomes distorted, and it’s been diminished. The writing you end up with is an approximation, if you’re lucky, of whatever it was you really wanted to say.

– Author Khaled Hosseini, “How to Write,” the Atlantic

 Irish Murdoch expressed a similar idea in fewer words: Every novel is the wreck of a perfect idea.

What jumps out at me is this: Most of life is a wreck of a perfect idea. And we publish it anyway.

There: I’ve accessed a pure thought and idea of my wild mind.

Well. It’s been drummed into me that an essay must have a conclusion. The previous paragraph, although an abrupt ending, is close enough. I’ll leave this and work for a while on the *I#%+)(^! rough draft of the novel, which is what I’ve been avoiding for the past three-plus hours.

Thanks, WP, for supporting procrastination.

*****

 *I am self-absorbed.

Note: This place isn’t busy and the manager hasn’t said anything, so I assume my car is where I left it.

Note: With all respect to Mr. Hosseini, who writes beautiful books, I had no idea to express when I began writing this. I wrote it because WP told me to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Two Saturday mornings a month, when reasonable people are still in bed, David and I sit around a table with five or six other like-minded individuals and practice writing.

We do timed writings–ten minutes, twelve minutes, the magic fifteen, sometimes even twenty–and then read aloud what we’ve written.

Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read.

We follow principles set forth in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. David supplies prompts for those who need a jumpstart. Subjects are neither prescribed nor forbidden.

Some of us write from life. Some write fiction. Some write poetry. David writes in a genre that can only be called “off-the-wall.” Everything we write is creative.

We do that for two hours.

Why?

Friendships. Fluency. Fun.

We see the people we write with only four hours a month, but we know them, in some ways, as well as–perhaps better than–some members of our own families. Their stories tell us who they are.

And there’s something about being with them, playing with words, playing off one another’s words, that creates energy–parallel energies, if you will–that affects our minds and our hands. We become more fluent. We become better writers.

As for fun–what can I say? We laugh a lot. When David, the temporary facilitator, looks at his watch and announces it’s time to leave, I’m always surprised. And disappointed. Those are the shortest two hours of my week.

Now here’s where we get personal. Our group is called Fifteen Minutes of Fame. It’s free and open to the public. New members are welcome.

If you live in or near Austin, Texas, you’re invited to join us. Bring pen and paper and just show up on the third floor of BookPeople Independent Bookstore, 603 N. Lamar Boulevard (corner of 6th St. and Lamar), on the first and third Saturdays of the month. We write from 10:00 a.m. to noon.

If you’re visiting Austin, you’re welcome to visit us as well.

And if you ever attended an Austin writing practice group called Writing From the Heart, you’ll feel right at home with us. Fifteen Minutes of Fame originated as Writing from the Heart. It’s been in existence for fifteen consecutive years. The name is different, but the process is just the same.

For more information, including 2010 meeting dates, check out our blog, Fifteen Minutes of Fame. If you have  questions, send an e-mail to the address listed on the FoF blog, or leave a comment there or at the end of this post.