Letting go of NaNoWriMo

I’m not quitting, exactly.

I’m just letting go.

I had never written a novel during National Novel Writing Month. I have never written a novel before; not the whole thing anyway. So this, for me, was a good test of if I really wanted to write something like this as all. I am a poet after all, and that tends to make me more a sprinter than a marathon runner.

As fun as this project has been, I have more pressing real life matters (like finishing my classes for the semester and assembling invitations for my wedding, yikes!). With the holidays coming up I thought I would give myself permission to make this project a little longer than the back breaking 30 days prescribed by NaNoWriMo, but I wanted to share my thoughts none the less.

So, 7,500 words behind and fingers nearly raw, I have come to a few realizations about writing and the race that is NaNoWriMo:

  1. Jumping the gun

I wanted to write so badly on October 29 that I actually had to hold myself back and focus on other projects. The idea of writing those first few days was such a thrill I ended up writing 3 days worth on the first day. The glitter faded of course, as I was only displacing other things like homework and this blog for the chance to put energy into the novel. It was not that I was more inspired, or suddenly more talented, but that I had given myself the forum to write and write I did.

  1. Write and you will succeed

The exciting and rather simple truth about a game with a word count, is that the words don’t have to be particularly compelling, they simply have to be numerous. I was almost relieved that the words weren’t being graded by anyone, and my quality was not in question. This allowed me, an over thinker, to turn off my brain and just write. Since I am writing a memoir, more specifically about a year in my life in a particular job,  just letting myself write and allowing the simple truths and patterns reveal themselves was more compelling than my own flowering language.

  1. I do have time to write

I think the knee jerk reaction is: no one has time. We aren’t able to sit down every day and write for hours so the books in us are trapped until we have time. But I found time to write 23,000 words in 14 days, almost half a “book” in half a month. Then things got busy and assignments were due, and I took a few days off. But the evidence is there for me at least, there is time, even when I’m on the couch, to write a little down.

  1. 1,000 words a day is a totally realistic goal, kind of.

NaNoWriMo asks the diligent writer to make 1,667 words a day to get to 50,000 by the end of the month. This is a challenge for most of us who work or go to school (or both). Anyone who needs to make dinner for a family or pick up kids from school after work might think any number is a reach goal. But I have found that 1,000 words is pretty easy to get in one thought. I tend to write about 100 words a paragraph, so 1,000 words is just 10 tight paragraphs. Totally do-able.

  1. I am a better writer, even if I lose

I don’t plan to write the next great American novel. Not on the first time. This was just an experiment for me and I am happy to say it was a success. I am a better writer now that I know how I write, the constraints of my style, and the way I can push my writing when I get fatigued. I even got better at dialogue with practice!

It’s a shame that this challenge happens in November; I feel as if there might be a better time of year to ask writers to pause their lives. But there’s Thanksgiving and Black Friday next week and I need to be realistic. I may not finish Diary of a Dancing Goat this month, but I think by the first of the year I will be editing and sculpting rather than just monkey-smashing my keyboard!

These are my thoughts. Hope you are having a lovely end of 2015!

Keep writing!

—ECW

Teaching Poetry

Teaching Poetry: What I learned from young poets age 12 – 14

Hand writing takes a long time
especially in pencil. sorry
I assumed you would all be young
beethovenns (also no spell check)
i guess i was ready for nearly-published
chap-book happy slappy poet dieties
I was suprised at how small the room is
when I have no true expertise. sorry

My poems were bad too. not bad, just drafty
and the rafters are close to the floor when
my teacher ego tried spread the table
with wisdom; I was no good on the spot
either, we were something of a rough
draft, the five of us, then the two of us
and then the room and I quietly
slapping papers along the desk
straightened and folded, for the car/ride home.

–ECW

LIBR 202 Information Communities – Ethics of Blog Writer

Ethics of Writer Bloggers

Ethics are a tricky thing on the internet. Some feel the internet is a volatile place, like the wild wild west of the world wide web, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Most days no one is in charge, and we post and comment as we please. On Blogs, where the content creator is also the editor, decider and enforcer, there is not much that goes on without their knowing.

Other days, the internet is not so neatly organized. Content creators on third party platforms, especially message boards and community sharing sites are subject to moderators, or mods, who make judgement calls on what is and is not appropriate for the site. They patrol from page to page looking for language and content that offends or violates human rights. They also may decide a post is irrelevant, which poses questions about freedoms of speech and self expression on the web. Bloggers are in many ways relieved from the eye of the mods, but must make the same judgement calls on their comments. Are people allowed to comment without approval? Who makes the final call on a shared space blog? What constitutes inappropriate? Are negative comments permitted to stay?

Of course ethics extend far beyond the mere decision to delete a nasty troll.

Content creators wrestle with plagiarism, borrowing and apprenticing work of others in order to improve their craft.

Plagairism, the most black & white of the three involves a willful copying of other’s work without fair credit. Copy and Paste makes this especially tempting, but most of us are in the clear of this ethical breach. However, posting images without credit (which I have done on occasion) may be considered unethical, if they don’t link back to the original source…

Borrowing and apprenticing are forms of copying that are less recognized and fall within the preverbal grey area. Borrowing is the act of taking content and elaborating upon it. Perhaps this means quoting another article; maybe you leave a trail with a link. This is more a matter of length. How much can someone copy before it is plagiarizing? Is it fair to host someone else’s content on your space without asking? Are there ramifications if you misrepresent?

Apprenticing, which is something I did in undergrad, is the close study and emulating of another’s work. Not copying in a traditional sense, but mirroring, practicing, sometimes repeating what has already been created by another to improve one’s craft. This level is in some ways the most dangerous in an ethical sense. Where does your work begin and there’s end? How do you determine what is too similar? What happens when it gets published? Do you mention that you studied their work closely in a footnote?

Bloggers are as uninhibited as anyone on the internet, which makes them culpable for the ethical issues they face every time they post. Are your words really your own? Do you represent yourself and others fairly? Is your conduct in line with the spirit of the community?

Sometimes having no rules makes it even harder to play fair.

Thanks for reading!

Keep Writing!

–ECW

LIBR 200: Blog-Writer Information Community

Information Community: Self Published Blog Writers & Poets

This week we are choosing the groups we will be delving into for our large assignment in LIBR 200. In a definition compiled by Fisher and Durance in Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world, Information Communities are characterized by their use of information and technology to bridge gaps in communities.

I am interested in looking into the Information Community of writers (poets and fiction specifically) who make their work available for free on blogging sites like WordPress (like my own) and Blogger.

Information Communities are:

collaborative groups which immerse themselves in technology to share content, break boundaries, congregate around a need and facilitate connection to a larger community of people participating in the information they care about. Content is linked and made relevant through hypertext and shared widely via opt-in subscriptions.

According to Fisher and Durance (2003) these groups have not been studied specifically because the data is new and the social aspect of technology now is just getting to the point where we can easily see the connectivity between groups, especially those that are geographically challenged. In their introduction they name the internet maybe “an information community’s only communication medium” siting chats and mailing lists as a means to connect with others of a shared interest. Today the chat rooms are comments and the mailing lists are email subscriptions, but the blog-writer community thrives with technology as its only connector.

I have not met many of you and yet we are connected by a shared interest in writing (in my case poetry) and the connectivity is our mini websites (blogs) which keep us updated on the broader picture (tagged posts) that apply to our needs. We are part of a living breathing network of writers who look to technology to broaden our scope of the world.

I know without this website I would still be filling notebooks and sharing a few lines at a time. My work may not be anthology-worthy yet but it exists as part of a larger conversation (a literary conversation with centuries of content in the making just now being digitizes and shared among interested groups) and therefore what we all share is valuable and worthy of existing in the ether.

I am very excited to look into this group (of which I am a contributing member!) and find the webbing between all of us!

Keep Writing!

–ECW

(or for LIBR 200, Emilee Wirshing)

Read On:

Fisher, K., & Durrance, J. (2003). Information communities. In K. Christensen, & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world. (pp. 658-661). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Poem 37 Revised

Metapoem

I am a poem from this side of the states to t’other

Map-scratch these lines and find your trails rugged

With these words, I declare them satisfaction in roads mid-construction

Highways heaved of trees; I am progress—if poetry

Moves forward—I am the windshield protecting inspiration

From misfortune’s wind and ambitious stones.

Thumbs out! Or clutching nubs once pencils. I am

Poetry where I stand or wherever I once stood. Come

Lace-up with me some afternoon baked in the mountainside

I am poetry aching for a destination, for it is destiny

Sending me to you.

—ECW

Poem 37 Original Poem 37 Edited

Poem 74 Editing

Nothing like a poem with a little bite.

I got a little dose of Internet bullying on a site many visit for poetic review; a Utopian community of constructive criticism that is not so ideal in practice. From that, I noticed a few notes on inspiration I thought I would share here about this poem.

First, there is nothing like a good fire. There’s not much that will replace that initial spark to write, so always be ready, pen and paper, yada yada yada… more than that, be ready to take every idea and make it meaningful. We all can’t write in our fish phases every time. One of my biggest challenges as a writer was to break from my own control and deliver something meaningful beyond my limited experience.

Second, a poem needs a little time to gather itself. When I first wrote this it was sharp. Your edges are barbed with the reality of your own experience. I had a few professors in college talk about the gestation period a piece needs to be viable. Whether it’s poetry, fiction based on real life or a blunt non fiction piece, there are things that will smooth with time, when the personal sting has subsided. Those things are the depth, the universality, the meaning.

Finally, you’re talking about something else. There is an old joke in literature, where everything is a metaphor for sex, and sex is all about isolation. I’m pretty sure Freud came up with that one, and like his other work it’s a little obscure. But the idea that you are writing something bigger than the surface is, of course, the reason many of us pursue writing. Here’s the twist. You often don’t know what you are writing until you get a little time between you and that fiery inspiration. Give yourself the opportunity of a few feet and see the truth behind what you are actually writing about. Then edit like your life depends on it. Be better than the original inspiration, the teeth in your truth and give us something to remember.

It seems absurd. But take what you get and make it great, then give it a minute, and see what it was all about the whole time.

TAKEAWAY

Your poem is a scratch card waiting to be revealed. Remember to keep the most open mind possible. If you write with limitations, your poem will be bound by them. Just write. Just write and write and write, and be angry, and wild and clever, and foolish and liberated and young, and sage and strong and simple and strange. Be everything, be a writer, and then, when you’ve given it a little time, be an editor.

Because the most important part of poetry is spinning gold from straw.