Tuesday, July 31, 2012


You don’t use your imagination. It uses you. –Wendy Videlock.
I don’t believe that people choose to be writers: the words choose the people; and they choose pretty carefully. –David Lee.

Hopefully, one doesn’t have to have been writing long before they encounter the sense that something separate from themselves is driving things. Some folks talk about receiving inspiration, being taken by an idea that won’t let go until it’s made manifest, of being called to their writing. If they’re called, then who’s the caller?
Allow me a moment to acknowledge that not every writer feels the presence of some outside entity joining them in the studio; and there’s much to be said against laying too much responsibility and accountability in the hands of anyone other than ourselves. But I’ve noticed that even the seemingly most atheistic and philosophically materialistic of writers will, at least off the record, admit to times when it feels more like they’re dictating or transcribing, rather than writing. There does, indeed, seem to be a willing (willful) partner in the game.
There’s a creative-centric bon mot, “When the muse calls, don’t send it to voice-mail.” Thus, I must pick one particular nit with what Lee says: The world is riddled with those who have chosen to ignore, turn away from, where they’re called to go; we do exercise some choice in the matter.
Likewise, as I said earlier, we still have responsibility to and accountability for the work we’re called to do. As Twyla Tharp noted in, The Creative Habit, “…but whether or not God has kissed your brow, you still have to work.” Being called requires an answering, and a taking of action.
When someone displays a particular talent that distinguishes them, we’ll say they have been gifted with writing/drawing/singing/whatever; or we’ll say they have a gift for whatever, or are a gifted ________. This gift stuff isn’t isolated, isn’t unidirectional. Our talent is a gift we receive, and one we’re obligated to share.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Time Enough for a Proper Mess

Recently, I attended a Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer poetry reading, put on by Western Colorado Writers' Forum, in Grand Junction. It was a small group of us who attended. (Well, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was also in town that night...) I brought with me, An Elevated View: Colorado Writers on Writing, in hopes Trommer would sign the opening page of her essay, "From Pretty Pink Bows to Chicken Manure: Embracing Poetry as Practice."
After her reading, I took the book with me when I walked up to greet and thank her. When she laid it on a table in order to sign it, she began laughing, telling me that in the four years since she'd written and submitted it, she's developed so much as a writer. "I read this [essay], and I feel sorry for the woman who wrote it. My writing is so different now."
Two years ago, The Paris Review interviewed John McPhee. One of the many things discussed in the interview is the necessity for writers to allow time enough to develop their craft. McPhee says he submitted to The New Yorker for at least a full decade until they finally accepted something. "And they were not making a mistake."
But this isn't what Trommer was mainly talking about. She feels her writing was too constructed, not "messy" enough. "Writing is not meant to be contained, it's meant to be wild and messy." That she would say this about this essay tickles me, for it's one the essay's main topics: the need for her work to be less orderly. And while it is true that writing can be polished and well-crafted to such an extent that there's no life left, (what Salman Rushdie has called, "a widespread, humorless, bloodless competence"), the reason we repeatedly revise our drafts is because they're not submittable, publishable work, yet.
So, once again, the murky middleground: Good writing is to be contained and structured enough that it flows, but not so much so that it ceases flowing with life. Writing isn't, "For Display Purposes Only," but is to be sent out into the world, living and breathing, to find its way, to find where it belongs.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mutually Green-eyed

Early this year, I became Facebook friends with Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, a poet from Colorado’s Western Slope. Recently, she posted on her wall a link to, fellow writer, Christie Aschwanden’s blogpost about envy. The impetus of the blogpost, oddly, was Rosemerry’s expressing to Christie her jealousy of her. That Rosemerry would have any reason to be jealous of another person seems so bass-ackward wrong. It ought to be the other way around. How does yours truly envy Rosemerry? The number of reasons is incredible, but here are four:

1) She has a much fuller “outside life” than I, yet still manages to write (and publish, on-line) every day.
2) She has a prestige that allows her to make a living from her writing. (Okay, the prestige is more than well-earned, but still…)
3) The woman is everywhere: conferences, workshops, readings, open mics, photo shoots, bookstore events and others. (See #2, above.) Still, I’ve never seen her look anything other than vibrant, hale, and hearty.
4) Finally, and most harshly, the woman is six years younger than I, yet so far ahead of me. Much more than six years, it seems.

In my FB dealings with Rosemerry, I’m sure I’ve teasingly called her a goddess, at least once. But the truth is she’s merely, thoroughly, human, with all that that implies and contains. Again, the seed crystal event that led to Christie’s blogpost was Rosemerry finally meeting her, and saying how she’d envied her. So much so, in fact, Rosemerry’d written a poem about her jealousy, which she recited to Christie, on the spot, when they finally met. And, in the ironic way life often works, Christie quickly fired back with her own poem, expressing her own envy of Rosemerry. She’d been made uncomfortable by Rosemerry’s poem; and Rosemerry was subsequently uncomfortable because of Christie’s.
The irony deepens, saddens further actually, because they each were jealous of the other’s writing. Full-bore, award-winning, nationally-recognized writers, each of them; and still, this envy. And it was mutual.
Perhaps the reason envy is included in the Seven Deadly Sins is because it leads one to discount, to dismiss, one's own gifts. To discount and dismiss themselves. And because it incorrectly depicts the connection between gift and recipient. (It’s a shaky, troublesome thing, separating, distinguishing the two.) The bumper sticker says, We’re all alone in this together. That’s what envy manifests.
I gave reasons why I envy Rosemerry, which I too often do, and she’s not at all the only one, nor the only writer, I gaze at through the wrong end of the telescope with my “green” eyes. However, I have talents and abilities which even Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, in all her magnificence, doesn’t have. Focusing on what I lack keeps me from furthering my own abundance. 

O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring, 
...Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, 
and who more faithless?) 
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the 
struggle ever renew'd, 
...The question, O me! so sad, recurring--What good amid these, O me, O life? 

That you are here--that life exists and identity, 
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. 

-Walt Whitman