Here’s to a Livelier Lively Muse

I confess. These last few years I’ve been struggling with creating and sustaining a regular blogging practice. Scores of writers and artists and coaches create lively, entertaining, interesting, and beautiful blogs and they make it look so easy. I want one, too. So when I saw a post on Facebook that my friend and talented artist Jane LaFazio had signed up for the self-study version of Blog Triage with Cynthia Morris and Alyson Stanfield, I signed up, too.

The first assignment was to describe the people I want to visit and read my blog—age, background, geographic location; all those demographic details that help us define our readers. This is what I wrote:

Writers or those who want to write aren’t of any certain age or background, they don’t live in any particular region (except, perhaps in their imagination; the world of ideas and language), all races and many degrees of coolness; experienced, inexperienced, semi-experienced. Pajama-wearers, stilettos, Vans. Keyboarders and writers-by-hand. There’s no demographic that invites immediate links to images of style or culture or geographic location. We’re primarily English-language speakers, that’s something besides writing we have in common.

The assignment asked what other interests readers of my blog and I have in common. I created this list, which is pretty much the basis of what I’ll be blogging about.

  • How-to’s, why-to’s, when-to’s and what if’s about writing and writing practice
  • Tips and suggestions and guidelines and probably some exercises.
  • Writing accoutrements, cool places to write, great programs and apps.
  • Books about writing and events that celebrate writing and books.
  • All things writing practice, including evocative prompts.
  • Gossip. Not mean-girl gossip, but fun, interesting notes on all things literary.
  • Quirky, interesting things about writers and books and the writing process.
  • Writing retreats and contests and places to go to write and meet other writers.
  • Guest posts and interviews with other writers.
  • Interesting items about libraries, bookstores, and other writing-centered places.
  • Excerpts and examples of good writing and links to even more.
  • What else? I’ll ask. I hope readers will tell me what interests them. (Will you?)

Are they comfortable with the blog format? the teachers ask. Probably many more than me; I’m still learning, exploring. And I expect some are in the same place as me—wanting to know more, but still a little shy. And there are those who I’ve been learning from all these years.

Will they comment? I hope so. I’d like The Lively Muse to be a place where dialogues can begin, where I can hear what others have to say, discover new and interesting stuff, and expand my community. I’ve been part of a vibrant in-person writing community for more than twenty years; I want to expand it to include this exciting, though sometimes overwhelming, tsunami of social media.

So, here’s my commitment to creating a more vibrant, more interactive, and much more frequently posted to, blog. Here’s to a livelier Lively Muse.

Are you a regular writing practitioner? Do you hang out in the blogosphere? I’d love to have your comments, thoughts, opinions.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

A Walk Around Green Lake

"A Week of Walks Around Green Lake" by Jane LaFazio

Many years ago my friend Dian wrote a story titled “Around Green Lake,” about a woman who was contemplating suicide. The character walked around Seattle’s Green Lake thinking about her life and her desperate situation. Around and around the lake she went, thinking and thinking. The story got longer and longer as the character remembered more episodes from her life. In revise after revise, around and around the lake she went, until finally the story got to be a metaphor among our writing group for the whole rewriting process.

“I’m going around Green Lake again,” we’d say at our meetings, meaning, I’m still working on that same story. We’d bring page after reworked page to the group, every rewrite becoming more tortured as we each went around our own Green Lakes. Seasons changed, rains came, leaves fell. The occasional snowfall or ice storm, but each of us inexperienced writers continued slogging the well-worn path of our stories, revision after revision, in our futile attempts to make them “perfect.”

Ultimately some of these stories did die – euthanasia we said, rather than suicide. We figured it was more humane to kill them gently and with love, than to continue in our attempts to keep them alive with false metaphors, contrived plots, stilted characterizations. And, remarkably, some of those stories did survive, did get better. A few even saw publication, or at least a submission or two.

Looking back, these long, repeated trips around Green Lake weren’t wasted; they were important journeys in our writing and in our lives.

We learned to be patient with ourselves and with our writing, to occasionally stop and look up from the path and notice how the light fell through the trees. We learned to look at our work both close up—word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence—and from great distances. We learned to ask questions and to accept honest, thoughtful critique. We learned not to give up too soon, but to know when to stop, too, and to put a story away for awhile—weeks, months, and in some cases, years, until we could look at it with fresh eyes. This is how we learn to be writers. By writing. And by rewriting.

Dian Greenwood and friend

I don’t know what ever happened to Dian’s story about Green Lake. Serendipitously at an art exhibit one year, I came upon a lovely mixed media piece by artist Jane LaFazio titled, “A Week’s Walk Around Green Lake,” and purchased a print for Dian. It hangs in her writing room. (You can see more of Jane’s work at her website, PlainJaneStudio.) As for me, I have boxes and boxes of early stories and their revisions stacked in my garage, many drafts of a novel take up more space, as do the boxes of notebooks jammed with story-starts and character sketches and nubs of ideas. Who knows if any of them will see the revision pencil again. Maybe they’ll wind up in the recycling bin the next time I move. Or sent out in a flaming boat upon the waters of Seattle’s Green Lake.