Thursday, September 3, 2009

Worth the Price of Admission

Now Write! Fiction Writing Exercises from Today's Best Writing Teachers, edited by Sherry Ellis, is a useful addition to the bookshelf for writers, especially those who also teach creative writing. I immediately started using some of the exercises in my fiction class.

I had a moment where I laughed out loud. Amidst the usual exercises on character and point of view there was this advice from Kathleen Spivak in her "The Writing Exercise: A Recipe."

Ingredients and Preparation

Before bedtime, pick up the alarm clock. Set it to ring two hours earlier than your usual wake-up time.

Sleep. Or don't. But get up anyway.

Put a mug of coffee, tea, or other comfort in your hands. Now go to your desk immediately. Sit down. Look dazed. Open the computer-mind.

Work on a writing project--somehow for two hours. Don't complain. (Spivak 64).
Spivak goes on to describe doing for this a year, comparing the writing project to a "dominatrix" and a "virus that takes hold." I loved it. Here is the writing process boiled down to its stark essence. Art will always require sacrifice, as she makes clear. If you want to write you must be willing to give up sleep, set aside distractions, and carve a space for yourself seperate from the world. As Rilke once said, "Ask yourself in the stillest hour, must I write?"
I loved it, but this is very difficult for me to do now right now. I'm in the midst of a new semester. I have two lovely young daughters, age four and one, to help raise. I'm content with my life and why would I spoil such contentment to work morning after morning on something that may never see the light of day?
Art. I know I'll be returning to the novel soon. In the stillest hour I will write!

There are many other worthy chapters in this essay collection. For teachers of writing, chapters like Crystal Wilkinson's "Birth of a Story in an Hour or Less" make Now Write! well worth the price of admission.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

"The Night Birds" is remarkable.

Just thought you should know...

I picked it up at Creekside Books in Cedarburg, my hometown, on a whim, knowing nothing other than you taught creative writing in the city I was raised, Manitowoc.

Which, oddly, was enough for me.

I was at least halfway through it when I discovered I was carrying around an autographed copy, no less.

Again, remarkable storytelling. I do hope you have more in the works!