Tag Archives: writing rituals

More Her Red Book, Too

I’ve continued my Her Red Book, Too Ritual almost every day since I gave the assignment as a weekend workout. I don’t know how long I’ll continue. Perhaps until my book tour. Perhaps until I have enough material for a whole new book! All I know is that the results have been pleasantly surprising considering my whole life right now is working from home on my book marketing/touring strategies. I mean there’s not a lot of drama going on other than in my head, so I have to make use of the mundane.

Like writing about the crows daily migration east to west and back again. =

On the Morning of the Crow Migration

She does not recall when began
her fascination with birds
Prehistoric miracles   defying the mundane

It could have been when she settled
into the new home
It could have been when she
gave them all names
Ahab on the chimney   a seagull lookout
or buoy
with a waddling of followers
willing to topple off the roof
and the Tweets Family Robinson
house sparrows in the eaves

Throwing open the curtain this morning
she catches the daily crow commute
West with the sunrise
each day   a clockwork
Nature Call
And what if she went East
followed their route
to the border of their nesting trees?
Would she find the feckless crow
muttering   waxing poetic about
the futility of flight
on a Winter’s Day?

Or is it All for One
One for All
No matter what the Ha Ha birds says?

(SEE my previous Her Red Book, Too entry: On the Day of the Bicycle Mammogram)

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Filed under her red book, poetry, weekend workout, writing exercises

Monday Potes (on Tuesday, of course!): On the Day of the Bicycle Mammogram

A few weeks ago I gave a weekend workout assignment that I enjoyed so much I haven’t stopped. It was a writing ritual I had created for myself 9 years ago that became the manuscript for my chapbook Her Red Book. Once I got back into the ritual (very basically: writing in 3rd person early in the morning and just before going to bed, and always titling it FIRST with On the Day of, On the Night of, On the Morning of. . . etc) I quickly realized what a gem it was and couldn’t believe it had taken me so many years to try it again.

I’ve wracked up several of them that I’m already editing and have decided to post a few, even though they still feel a bit precious.

On the Day of the Bicycle Mammogram

She rides on an uneven day west
a straight shot that curves     but
does not stray     In the waiting room
the receptionist speaks loud English
to the Chinese lady     nods in another cyclist
eyes the father holding hands
with his woman-girl

They are all beyond guessing ages

She makes polite naked conversation
in the machine     her breasts
vised in like fruit to juice
nothing to it   she thinks
walking over the fading footprints
of visitors to the objectionably yellow building

She admires rooftops
the array of shingles     ceramic and wood
She cycles past the cars and buses
daring them to make her feel
It’s just a test this
is only a test     not the last
not the truth     not the point

When she reaches her door
the winds have died down
the sunset has been postponed and
all she wants
is to finish her book
the one she is trapped inside
the one she has climbed into
volunteering herself
for duty


Filed under her red book, monday poetry thang, poetry, writing exercises

Weekend Workout: Writing About Loss

I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it challenging to write a satisfying poem about a loved one who has died. What words can fill the space the person held?

In honour of dear friend and poet Gabrielle Bouliane, who died of cancer one year ago today, I wanted to write something to/for her this weekend.

This workout is something I’ve never tried before, so I’m experimenting with it. I’ll post the results after the weekend.

Instead of sitting down to write a poem or letter or story in one go, eeking out inadequate language for a heart-ripping loss, I’m going to keep Gabrielle in my thoughts all weekend and carry several index cards with me wherever I go. Any time a thought or vision or image or anecdote comes to mind, I’ll write it on a card.

It doesn’t matter if I’m at the library, in a movie, on the bus, or at a party – the thought, image, etc gets written on a card.

On Sunday night or Monday morning, I’ll go through my cards and form the poem (or whatever it turns out to be) from there.

Unintentionally, the first few things I wrote were addressed to her, so perhaps I will stick with that.

The first thing I wrote on a card was:

You were so you, more you than I me. When I cry to you, you don’t suffer my foolishness.

~   ~   ~

There’s a TOAST in honour and memory of Gabrielle happening at 10 PM in Austin, TX. So 8 PM here on the West Coast. Here’s the FACEBOOK INFORMATION about it.


Filed under poetry, weekend workout, writing exercises

Resistance, Ritual, and the (W)Riting life

Several months ago I wrote a POST about how I quit my “soul-sucking” job to live a more creative life. A life that was more in line with my passion and purpose.

The truth of the matter is, it’s a challenge to live life as an artist, writer, musician, etc and make a living from it. It’s not impossible; it’s just challenging on so many levels. Your spouse might not appreciate your lack of immediate income, you might not appreciate your lack of immediate income, your friends and family might resent you for not taking life seriously, and your mind will give you those 11,000 reasons why you can’t do it (I’m a talentless hack; I’m too old to change my life; No one will read anything I write; There’s no money in poetry/dance/filmmaking/etc). Thank your mind for sharing, pat it on its head, and scoot it along. You can make a living at it, or at least a good part of your living at it… it just takes time, energy, and commitment.

This summer I hit a financial low. I had very little income for several months. I found myself searching classifieds for anything that sounded not too nauseating to apply for. I was afraid. I had a crisis of faith in my own abilities. Then, I made a decision that if I were going to get a job, then it had to be 1) a contract job (i.e. temporary and project-based), 2) something related to my field (i.e. teaching, film making, etc), and 3) I have to enjoy it.

I set that intention and low and behold, the fabulous adventure that was Hit n Strum came into my life. Presto!

During my low of lows, however, I was saved by a support system of people who believe in me (a system I put in place for just such emergencies – SEE MY PREVIOUS POST) and by the RITUALS I created around my writing and taking care of my spiritual self. I cannot say HOW VITAL it is to be committed to these rituals, because you will have doubts, fears, and moments of wondering why you aren’t more passionate about accounting or nursing or some other NORMAL occupation.

If you create a ritual for your writing/spiritual life, and follow it with commitment EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT, you will notice astounding changes. You will notice your love made visible.

from stockvault

Here’s my ritual:

-Wake up as early as possible (a challenge b/c I tend to stay up late). My target time is 7:30 am.

-Put Snataam Kaur’s PREM on the CD player (I find playing the same CD every day helps me keep the ritual)

-Get a cup of coffee and write a minimum of one page in my journal (my journal is large, 8 1/2 x 11).

-Read a section of an inspirational book (so far I’ve gone through The Power of Now, Making a Literary Life, and Kundilini, The Evlotionary Energy in Man). For those starting out in a similar fashion, The Power of Now is an excellent resource.

-Just before the last song on the CD starts, I put everything down and then I meditate through the last song. It’s 11 minutes long. Anyone can meditate for 11 minutes. And that meditation sets the tone for what I am to do that day. Getting present, getting still, and quieting the mind is essential for me.

-Get dressed and take a short walk. I call this my “commute” to work. Of all the stages, this is the one I most often resist and most often skip. I have found myself working in my pajamas at 2 pm. But there’s something about my “commute” that seals the deal. I’m off to work! I’m taking this seriously!

-Write (or edit) for at least 2 hours. I can get a significant amount of work done in 2 hours and after 2 hours, my focus gets wonky.

This has absolutely worked for me. As much as I resist, as much as I call myself a fraud or slacker, this works. I started this in February and since that time I have written a feature screenplay and edited it 4 times, edited a draft of my novel, and written a “scriptment” of another feature screenplay I’m working on for a director friend of mine.

Today I’m writing this because I’m between projects, when I feel slightly bewildered as to how to approach the next thing.

After my writing/editing time I usually eat. I’m not a big early morning eater, but if you need to eat right away, add that to your ritual.


THEN, very importantly, I have what I call WRITING BIZNIZ time. I must do at least one thing every day that furthers my “career” as a writer. I research the trades, apply for grants/festivals/contests, make queries, and SUBMIT my work. This part is important b/c I realized after a while that no producer/publisher is going to come knocking on my door going, “Hey, I heard your keyboard strokes, can I take a look at what you’re writing?”

Take time when you do your bizniz. Research the companies you submit to, check your cover letter for mistakes, make them personal, read all the rules and guidelines when submitting, etc.

If you really want it to be your life, you have to put yourself out there. If you just want to write for yourself and your friends, you can skip that part and enjoy the sunshine.

Carolyn See’s book Making a Literary Life contains her own similar advice. She says to write 1,000 words a day (or edit for 2 hours) five times a week for the rest of your life, AND hand write (and mail) one “charming note” (or gift) to an author/editor/etc you admire five times a week for the rest of your life.

Okay, I’ve got the writing part down… I totally RESIST writing charming notes and mailing them off. So far I’ve managed three of them in two weeks. One to my dear friend Sarah Nickerson who wrote a wonderful coming-of-age book called How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, one to a poet friend of mine (Gabrielle Bouliane) in Austin who I haven’t seen in years, and I also sent a book of poetry to a producer I met over the summer.

I KNOW that every time I RESIST something, there’s something to look at there for me. My old self that poo-poos things I think are silly or useless or dumb or I just don’t wanna, but might actually be worthwhile because the person recommending them is someone I respect, needs to shut up for a while and listen.

So… creative types out there… what rituals have YOU created for yourselves? And, are you committed to them? Are they working for you?

P.S. btw, I am human. I do lapse. Things I do sometimes INSTEAD of participate in my ritual?  Check my e-mail, check Facebook, get distracted by a good novel, watch the previous night’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance, call a friend, heck, I’ve even started baking to keep from writing. Then I laugh, refocus, and keep going. And for the times I DO have a job to get to, I have a “mini ritual” to start the day so that I don’t get too far off track.


Filed under on my bookshelf, serious play, writing life