The (Re)Education of a Writer

Monday, November 19, 2007

Two weeks ago I had a full week to write. Last week, not so much. I ended up going to my parents' place to help them care for my grandparents and get through Thanksgiving. I ended up being delegated to Thanksgiving so I spent more time in grocery stores or in front of the stove than I did doing anything conducive to writing.

But I'm back now and since then and (maybe even since before then) I've been feeling a little unfocused about writing. The week before last I began reading Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer. About halfway through the first chapter I had a sickening feeling that all my years as an English major had made me a very poor, careless reader. I also realized that being a poor, careless reader makes for being a poor, careless writer. So I resolved to spend at least an hour each day "studying" writing. Okay, except by the end of the week I was spending about eight hours studying and maybe two minutes writing.

It seems to go against all notions of the creative life, but I think I need more structure to my day. In fact, I'm sure of it. Back in the MFA days, the structure was provided for me: go to class, spend all time out of class working on stuff for class. Basically, I need to go back to school and that's pretty much out of the question right now. (Though getting a Ph.D. is a vague, hand-wavy goal of mine.) Instead I'm setting up my own ReMFA.

Daily assignment:
Freewriting. I miss freewriting. I miss all the freewriting prompts that were doled out like candy in English classrooms. And I'm going back to the most basic of all drills: the timed freewriting exercise.

Study. I have a lot of reading and rereading to do. Prose's book contains a reading list that puts my bookshelves to shame. Also, I still have an incomplte list from a class I took with Antonya Nelson. I'd like to read (and by read I mean carefully, with-pen-in-hand-read) these books.

Weekly assignment:
Writing exercise. When I took the class with Antonya Nelson, she gave us some incredible writing exercises. Most had a word minimum and were related to the novels we were reading. Sadly, I loaned out some to a fellow MFAer and haven't seen them since, but I recently acquired The 3 a.m. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley, so I'll work from those and others I may come across.

Monthly assignment:
Write one new story. Eek!
At least five submissions. I have two stories that are about as finished as they can be (for now). I've already sent one out the door this month and it's time to get rolling on the others.

This is kind of already taken care of by my writing group, but I'm going on and committing to having something new(!) for January and, if I can keep up the assignments, I can reasonably commit to something new every month.

Kind of like a mini-syllabus, yes? I'll try this for a month before I tweak it. Wish me luck!