Volume XI, Issue 36
Yesterday, clearly, when it came to this Word-Zine, the answer was "not to write." I'll spare you the details, but it ended up being an exhausting day, albeit a good one.
Today, the answer is "to write," and here I am, putting the finishing touches on a topic you may find very useful: procrastination.
This issue, featuring longtime WordPlayer Cheryl Boyer, began in one of my Under Construction classes last spring, when Cheryl used our prompt to write about all the things she was doing instead of working on one of her two—yes, two novels in progress, both very
good reads, even in their unfinished form.
Her piece was so relatable, and so funny, that everyone urged her to send it out for publication. And so she
did, and so it was published, this past July in Brevity magazine.
Cheryl may have written about not writing, but she has done plenty
of writing since she first walked into one of my writing classes, starting with her grief about not being able to conceive, and then her journey to and beyond becoming a mom.
if you've been a Word-Zine reader for a while, you may recall this photo from 2011, when she and her husband
adopted their son Josiah, marks the joyful day that Cheryl brought Josiah in to meet the members of our writing class.
Cheryl's journey continued, and she kept on writing about it, in poetry and prose. A few years later,
Josiah became a big brother to beautiful baby Izzi.
2018 marked Cheryl's first book, Counting Colors: a journey through infertility. The poems in Counting Colors are beautifully rendered, moving testaments to our hearts' capacity to grow, and to the joys of
And you may recall this photo of Cheryl celebrating with fellow WordPlayer Kim Love Stump, an author herself of a YA fantasy princess tale called A Clearing in the Forest. Sometimes the colors turn out just the way they're supposed to with no planning at all!
As for Cheryl's (and perhaps your) current procrastination, well, it's something almost all of us writers deal with. Today's
writing prompt is as exercise from my writing guidebook, Spinning Words into Gold, that has proven helpful to a number of writers, including me.
You may also want to check out this meditation/ blog post about Time For (and In) Creativity by Nadia Colburn, in which she writes, "Often, our biggest obstacles with time are our own ideas and mindset . . . Or we are overwhelmed by the passage of time itself—we
feel stuck in patterns from a past that we can’t quite free ourselves of, or we feel swept along by impermanence itself. . . .
The post ends with prompts that can "help you get clear on how to take time for your own creative life."
Lastly, if you'd like still more help, you may want to purchase a copy of Spinning Words into Gold, which, in the "When" chapter alone, addresses, "The When of Now: Your Daily Writing Habits," "On Writing Regularly and Irregularly," "On Creating Time, as Opposed to Finding It," "On Rituals Around Your Writing Time," "The When of Yesterday: Your Writing Past," "The When of Tomorrow: Your Writing Future," "The When of the Seasons of
Our Lives," "The When of Your Writing Pieces," "The When of Now, or Then," "The When of Tenses: Past, Present, Future, and What the Heck Is “Perfect Progressive” Anyway?," "The When of Chronology and Timelines," "The When of Pacing," and "The When of Not Writing"—along with a slew of supportive tips and exercises in the areas of "Who," "Why," "Where," "What," . .
. And five chapters on "How"—to write, that is!
May you kindle (or rekindle) a very steamy relationship with your writing!
"[Maureen's writing] class became part therapy, part
fulfillment of a long-held
dream to be a writer.
Maureen’s been stuck with me ever since."
Cheryl Boyer is married to her college sweetheart, who has yet
to bore her, and she has two amazing children who keep her on her toes and make her laugh often. Her poetry collection, Counting Colors: a journey
through infertility, was born out of her need to work through her own grief, and her hope is that it will encourage women traveling their own journey and offer perspective to those who love them.
Before she developed parosmia, she ate a bit of dark chocolate daily (sadly, there is no adequate substitute). She loves jigsaw puzzles and doesn’t like to lose sight of land. She’s also a home-schooling mama, a former foster mom, a writer, photographer, and a toilet-bowl-cleaner procrastinator.
Find Cheryl at www.CherylBoyer.com.
What Cheryl says about WordPlay
Almost two decades ago, in the midst of the grief infertility brings, I took a leap and finally signed up for a writing class. That class became part therapy, part
fulfillment of a long-held dream to be a writer. Maureen’s been stuck with me ever since.
She nudged me and encouraged me until I transformed from a scared and timid writer into someone who now admits out loud, “I am a writer.” I have since penned personal essay, poetry, and
fiction, much of it delving into families, how they come to be, and the relationships involved.
Several of the poems born in Maureen’s classes found a home in my poetry collection, Counting Colors: a journey through infertility. Many of my words, including my piece How Not to Write a
Book, would not exist without Maureen, her ability to inspire, and her skill and care as a writing midwife.
You can read more about Cheryl at her blog here: www.myferriswheel.com
Procrastinate – Find anything else to do, especially tasks you’ve put off because they’re unpleasant. Scrub the toilet. File the stack of papers on the corner of
your desk. Schedule the appointments you keep forgetting about. Top off the bird feeders (even if they don’t need it), and while you’re at it, take inventory of available bird seed and calculate how soon you’ll need to order more, then check prices online where you’ll get distracted by ads for products you didn’t know you needed.
Socialize – Accept any and all invitations offered or even hinted at. Attend the special Christmas service at church, and the baby shower, and the ladies luncheon, along with the budget meeting. See your neighbor’s cousin’s kid in a school play. Have a girl’s night out and come home late, too tired to even think about writing. Go out for coffee (even though you only drink tea) with friends you haven’t seen
in months and the ones you saw last week. Invite your mother along, who will see friends she wants to introduce you to, who will invite you and your mother out for coffee tomorrow.
Learn – Take up a new craft, basket weaving for instance, or even editing (which could help you with your manuscript in the end but isn’t technically writing your own book). Or finally buckle down and learn Spanish.
Research the best program to use, sign up for classes at the library, order a self-paced program. Decide between South American Spanish or Spanish from Spain, which makes you think of all the places you want to visit in order to practice and hear an authentic accent.
Travel – Investigate a trip to Spain or Chile or Argentina
(remember, you’ve been practicing your Spanish), even if you know you’ll never take it. Make lists of interesting sites and locations. Determine how much time and money each trip will take and how long you’ll have to save before you can afford to go anywhere other than your backyard. Then remember all the activities your own town has to offer and spend time plotting the most efficient order to do them in, and you might as well grab your unwilling family and start. No time like the
Reorganize – Try on everything in your closet, just to make sure you still love that cozy sweater and those pants you bought on sale that you can zip up but not sit down in but are too cheap to get rid of. . .
Read the rest of "How Not to Write a Book" here.
WordPlay Now! Writing Prompt
WordPlay—so why not revel in the power and potential of one good word after another? This week, it's "write."
PROMPT: Here's an exercise from Spinning Words into Gold that's perfect for those times you're not writing and wish you were: "The When of Today: Your Current Relationship with Writing."
There is no pleasure in the world like writing well and going fast. It’s like nothing else. It’s like a love affair, it goes on and on, and doesn’t end in marriage. It’s all courtship.
~ Tennessee Williams
If you find that you’re having difficulty with your daily writing habits, it could be helpful to go
back to a premise from the "Who" chapter—that writing is an entity that you are in relationship with—and to take a look at the nature of that relationship. Maybe you and writing went steady in tenth grade, and then had a bad breakup (perhaps in the form of a rejection letter or a negative comment from someone whose opinion you valued), and you haven’t felt the same way about writing since. Or maybe the two of you have a hot date every Thursday night, and you’re beginning to wonder if writing
might turn out to be The One. Or maybe you’ve been together so long that you and writing give each other boxes of Valentine chocolates on February 15th so you can get them 50 percent off. Or maybe . . . Your turn!
Describe where you and writing stand with each other. Tell the page all about it. Include the sad, steamy, or even sordid details of your relationship. Have you and writing
let each other down? Have you kept the flame alive over the years? Or are you just now making eye contact across a crowded room? Now, describe the relationship you'd like to have, and what you and writing have to offer each other. Finally, make a date for some "romantic" time together.
It's fun to play with prompts in community with fellow writers, and to be able to share the results when you're done. You can find out about WordPlay classes, workshops, and retreats here.
MAUREEN RYAN GRIFFIN, an award-winning poetry and nonfiction writer, is the author of Spinning Words into Gold, a Hands-On Guide to the Craft of Writing, a grief workbook entitled I Will Never Forget You, and three collections of poetry, Ten Thousand Cicadas Can't Be Wrong, This Scatter of Blossoms and When the Leaves Are in the Water. One of her long-held dreams came true in
July of 2015 when Garrison Keillor read one of her poems on The Writer's Almanac. You can listen to it here. She believes, as author Julia Cameron says, "We are meant to midwife dreams for one another."
Maureen also believes that serious "word work" requires serious WordPlay, as play is how we humans best learn—and perform. What she loves best is witnessing all the other dreams that come true for her clients along the way. Language, when used with intentionality and focus, is, after all, serious fuel for joy. Here's to