Friday, January 14, 2011

My Tribe (s) ~ And Happy Poetry Friday!

Happy Poetry Friday!   Today's poem and something to get you going in the new year are both below.

To kick off today's post I wanted to share a favorite quote. Years ago, author Betsy Byars spoke at the SCBWI's national conference and said: “Betsy, there’s a woman in Kansas writing the same book you are, and she’s not sitting on the couch watching Roadrunner cartoons.
My Doberman/German Shepherd pup, Eli on his couch.  Yes, his couch. Don't ask.

How do you get off that couch?  That's basically the question TeachingAuthors is exploring this week: “What keeps you going? How do we overcome disappointment, distractions, rejection, etc.?”

So...what keeps me going?  My tribe.

I have lots of tribes, of course—my little triangle of a family, my wider family, my folk music friends, my hiking gang, my politically active friends and more.

But as a writer? My tribes are my writing friends, my critique group, the classmates in my current writing class, and my blogmates, who always, always inspire me.

I mean, who would not be inspired by this week's discussion?

I sooo relate when JoAnn Early Macken talks about how “writing becomes an obligation, even drudgery.  I have to drag myself to the page, and it's much easier to find something else to do that seems more urgent.”  
Here's one thing that draws me away from my writing--can you relate?
JoAnn's post, in which she talks about writing every morning on her loveseat, reminded me of the Flannery O’Connor quote, “Every morning between 9 and 12, I go to my room and sit before a piece of paper.  Many times, I just sit for three hours with no ideas coming to me.  But, I know one thing.  If an idea does come between 9 and 12, I’m there ready for it.” 

Esther Hershenhorn talks about sending herself “encouraging greetings via snail mail and email.”

I send myself encouraging texts!  I like Dante's quote, “The Infinite Goodness has such wide arms that it takes whatever turns to it.”   So every day I send a commitment to my writer friend Adell Shay (and sometimes my writing buddy Rebecca Gold).  I text them that I am letting go of the product.  I say I am turning my book over to the “loving arms of the infinite universe.”

Letting go of the product and Mary Ann Rodman's post both remind me of this poignant poem by author Kate Messner about how some of us may be feeling after the ALA Awards were announced on Monday (the poem was brought to my attention by Greg Pincus).

In her post this week, Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford says that sharing is the key for her.  She says,“the paycheck is not really a motivating factor."

Amen to that!  When I was in the corporate world, I may have been frustrated by the petty politics, I may have spent Sundays in my office, I may have ached from those damned high heels, but at least I had that paycheck.

I have learned that I need a paycheck in this life, too.  For awhile I paid myself seven dollars worth of living flowers from the local nursery every Friday. It may not seem like much but, boy! I felt valued.

Carmela Martino's post talks about relating to other writers' struggles...which made me think of this blog post by agent Mary Kole on dealing with rejection (also brought to my attention by the most amazing Mr. Pincus).

Carmela also talked about setting DEADLINES.  Yes, yes, YES—deadlines are powerful for me, too!  
The thing is, deadlines--commitments of any kind--are fine...IF I say them aloud to someone in my tribe.  But...if I say, "no more peanut butter today" just to myself, well, here's what happened yesterday:
Never fear!  Today's Writing Workout is all about working with someone in your tribe.

Here's what to do:
1) Grab a buddy from your writing tribe.
2) Both of you write three commitments for the coming week.  Don't set yourself up to fail.  Don't commit to writing a novel in a week.  Start out easy and see what you can realistically accomplish in seven days.
3) Set a deadline.
4) Select a "salary" you will pay yourself.  The important thing is to pay yourself every week whether you've completed all three commitments or not.  Don't business execs get paid even when they've had an unproductive week? It happens.  This is not about whipping yourself.  This is encouraging yourself.  Put the whip away and take the paycheck.
5) Read your commitments to each other.
4) Check in with each other at the end of the week.

For example: I commit to meditating 20 minutes once a week, writing for three hours this week, and being in bed by 10 pm at least two days of the week.  My due date is Thursday at 8 pm.  On Friday, I will pay myself seven dollars worth of flowers for my garden.  Now it's your turn:

My Commitment to Me

I commit to:

My due date is:
My salary is:
Don't forget to call your writing buddy at the end of the week to check in! 

And finally, here's today's poem--about my tribe.

by April Halprin Wayland

My boots are wearing thin.
Their soles have little soul.
The wind has stung my skin.
My goals are all black holes.

I tilt my bottle, sip.
Why bother on this trip?
I drink the final drop.
I stop.

There's gravel in my shoe.
I want to turn around.
Those voices...are they true?
I sit and write them down.

just around the bend?
Could that be...a face?
Yes—I pick up my pace!

A member of my band!
You stretch your steadfast hand.
I made it—thanks to you.
Look back: wow—what a view!

A wonderful teacher can inspire me and move me forward--what about you?  Who in your tribe moves you forward?  Let us know!
Poem, drawings and photos (c) by April Halprin Wayland


Annette Birdsall said...

Teaching Authors helps keep me going! I love the salary idea; flowers are lovely, but I'm allergic so I'm going to pay myself with a book of poems. (I'll have to pay myself monthly, but I can plan weekly!)

Toby Speed said...

So many good ideas here, April (letting go of the product, three commitments, and, um, hiding the peanut butter), and a clear crisp poem in your inimitable style, to boot. Thanks.

Amy LV said...

"For a while, I paid myself seven dollars of living flowers..." You know what? That sentence is enough to keep me going for a while. For me, keeping commitments to others has helped a lot. If I didn't promise that I'd post a daily poem, I might not do it. The Poetry Friday crowd is part of my tribe, and I'm so grateful. Sometimes I think about you writing your daily poem too...and that helps! A.

jan godown annino said...

April this is awesome. And so is Teaching Authors. Many thanks!
Because I was quite late in life before I thought I could write fiction, my reward is often the feeling of sheer inventive accompmlishment that is expressed in a line from a novel by Janet Taylor Lisle:
How I Became A Writer and Oggie Learned to Drive.
“People think getting published is the main part about being a writer.
THEY’RE WRONG. A lot more comes into it, like how great it is to sit
down and write a story out of your own head…”
And for tangible items to pay myself:
a long walk at the right time of day in my favorite city park;
time to make gift bookmarks;
a new native tree to grow the yard from my favorite native nursery;
rereading this Friday essay of yours.

Carmela Martino said...

April, I am so honored to be part of your tribe! :-) And I LOVE your Writing Workout! I have to run now, but I'm going to come back tomorrow to check out the links and then complete your Writing Workout for the coming week. THANK YOU!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks for being part of the Teaching Authors tribe, Annette, Toby, Amy, Jan, and of course, Carmela! It really does take a village.

Megan Frances said...

I love the Flannery O'Connor quote. It's true, you have to tune in - create the time and mindset - to enable the writing to happen.

Delighted to discover your blog! I met you at an SCBWI conference a few years ago when you critiqued one of my manuscripts. I looked for you the last day to have you sign, Girl Coming In for A Landing, but you weren't there. Next time, I hope!

Inspiring post and great practical suggestions!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Hey, Megan, Sorry we missed each other! If you email me your address, I'll send you an autographed label you can stick in your book:

Glad you found us!

laurasalas said...

Great post--I've always loved that Flannery quote--both the content and her wry humor way of saying it.

This was such a nice tribute and full of great practical ideas, too.

Love the first three lines of the poem, especially.

Wow--a treasure chest today! Thanks, April!

Mary Jo said...

This Writing Workout is such an inspiring exercise, I've decided to share it with not only my online writing tribe of ladies, but also as a weekly series on my blog. Thank you for the direction!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Dear Laura--so glad these thoughts resonated...and that you liked those first lines! : ^ )

And Mary Jo...I use that workout on the last day of my writing courses so that the students don't stop writing when the class is over. So glad you're sharing it!


Sabrina said...

April - and all the teaching authors - you are so very motivating. I love the writing community in general for this reason. Everyone is so supportive!
I love the Workout - and will be sharing it with my group as well!

April Halprin Wayland said...

So glad you'll be sharing it, Sabrina. Thanks for stopping by!