Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Of Silver Linings and the Suffix "er"

Meteorologically-speaking, 2012 will go down in the Record Books as The Year of the Drought.
And metaphorically-speaking, as this series of TeachingAuthors posts affirms, writers too face droughts at some point in their writing lives.

But Bridget Doyle’s article in the August 18 Chicago Tribune last week emboldened me, the “Non-stop Finder of Life’s Silver Linings,” (according to my Six-word Memoir), to
share my seemingly-simple prescription for anyone suffering the pain and heartache of Writer’s Drought.

The Tribune headline read,
Stacey Wescott's newspaper photo showed an Arlington Heights gardener Kathy Wolan harvesting tomatoes.  Wolan shared the secret to her bumper crop of basil and fabulous green beans. "We couldn't control the sunlight or heat this year, but we could control the water."
So, my Rx for writers wishing to thrive during their particular droughts?
Yes, write.

Maybe not that Great American Novel you know lives inside of you; maybe not that poetry collection you believe with all your heart you were put on Earth to write.

But think about it, or rather, think about that suffix “er.”

a suffix used in forming nouns designating persons from the object of their occupation or labor ( hatter; tiler; tinner; moonshiner ), or from their place of origin or abode ( Icelander; southerner; villager ), or designating either persons or things from some special characteristic or circumstance ( six-footer; three-master; teetotaler; fiver; tenner ).
a suffix serving as the regular English formative of agent nouns, being attached to verbs of any origin ( bearer; creeper; employer; harvester; teacher; theorizer ).

A writer is - simply - “a person who writes. 

A writer is - simply - a person who chooses and orders words to (fill in the blank) – tell a story, communicate information, cause a giggle, soothe a hurt, help remember, help remind, share an experience, define a purpose, amuse, entertain, encourage, inspire, copy, imitate, and on-and-on (see The Writing Workout).
                                                                    (courtesy of

Here’s my partial list of some of what I’ve written during this Summer’s meteorological Drought here in the Midwest:
  • Several poems, two of which, “The Writer’s Drill” and “Super Key Man,” were chosen to be published in THE POETRYFRIDAY ANTHOLOGY!
  • Numerous comprehensive manuscript critiques and narratives for the writers I coach
  • Four TeachingAuthors blog posts (which  I’ve surprisingly come to love)
  • Three Program Proposals
  • My CV        
  • My website updates
  • Two Letters of Recommendation for students seeking their MFA’s
  • A book blurb for a friend’s upcoming novel        
  • Postcards to my grandson!
  • Letters – the kind that require a U.S. Postage stamp! – to family, friends and RCN Cable        
  • Thank You Notes
  • Condolences        
  • Celebratory salutations
  • Grocery Lists
  • To Do Lists
  • A Key Lime Pie Recipe
  • Weekly letters to my middle grade novel’s character (Just what IS the internal issue you continue to confront as obstacles force you to turn away from realizing your dream of surprising the world?)
  • And finally, emails, lots an’ lots of emails! – encouraging, supporting, apprising, affirming, praising, extolling, questioning, answering, clarifying, contributing, recommending, suggesting, explaining, teaching, pontificating, apologizing, empathizing, sympathizing and sometimes, just out-and-out catching up.
Writing and reading the above list does indeed remind me:  this summer  I was not fingers-on-keyboard, pen-on-paper physically revising my Great American Middle Grade Novel. :(

I did spend my summer, despite the drought, purposefully and creatively choosing and ordering a whole lot of words  :)

I sure hope you did too!

Esther Hershenhorn, Writer

Writing  Workout: A Writer’s List Poem

Surprise yourself!  See how much YOU wrote this summer!

For starters, revisit this Summer’s days and nights, noting your Writerly Behaviors.

Next create a list of Everything You Wrote This Summer.  And I mean everything!  Contracts, excuse notes, RSVP’s, contest jokes, directions, songs, tweets, poems, conference notes, book blurbs, questions for your doctor, a letter to the editor, a magazine article, letters to your campers, report cards, you-name-it.

Or, create a list of Everything You Wanted to Write This Summer, but Didn’tor - Couldn’t – or - Wouldn’t – or - Shouldn’t.

Think about writing at your keyboard, in your Writer’s Notebook, on your calendar pages, in the margins of your cookbook, even on your sidewalk!

Writing in Your Head – i.e. Wandering and Wondering – counts too. 
Think conversations you so wished you’d had; words you wish you’d spoken; words you wish you’d heard.

Finally, see if you can order your words to create a list that reflects just who you are, how you come at the world, what you find pleasant, what makes you smile. 

Maybe arrange your actions in alphabetical order – or by time of day – or by location or people groups.

Tinkering with the words and how they sound and look is absolutely allowed.

The important thing is, as Christopher Paul Curtis advises,

     “Make sure the writing's got your own natural funk all over it.”

1 comment:

Carmela Martino said...

Congratulations on having not one, but TWO, poems in the POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY, Esther. Very cool!
And thanks for another great Writing Workout!