I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Creative writing

I snapped this picture of one my chickadee friends yesterday morning through the front window. They are my favorite birds, since they seem to recognize me and spend time "talking" to me when I'm on the porch filling the feeders. I wish I could speak bird.

The past week or so I've been thinking about what it means to write creatively. Years ago I took a class in creative writing and learned some techniques that I still use today when thinking about a blog post. And several times people have suggested to me that I consider writing a book of some kind, maybe even memoirs if nothing else. It's true that my life is pretty unique, but then again, whose life isn't?

One of the things that the teacher of that long-ago class taught me is that if you do want to become a writer, then you should write something every day. Practice makes perfect. She would start each day by sitting at her desk and answering correspondence to get herself in the writing mood, and then she'd start back at one of several different projects she had going all at the same time, depending on what interested her that day. I have found in my own life that I do enjoy writing, but I don't have much knack for fiction stories. I did write several for the class and she even read a couple of them out loud. (I wonder if I've got those old stories tucked away somewhere.) The class would then critique them, what they liked and didn't like, and that was also very informative. Some people have a real gift for writing dialogue, but I find it almost impossible to make it believable. We also learned the basics of a good story.

One tip I remember is that in any story, the first sentence or two should grab the reader's attention. I have forgotten that in blog posts— but then again, I figure if you are here reading, you are already interested. Visiting other blogs often feels like stopping by a friend's house and having a chat over a cup of tea. Being enticed inside isn't even a question.

What I've decided is that I actually prefer the form of blogging rather than the creation of a static book or story. In my life these days, I realize that the first thing I do every day is make a cup of tea and open my laptop, while my partner sleeps next to me. (He isn't bothered by the click of the keyboard or the low light next to me; he sleeps right through it.) It's still dark outside and I learn what has happened in the lives of the people I follow since my last visit. Sometimes it's fluff, or pictures of their day, or a soliloquy of inward thoughts. Or something that happened that concerns them, such as political theater or economics, or books... it's really endless, but it gives my day a certain flavor, and I can comment immediately and sometimes get instant feedback by receiving a private email from someone who might respond privately to my comment.

As a very social person, I realize that this sets the stage for the rest of my day, and sometimes one post will strike me deeply. I will contemplate it, turning it over in my mind, and find myself traveling in mental directions that would never have occurred to me otherwise. I am a different person because I read and write blogs. Oh, and comment on them, too; that's an important part of the experience. I know some people by the consistency of their comments on my own posts, and they must feel the same way about me. It's just common courtesy to comment on posts you appreciate, but it's also important to the creator of the post to know how it is being received.

The instantaneous world of the blogosphere is, as I've said before, a new art form in the world. I'm feeling privileged to be part of it. Creative writing? I read it every day. And some days, I produce it for the pleasure of others. Or to stir something that needs stirring.


Gigi said...

I feel the exact same way about the blogs I follow, like I'm dropping into a friend's home for a visit.

I don't "blog-hop" often, but I do find that an interesting title or blog name will entice me into visiting (and possibly following) blogs that I would have never known about or visited.

Rubye Jack said...

Blogging as an art form? I'd never thought of it that way before, but you know it really is. I start my day the same way you do, but have coffee rather than tea. It is a good way to start the day.

What makes it so interesting is all the different personalities and I enjoy reading those blogs of people who are different from me as well as those who are similar.
btw, I really like this post.

Dee said...

Thank you, DJan, for your enticement today to do some thinking about what blogging is and what it means to me. I've met many wonderful people through blogging. I started my own blog in late May this year.

But it was only in late July that I realized there was a whole world of bloggers out there whom I could read.

When I began to do that, my solitary life here in Missouri opened up and I met you and many other wonderful people whose thoughts excite and comfort and introduce me to new possibilities--like your skydiving--and new adventures.

As to writing. I think my writing has improved since I started blogging. I try to keep a posting--usually a story from my life as I am doing an on-line memoir--between 500 and 600 words.

Because I tend to be wordy, I often write a first-draft of 800 to 900 words so I need then to become ruthless in cutting and finding the essence of the story--of what I want to say.

Thus, blogging has proven to be an excellent exercise for becoming a better writer. Blogging and the morning pages of Julia Cameron--which I try to do at leave once a year for twelve weeks.

I hope today is being one filled with possibilities for you.


Grandmother Mary said...

I agree that I'm changed by reading and writing blogs. And all for the better. My world is expanded and I am exposed to new ideas and ways of looking at things. Thanks for your sharing which I treasure.

Linda said...

Blogging as creative writing, hadn't thought of such. I certainly enjoy blogging more than working on a paper or book. I like the flexibility of it. Now that I think about it certainly should be considered creative writing. Good idea.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Blogging is definitely creative writing, I believe. We develop our personal voice, our topical choices, and our writing skills, whether our goal is story-telling or persuading or something else. In my whole career, I've never thought of myself as a great headline writer, and sure enough, I struggle with them (or settle for something less than brilliant) in blogging, too. But it's a great way to think and learn and express one's thoughts, and I'm so glad I decided to try it. You are one of those whom I consider a great blog friend, and I am so happy we met!

Rita said...

Chickadees are so cute! It had to be said--LOL!

I started writing things to help "sort things out" when I was about nine. Journaled and wrote letters all my life. When I started college at 48 because I could no longer do the physical type jobs I had always done (arm injury), I had no clue what I wanted to do...maybe become a social worker since I'd always worked with people along that vein. The professors were the ones who told me I was "a writer" and prodded me to enter contests and such. Blew me away! Won a few and have been published a few times in literary journals. Creative nonfiction, I guess they call it. I call it telling my stories. ;)

I remember all the critiquing and discussions, how interesting the feedback was, but in the end what I learned was that you have to write from your own unique heart and soul and not to please somebody else. Classes taught me how to clean and polish. I don't always clean and polish on my blog, but I do sometimes take a lot more time with certain blogs. But I have stuck with blogging and my own journaling and letter writing instead of doing the "writing-writing" for publication thing since I had to quit college.

I agree that this is a new creative writing form. It's interactive! In a way that is very different and less private than a letter to one person. It's like writing an individual letter to many people simultaneously!! It is mind boggling! And if you do write a story or a poem--you can stick it on your blog. ;)

Thanks for such a thoughtful post, dear one! :):)

Anonymous said...

The beauty of blogging as creative writing is the instant feed back. It is like live theater. You know right away if you have a hit or miss. Writing a book, you might not know for years if it is appreciated or landfill material.
Then there is the personal contact. We do learn a lot about each other and for a few minutes a day, we drop in for a cup of coffee and chat with persons from all over the world we would never have met with out the aid of a blog.
Long live bloggerville.
Arkansas Patti

Friko said...

On average, I don't think that blogging is very creative, at least many blogs are rather poorly written. I might call them journals, or stream of consciousness, but creative writing is surely something quite different. Blogposts have to be short, or readers lose interest. Average time spent reading posts is just minutes, sometimes seconds, before readers move on again.

There is no possibility of creating characters, actions, a narrative. The only thing that works is bite-sized memoirs; even they have to be kept short and, unless they are particularly harrowing or brilliantly different, become rather tedious after a while, they need to be spaced out judiciously.

I love blogging, I have no problem writing blogposts, but I don't see it as anything more than finding like-minded people, learning about their everyday life, even the weather they experience, their opinion on all sorts of things like politics, personal preferences and priorities.

Bloggers can't call themselves writers because there is no continuity in subject matter, nothing goes anywhere. We have a faithful readership (those of us who are lucky) and we read the blogs of people we value. Sure, it can be an art form, why not. But it is a very transient one, ephemeral, for the day only.

When you think of how many million blogposts hit cyberspace every day, could you honestly say that we are all creative writers?

Dear Jan, I have no intention of giving up blogging just yet and I will continue to visit your blog (which I rather like) and various others and I would hope that my comment has not offended you.

Linda Myers said...

I find blogging to be a discipline, a writing discipline. Plus all the other great things it is - community, friendships, etc.

Red said...

As I've said many times about your posts they make me think. So that's what writing is about...to engage the reader.
I have no interest in creating fiction. I know the basics of fiction but it stops there.
Maybe a good shot at fiction would teach you something which you don't even know you're looking for.

Linda Reeder said...

I find myself quoting blog friends to my in person friends and family. Blogging is such a rich forum for sharing thoughts and ideas and events. It is a form of creative writing. after all, we create each post purely from our own thoughts and experiences. I also like to challenge myself, when I have time, to write a comment that is different from others already posted. Often that's not easy.

Sandi said...

Well DJan, reading your thoughts on blogging as creative writing and an art form made me think about my own efforts (which I don't see as "art" in any form!). I thought back to creative writing classes I took for "fun" during one of my many college stints. (It took me 31 years to finally graduate!)

With enthusiastic encouragement from my professor, I fancied myself a writer, sent off a few short story manuscripts, and received rejections, if anything at all.

I had not considered my blogging as "creative writing" but rather more like journaling online, instead of in a notebook as I've done for the last 50 years.

I thought about the blog posts I've read over the past few days and each is so unique, I can see "art" and "creativity" busting out all over the place.

Then, as I read through the comments, I was caught up in the varied responses. The experience of blogging is so personal. Each individual puts themselves out there, opens themselves up, and, while many are writing as "writers", just as many are writing as "entertainers" or "philosophers" or "contemplators" or have dozens of other reasons for writing.

When I'm teaching students about writing, I'm teaching them to communicate. That involves hooking the reader, keeping their interest, and telling them something they want to know about.

I see writing as communication, and so I guess that's what blogging is all about for me. Building cyber relationships is sort of a perk. I'm enthralled with the view from so many other life journeys.

This post really brought out some strong reactions. I appreciate the thoughts and energy you put into it.

Donna B. said...

Hello dear one...(pant, pant) I had to pop over to see what you have been up to...I feel like a hamster in a wheel! We returned from Tucson last Monday. All that time in the car pooped us both out and threw my back out to boot. I hobbled into the doctor's office and had him check me out, give me the "usual advice" and pricked me with a flu shot...

Last year was the first flu shot I've had in over 10 years and happily, I had no reaction.... This time, I got the sore, red, swollen arm, low fever and malaise. Doing much better now after a few days...my back is better too.

We are busy working on the house preparing for company the next two weekends and then I go back to CALI for my grandson's 7th birthday and to celebrate early for my Dad's 91st birthday.

When I return, we are off for a weekend at the MGM with family to see The Eagles concert for our 10th wedding anniversary...

In between I am going to start a stretch Yoga class and Zumba dance class... with the cooler weather coming, I feel so much more motivated.

Your writing is like talking with you, so I love anything you write. I think with all your travels and photography talent you could write a very interesting travel/adventure book...

I noticed the sunset picture you took...I have not even had time to write any poetry...

Since fishing my cell phone out of the toilet, I have enjoyed the opportunity to feel as free as your little Chickadees.... I think I needed this blogging break... I am also enjoying being more productive around the house.

I read somewhere recently about letting go of the old to make room for the new...(it was eloquently stated, but at this hour, unfortunately, it escapes me...anyway, I saw the house with "fresh eyes" upon our return from our trip and felt OVERWHELMED upon entering our home. THAT IS NOT HOW I USED TO FEEL UPON ENTERING OUR HOME...I used to feel like it was our sanctuary...so I need to get that back...

I am rattling away here...but miss you and we must find time in November to meet on our macs and chat over some tea...sound good? me too. love you!!!

Sally Wessely said...

Yesterday was such a busy day, I didn't get to read the blogs I read. It felt like something was missing. You put your finger on it: blogging has become a very important aspect of my life. My blogging friends mean so much to me for many reasons. I am connected to them. I know their great joys, their daily activities, their insights into life, love and loss, and I know their deepest pain. The blogging community is one I don't fully understand, but it is one for which I am extremely grateful.

You continue to teach and lead many of us across the landscape of life through both of your blogs. I hope we can meet in person at some point in the future.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Oh I enjoy your writing..it seems creative to me.. I don't think I could write fiction..but who knows. I enjoy your blogs..and yes it is like going for a visit with an old friend every time you write:)

Nancy said...

Great post, DJan. I have to admit to feeling the same way - blogging is an ongoing conversation with friends. But I've also found there are times when we don't feel like talking about what we are learning - it hasn't crystalized yet, or something. I've been in my hidey-hole for the last couple of months, but I'm starting feel the pull of the blog world once again. It is so great to be able to just ease back in and not worry about feeling guilty about taking time for yourself. As for writing - I am definitely not a writer of fiction. I also think blogging is a great way to do as was suggested - write something every day.

Stella Jones said...

I think you should write your memoirs. You almost have already, bits and pieces here and there, just enough to make us interested and wanting to know more. Some of us live our lives by doing and others by being non-participant observers. That could be the answer to your problem with dialogue, if it is a problem. I am a listener. In company, I go quiet. I listen and observe. People say 'are you ok Stella?' I always am, just listening and observing, but quietly. I can regurgitate almost everything verbatim afterwards. If I was doing the talking, I couldn't do that could I? We are all meant to be different and we all have our own unique qualities.
Love your birds and yes, I wish I could speak bird!

Trish said...

I think it was in either The Tipping Point or Outliers, where Malcolm Gladwell says that to do anything well, to become a master at it, 10,000 hours is the prerequisite!

Personally, I love your blogs.

The Garden Girl said...

What wonderful comments and on blogging by everyone! Kind of new to blogging myself - but do believe indeed, it is a new art form. I've seen some blogs that are visual works of art - and others are like that great book you never wanted to end! Through a local writer's group I found this voice I had but lost for quite some time. Happy to have found it and blogging.