18 December 2008

Recent poetry writing

I haven’t been writing all that much lately, or spending enough time by myself in my head, and that always makes me grumpy. I haven’t really done some serious writing since My Iron Spine came out.

So on Sunday I was determined to spend a bit of time on writing stuff. Rather than writing new stuff, I decided to type up the poems that I’d written since the last lot I typed up, some months ago.

I’ve realised in the last year or so that typing up poems from the scribbley things I scrawl in my notebook is a really important part of my whole writing process – it’s when a poem becomes real, and I edit it as I go – rewriting bits, cutting bits, rearranging bits. And once they’re typed, they’re so much easier to keep tinkering with until they’re finished or abandoned. It’s also a bit of a selection process – there are some poems I don’t even bother to type up, because they’re just a bit of a brain dump with short lines, or some other thing that has served whatever purpose it was ever going to serve, and I really don’t need to waste my time on doing anything with it because it simply doesn’t deserve it.

So anyway, on Sunday, when I was done, I found I’d typed up 12 poems – and one of them was actually kind of four little poems in a sequence (to which I plan to add more). I was so proud of myself. Turns out I’d written more that I thought. Pretty much all of them needed some work – some quite a lot – but there were some cool lines in there. And some lines that surprised me – things I can’t even remember writing. My favourite was the lines:

She is a pair of handcuffs
she is a tenuous grip

So after that, I had to write a skitey writing report. Earlier in the year a friend of mine and I were writing weekly reports to each other on our writing. Just shortish things where we say how much writing we’re doing, what we’re working on and so forth. I also say how much I’ve typed up, how many blog posts I’ve written and if I’ve sent out any submissions (which I almost invariably haven’t). I found it a really useful motivation, and record that I am actually doing something. After a several months of rather irregular reporting, I’m going to try and get back to it every week – and hopefully done some writing every week to report on.


harvey molloy said...

Happy new year, Helen. I've struggled with keeping up my writing in the the past. Now I just make sure that I get up early in the morning to write a little. I've been doing this for a while now so it's become a habit. If there's time or if I've inclination then I write more but you can only do so much if you have a day job. But I can't go too long now without writing because I do get irritable. And I don't watch a lot of TV. I find writing difficult at times but I do get pleasure from it: I'm taken into a very different kind of space and I value that space.

Anne-M said...

I find the way you use your diary in your writing process interesting. I'm curious as to how you do this? Do you write what's on your mind first, then poems come from this? How do you do this?

Helen Rickerby said...

Happy New Year! And thanks for your comments.

Harvey, good on you for getting up early. I'm totally not a morning person, and have trouble dragging myself into work by 9, so morning writing not for me - at least not at the moment, but it is a nice thing to do. One of my workmates has been doing that lately - writing while still in a dreamy state. I used to write at night more, but lately early evening after work has been working.

A-M, I'm delighted that you've found my blog! I guess I don't really think of my notebooks as diaries as such - though they do sometimes operate that way. I'd generally call them my journal, but I don't write in them every day. I do some times start by writing what's on my mind, or what I've been up to, or what I've been reading or thinking about or dealing with, and sometimes a poem will come out of that - or rather, a line or a phrase or a beginning (or sometimes a middle or even an end). But sometimes I'll be doing something else - wandering around or reading or whatever - and the poem or line or idea will come to me and I just use the notebook to write it down. I also use them sometimes to plan or write lists or record something I've been reading. They're really quite all-purpose.