Tag Archives: writing process

writing with a missing piece of the self

graffiti: "whoever is reading this is Georgeous"

graffiti from the Mills Lawn girls’ bathroom

( Of necessity, This blog post was drafted with the assistance of Google docs voice typing. Please excuse Associated errors.)

January 12-29, 2020

On Monday evening, January 6th, I tripped and fell backward and tried to catch myself with my right hand, but broke my wrist. Dominant hand. Parentheses people keep asking about that. Which hand? end parentheses.

 in the middle of that first night, I was awake a lot, worrying, wondering when I would ever be able to use my right hand to do everyday things, like the morning pages.  since 1993, pretty much every day except some weeks following the birth of my child in 2007, I have handwritten 3 Pages first thing in the morning. the morning Pages have been a way of keeping in touch with myself, keeping myself sane.  That Monday night, my lower arm and wrist in a splint, unable to sleep because of the discomfort and the shock, I worried about when I would ever be able to use my hand again with such fluency. I knew that I could dictate text and email messages into my phone.   but this would not suffice for my planned January writing project.  

My intention  had been to spend this month putting together  many messy, complicated, and disparate files on my computer to  submit a manuscript in progress to The graywolf Press non-fiction prize contest. I had planned 2 submit my work last year, but this  Contest is only open every other year.  in the dark on that Monday night, I despaired, realizing I couldn’t imagine the way to do this as I planned.

 The contest is very competitive, and is a huge long shot, and I knew that, but it  seemed like an important thing to do anyway. there’s no reason to disqualify yourself by not trying.

it’s Sunday, January 20, now, and I have let go of gray wolf for this year. But I’m learning other ways to do the physical act of writing, even if it’s not quote unquote anything beyond process. In other words, even if it’s not something I will publish some day  Beyond my blog.

 I got my notebook out, realized quickly that my fountain pen wouldn’t work in my left hand, got a black Flair pen. wrote down the date.  Stated the facts about my right wrist, in very scrawly, funny lettering. everyday I have written with my left hand in that notebook, and it’s interesting what I’m learning.

 I also got on the internet and discovered that Google Docs has a voice typing feature which I am using to draft this right now. It’s been very helpful to use that feature for emailing on my laptop as well. So I’m not just limited to my phone.  hooray for Adaptive technology. and here I want to acknowledge that I am a baby in this land, and many people have been dependent on this technology for their lives, sanity, and livelihood. at any rate, I am very grateful that I can speak words and have them typed in front of me, even with typos and mistakes, some of which are very amusing, sometimes hilarious.  sometimes I have to slow down and speak again. To avoid typos, I have to push the words carefully out of my body, and even then, you see what you get. 

 As a writer who has always been very careful about correcting typos Etc and very hard on myself, with high standards about what my words look like when I share them with others, this is a humbling time. I am letting myself go. I am not sweating typos errors Etc. (I am learning that it is okay 2  eschew perfection. I had to type the word eschew, for instance, because the machine was not getting it right.) I’m just getting the words out. But when I dictate words that are typed on the screen as I am doing right now, I can only go in One Direction, my brain can only move step by step, word by word, mindfully, and it feels very limiting.  I must speak my punctuation. Of necessity, I am learning about slowness.

Similarly, when I write with my left hand on paper, I find that my right hand sometimes does what seems like a sort of lip syncing: my right hand sort of mimics my left hand, or tries to. Very interesting. I would love to see a functional scan of my brain during this process. But in the same way as when I speak words that then get typed on the screen, when I write with my left hand, I can only move forward,  only move in One Direction. My brain has to slow down. so that I can get the letters shaped, even messily or with errors, onto the page or screen.

 I have  taken for granted my way of writing until now. That I can write things in the margins, that I can zoom around in my head, have three or four things happening, or way more than three or four, in my brain while I’m also writing has been a luxury. I know that handwriting even with my dominant right hand makes me focus in a way that is linear, that is one step at a time, but this is very different. I’m not even sure how to describe it. All I can do for now is pay attention, try to learn something from this painful experience. 

As I form scrawled shapes with my black Flair pen on paper, sometimes I skip a line, sometimes I have to slow down and  print Or reprint words, sometimes writing cursive is easier, and in almost every way, I feel like a monkey. nothing against monkeys. Just that I’m  Not thinking in the way I am accustomed to thinking, but only doing what a body does. As well, I have been thinking about the Lynda Barry Workshop that I attended at Omega Institute. Lynda Barry talked about how when your brain starts to speed up while you’re  writing, try slowing your hands down. I tell my students this sometimes. slow down. I tell them to not Worry about catching the words, but slow down and focus on the shapes that your pen makes across the paper. 

(this is funny to me:  as I speak the word p e n,  repeatedly, Google Docs voice typing will only type the word  pain.) 

 following  Lynda Barry’s advice, in the past I would slow down on purpose sometimes when writing with my right hand. It was somehow reassuring and felt good. Right now, with Only my left hand, I have no choice. I can only do one thing at a time.  my previous self was Adept at mental multitasking, and now, that Way of being–That fast fast rabbit! somehow Always hustling, always trying to get it all done!– is no longer available to me. now I have to find a new way 2 think, teach, communicate, and be in the world. Now I have to slow down or else  Everything will be completely illegible.

 And maybe legibility is a questionable pursuit. Maybe legibility isn’t even the point.  Like when my daughter was first learning to form letters from shapes. Maybe right now the thing is just the physical  attempt, getting words out of body.

I imagine, or hope, that my brain is making new associations, new wirings.  that this accident will somehow change me in a way that makes me wiser. this does not mean I think everything happens for a reason. I do know that  Since January 6th, as I navigate the physical world, I think about ableism, ableism in myself and others, and about those who struggle with physical tasks for various reasons.  It had been an intellectual sense previously, slow down, let the person with mobility issues safely pass, let them have space to pass. let them not be invisible. Rebecca, you are not the only person in the universe.  There are others here too. 

 

(in which I am allowed a handful of occurrences)

 

IMG_5235(Serious word nerds, keep reading. The rest of you, go do something productive or take a nap.)

Final combing through of my novel, in hopes it will emerge between portable covers sooner than later.

Meanwhile, there’s a file on my computer called “overused words checklist.” It includes words I use too frequently, & passive or lazy phrases to comb for, such as “very” or “and then.” I consult this oracle when I’m nearing the end of the process. Search/replace/omit (or keep, if they seem to need to be there).

Selected statistics that impress at least me:

  • Just 1 occurrence of the word “tendril.” Because that word is at the top of my list—I used to use is excessively in a previous novel—and it’s apparently my thumbprint.
  • “Very”: Pared down from 30 to 6 “very”s, all of them falling within characters’ dialogue, sounding better left there.
  • “Thought”: pared down from 48 to 19. And zero “thought about”s. !!
  • “Felt”: down from 38 to 8. (And some signify the fabric.)
  • “Little”: Oy vey! From 64 down to 41. (In case you ever read this novel: I’m sorry. I did what I could do.)
  • “Seem” (and its variants): 54, down to 14! Some of which are parts of other words.
  • “Sigh”/ed: Bonus points for only having 8 occurrences to start with! Hell, I could leave them all in there. But why not pare down. Except I had to add 2 more. Still, 10 of 79,000 words is not that bad. (She sighed.)

 

The work of today / (Onward!)

 

 

scribbled-on page of my novel

page of my novel, under construction

Whenever I’m staring at something like this mess, there’s an urge to whine (and brag?). Both.

The writing process. The glamour.

Ninety more pages like this, single-spaced.

The tired eyes.

This page isn’t even the worst of it!

But I know if I just take the time, nip and tuck, and keep moving onward, the novel will emerge stronger for it.

Onward!

(consider the commas, etc.)

Revising rough paragraphs from the house memoir…realized it was actually a handful of deflated, sad sentences wanting to be a poem so I wrote them into a poem. And right now, I’m in love with the poem.

…revision’s cool heart, still to come, and time, will tell. (But for now it’s fun to fall in love with this unplanned poem.)

Embodied Creativity Yoga & Writing Workshop

I’m thrilled to announce that Melissa Tinker and I are offering a workshop in February at the Antioch College Wellness center!
Please see the details and registration link below.
Embodied Creativity Yoga & Writing Workshop 
Sunday, February 3, 2019
11:30 am – 2:30 pm
Participants will enter a creative space through both active and restorative yoga practice, and celebrate play through creative writing and drawing exercises. All levels welcome! This class will be taught by Melissa Tinker and Rebecca Kuder.
$40 Members, $50 Non-Members
 
Must have a minimum registration of 6 people. 
To register, go here: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/ASP/main_enroll.asp

Last free workshop of 2018!

boats on water

Camden, Maine, summer 2018

Dear readers,
Please join me on December 3 for Fun with revision and editing! There are still plenty of spaces, so register now!
Details below.
Love,
Rebecca
**
Revision and Editing for Writers

Monday, December 3, 2018 (6:30PM – 7:30PM)

Beavercreek Community Library
3618 Dayton Xenia Rd, Beavercreek, OH 45432
Large Meeting Room

Description

Do you have a novel or short story in the works? Learn how to revise and edit your work of fiction in preparation for publication.

Click HERE to register!

Several free workshops: Come play!

tree roots at the edge of the river
Inner Critic Workshop
Monday, October 22, 2018 (6:30PM – 8:00PM)
Yellow Springs Community Library
415 Xenia Avenue, Yellow Springs, Ohio
Virginia Hamilton Meeting Room

Rebecca Kuder is offering this engaging workshop that will allow people to rediscover and liberate a sense of play; unleash the creative spark; and demystify & disarm the inner critical voice that’s holding us back! Please wear comfortable clothing (always!). Please bring pen and paper.
This is NOT just for writers! This is for anyone who wants to tone down self-doubt and find more joy in life.

Creative Writing for Adults
Monday, October 29, 2018 (6:30PM – 7:30PM)
Beavercreek Community Library
3618 Dayton Xenia Rd, Beavercreek, OH 45432
Large Meeting Room

National November Novel Writing Month is right around the corner! Novelist Rebecca Kuder leads you in several creative writing exercises to help inspire your inner author. Please bring a pen and notebook.

Revision and Editing of Creative Writing
Monday, December 3, 2018 (6:30PM – 7:30PM)
Beavercreek Community Library
3618 Dayton Xenia Rd, Beavercreek, OH 45432
Large Meeting Room

Learn methods for revision and editing of creative work, and find out what steps you need to take to get published. Rebecca Kuder returns to answer your questions. Please bring a pen and notebook, though we will have some supplies on hand. Registration required. To register: https://preview.tinyurl.com/ycqwlkj9

About Rebecca

Rebecca Kuder’s short story, “Curb Day,” was chosen for reprint in Year’s Best Weird Fiction vol. 5. Her essays and stories have appeared in Tiferet Journal, Shadows and Tall Trees, Jaded Ibis Press, Lunch Ticket, and The Rumpus. In addition to leading community workshops, Rebecca taught creative writing at Antioch University Midwest, Antioch College, and The Modern School of Design. Currently she teaches at Stivers School for the Arts in Dayton. She served on the board of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop, and lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio, with her husband, the writer Robert Freeman Wexler, and their daughter. Rebecca holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles, is a recipient of an individual excellence award from the Ohio Arts Council, and blogs at www.rebeccakuder.com.

 

(writing about math & the bones)

photo of papers on the floor, writing process

Working at Omega, October 2017

…when you hand yourself over to an hour freewrite about numbers and math, and it all adds up to the shape your bones will be when your body goes to the fire. (& instead of scrawling your usual “thank you” at the end of your freewriting, which Laraine Herring taught you in her workshop—thanking yourself and your writer self for showing up—you write “mic drop.”)

(boom.)

Yet another reason I love teaching

Yesterday my students and I brainstormed on the board to get what poet Cathy Smith Bowers has called the lump of clay to start (writing anything, but in this case) making poems. We got lots of words on the board, narrowed things down and ran out of time so I said I’d write up something which, tomorrow, we will shape into poems (if possible).

Here are the two lumps of clay:

(This one is from the original phrase “burning house” which landed on cat eating tinsel, and there was something about getting attention, and then my cat inspired me in the middle of the night, so timely, so thank you, Zlateh. These line breaks were my first pass/how it came out. We will negotiate all and deal with the repetition, etc. tomorrow.)

Come, cat
come to where the hands are
or dance around the bed half the night.
I don’t need sleep.
It’s fine, but so much simpler if you would come to where the hands are,
or eat tinsel from the tree,
anything, anything to get my attention
but wouldn’t it be nicer
if you came to where the hands are,
to pleasure us both?

Traverse (or travel) the ridge of my body
bleating your needy meow.
It’s fine, it’s okay, I can’t sleep anyway.

Dance around the bed half the night,
the other half, walk the ridge of my body,
bleating your flat meow.
It’s okay.

I can’t sleep anyway.

***

(This one is from the original word “snow” which ended on glitter demon, idolized but evil. This one was extra fun for me, ahem. We’ll see about line breaks & whatever tomorrow in class.)

Glitter-demon

You consider yourself beautiful, all shine and polish and perfection. You stand upon that pedestal with such a casual air, as if you couldn’t fall from there. Every day you are reset, like a piece of machinery, you get up and just start a new day. You claim to be immortal. Silver and gold wrap the warp of your vile insides, and not one of us notices the cruel cutting you do, until it’s too late, until we’re bleeding in the glittery, hard diamond snow of this four-year winter. How much blood and history will we lose without knowing it before we wake up and knock you off that stool. You make me want to hate, if I could. I want you to shatter, I want to shave off all that lying gloss and sparkle, I want you to bleed like we are bleeding, I want instant karma, I want a recount, I want changes of hearts, for all of us, if not for you.

(fragments of process, & out from under patriarchy…)

IMG_9103

one theme, (at least) thirty variations (from 1971 Women’s Day magazine)

Here’s a piece of too-clever-wordy-nerdy-play-that-doesn’t-fit, torn from an essay I’m writing under the shadow of the toxic patriarchy.

The fragment won’t go back in.

Wanted to put it somewhere, thank it for its service:

Forget/forgive, unfortunate, those words with similar opening: we link them as if they are sisters, but they have so little in common. F-O-R. Three letters. A pile of bones.