The View From Here

How about this spectacular view?!

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It’s been a great writing retreat here at the homestead.  And by “great” I mean I wrote new stuff and revised old stuff, and I’m taking a liking to sitting stone still even if that means I’ve got one hell of a neck ache and my eyes are paper-fucking-dry.  Progress!

In addition to electricity, here are the 3 things that kept me working.

The brilliant James Wright, my journal of note scraps, and noise-cancelling headphones.

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I wish I had something smart and witty to add, but honest to Betsy I’m tapped out.  So I leave you with Zadie Smith’s Top 10 Rules for Writing.

1.  When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
2.  When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
3.  Don’t romanticise your “vocation.” You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle.” All that matters is what you leave on the page.
4.  Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
5.  Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
6.  Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
7.  Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet.
8.  Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
9.  Don’t confuse honours with achievement.
10.  Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand—but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.

This minute I am particularly fond of #10.

Onward.

 

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18 thoughts on “The View From Here

  1. Averil Dean

    I so agree with #3. Writing is work, and romanticizing it does the writer no good when the going gets tough.

    I’m happy to hear the week has been going so well for you. Here’s to that bare little corner and a pair of paper-dry eyeballs!

    1. Teri Post author

      The words “writers lifestyle” gives me a good chuckle. My style is hair askew, swollen eyes, too much coffee, pajama pants, braless, and the biggest sweatshirt or sweater I can find.

      I just found a travel pouch of earrings and bracelets and things that I packaged up for a trip back in July. It’s all still in there, tangled and unworn.

  2. Jennine G.

    Number 8 is a hard one for me. My kids always want or need something or I’m tired or there’s an event going on. I’ve just gotta get myself back in the habit of a set time and space every day!

    1. Teri Post author

      Terrible at this, I am. My book might be done already if I could stop traveling and spending time with friends.

  3. erikamarks

    Number 5 is hard for me. I never leave enough time before I dive back in to edit. I struggle to put a single day between me and new words. I suspect Zadie would recommend WEEKS.

      1. Teri Post author

        This might be one of the most important points, at least for me. It’s funny the things I see months later that I had no clue about in the moment.

        That said, there’s a lot to be said for staying on the train and keeping the train of thought running at a steady clip. On staying attached to the story.

        When I saw Kate Walbert talk about this back in June, she was adamant about putting work in a drawer for weeks, if not 6 months or more. Whether she wants to or not, she moves on and works on something else.

  4. jpon

    Great list. I use it in the writing classes I teach. Almost included a couple in my recent posts. Considered as a whole, this list shows just how difficult it is to write well–and it’s not even talking about the actual writing.

    Congratulations on the “retreat.” Glad to hear you got your focus.

    1. Teri Post author

      It’s like that statement on Downith’s website. Something like: writing is 3% writing and 97% staying off the internet.

      Sadly true.

  5. Josephine

    8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

    8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

    8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

    (sorry, i needed to read that one more than once.)

    1. Teri Post author

      Oh man, just as you say, Josey, I see this for you in so many ways. Maybe you could tape this over your front door as a talisman.

  6. Catherine

    I love your view. I’ve read this list and it’s brilliant. Numbers 10 and 8, yes! Number 2 is a little more frightening, I think it would hurt.

    1. Teri Post author

      #10, especially the end of #10, is probably more true than I’d like to believe. Still. There it is. It. Is.

  7. girl in the hat

    If I did #2, I’d probably have to stop writing. Actually, I aspire to most of these but don’t adhere. I think I break every rule here in order to continue writing.

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