Sunday, February 05, 2012

When to Fake an Earthquake

Sage Cohen is a poet, writer and teacher who blogs (very entertainingly) at The Path of Possibility. A year or so ago, I received a copy of her book "The Productive Writer" which I intended to review on my blog. I read the whole book - but last year, I wasn't being very productive. In fact I was hardly writing at all (though I did send out a number of submissions of old work). And, well - it is hard to talk about being a productive writer while being unproductive.

I continued to enjoy Sage's newsletters, and a few weeks back, her post When to Fake a Head Injury, jogged me into action. I had started writing poems again, though sometimes only a line or two a day. I re-read the book and gathered my thoughts together.

I didn't have to fake an earthquake last year. In fact, at last count we have had around 9,500 earthquakes, including one magnitude three or more on average every four hours. But that wasn't what was stopping me from writing. We were without power for two days, and without running water for a week. But never without pencil and paper! No, the reason that I wasn't writing was - well, I just wasn't writing. Clearly, my experience shows that no amount of hints on being a productive writer will substitute for the will to start. And when, early in the book, I found suggestions of how one might structure writing time, given three hours a day, I thought maybe this book wasn't for me. I was wrong.

I realised as I got further into the book that there is something in it for everyone. Whether you are writing full time or fitting it in during coffee breaks at your day job - whether you are a poet, novelist or non-fiction writer - there will be something that you can find useful. For instance, since re-reading the book, I have vamped up my systems for keeping track of submissions and publications. I have also found Sage's discussion of "platform" helpful in thinking about the things I do in my writing life, and how they fit together - going to local open mic events, taking part in Tuesday Poem, entering competitions and submitting work. Which possibilities are worth pursuing and which don't really fit my goals?

I can recommend the book, and also Sage's blog. You can, if you wish, have new posts sent to you regularly by e-mail. I do!

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