Learning to write on the #10 bus

Or, My life in yoga pants.

I’ve asked before about practice–how you write, when you write. I used to free write in the morning, on the #545 bus to work. I can revise any time of day, but generative writing worked best on the bus. The ride was quiet enough that it gave me an anonymity and long enough that I could read and write without worrying about missing my stop.

Now my schedule has changed completely. In between jobs, I’m riding the #10 bus in the mornings. Heretofore, I have not written on the #10. There’s so much to see–all the shops and the people and the little dogs. But now, it’s my regular morning bus, and I’ve needed to adjust.

(I thought I could write when I got home. I also thought that I would start keeping the house clean–spotless–catch up on laundry and editing work, job search, blog for the winery, and finish my novel. Hasn’t happened yet–and if I want to write, I’ve got to keep my bus practice.)

I’ve learned I have to start writing right away. While it’s preferable to read a poem first and choose a line to start with or some words to use (or just to get into that poetry space), it’s also much too easy to just keep reading and then realize I don’t have enough time left to start anything. I write best in a window seat, but I must avoid looking out the window–until I’ve written.

My next step is to write longer–can I write the whole ride?

Last night at his Seattle Arts and Lectures reading, Stephen Dunn was asked about turns. As I’ve been thinking about the difference between poetry and prose, this discussion reminded me to add turns to the list. And I’m convinced that the way to get to that turn is to keep writing–past the natural stopping point. For me, this is like running an extra quarter mile past the point where I feel like I can’t breathe. It’s hard. This morning, I failed. I’ll keep trying.

(Caveat: A poem doesn’t have to be long to turn. Now I’m thinking of Haiku.)

The other tactic is accretion, aggregation. To write and then go back–write in the margins (a process I used often when working on my forthcoming book). Compile, pare, look for two perspectives and how one turns to the other. Easier for the short-winded, like me.

Reading: Mona Lisa Overdrive, by William Gibson, and Salt Memory, by Jennifer Sweeney

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