Tag Archives: poetic devices

The Art of Discipline

On page 19 of Room to Write, Bonni Goldberg pauses to reflect on the importance of discipline in writing.  Her personal mantra when the going gets difficult is:

“Writers write, writers write…”

It all goes back to her emphasis on “showing up on the page” and curbing our tendencies to procrastinate or wait for inspiration to hit us.

The Prompt:

In light of the above, Goldberg asks us to write about discipline in one of 3 ways:

1.  Begin a poem or essay on what understanding you’ve reached on what it means to be disciplined, what you accept about it or what you reject;

2.  Track one of your existing characters as he/she copes with some element of discipline; or,

3.  Relate a past event that involved discipline in your life.

Going with Door #1 today…

Response:

Discipline is..

dedication and details

a dreaded dungeon

of dankness that congests my chest and blurs my eyes

resistance

like trying to run along the ocean floor.

But discipline is also

drizzling drops

of decadent delicacy

embedding structure within passion

to convert it to a sugared treat.

Reading the results

the rejuvenating reward;

whereas

idling for inspiration

the idiocy that is

waiting for words to come to you

rather than working to walk amongst them again.

The daily dollop, then,

the routine regimen,

the waking willingness

to expend effort and enjoy the effervescent energy

of Creation.

Reflection:

I can’t say I had any deliberate reason for the particular consonants and vowels I repeated in this other than they were the ones that started a lot of the words that were coming to mind with regard to the topic .  And I actually think I automatically latched onto to alliteration as a device to give me discipline, to set boundaries in which I could creatively explore.

Ironically, I’m not disciplined enough right now to spend more time on this or even take a second pass on what I just dashed off to revise or expand.  Ah well.  In truth, I think even just that brief time reflecting on it was validating, as that’s the point–if we perceive our goals as laborious tasks immense in proportion, of course we’re going to hit a psychological road-block; we’re just setting ourselves up for it.  The approach that seems widely recommended across writers is to chisel bit by bit off that boulder.  It may not feel like much at the time, but the aggregate results over the span of days will be noticeable if we discipline ourselves to set and accomplish reasonable daily goals.  If I’ve learned anything from my professional experience, it’s that goal-setting needs to focus on feasible, measurable results.

For me lately, on days when I’m not writing for my project, I’m making sure I’m at least writing a new blog post to stay warmed up.  And as for when I am working on my extended piece, sometimes I just roll with it, but other times I might set a word count–in yesterday’s case, 2,000.  It started out slow, requiring much discipline, but once I got into it, I tapped into a torrent of new ideas and ways that they could tie back to the old, and before I knew it, I had written almost 2,500 words by the time I reached a good time to stop for a break.  And even if I can at least add a few sentences of maybe a 100 or so words, I can feel the same level of satisfaction, even if I end up deleting it the next day.  Simply because I know I tried.  I worked at it, and I showed up on the page today.

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Exploring Form

The Prompt:

Addressing our existing or yet-to-be-created written pieces, page 7 of Room to Write gives us two options:

1)  We can compose a new piece of writing without considering what form it will take–that is, approach writing organically and allow the words to dictate their structure, not be boxed into it.  The idea is that writers do not and should not try to slot themselves into a specific category of writing–essayists can be poets, poets can be journalists, vice versa and etc., etc.  We may be hindering our writing by forcing it into a convention and, even worse, we may be regarding ourselves as failures when we do not succeed in one genre without giving consideration to how we might flourish in another.

2)  Spinning off #1, we may instead choose to select a piece we’ve already written in some form or another and rewrite it following an alternative genre:  e.g., short story, poem, essay, performance monologue, creative nonfiction, or children’s story.

Given my yammering about my 4th grade poetry anthology in a previous post, I’m going to choose Door #2 and convert one of my existing prose snippets into a poem.  It’s not a form that I gravitate to naturally, and I can’t recall any poetry I’ve written since high school (usually of the lovesick teenager variety in my diary) except maybe a sonnet in grad school.  So the piece that I am transforming below is something I freewrote and later revised in preparation for inserting into my current book project if it ends up fitting in anywhere.

Response:

Late night bath—

The drain releases overhead.

*

Flipping pages,

Pausing for a moment’s thought,

Eyes drift unconsciously

To where it nests,

An evening bag in her line of sight.

Eyes plucked from pensive pause,

They focus yet still do not,

Enrapt are they in the celestial body

Of the beading

As though staring into milky heavens,

A private observatory of unrestricted skies,

Free of constellation form

And twinkling the more for it.

*

Lens zooms in,

Eyes and mind allured,

And only then an awareness

Of rising volume and intensity.

Water trickling,

Encompassing her

About her

Around her

Within her

Deafening her

Drops stream then bead

On her skin

Blood courses with new coolness.

*

Close-up transcends

stationary to tracking

As she rises

Approaches

The dazzling hexagon,

Its glittering lid swept open

Its reflective remnants stared into

Seeking out that which sought

Until

In a flicker irretrievable

She sees them:

*

Fogged green

And glaring back.

Reflection:

I’m not sure what I think of this.  It’s nothing profound, but surely something that if I truly sought to perfect as a poem, I could go through countless revisions and take it into even further directions.  The original piece is intended for a larger work, so it begs the question whether it can stand alone in poetic genre.  I tend to think that it can, as the poetic form allows–if not effectively requires–gaps in the story as it’s explicitly told, instructing the individual reader’s imagination to construct implicit meaning to allow the tale to flow within one’s own interpretation.

I obviously did not take my prose piece word for word, and in deconstructing and reconstructing it in this way, I found myself deleting prepositions left and right and allowing myself to shift into  passive voice at times–the beauty of poetry, after all, is that unless you’re writing a traditional one that wears a corset of rules as a sonnet does, there is no strict convention.  It does not have to rhyme, it does not have to allot a certain number of syllables per line (not to discount the genius that is Shakespeare’s mastery of iambic pentameter), it does not matter how long or short each line or stanza is (sounding a “barbaric yawp” to you, Whitman!), and grammar and punctuation are a free-for-all (Miss Dickenson, what a rebel in petticoats you were).  On this last point, what I did have a hard time with was the punctuation–even knowing that it was entirely up to me and how I deemed it supported my words best, I still gravitated toward conventional mechanics in that respect.  Judging when to insert line breaks, however, came more easily, as it’s such a simple yet effective visual tool for emphasizing words and phrases via isolation versus italics, caps, or bold font.

This exercise also brought my attention to the poetic devices already embedded in my original piece, which reassures me that I am incorporating a variety of such in my prose to hopefully better appeal to the senses and facilitate understanding–the ones I spy in particular (and which are color-coded in the poem above) are metaphor, simile, anthropomorphism, alliteration, and assonance.  The fact that I did not need to intentionally plant them into the poem for the sake of the activity tells me that I am listening to my words as I write them and endeavoring to paint mental pictures.  It is not always that these come through in a first pass, however–actually, while it’s wondrous when they come naturally, it would be too inhibiting to constantly be deliberate in incorporating them when first generating new writing.  Instead, it’s good to approach writing the way Goldberg seems to be encouraging us to (and as exemplified in this Dead Poet’s Society clip), by letting go and riding with the current on the first draft.  Subsequent revision is then our opportunity for elaborating with detailed description and devices where needed.


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