Wordsworth, Rockwell, and Leaping Hearts

I admit to falling in love again . . . I have rediscovered William Wordsworth. I love this poem titled “My heart leaps up when I behold“:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began,
So is it now I am a man,
So be it when I shall grow old
Or let me die!
The child is father of the man:
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

I’m currently taking a summer intensive course on the Romantic writers (the last three classes in my English program are literature! Yay!). Here are just the books for the next four weeks (not to mention numerous links to other writing such as my dear Wordsworth above):

bedside books

It’s been many years since I read these books, several decades since my English major. It almost makes me want to cry with joy to be “forced” to reread some of the greatest literature of all time. I’m scribbling notes of books I simply must read again, books any self-respecting English Lit major should know (or at least remember). Add Moby Dick to the above pile. It’s been too long, Captain Ahab! We must meet again!

But I digress . . .

What I love about the poem by Wordsworth is that it correctly assesses how I feel about my writing. Asked in a class last semester to determine my personal “aesthetic,” I thought long and hard. What do I want to write about? Who am I as a writer? I’ve been an editor for so many years that my writing got neglected. When I came back to it, I had to rediscover myself.

I honestly don’t recall “who influenced me” beyond what I’m sure was just the love of words and books. I can’t remember specifics. One thing I do recall, however, is staring for hours at the paintings by Norman Rockwell in a big coffee table book my parents had. I loved his realism. I loved how he captured a story in a painting so realistic that it almost looked like a snapshot. Having a dad in the military, this is probably one of my favorites:

"The Homecoming" by Norman Rockwell (1945)
“The Homecoming” by Norman Rockwell (1945)

The young boy dashing down the stairs to meet the returning soldier might well have been my ten-year-old self greeting my dad on his return from Vietnam.

What I love is realism. Take a moment. Capture it. Paint it for the reader.

Like Wordsworth, I want to notice things, to always have my heart leap up when I encounter nature in its beauty or a moment in time that must be captured in writing.

I like the short form. Sarah Hollowell set me on to Short Story Month (May, if you didn’t know) and Cathy Day commented on that blog, describing a friend who used 750words.com to write 750-word stories. So that’s my challenge . . . to start using that site (where I’m already a hit-or-miss member) and capture the moments.

So what short story writers do you admire most–past or current? I want to add them to my list!

Writers Write, Right?

So as writers, we’re supposed to write, right? I have to admit that I need to think of writing as my job; I need to schedule time to do it. Some days it’s difficult; often it’s just plain hard work. Sometimes it’s rewarding; other times I melt into a puddle of frustration at my inability to say what I want to say.

Ever been there?

What do you do to stay disciplined and keep writing–even when it’s tough?

I’ve been an editor for a long time and have done my share of helping other people’s work sound better. Then I started graduate school at Ball State University, a full thirty years after finishing my undergrad at Houghton College and after a long career in publishing. The writing classes took what felt like dried-up creativity and infused it with new life. I could write again–for myself. I could read some of the best writers, study their techniques, and try them out. I could listen to peer reviews and learn how to make my writing better.

It’s been stupendous.

And I realized that I needed to go about the business of being a writer–which means writing.

Right?

Yes indeedy.Calendar

In my class with Dr. Deborah Mix, we discussed how to keep writing. She gave us five key points:

(1) Decide on a writing commitment and post it where you can see it.

(2) Set a word goal.

(3) Set aside time every day to write.

(4) Be creative in how you motivate and reward yourself.

(5) When that distracted feeling comes, realize that at that very moment your brain is working hard. If you don’t yield to the distraction, you may experience a breakthrough.

So I jumped into the proverbial pool. I’ve taken on my job of writing with renewed energy and enthusiasm. One of my favorite sites is 750words.com–a simple site that gives me a nice blank page and counts my words for me, congratulating me when I get to the magic 750. It sends me a reminder by email every day, “You should write your 750 words” and it gives me a little hashtag on a calendar to track my monthly progress.

In any case, set a goal and then keep track of your progress.

Need writing prompts? Check out these rolling prompts at Writers Digest when you need some inspiration.

Need help with not being distracted? Download this program called Freedom. It blocks your access to the Internet for a set amount of time. You will literally be unable to check email or Facebook or the latest news during the time you’ve set aside to write.

Great idea, eh? What will they think of next?

As citizens of the literary world, we should join our fellow writers in our commitment to write, write, write because, well, it’s what we do.

How to Write a LotNeed more motivation? Pick up this little book, How to Write a Lot, by Dr. Paul J. Silvia (American Psychological Association, 2007). He encourages us not to find the time to write but to allot the time to write, treating our writing time as sacred. And, as a busy professional, he understands that writing can involve more than just writing. Perhaps you have to do some research, or review page proofs, or read the book you’re reviewing. Do it during your writing time because “writing is more than typing words. Any action that is instrumental in completing a writing project counts as writing” (19). He especially takes to task those writers who don’t write because they’re waiting for inspiration. “Serious writers write, inspired or not. Over time they discover that routine is a better friend to them than inspiration” (27). His help with setting goals and charting progress is invaluable.

It’s an odd task we’ve set ourselves, this thing called writing. We do it because we love it. We do it because we take joy in the look of words on the page and the sounds of words as they bump up against one another. We love to see what happens to the characters in our story.

So what keeps you writing?