As a writer, it’s your job to observe the world; and that has to be one of the best jobs going. Though it might make non-writers a little crazy, I love the way my writer’s brain soaks in all kinds of minutia no matter where I am or what I am doing. I love the way it connects the dots to pull stories out of the ether. And I love the way that this constant hum of observation and internal storytelling helps me see and appreciate the world more deeply.
Earlier this week, I was sitting alongside the outdoor practice ring at the barn where my daughter and I take lessons. I was enjoying watching my daughter and her lesson pony, Chanel, run through their paces while carrying on a silent conversation spoken in a language of touch and movement. I have always been fascinated by the way horse and rider can communicate at such a complex level without having the benefit of a shared language.
Anyway, as I sat ringside, I let my mind wander to take in the details of the moment – the tiny black flies biting my exposed forearms; the plush, polished green of the grass, still glistening from the morning’s thunderstorms; the spectacular show of clouds on the eastern horizon, layers of billowing mists rising and falling like skyborn empires in countless and constantly shifting shades of gray and white and blue; a young swallow singing his heart out from a perch on a wire slung between barns, his voice full of passion and purpose, slicing through the air like an arrow of love in hot pursuit of the females who careened past him in sharp angles and flashes; the heavy scent of wet earth mingled with the rich odors of hay, manure, and grain, balanced by light top notes of rain and sky and the distant sea; and the constant heartbeat sounds of horses hooves pounding out their rhythms in the sand of the arena, creating a staccato symphony that might have been a language of its own, like a morse code between horse and earth.
Would I have noticed all these details if I was not a writer? Perhaps. But, perhaps not. And would I, if I was not a writer, have been compelled to scribble down my observations in my ever-present notebook? Probably not. But, I am a writer, so I did notice, and I did capture a few words to help me experience the moment more deeply, appreciate it more fully, preserve it for another day, and share it. That’s what writers do.
Books I’m Reading:
This week was a particularly busy one. Deadlines circled me like a pack of unfriendly wolves, hounding me late into the night and waking me from sleep with their insistent howls. I managed to get to my weekend mostly unscathed, but I did not have much time for reading. The two novels I’m currently enjoying (one in hard cover, the other on Audible) were much neglected this week in favor or work-related multi-tasking.
During such periods of over-booked schedules that leave me too weary to engage with a book at the end of the long, long day, I turn to reading materials that do not make the demands of novels. This week, I picked up a my tattered copy of a 1927 book called The Winged Horse. I found this musty old treasure at our local flea market – Todd Farm in Newburyport. I was initially drawn to the lovely cover and end papers, but when I opened the first few pages and read the subtitle, The Story of the Poets and Their Poetry, I was sold.
I know very little about poetry, and I rarely read it; but I have always been both intrigued by the form and a little chagrined that I haven’t spent more time to learn about it. Though there’s a fairly good chance that much of what’s in this book may have grown inaccurate over time (not to mention politically incorrect), I still very much enjoyed the tutelage of Messrs. Auslander and Hill. I mean, how can fail to continue reading such a book when it opens with a foreword that begins thus,
“We wrote this book because we wanted to write it.
Also, we saw that such a book was needed.
We were aware of numberless people coming eagerly to the edges of poetry, wondering what it was, what it had been. The straightest way into the knowledge of an art, as into the knowledge of a person, is to discover what has happened to it – how men have used it. But the story of poetry seemed to be scattered as hopelessly as Humpty Dumpty after his fall; it was buried in histories and biographies that were sometimes a punishment even for those who made it a business to read them; there were a thousand fragments, but no one story.”
How could you not wish to accompany these two on their quest to discover the story of poetry?
And then, because I was reading this book about the story of poetry, I was inspired to thumb through a few selections in my small and eclectic collection of poetry anthologies. And that made me happy. Though I wasn’t able to curl up for an hour or two with one of the chunky novels I’m reading, I still got to have brief encounters with beautiful words and images.
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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
- Writer’s block: 3 ways to get over it by @PetaBreeRule
- How to Write Dialogue Without Using Adverbs by Jeff Elkins
- On writing your story out of sequence: Breakdown Boards by @SPressfield
- 9 Story Openings to Avoid by Kristen Nelson
PUBLISHING & MARKETING
- Interviewing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them on Your Blog by @RachelCorbett
- How to Write an Email Sequence (and Make Readers Crave More) by @HennekeD
- What if You’re Just Not Good Enough to be a Successful Writer? by @aliventures
- The Value of Grey Thinking via @farnamstreet
- 7 Strategies for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome by @problogger
- The Art of Being Easily Fascinated by @joelzaslofsky
- The World-Class Procrastinator’s Guide to Getting Things Done by @annhandley
THE WRITING LIFE
- Your Brain on Writing by @OneReidReading
- Want Smart Kids? Make Sure They Learn to Do This by @MindaZetlin
- How I Navigate Writing About My Personal Experiences by @RowdyKittens
- How to Absorb a Book into Your Bloodstream by @demianfarnworth
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Sundry Links and Articles:
I don’t think I’ve ever entered a writing contest, mostly because I rarely seem to find out about them in time to get my act together and submit. But, earlier this week I received a cheerful email from someone named Zachary Petit. It opened like this:
As the former managing editor of Writer’s Digest, I’m forever ineligible to enter the Writer’s Digest Annual Competition. (The gall!) But they can’t stop me from telling you why I, as a freelance writer for National Geographic Kids and other publications, would enter if I could—specifically in the Feature Article category.
Which was then followed by five reasons to enter (prizes, conference, appearance in WD magazine, a conversation with a WD Books editor, and a year of access to Writer’s Digest magazine), and the charming close:
… Look. Writers don’t need to enter competitions to survive. But any time I’ve won anything for my work, it means volumes more than the original paycheck I got for it ever could have. For me, it feeds the literary soul and keeps it healthy—it’s the sort of stuff that keeps me tapping away, day after day, year after year, article after article.
Yours in writing,
The deadline for the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition covers myriad categories including spiritual, memoir, feature articles, genre short stories, stage play, poetry, and more. I don’t know that I’ll have time to pull anything together (the deadline for submissions is June 20th), but I thought I’d share the links here in case you’d like to submit. You never know – it could be fun!
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Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to drinking in all the details in the moment so that we may enjoy the many gifts of the world, and here’s to writing them all down so that we may experience them again in the future and share their magic with others.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.