Every weekend this winter, I have gone cross-country skiing. My black lab, Atticus, comes too. We have a place up north that borders 30 kilometers of groomed trails, but we typically head down the same path: the one that crisscrosses the nearby golf course, skirting in and out of hardwoods and tall pines, turning left at a stand of white birch, down the ridge bordered by sumac and wild lilacs, over the bridge across a creek, and then circling round a large open field.
While the path stays the same, the weather does not. It is, after all, Michigan. Some days, it is overcast; the trees creak and groan overhead as I fight my way against the wind. Some days, the snow falls so quickly that I can barely see the trail at all, the world swirling in blur of white. And some days, the sunlight breaks through the clouds and dapples the path ahead, the tree trunks casting long shadows over the dusting of fresh snow.
My skiing changes too. There are days where the trail has been freshly groomed, and I am able to move in a steady rhythm, gliding across the snow. Those are good days. But there are other days where the trail has melted and refrozen, becoming a sheet of slick ice. My skis slip. I fall. I struggle to get up again. (There is usually cursing involved). And then there are days I am simply tired, and the whole endeavor of putting on the boots, the skis, the coat, the gloves, and going out into the cold just seems like too much. I usually go anyway, hoping that once I begin, I will feel better. This works, sometimes.
Writing is like this, isn’t it? The familiar sensation of sitting at a laptop or with a pen in hand, putting words to a page. For those of us who write regularly, it is familiar feeling. And yet, the writing process changes each time we do it: on good days, the exact turn of phrase, the sudden idea, the connection between two paragraphs that suddenly becomes clear. Writing is fun. But there are other days when all you can see is the clunky series of sentences, the half-formed concept, the awkward transitions, and try as you might, nothing comes right. (Again, for me, there is usually cursing involved). And of course, there are days when you are tired and really wonder if you want to spend your time and energy writing, or even doing anything at all. On those days, I hope you write anyway. Because that’s how we learn anything; in fact, you could argue that’s how we learn everything we need to know—by doing something again and again, with some effort and good will. Over time, whatever we are working on gets better, and we become a bit better too: more observant, more thoughtful, more gracious. And hopefully less cursing.
Helen and Chris write:
Of course, we love the opportunity to share our writing, which is why the Community Writing Center is so important. We have a great workshop on “Publishing Your Writing,” led by Casey and Denise Hill from New Pages on March 16, and another workshop, “Introduction to Science Fiction Writing” on April 20. Our “Poets’ Group” is meeting in March 23 and April 27, and we’re pleased to announce that we have another writing group beginning April 6, meeting the first Tuesday of every month (to learn more about this new group, which will be focusing on prose, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up on our website). As you can see, there’s lots of opportunities to write and talk with other writers, so visit us at https://www.communitywritingcenter.com/
We have a few books to recommend this month as well. George Saunders’ newest book, “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain” is an amazing book on writing (and life), using seven short stories by Russian authors as a lesson in how to craft effective fiction. If you write, you must read this book: it’s clever, provocative, and funny. A great fiction read, with a marvelous narrator, is “Sorrow and Bliss” by Meg Mason, and our poetry recommendation is Mary Oliver’s collection of selected works, “Devotions” (we are eager for spring to awaken the world—Helen’s love of skiing notwithstanding).
That’s it for this month. Take care everyone, stay safe, and keep writing—and congrats to our Poets’ Group member Bruce Gunther who recently had work published in “Last Leaves” and “Modern Haiku.”
Helen and Chris
Directors of the Community Writing Center