On Monday I started a new course with York Centre for Life Long Learning. It’s called Crafting and Redrafting, and is created and facilitated by Wendy Pratt. I’m hoping the course will help me hone my editing skills – I’m at a point where I have dozens of drafts, some which are good to go, and many that need more work. I’ve also got a few that keep getting turned down, despite the fact that I think they’re ok – a sure fire indicator that a few tweaks are needed. The image of the beleaguered poet agonising over each comma is indeed accurate.
I’m excited about this course. It’s meeting my need for a bit of stretch when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the poetry business. I spend a lot of time on developing my creative practice but have been quite reserved about the mechanics of promotion. The fancy answer would be that I didn’t want to sully my art. The truth is twofold – I was a bit scared, and I didn’t have a strong body of work that I really believed in. I’m hoping the work I do over the next eleven weeks will help me understand how to fine tune my work – how to step back and look at it with an editor’s eye.
There are good habits coming already from the course (and it’s only week one!) I’ve always known don’t read enough poetry and one of the key directives from my first week was to read much more. Now, this lack of reading isn’t because I don’t want to or have any ridiculous notion that it will cloud my own voice. Good reading is essential to good writing – it’s how we learn what works, how we learn what gives us goosebumps and what leaves us cold. If I know all that, why not just do it?
Lack of time, of course – plus reduced energy and M.E. brain swish in to take a chunk of each day. By the time I’ve completed whatever copywriting work I have (and I’m so glad to have it), and taken care of the general business of living, reading is almost impossible – my brain just won’t take anything in, and the physical act of making sense of the page is beyond me.
Clearly this has to change. My strategy is to adapt the way I spend my journal time. I’ve always written a journal of sorts and I try to do it early each morning. Now in that half hour I set aside, I’m reading three poems. I’m making really brief notes on them too, but that’s not the goal – the goal is simply to read. I’m choosing from different sources, choosing different styles, falling in love with some, not really liking others and being simply baffled by a few.
The desired outcome is undefined, and to this extent my liking or disliking doesn’t matter – what I’m hoping is that I will become even more immersed in language, even more immersed in how it plays and moves me. And I’m hoping this understanding will make me a better writer. Regardless of all this, I’m enjoying my reading, enjoying writing, and feeling a bit more like a proper writer than I did a few weeks ago.