Postcard from NCI: Writing in the New Year, Week Six
Happy New Year, friends!
Finally, a postcard for you that actually is a postcard, thanks to Cap’n J’s Solstice photo shoot. (And how awesome is my many-legged friend? Socktopus is my crafty sister Ashley’s work.)
It was a pretty wild New Year’s Eve up here in the mountains… Nachos and a soda with an evening of word-making. In the final hour of 2013, I took a break to read a letter, a welcome surprise from an old friend. (My neighbor delivered several weeks’ worth of mail the other day; I’ve been parceling them out to myself, one a night, as a treat.) On the blank back of a rejected page from chapter four, I started writing a response.
Have you noticed how differently you write to a friend? How the words come more naturally when you’re just talking with someone you trust wants to hear what you’re saying and cares? Your friend knows your voice; they’ll hear your words exactly as you mean to convey them, responding with empathy and celebration at all the right places. Such a difference experience than writing to the silently judgmental page, the faceless screen — or worse, the clearly scowling crowd that’s so going to hate this. With those detractors in mind, why bother?
There’s good reason writing teachers advise imagining one specific reader as we approach our work.
In conversation with my friend, I found myself sharing thoughts that, in my book, had been stiff. Over-wordy, yet distant. As a letter, they stumbled into what I hadn’t been able to say within the book. So I interrupted the letter to reach for my notebook instead. That’s how I rang in 2014 — finding a different way into the story, scribbling a re-written scene, and sending thoughts of gratitude to that friend. Pretty good terms on which to welcome the new year, I think.
So. Two thoughts to share with you:
The first is a poem one of you sent (thanks, Angela!) It’s a verse observed inside a Seattle Metro bus as part of their 2006 poetry-in-motion project. I’m sorry I don’t have the author’s name.
Every family has one — usually the one
who writes, the one who spills family secrets
onto the page like so much grape juice
on beige carpet — creating continent-shaped
stains that are slow to fade and never disappear
“You’re simply a nice carpenter who has helped make a shelter for other people’s uneasiness by exposing your own.”
This house is big, sweeties. Come on in — there’s plenty of room for us all.
Happy New Year, all. Be well.
P.O. Box 429
Marblemount, WA 98267