Monday, September 9, 2013

What makes writing easy for you?

This evening, I met my students in Writing in Schools and Colleges. As with every writing class, I begin with a couple of 3-minute quick write activities with the following prompts:

What makes writing hard for you?

What makes writing easy for you?

You can imagine the responses to the "hard" prompt...e.g., not enough time, lack of confidence, trouble getting started, topics (e.g., uninteresting, too emotional), self editing while composing, and more. Then, we move on to the "easy" side of writing. For me, it's always the idea of having an "Anne" and a "Gayle." Anne Wood has been my editor for over 3 decades. She knows exactly the right words to bring out mine. She's taught me the value of "less is more" and almost has me understanding the difference between "like" and "as" (almost). She's also a dear friend. Gayle is a great first reader and her words are honest and immediate--she sees the potential in a piece and generally has a really good eye... Both Anne and Gayle encourage and inspire me to keep putting words on the screen and to stay in my writing room... as Ron Carlson wrote, "The writer's the one who stays in the room."  

Today while writing the "easy" side of the opening prompts, I remembered the gift of an IBM Correcting Selectric II typewriter. These are the machines that allowed the writer to press an X and to back space and erase a letter, word, or entire sentence. What a beautiful thing at the time.

It was about 1980, and I had zero money. I was substitute teaching for $25 a day, coaching soccer and skiing for about $3000 combined, working at Sunday River Ski Resort for $4-$5 per hour, and writing poems ($5 each) and articles ($25 each). I was also in the midst of writing a book called Play On!, a fictionalized account of starting soccer in my home town of Rumford... a paper mill town that still loves its American football.

Back then, I was writing on my grandfather's c. 1950 Underwood typewriter and became blocked while writing Play On! In October, the week of my birthday, the UPS delivery person left a big box at my apartment door. At the time, I was living in subsidized, low rent housing with a lot old people plus a couple of teachers. I opened the box and saw that glorious machine and started writing. I'm pretty sure I've never stopped.

What makes writing easy for me? Computers. I love mine... Black, hard-covered journal books with soft absorbent paper. I also like black fountain pens that have a smooth feel on the page... and i'm also inspired to keep on writing by the memory of a bulky cardboard box leaning against my apartment door, that special typewriter, and a brother's generosity.

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