I’ll be reading this piece on KRCB radio, 91.1 FM in Sonoma County (www.krcb.org) on the Word by Word show on Feb. 2. WbW just got an NEA grant and I’m proud to have co-produced it through its first year, and slightly into its second. I had the pleasure of interviewing many great writers, including poets Billy Collins, Nikki Giovanni and Diane DiPrima. The question, from Tiny Lights Magazine’s “Searchlights and Signal Flares” writers exchange [www.tiny-lights.com] was WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM YOUR WRITING?
The question is not so much what do I want from my writing as what am I willing to give to my writing. I approach this-what is it, propensity, vocation, obsession?-like an intimate relationship which demands attention, care, respect, nourishment and a long leash. I also need to acknowledge that I write for the satisfaction of self-expression and sometimes for money. I love to read for audiences and I do it for the glory of the Muse and to get some of her reflected spotlight.
Each day I renew the commitment to my relationship “vows”: pay attention, honor your process, be patient, read other writers, and “keep your hand moving.”
Some writing is easy. Once a day, at least, I take up my journal to document, moan, rage, affirm, list and notice: Often I start with “today I celebrate myself for.” whether I’m feeling blue or feeling high. As I did as I teen-ager, I write about requited and unrequited love. On the floor of my bedroom closet there are cardboard boxes full of 40 years of this stuff. For the gift of daily loyalty, my writing gives in return a container for my psyche, my Self. And when the Muse grins, I might find the seed of a poem in the pages of my diary.
My other easy writing is correspondence. I’ve always written letters, with special pens, stationery with matching envelopes, and cursive technique drilled into me by grade-school nuns. When I learned to type, I had a tiny corner desk, the Hermes manual, and a hand-painted, hinge-top box for stamps. And now, email! My passion, my delight, my marketing tool, my romance builder, my connection to hundreds, maybe thousands of like-minded souls. My longest-lasting friendships seem to be with those who “give good mail.” And beyond the intimacy of deep electronic conversations, there’s the gift of online magazines and instant publishing, which has connected me with writers around the world. For keyboards, electricity, DSL lines, chats and lists (a mixed blessing), and the ability to communicate with my fingers, I give thanks.
My journalistic and creative writing is more challenging, and. the greater the risk, the greater the reward. When I do meet a deadline, write something I’m proud of that pleases, provokes, inspires, I get a sense of “being who I really am, doing what I’m supposed to do.” That sounds a little corny, but how else to say what I seek through writing is a feeling of wholeness, a relaxing into “aaahhhh, now that’s more like it.”