It’s week four of our online writing group, and we’re hanging in there! It sounds like many of us got some great work done, and some of us (me…) got some thinking done if not a lot of writing. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s normal and human (and human is wonderful) that sometimes weekly goals just don’t get met.
I know that it’s that time of the summer when people are taking trips and getting busy with weekend barbecues and spending more time outside in the sun than inside with their computers (or typewriters, or notepads and pens [or quills — I will not presume to know your method]…). So if you didn’t write much last week (again, me!) or are having a hard time getting started, don’t worry. I feel strongly about this group being something useful, something helpful, but not something that makes its members feel guilt or shame for not getting work done. That’s not my style, so don’t expect it. Instead, expect to be invigorated at the end of our excellent goals list with some words of encouragement from the late poet Charles Bukowski (no, I didn’t call him up from the world of the spirits; I’m reading a book of his collected letters).
Week Four Goals:
- Alena: My goal for this week will be a little different from what I’ve previously done. I need to write lyrics for a song that my boyfriend is recording (we’re both terrible at writing lyrics, so this should be interesting). Any other writing I do this week will be considered a bonus because I have a lot of schoolwork. After this week, however, I’ll be free of my summer-class shackles.
- Aliena: GOALS: Setting aside time to write during this week and next.
- Anne D.: My week four goal is the same as week three. I will try to write more this week too. It’s been another hectic week. (You can do it, Anne!)
- Anne H.: Coming soon…
- Bev: I did my blog post — a short one this week — and I’m not quite done with April revisions, but since we are finally getting the rain was so desperately need, I have Sunday morning to wrap that up. I didn’t really want to weed the beans again anyway. I took this week’s assignment to heart and have be striking “very” and “quite” right and left! Plus I have been ruthless in cutting stories that are stand-alones that don’t contribute to the overall themes of the memoir — a 47% reduction on this chapter so far — so proud! Plus I started on a letter based on two recent day trips.
For next week, I will tackle Chapter 10, May, a big one for plot development, write my blog, and finish the letter. (Bev, I’m so glad the assignment helped — good work!)
- Emily: Coming soon…
- Katherine: Week Three…I failed at writing. My daughter’s naps are getting shorter making it harder to get anything accomplished.Week Four Goal: Figure out a better time management strategy to create writing time. Accomplish the writing tasks from last week.
- Laura: I was in California for five days last week and didn’t get a lot of writing done. I, like Sarah, though, was inspired by the scenery and atmosphere, the experiences, and by the friends I’d gone traveling with. I hope that this will fuel me as I start to write this week. My goals for this week are to write every day, write another chapter of my WIP, write a blog post about my trip, and to finish Charles Bukowski’s book On Writing. (more about his book after list)
- Lisa: This past week I wrote a few pages. Woo hoo! I will be out of town this coming week, so I plan to use it as a much needed reading break.
- Matt: This last week has been another productive one. When I reached the end of the story this time, The Liminal Man was five thousand words shorter than it was at the start of this process, a couple of weeks ago. That’s pretty sweet. I went right back to page one and kept going, and almost immediately found something else! Because of some cuts I had made at the end, there was a whole thread I can just pull right out of the book. And that’s what I will be doing for week four: exactly the same thing. Go forward, keep simplifying. I think I have made most of the major cuts at this point, but who knows? Maybe I can turn a whole chapter into a haiku. (YES.)
- Matt the Second: Coming soon…
- Mike: I only got through another three pages’ worth of revisions on the story, but it was a good three pages’ worth. This week’s goal is to get through the 7-8 pages I didn’t get to.
- Ray: It was a rather unimpressive week around the writing campfire. I started and stopped about a dozen times last week. Just wasn’t feeling it; maybe it was the weather or the headlines, or work, I did not attain my goals. Half of a chapter is better than nothing done I guess, but you can’t force it. I’m going to carry last week’s goals forward to this week, and go from there.
- Robert: Goal: 7,000 words.
- Rosalie: For next week I want to edit my two completed tours. Actually I’m going to totally rewrite my Spanish Art tour because I woke up the other day with a much better theme. So far I’ve met my goals usually on the very last day. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree then, Mom, since this is 100% the way I roll, too!)
- Sarah: Week four goals: I was in Vegas on vacation for week three. I thought reading would inspire my next writing project. Instead a trip to Mandalay Bay Hotel and Aquarium, then the Bellagio conservatory provided just the right focus. I will be working on scripts for non-western art history videos. At least one on the influence of environment on Chinese landscape painting and animal symbolism in early pre-dynastic Chinese art.
- Tina: Coming soon…
If you’re unfamiliar with the American poet and novelist Charles Bukowski, you should know that people either love him or hate him. He was a philanderer and an alcoholic, he’d been known to hit his girlfriends and wives, and many feel he was a misogynist in his life and in his work.
But I don’t believe that he was a woman-hater, and, in fact, I’m in the camp of people who like Bukowski, thanks much to my Bukowski-loving husband who introduced me to the writer when we moved in together twelve years ago and merged our libraries. Trevor has every book of Bukowski’s collected poetry, so of course, I had to read them to see what the buzz was about. And I felt that the buzz was warranted. It was warranted buzz.
But this isn’t a post about the feminist merits or lack thereof of Charles Bukowski; this is a post about what he felt about being a writer, and many of his ideas are universal.
In 2015, Ecco publishing company (an imprint of HarperCollins) put out a book of letters Bukowski had written to various publishers and editors, many from literary magazines, beginning in 1945 and continuing through 1993, the year before his death. The book, On Writing, was published with help from Bukowski’s widow and was edited by Abel Debritto, and it’s a fascinating read for anyone who’s interested in what it’s like to be a working, write-everyday-no-matter-what-and-try-to-publish-every-goddamn-thing writer.
I wanted to share two of the things he wrote that are (I won’t use the word “inspirational” because I believe Bukowski would retch at that) part of what might be included in his manifesto for writing and for being an artist.
In a letter Bukowski wrote to Whit Burnett in 1954 upon hearing that Story magazine would be shuttering (it has since been revived), he said this:
I’ll always remember the old orange magazine with the white band. Somehow, I’d always had the idea that I could write anything I wanted, and, if it was good enough it’d get in there. I’ve never gotten that idea looking at any other magazines, and especially today, when everybody’s so god damned afraid of offending or saying anything against anybody else — an honest writer is in a hell of a hole. I mean, you sit down to write it and you know it’s no use. There’s a lot of courage gone now and a lot of guts and a lot of clearness — and a lot of Artistry too. (12)
Bukowski had courage, that’s for sure. In fact, it might be more appropriate to say he had chutzpah, since his writing was frequently rejected for being too sexy, too dark, too gritty, too…Bukowski.
But he didn’t stop writing and he sure didn’t stop submitting his work to get published. He kept doing it, even after he’d hawked his typewriter for booze. So that’s what I’m calling you to do this week: be honest, have no fear, don’t write for an audience, especially not an audience of critics, but just get it on the page, whatever “it” is and whatever you feel it needs to be.
Bukowski also wrote, in 1959, to Anthony Linick, founder of Nomad literary magazine, and talked about the new schools of criticism rising after the end of World War 2. He was likely thinking about his manifesto (written sometime around 1960, called “Manifesto: A Call For Our Own Critics”) when he wrote to Linick about these new critics’ schools of thought:
…but all these are demands on style and manner and method rather than on content, although we have some restrictions here also. But primarily Art is its own excuse, and it’s either Art or it’s something else. It’s either a poem or a piece of cheese. (20)
And I’ve fallen in love with that idea: “It’s either a poem or a piece of cheese.” Our work is our work, and we have to know what it is. This week, I want you to find out what it is. You are not to create for anyone else but yourself and don’t worry about anything other than what you feel your work needs to be.
Be honest, be courageous, and get it done. It’s not a piece of cheese.
Bukowski, Charles. On Writing. Ed. Abel Debritto. New York: Ecco, 2015. Print.