New Draft and Process

Sluggish morning. One of the cats sabotaged my alarm, knocking the tuner from NPR to silence sometime in the night. I woke up 30 minutes late, befuddled by the silence. It’s still gray, but at least the rain has stopped for now.

Today, I wrote a draft, so I’m ahead for the week. Yay! It was an interesting process, and I thought I’d give a few details. I usually begin any writing time by reading a few blogs and then picking up a book of poetry or a journal. I’m the kind of writer who needs transition time to move from the world of doctor’s appointments and cats that need feeding to the world of words. Many people recommend that one not read the blogs before writing, but for me, it settles me into “poet space.” Then, I read poems by others to get the words percolating in my morning-dense mind. Finally, my own words will come, or not, at no predictable interval.

I always begin in ink in my journal…a true mess of bad handwriting and scrawling attempts to bring something out of nothing. After I have a few lines or a stanza, I switch to the computer and finish the draft there.

For some reason, I had Neruda’s Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon (translated by Stephen Mitchell) out on my desk. I started going through it and right away decided I would collect words from the book to use in a draft today. I think I hit on this technique because I used to use Neruda when I participated in Writers in the Schools at the U of Arkansas, and I’d have the students do word banks from these poems. So, I read the poems and captured strong nouns, verbs, and adjective on one page of my journal. When I had 60 of them, I decided to throw in another technique I’ve read about. I numbered the words and then used a random number generator on the internet to form pairs of words. Some of the pairs were awful and uninspiring, but when I’d done this about a dozen times, three sets stood out to me. And they became the first lines of my new draft. I continued to refer to my word bank as I drafted, but I didn’t rely on the pairs or the generator after that. After the poem felt somewhat formed I went back and re-read with a clearer eye. I noticed I’d overdosed on adjectives again. I love Neruda for his lush descriptions, but I’d taken too much here and there and had to trim. The draft is 10 lines right now and titled “Late Aubade.” Late as in autumn and late as in 9:30 a.m. when I drafted it but the light today is very “dawn-ish” since the sun can’t quite make it through the cloud layers.

All in all, I’m thrilled with today’s work. Happy Monday to all.

Posted by Sandy Longhorn


Sandy Longhorn

Chuck, Thanks for dropping in. If you find the time, I'd enjoy knowing how you found my blog. Best regards.

Sandy Longhorn

Great to meet you. It's funny how the world's connect sometimes.

Fascinating process. I love that your approach doesn't rely on the writer being inspired to begin. On mornings when I can't face wrestling with my own ideas, I could be perfectly happy going through the poems of someone else, choosing words, playing with combinations. I need more approaches like yours, where I can tiptoe up to inspiration, not wait for it to sweep me away.

Thanks for the tip!

Sandy Longhorn

K, Thanks for the comment. Both parts of the process I describe here were suggested to me by other writers, so I'm glad to pass it on to you. I was surprised by how the spark of just a few unusual combinations got the inspiration going.