Shelley Widhalm

Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

The Broken-Hearted Starving Artist

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on April 28, 2013 at 11:00 am

Sometimes, I wish I was a practical salesperson, manager type or businessperson who knew how to make things happen.

Instead, I’ve got my head in the clouds with my fingers itching, my heart running out of control and my senses on the constant search for the space-time continuum to write.

I don’t fold into starving artist status because I’m practical, a quality that gets me to work, smacks my butt into a cubicle chair and makes me put in the hours.

But this practicality interferes with the artist self. I am left with little time for creativity, writing and imagination. I have to wedge in the time, instead of allowing for writing to be a part of my daily work life where I have several hours to devote to the process.

The result is lost poems and short stories, because the inspiration, motivation and readiness to write do not follow a schedule. I have to tamp down that artist self and forget her calling out to me in order to be what I am not.

The artist self has to be blocked into free time before and after work between chores, family time and the time for living, experiencing and hanging out with friends. She gets lost, bored, lonely and tired, too, from knocking on my soul’s door when I can’t listen.

I tell her that I’m busy.

She curls up trying to take up less space, knowing she’s rejected.

If she weren’t there inside me, even when she takes up less and less space, the fact of her being there starts breaking my heart. She’s in there wanting expression, and because she’s trying to rise up when I push her down, I am in constant conflict. I can’t rest or be at peace.

I feel guilty when I don’t write during my free time, but then when I just go live, she’s there soaking up my heartbeat, so I can’t forget her.

I can’t forget her because she is part of who I am.

She is why I don’t give up writing, even if being practical would be an easier way to earn a paycheck.

Rejection Queen

In 52: A Writer's Life, Rejection, Revising, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on April 21, 2013 at 11:00 am

Every time I get rejected from a short story, poetry or book contest or anything else having to do with writing, I have to pout.

I start with the thought that I’m a pro at rejection, a skill I learned as an elementary school student not able to fit in socially. I was the awkward geeky girl who stood outside the girl groups, barely fitting in.

My next thought, at least with my latest rejection from a writing contest, was that if I had actually won, I would have had to wonder if there was something wrong with the contest, because, as evidenced by past experiences, I don’t win.

At the same time, I believed I should have won (there weren’t very many entries), because I’ve been told that I’m a good writer and, likewise, believe that I’m a good writer. I write because of that belief and because I have to write.

But why if I’m “a good writer” am I still a collector of rejection slips?

My latest rejection slip I realize had merit because I submitted a book manuscript for “The Fire Painter” before I had finished the revision process. A couple days later, I received a critique form explaining the areas where to strengthen my manuscript, taking out some of the sting.

Following the pouting phase, I had to go through some ego bandaging. I had to get back up and try again at this writing thing.

Though I do wonder:

* Am I crazy spending my free time writing when I could be living?
* Am I crazy thinking I’m a great writer when I have evidence of rejection?
* Am I crazy for pursuing something that is like spinning in a circle of nowhereness when
I could be going forward on something else?

Whether I am or not, I’m writing again.

Hopefully next time, I’ll throw my arms out to welcome rejection as part of the process.

Cluttered Inspiration

In 52 Writing Topics, Poetry, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on April 14, 2013 at 11:00 am

I’ve let things and clutter get in the way of poetic inspiration and writing discipline.

Two things I let slip: my third revision of my novel, “The Fire Painter,” and my goal to write a poem a day for National Poetry Month.

I wanted to set aside my novel for two weeks after the second revision, which I finished in mid-March, and do another revision before attending a local conference at the end of April.

And I wanted to be a poetic genius able to write sparkly, beautiful poems at my own bidding.

But I guess I don’t work that way, especially when I have clutter in my head and in my life.

When I write poetry, I get this feeling – usually caused by music, a memory or an observation – and have to grab a napkin, receipt or newspaper scrap and start writing. The poem unravels out of something within me, almost uncontrolled except for the words playing off one another and some central idea I begin to grasp as I write.

This method of writing poetry is in direct opposition to how I approach physical stuff.

I have to have everything in my environment, organized, clean and in categories. (I hope I don’t have OCD, but I am admittedly a neat freak).

My neat freak-ness got disrupted.

A family member is moving and some of my stuff is mixed in with hers, plus she has given me boxes and bags of things she thought I might like or could use. I reorganized my pre-existing things to fit and make room for these new things, plus spring cleaned through my own belongings, getting rid of what I no longer wanted or needed.

The result was three boxes of books for trade-in and four boxes of stuff to donate. The cleaning out and getting rid of stuff, while bringing in new stuff, took up my free time and energy, leaving nothing for writing. I needed space, time and inner quiet to write, while time was all I needed for editing.

As I sorted, I got so focused on objects and the stories associated with some of them that I became too close to process those feelings. I didn’t have room for anything else, as if the clutter of my personal life cluttered my mind, leaving no room for anything but thinking about physical things.

I simply let things cause a form of writer’s block.

Going Poetic: National Poetry Month

In 52: A Writer's Life, Poetry, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on April 7, 2013 at 11:00 am

The idea of writing a poem a day is a bit daunting.

First, where does the inspiration come from, especially if you write poems as they come, even when the writing space is awkward on napkins or receipt tape? Do you have to try poetry exercises to get the spark started? Or do you just sit down and write whatever spills out?

Second, where do you find those special sparkly moments to condense into a few magical words if you’ve got work, chores and life? Or do those things feed into experience that in turn gives you ideas, thoughts and emotions to smooth like peanut butter into cadence and meter?

It’s National Poetry Month, when poetry is celebrated and poets undertake the challenge to write a poem a day during the month of April.

To write poetry, I listen to music or observe something around me, such as the way a budding tree (I can’t identify the type outside the coffee shop window) zigzags its branches across the street, a skeletal umbrella against the fading blue night.

When I’m listening to music, I filter out some of the words for a starting point, or I match the rhythm of what I hear into the feel of language as I write. The words rumble through my chest, causing my heart to speed up as if I were running, when all I’m doing is chasing beautiful language.

Sometimes what I write is nonsense, though I try to find a line or an idea to play with later.

I don’t pick a form to follow, unless I’m writing from an exercise or trying out the directions for writing sonnets, haikus and sestinas and the like. I might write in blank verse, a type of unrhymed poetry written in regular meter, which is the stress on syllables. Or I might write in free verse that does not contain a consistent meter pattern or rhyme.

These various forms I will try during my poem-a-day challenge, as if sorting through a pile of clothes in the dressing room.

As I do this, I will take five to 15 minutes from my busy, pushy life to notice what I haven’t before, searching out inspiration, hope and poetry love.