There have been no typical writing days since I retired. While I was working, I squeezed in whatever writing time I could in between raising kids, working full-time as a college teacher and taking courses part-time in the evening.
Though every day is different, I try to plan each day in a way that inspires my writing practice. When I wake, I note any dream images from the night before. This is something I’ve done since childhood. Day dream images are also recorded in my journals. As well, I write down unusual bits of conversation I hear, interesting phrases or words from movies, the radio and books I am reading. Even a snippet of a remembered dream scenario, or an interesting remark I noted can spark a poem.
After journaling, I eat a hearty breakfast of porridge and meditate for twenty minutes to quiet my active mind. Three mornings a week I head to the gym. Many beginnings of poems, or revisions happen when I am working out on the elliptical or bicycle.
If I am not going to the gym or to a poetry gathering, I try to spend the morning writing. Presently, I am revising a manuscript of poems I have recently completed and am writing poems for a chapbook that will be published next year. I usually read my poems aloud listening for words or lines that don’t work. I also spend time sending poems out to different publications.
My poems usually take time to write. I write the first few drafts of an emerging poem in my journal while listening to classical music on CBC Radio 2. I believe that I censor my first few drafts less when they are written in long hand. This way I keep everything even if I think it may be mundane or irrelevant at the time.
After lunch, I transfer my hand-written drafts to the computer. I typically write multiple drafts. Sometimes I can write a poem quickly, but this is an exception. As well, I also spend time reading other poets. I usually have several poetry books on the go. Reading work by other poets exposes me to different styles of poetry and shows me how these writers approach complex and difficult issues.
When I get tired of writing or feel my writing is not productive, I take a break and go for a walk. Other strategies I use when my writing is stalled is to reread my earlier journals, read other poets’ work, or just to keep writing until my writing flows again.
I generally play the piano for about an hour in late afternoon. Weekly lessons require that I set time aside for regular practice. Playing classical and pop music is rewarding, challenging and restorative. Even while playing, ideas for a poem or a revision can sometimes jump into my head.
After supper, if I am home, I often read or sometimes rework a poem. I end my day by watching a television series or a movie on Netflix with my husband.
Being a member of two poetry writing groups offers writing and revising opportunities as well as friendships with like-minded poets. Attending poetry readings and participating in workshops also help broaden my knowledge of poetry.
There are days I sometimes choose to stay home especially when I start feeling I am getting too busy with outside activities or feeling tired. I may spend that day writing poetry, reading or not doing much of anything. It is in this unstructured space that a new poem often starts to surface.
Recently, I treated myself to a new desk and computer. I sit at my desk facing a window which overlooks my backyard where a sprawling crab-apple tree and two large cedars grow. I never tire of watching the antics of black and red squirrels and the variety of birds that visit our feeders throughout the day.
Retirement has given me the chance to establish a satisfying writing routine and to develop my poetry in ways I could never have envisioned. I am still celebrating my new-found freedom.
Doris Fiszer is a Canadian poet whose poems have appeared in a variety of publications including Bywords Quarterly Journal, bywords.ca and the Voice. She has a poem forthcoming (April 2018) in the anthology When All Else Fails: Motherhood in Precarious Times (Demeter Press). Her chapbook, The Binders, was the 2016 winner of Tree Press’s chapbook contest. Her poem, “Zen Garden,” won the 2017 John Newlove Poetry Award. As the recipient of this award, she has been offered the opportunity to publish a chapbook in 2018 through Bywords. The Binders was also shortlisted for the 2017 bpNichol Chapbook Award. As well, she is an associate member of The League of Canadian Poets. Doris has recently completed a full-length poetry collection and is currently writing poems about her mother.