Thursday, December 20, 2018

Suzanne Chiasson: my (small press) writing day

My writing day is in transition

not restricted to a particular time or place.

If I check the Notes on my phone, I might find something written in the middle of the night, or in the middle of my daughter’s volleyball game.

Looking now, I find a Note that says Brave women / Mother calls me fierce. I wonder where that was going.

In another Note, under an address for a house for rent, I find Lost words / Curates artists for status. Trying to describe my novel sometimes feels more difficult than it did writing it. This can’t be true. I must have forgotten.

Under a shopping list for Milk / Stock / Arborio, I find Wrench / Wrestle / Wrest, looking for that one word for that one poem.

Assumption. Unraveling whiteness in relation to characters. On the same Note: New blood / Drying my dog / Between the Bars. Drying my dog after walking in the rain is one of my favourite non-writing activities inserted into a writing day.

I find book lists mixed with soccer lineups and triggers for poems. Funambulist / For a split second Loni Anderson.

Title for a mythology mash-up poem for my daughter’s soccer team. Cerberus United, Phoenix Sunny Side Up.

Coffee. That’s the first thing.

Don’t do the dishes. That’s the second.

Once I figured out that the dirty dishes could stay piled in the sink, my world opened up. I started to take my writing seriously. I couldn’t wait for the right time. I had to carve out time, demand time, of myself. Nor could I wait for on office, a writing room. I realized I didn’t need one. I’ll take one though! In the meantime, I’ve made myself portable.

My most productive working place, when I really want to put in the hours, is the dining room table. Made of French oak, hand-crafted, with tongue and groove joints, and two retractable leaves on shaky rails that Monsieur Heim added himself, the table sits solidly in the centre of the dining room. Monsieur Heim sold it to us when we moved back to Vancouver. Working at this table is as close as I get to a writing ritual. I clear whatever glasses or crumbs or homework or crafts have been left behind, and sit down with my laptop and notebooks. Every now and then I have to google how to remove Sharpie from the wood.

I write a new Note: Ode to table. There’s a poem here, I know it.

“One’s commitment is solely to attend.” Whenever I’m having a hard time with the sitting down part of writing, I remind myself of these words by Gail Sher from her book One Continuous Mistake. They’re kind words, and effective in getting me to show up to the table to work.

Recently I’ve expanded my idea of a writing day to include all the stuff around writing—research, marketing, volunteering, events, social media. In expanding the idea of what can be included, I find I’m also expanding the when, the where and the how, opening up more channels through which writing-related tasks and experiences can flow.

Sometimes I need to focus on a single project and push everything else aside. Presently I’m trying to figure out what the next big piece is going to be. Two new novels are vying for attention. Some very insistent poetry is in the works. And the dining room table is looking for a new home. I jot down the details of an appointment to view a house.

Note: Cozy=small / Character=windows might be painted shut / Heritage=at least they won’t tear it down.

Suzanne Chiasson is a Vancouver poet and novelist with a background in theatre. Her debut novel Tacet is to be published by Guernica Editions in the fall of 2019.

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