Monday, March 4, 2019

Rachel Small : my writing day

One of the most difficult things about being a writer can be the finding time to write.

As both a writer and a full time student, my calendar can be one of the most stressful challenges I have ever been tasked with. Between shuffling in hours for my job, figuring out the quickest route to commute to my campus and finding the time to write means that every day is different than the last.

I’ve begun finding (and appreciating) time in the spaces in between everything. After fully mastering the use of the notes application on my phone, I now jot down the fragments of sentences that I stumble over during work or in class. My most recent saved note was “red fox sitting with ravens”. I’ll eventually sort through these records and infuse my work with these pieces, but for now they sit on my phone until I am ready to read through them.

I came to Ottawa originally to learn how to tell stories. Taking a degree in history let me learn how to shift through research and to blunder my way into finding stories of interest. However, I eventually realized that it wasn’t enough to just learn history and repeat it on paper, but that I also wanted to create my own pieces. So, I have started a brand new program in Professional Writing and have worked to devote more of my time to writing. Be it poems or chaotic screenplays, I want to write.

When I was younger, I used to love filling out journals with stories. It was my favorite thing, writing on the bus rides to school and trying to scribble out my words during class, journal perched on my knee behind my desk while my math assignments (often) found themselves ignored. However, with the invasion of technology, I lost the habit of writing down every thought that crossed my mind. Instead, I found myself shackled to the computer-and-keyboard set up, and my writing began to wither away. For years, I began to falter as a writer because I didn’t have time to sit down in front of a computer screen, or could blame my laptop for dying. Computers gave me an excuse not to write.

Only now have I begun to return to carrying around a journal and pen. My favorite part of the day is when I can sit down somewhere and pull it out, and let my words pour onto the page. I find it a very different experience than just simply typing out my words. I have begun to feel my words again and have developed a closer relationship to my writing because of it.

My biggest source of inspiration for writing is settling down in coffee shops. Despite the irony of disliking coffee as a drink, I find coffee shops one of the most motivating locations to be artistic. Everywhere around you, someone is working on something. Be it homework or a screen play, I love finding people invested in their work. It makes me want to create something.

I write a lot, but I always try to let the draft wait for a few months before I allow myself to touch it again. Once I’ve distanced myself from the work, I find it easier to annihilate entire paragraphs and scratch out the words that feel clunky. Some days I try to return to old projects and look at my writing with fresh eyes and other days I try to craft something new.

One of the biggest elements of my day as a writer is simply reading. The first thing I always pack in my bag is a book to read throughout the day. Once, when I was much younger and traveling to Toronto, I packed a bag so full of books that it wasn’t until my mother and I had gotten to the train station that she realized that I had packed exactly forty seven books for a weekend stay.

Watching writers develop and take on new styles in my favorite thing to do. No matter where I go, be it weddings or graduations, I always manage to take a book with me. Currently, ‘The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath’ are my favorites to read these days. The way she describes the most mundane of details make them feel so alive and vibrant.

During the weekends, I make the most of my writing. I’ll drag myself to either the nearest Starbucks or to Bar Robo,. When I want to work in absolute silence, though, I’ll bring myself to my alumna mater Carleton University to haunt their library. I force myself to write something every day. Even if it is only the skeletal outline of a poem or a fractured paragraph, I put something down on paper. Sometimes the words are an echo of my angst teenage girlhood, but I appreciate those words all the same.

Every day I try to do the same thing, all over again.

Rachel Small lives and writes in Ottawa. As a post-undergrad student from Carleton University’s History program, she is currently a writer and editor for AtticVoices. Her writing appeared in SPINE and she has served as an editor for the Corvus Journal.  Rachel took part in Carleton University’s Fall Literary Showcase in 2018 and has work forthcoming in Apathy Press. You can find all of her thoughts on twitter @rahel_taller.

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