Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Cheryl Pappas: My (Small Press) Writing Day

I’m a morning writer. Usually, I wake at 4:30, while it’s still dark, and slip downstairs, hoping my kids and husband don’t wake from the creaking. I pour a tall glass of water and turn on my computer at the kitchen table. Freshen up while the water boils. I give myself until the coffee is brewed in my French press to check email, Submittable/Duotrope, the news, and Twitter. If I had a question in my mind overnight, like, how do you fix a clog in the bathroom sink?, I check that. I may or may not fix the clog right away, but at least I’m armed with the knowledge.
          The silence is vital. I have two boys under 10, and they sometimes need things. Distracting from writing things. Like a bowl on a too-high shelf. Or a wake-up cuddle on my lap. Or to scream “Dude, cover me!” in Fortnite. So I need the dark and the quiet to focus.
          I rarely sit to write something new. It’s always a matter of harvesting what I’ve seeded in notes left in various places; lately, they’ve been from the phone. This pandemic spring, I took morning walks in the woods near my house almost every day, and a lot of words sprouted from that wonderful rhythmic footfall and the fresh air. Lines, a word, an image would come to me while dewy leaves brushed my arm or the birds skittered from tree to tree as I came close. I tried to notice everything and not make meaning of it all. I wasn’t doing anything new—Dillard and Thoreau and Oliver were with me; I tried to welcome their presence rather than be intimidated. Even so, being surrounded by spring green in the forest was enough to fill my writing basket to overflowing.
          I start with a simple copy and paste from email and try to reconnect with where and who I was when I wrote the words. I see if there’s a pattern and try to locate the obsession. I do well with obsession in my mind, but I want to curtail it on the page so the reader feels more of it on her own. Right now, I’m piecing together an essay about my walks; about solitude and what nature is and isn’t. About how odd it is to think of ourselves as not-animal, not-nature, when, of course, we are the same as a bird skittering from tree to tree. And what the word “retreat” means when you seek out the woods. And what it means now to think these things, when it feels we’re on a precipice, a climate and health apocalypse. And yet, there’s all this silence. I remember that apocalypse simply means “revelation.”
          So while I’m sitting at the kitchen table, I’m not really here. I’m in the woods again. I see green and smell fresh dirt kicked up by a startled deer. I sift through words and try to draw what I can out of them.
          By 6, the boys trundle downstairs, and if it’s been a good writing morning, their sleepy smiles return me to the kitchen, full-bodied, ready to embrace them and ask if they had any dreams.    
          After breakfast, I go for a walk. My writing day is done. The rest of my day is filled with everything else: editing materials for a museum, making and eating food, telling the kids to do or not do things, checking Twitter a lot, doing laundry, watching Garfield with the kids and my husband, etc. I’m in bed by 9 or so, reading a book, excited to start fresh in the morning.

Cheryl Pappas is an American writer living just outside Boston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Chattahoochee Review, EcoTheo Review, Jellyfish Review, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, and more. Her website is and you can find her on Twitter at @fabulistpappas.

No comments:

Post a Comment