Monday, November 23, 2020

Ash Winters: My (Small Press) Writing Day

 

My typical writing day has the consistency of thick cream. Picture it being stirred with a wooden spoon. Don’t worry about what the cream is for. Just focus on how it is soft and smooth yet still capable of drowning you. This cream day with all its texture and falsely endorsed healthiness starts at about five thirty in the morning. The alarm begins at five doing its gentle bells followed by a snooze button dance. I always partake in this drama for a half an hour or so.

This is when I remember my dreams and sometimes nightmares. I cherish them, think of them like windows into myself. I break them down in an attempt to get in. Only to find out that it is the place I have just been no more or less confusing. On occasion I have what I call adventure dreams. I have been told this is encouraged by my love of reading sci-fi and I believe it. Just like I believe, in the lighter sense of the word, lots of sci-fi. Just the other night nearly the whole world was underwater. I was on a ship running out of food when more survivors swam up to us. They had been swimming for three straight days when they found us. I lifted a woman out of the water and she was so light in my arms it was as though I carried nothing at all.

When I am done with the dreams, or the dreams are done with me, I sneak out of the darkness of our bedroom and head toward my desk. I stop for coffee first. Then I nestle in. I start with my morning pages. A type of journal from the Artist’s Way where you free write whatever comes to your head for three pages. Something I have been in the habit of doing for just under a year now. It clears my head. It feels a bit like tidying the kitchen before you start to cook; which is a must for me. How one cooks in a messy kitchen I do not know. The morning pages are filled with dreams and emotions with no context. Thoughts skip and jump all over the place without even trying to explain themselves. They are drivel or they are something like this article. I am not sure because I never read them.

          Instead I get to cooking. I do a quick gratitude journal because if I think about it I remember how lucky I am and if I don’t think about it I forget. Then I get into the three poems I write every morning. They are about, well, me. They are about the weather, about love, hate, and, forgive me, sometimes the news. They are a tether holding me to this world. Without them I do fear I would wash away. I started writing every day in the morning just over two years ago, while I was in rehab. Sober for the first time in my life I was going through a lot of changes and experiencing feelings in their full force for the first time. Putting down the bottle let me pick up the pen. Some might say it even forced the issue.

That being said I have always written poetry. I still have the first poem I remember writing, stuffed in a trunk somewhere in my mother’s attic. I can still picture the golden sunlight coming through my bedroom window to land on my dog and myself while we rested on the bed. I know the feeling I had then because I have had it so many times since then. A feeling of wonder and clarity in the beauty that is just beyond our reach. I don’t have this feeling every morning when I sit at my desk, but I often do and there is something just straight up magical about that.

So with the three poems jotted down in my spiral bound notebook I do what must be done next and flip open my laptop. I go and get another coffee before I dare to turn it on because it is definitely needed at this juncture. If it is a day I must go to my job as a carpenter I only have a few more moments there before I must put on long jons and wander out into the cold. If it is a weekend, I stay. Through the morning I edit current projects and grumble my way through application forms. I spend a surprising amount of time staring out the window at the really good view of my neighbours brick wall. I love every minute of it. So much so that the time in the afternoon slips away even faster than the time in the morning does. I am too soon dragged away to the kitchen by an empty stomach. Writing in the evening has never been much of a possibility for me so the stomach grumble marks the shift change. It marks the moment when my cream day turns to butter and I leave my black wooden chair to its own devices for the night but I will be back again just before the sun rises. 

 

 

 

 

Ash Winters is an emerging Toronto-based poet. Genderqueer and sober, their work navigates complex and colourful emotional landscapes. They graduated with their BA in English from Lakehead University in 2010. Their poetry has recently appeared in; Existere, Open Minds Quarterly, and The White Wall Review. Their first collection of poetry, Run Riot, comes out with Caitlin Press in January 2021.

 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Jared Povanda : Mornings are King: My Small Press Writing Day

 

 

          If I don’t have a freelance editing client in the queue, I write early. If I’m working on a project, I like to start around 6:30-7:00 in the morning and carry on through 10:00 or 11:00. I’ll pause and eat breakfast somewhere in there, but when I’m in the zone, I like to capture the lightning while the thunder still rumbles. I don’t eat or drink at my computer because I worry about spills and water rings on the dining room table where I work, but I don’t need food to be productive. What I do need is music. My Bluetooth headphones are one of my prized possessions for this reason. I can’t hear my family over my music, so I’ll usually loop the same song over and over until I get the scene I’m working on right—or right enough. This differs a little depending on what I’m writing, though. For a novel, I might change the song every scene or character POV, but if I’m writing a short piece, I have no problem playing the same song into the ground. It’s not even about the words, not really, but the beat and the overall repetition. I like slipping into a productive, hypnotic headspace when I work.
         
Because my home is open concept, I don
’t have my own office or room with an imposing, stately desk to call my own. I have a spot at the end of the dining room table, a placemat to set my laptop on, my wireless mouse, and my phone acting as a hotspot—it’s tough getting internet in the middle of the country! The views are wonderful, though. Picturesque and full of life, I can always find inspiration when I look out at the sky or at the whitetail deer frolicking in the fields. When I’m working, though, I try not to get too distracted. No Twitter breaks if I can help it. Most of my idea-generating happens in dreams late at night or early morning. I’ll suddenly have a flash-bang idea that I just need to write. The muse nearly pulls me out of bed some mornings! I like to take notes on my phone so I won’t forget anything, and sometimes I’ll even start my piece in my notes app so I can email the draft to my laptop for later. For longer works, I like to write in Google Docs, but if it’s a short flash, I’ll write in Pages. These little scraps and notes I send to myself are rough. They’re a few sloppy sentences or a couple of rogue words. When I get to the computer, I’ll expand. Make a character, a setting, fill in the gaps. Write a few sentences, tinker, and then write more. On an ideal day, I’ll get my words down, the scene out of my head and onto the page (in a very rough way, at least) and be out of my chair before noon. If I don’t have to go grocery shopping or to an appointment that day, I’ll watch some TV to decompress after a writing binge. After a quick lunch, I’ll read to refill the well. Reading is the most important part of my process. Reading centers me, educates me, and inspires me to do better. To elevate my own craft. And it’s fun! I read very broadly, usually not in the genre I’m currently writing (to prevent overlap and burnout). Again, on an ideal day, I’ll read from around 1:00 in the afternoon to 4:00. After dinner on these kinds of days, I’ll edit. Sometimes I’ll edit what I worked on that day, but mostly I’ll jump between my unpublished, unfinished documents. This way, the work stays fresh and relevant. I don’t like to work after it gets dark, and I definitely don’t work after 7:00 in the evening. I don’t have any children or a spouse, so I’m able to set my own writing hours and boundaries. Stopping when it gets dark gives my eyes and mind much-needed breaks. I may be daydreaming about characters and plots as I watch TV on the couch, but I won’t write again until the following morning. Consistency is crucial for my well-being.

 

 

 

Jared Povanda is an internationally published writer and freelance editor from upstate New York. His work can be found in PidgeonholesMaudlin HouseEllipsis Zine, Splonk, Bending Genres, Hobart, and Mythic Picnic, among others. Find him @JaredPovanda and at jaredpovandawriting.wordpress.com

Monday, November 16, 2020

Robert van Vliet : My Small Press Writing Day

I almost always wake up at five a.m. without an alarm, whether I really want to or not. Our society generally admires larks rather than night-owls, but I don’t think there’s anything particularly admirable about this. That is, if I am in any way virtuous, it’s got nothing to do with when I wake up in the morning.

My wife tends to sleep till closer to seven, even if she sets her alarm for six. So I have the apartment to myself for a few hours each morning. I go out to the kitchen, leaving all the lights off, and write in my journal at the counter near the dim nightlight. I look out the window at the darkness and gathering dawn. I try to wait as long as possible before handling any device that glows and has internet access.

Besides my journal, I keep another notebook nearby, which I call my “ongoing” notebook. I jot down sentence fragments, syllabic rhythms, snippets of nonsense. Sometimes only a few lines, sometimes a full page, sometimes — all too often — nothing. I fill about two or three of them each year. I don’t look back at old ongoings often enough, which is silly, since this is where most of my poems start. Some mornings are all journal, some all ongoing. Some mornings are neither, are nothing.

I’m in no hurry to make my coffee. Sometimes I make it right away, sometimes I wait until my wife wakes up and I make it alongside her cup of tea. The quotidian day begins. Errands, work.

The next block of time I usually have for anything writing-related is in the early afternoon. This is when I revise and edit poems, write and read emails. If I’m on a submission jag, this is when I’ll send things out; it’s the time of day I’m most capable of focusing on detailed, boring administrivia and least likely to want — or need — to daydream out the window.

After dinner, if I don’t give myself over to Netflix on my iPad, I spend the evening reading. In a large quadrille-ruled spiral notebook, I doodle and make notes which I never look back on later.

Just before bed, I write a quick entry in my logbook. I started doing this six or seven years ago when I noticed that my journal entries were swamped with insipid stuff like what I had eaten for lunch. I was using that sort of obsessive detail-logging as a shield to keep me from engaging in the real speculative work of talking back to myself about what I had been reading, thinking, and so on. By offloading that sort of thing to a nightly logbook entry, I couldn’t hide behind it anymore. My journal entries got shorter and less frequent, but the signal-to-noise ratio was much more satisfying to me.

Most things start longhand, so I have tons of notebooks and pencils stocked up. And pens, too; mostly cheap ballpoints. I first wanted to be a writer in fourth grade, largely because I loved how pages curled as I filled them, then curled the other way as I wrote on the other side. I had terrible handwriting in elementary school, but even then I loved the look of a page filled with handwritten words. I type faster than I write so, out of necessity, plenty of things tend to start on the computer. But it feels like a substitute, sometimes it even feels fake. A day without at least a few minutes with a pencil in my hand is a day that doesn’t seem quite as real.

This is not an ideal day or a typical day. This is, with very few modifications and for many years, the baseline. This is every day. Even so, I’ve been surprised to find that despite all the shit that 2020 has thrown at me, at all of us, my daily ritual has remained utterly unchanged. I’m not sure what to make of this. I suppose I’m good at going through the motions. If I’ve learned anything from being a writer it’s that sometimes this is all we have. Not words, not poems, certainly not “inspiration.” Just the rhythm, like a heartbeat, like breathing. Make coffee. Hold a book in front of you. Sharpen a pencil. Doodle in a notebook. Look out the window. Try again tomorrow.


 

 

Robert van Vliet is a poet, designer, and teacher who lives in Minneapolis. His poems have appeared in Otoliths, The Sixth Chamber Review, Otata, Haikuniverse, and in several self-published chapbooks. His website is letterspace.org, and his blog is A Foolish Consistency.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Pascale Potvin My Small Press Writing Day

My routine depends on whether I’ll be working from home, on the day in question, or whether I’ll on-set as an extra on one Disney show or another. If I’m on set, I usually have wake quite early (2 AM’s the record!), and get there with time to spare if I’d like to be near an outlet or heater.

My hair and makeup done, I write on my phone or I read until I have to move to set, wherein I continue my work in-between takes.

The quality of my writing goes down over the workday, which can go for as long as 17 hours.

The days that I’m home, I wake at 5:30 when the cat feeder rotates (to stop the kitten from stealing food from her brother), and then go back to bed, unless I’m too jittery (I often am).

Regardless, I’m up by 7:30. After my coffee I log the newest submissions to CHEAP POP, then jot down my opinions about them. If it’s early in the week, I finish the same type of work for Walled Women Magazine.

I feel that reading—first submissions, then a work of choice—preps my brain for creation. Any editing has to be done right afterward, whether it’s for myself or for another person, at the time that my mind is most alert.

And, of course, I write. If it’s the summer, or if I’m lucky (as I was very much this past week), I go to the park and I sit under a tree. Nature is a precursor for emotion, of course, and the latter precursory for everything else.

During the start of quarantine I’d built a sort of one-person workshop for myself, working on one scene of my novel per day—but now that that’s all finished, my current focus is small-scale projects and filmmaker grant applications. I’m currently in the pre-production stage of a feature, based on my first published story.

Unfortunately, because I have OCD, I’ll often struggle with either keeping my focus on my work or breaking from it at all. Either I’m consumed by whatever tricks my brain is playing on me, or I’m so into my task that I forget to eat, drink, and pee. It’s not the most ideal setup.

Once I get home I always intend to take time out of the day to clean, but at that point I’m usually still too obsessed with my writing to do so.

Still, I probably succumb to an afternoon nap.

I dedicate the end of the day to tasks requiring less concentration, such finalizing as any submissions that need to be sent out, or completing non-editing tasks for my virtual clients (I do have to have another paying job, after all!)

I have to admit that I’m a borderline workaholic and that I feel guilt if I’m not being productive at all hours. I don’t think that I’ve properly watched TV in years; I work until I’m too tired, and then I go to bed.

 

 

 

Pascale Potvin is Prose Editor for Walled Women Magazine, Assistant Editor for CHEAP POP, and Assistant at One Lit Place. She’s placed her own work in Eclectica Magazine, Maudlin House, BlazeVOX, Quail Bell Magazine, and many others. She has a BAH from Queen’s University, and she is working on a budding book series. You can read more about her at pascalepotvin.com or @pascalepalaces on Twitter.