Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Desk-Table and Vertical Writing

While I was at Provincetown, I fell into a nasty little habit of measuring progress in number of pages written.

Now that I'm home and no longer have unlimited hours to spend making pages, I'm trying to find a way to make my narrative deeper and richer. I'm doing what Andre Dubus has famously called Vertical Writing. Vertical Writing involves diving into characters' souls and using whatever might be found there to shape a story. Dubus has said that while practicing Vertical Writing, he would not move on to a new sentence until he understood completely the implications of the last sentence he had written.

When I engage in Vertical Writing, I actually lose pages. The writing becomes compressed.

In the past, I've lost much writing time during the school year and for all kinds of reasons. One reason is that I've gotten used to writing in complete aloneness in my writing room. This is a habit I fell into when the children were still here. But when I was in Provincetown, I developed the habit of using my laptop in any room that pleased me. Tonight, I did Vertical Writing on my laptop in the livingroom.

One thing that's made that easier is that one of my sons recently gave me a coffee table that opens up into a desk. I now have a place in the living room to spread out my manuscript, and a place to store it (along with the laptop) once I've finished. I found that the TV being on didn't disturb me as much as I thought it would.

I got quite a bit done tonight. I think if I hadn't worked on the laptop, I wouldn't have written earlier tonight, because I simply didn't want to leave the room that Allen was in: I didn't want to leave him alone.

It is also chilly tonight. We had a wood fire going. It was nice to be sitting in a warm room to write. My writing room is far away from the heat source. Many times in winter I've chosen not to write because the room is just too cold. Maybe I've found a way around that now.

Sometimes it's good to shed old habits.


Judith HeartSong said...

Yea, my studio is in the farthest reaches of the apartment... away from the fire place and the heat source. I have had to shift the vents to carry heat back here and sometimes it is still not enough. How wonderful to be able to be "in the middle of things" and still honor your creative process.

You go girl!!!!

Ryan said...

Hi Theresa,

I hope you're doing well. Glad to hear the novel is coming along. This entry reminded me of a Roberto Juarroz's Vertical Poetry. Here's a little poem from his Eleventh Vertical Poetry:

Every word is a doubt,
every silence another doubt.
the intertwining of both
lets us breathe.

All sleeping is a sinking down,
all waking another sinking.
the intertwining of both
lets us rise up again.

All life is a form of vanishing,
all death another form.
the intertwining of both
lets us be a sign in the void.

(trans. Mary Crow)

Christina K. Brown said...

Do you find it easier or harder to write with Allen in the room?

Theresa Williams said...

Christina, at the moment it's harder. I've conditioned myself to silence, and I like silence. But I need to condition myself to write under any circumstances if I want to make progress in my work. I feel myself going through a necessary change. Ryan, I love that poem. Thank you, and I hope you're doing well with your own writing and with your teaching. Judi, I guess artists are used to having cold fingers when they work! :-)



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