April 18. We’ve had magnetic poetry stuck to the microwave for several years, but I’ve purged piles of magnets the last few times we’ve moved, so the selection of words is very limited—but this restriction has been freeing. And overall, during this period of isolation, I’ve surprisingly found productivity and efficiency with less. Even as I work shorter shifts each day, I seem to focus and get stuff done (and when we get to the other side of this, I will be a big proponent of shorter work weeks). I’m reminded of Emilia’s newborn months, when she slept on my chest in between breastfeeding sessions—all day, all night—and the writer in me came alive in short spurts yet long Instagram captions, often in the middle of the night, in between the moments of my new life as a mother and milk machine. I have not typed furiously like that since, but over the past month as we stay home, I’ve experienced wee moments of creativity from these silly word magnets and other unexpected ways, like Emilia’s coloring books and other random things around our house. I’ve also reached a point where I can now stare at the wall as she falls asleep on my arm and the circular imperfections of wood on our doors look like faces in Dr. Seuss books. So thank you for the little bits of inspiration, Day 41.
I love books, and I can’t imagine how I’d have ever gotten into woodworking, let alone kept developing skills, without libraries and magazines and television and the internet. But I can’t help thinking we’re hamstrung by relying so heavily on all these visual and intellectual means of instruction for what is, after all, work of the body.
After googling something garden-related, I discovered the blog of David Walbert. There’s thoughtful writing here on a variety of topics — cooking, woodworking, history, and more. But this bit in particular has really resonated with me, as I’ve never been very good with my hands and making things on my own, and am learning each day while out in my vegetable garden.
When I create,
I like restrictions.
Magnetic poetry flows
because I choose the words.
Here, I am blank,
pulling from within.
I am not empty;
I shape from what’s left.
I like facts that
push against me.
A story I mold
with the clay in my hands.
I’ve been dealing with boxes a lot lately, as we’ve been moving several carloads of stuff into our little house. When I’m done with a box, I cut it up with an X-ACTO knife and toss it in the recycling bin. I love these knifes — they’re easy to use, and I like that I can use my hands to break them down.
I just slashed up a number of boxes, outside under the sun. It was the first time I was outside today — I’ve been in front of a screen all day, which is normal. Is it strange that cutting boxes with an X-ACTO knife brings me pleasure? Some kind of release from the routine I’ve built for myself? So sedentary, my days.
A reader who has followed my blog for a few years sent a kind email and asked me a few questions about writing. I’m always surprised when people say they are inspired by what I write. It helps me and nudges me to keep going.
A snippet of her email:
But I also want to begin working on my fiction — short stories first. I have not completed a formal literary training. I would really love to know more about your creative writing side, and I hope you can offer me sage words on how to start. Do I have to spend n hours daily, writing xxx words? Do I need a strategy of sorts? Or do I just let the flow take me to wherever?
This is what I responded: