Sunday, November 1, 2009

Old methods and new methods

I hope everyone has been having success producing new work this first semester.

I don't know how many have run into a problem I just realized I was having, so I'm throwing this question out there:

Did y'all keep using the same writing methods that brought you to an MFA? Or has the focus been on finding new ways of poeming?

I just realized that with most of my new work I've been starting from scratch, and I have always been much more successful when keeping a copious notepad and repeatedly referring to those old notes for new inspirations within a poem. It keeps the poem from being too simple or didactic or static (a few problems I sometimes run into). It also makes it easier to find oppositions and other tensions without consciously manufacturing them.

It seems strange that I would forget my old methods now (kind of like, to use a tired old cliche, throwing the baby out with the bath water).

Just wondering if y'all have run into similar problems...


  1. It's funny that you mention this, I too, used to work from journals and notes and haven't been. I think, in my case, it is not that I've learned new methods or even that I'm making a conscious effort to experiment. It has more to do with the fact that I'm writing and submitting two poems a week for my program, so I find I'm working much more quickly than I did in the past. Sometimes I fear the work is lacking in depth, but I'm glad for the productivity. I have plenty to work with, expand upon in the revision stage.

  2. I write in "the moment." My poems seem to spark out from a flint in my brain, and it's not totally in my control, though I am starting to learn how to fire it myself. Sort of. I have never worked from notes or journals, though I do write lines that come to me on whatever scraps of paper are at my disposal. Mostly I do it to get them out though. I don't often use them. I don't think my methods have changed much, but my idea about how I do things has...I think I understand it better and no how to induce the proper state. It usually involves darkness and silence.

  3. I keep a file on my computer called "poems in progress" that I open and just let go on the page sometimes. During my writing sessions, I go back and read previous things I wrote and hope for a spark. I start writing based on that spark. Then when I write something that sounds like a poem I put a border around it, give it its own document, and add it to my "new poems" file. The big difference with how I'm working now and how I used to work is that I used to do everything by hand and only type up a poem when I felt it was close to completion. Now, I just go right to the computer and start typing. The only explanation I can think of is that it's just easier.

  4. another great topic. i'd have to say that during my MFA experience, my writing habits changed, more than once, during the program and they have continued to evolve since i have left. then again, i'm always looking for a new system :)

  5. I've kept my old methods while adding new ones to my arsenal. In other words, for me, it's a both/and deal. As a first-semester Hunter Nonfiction MFAer, I'm learning that other writing methods are quite beneficial to my writing. I, like Tory, typically write when it comes to me. But I'm learning how to discipline myself, pushing myself to write even when I don't hear my muse. And I'm learning how to do that now because there's a deadline, a requirement to generate pages.

  6. When I first started writing short stories in undergrad, I was just shooting from the hip to meet the deadline. I assumed that an MFA would give me lots of good structural tools and procedures for creating fiction, but then when I got into the program, I found out that the most common short story methodology here is little to no notes.

    Now I'm working on a novel(la), which, to me, is an entirely different beast. I don't know how I would be able to survive without some form of notes and outlining, though I try to keep it as minimal as possible so that my mind approaches each scene with a sense of discovery instead of just supporting an far its working out ok (though I often have to make notes to fill various things into the backstory as I discover them), but I guess the true test will be workshopping it.


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