We are never done learning. There is always something new to try, experiment, pick up... The vast majority of my education has been in the business world. I would take creative writing or poetry or literature or photography or anything creative whenever I could. Free electives and whatnot. But I never really had time to focus on developing a 'toolbox.'
All activities in life, for anything you do, a toolbox is necessary. Sometimes the toolbox is literal, like when assembling furniture you need actual tools: screwdrivers, hammers, pliers, whatever. But more often than not the toolbox is figurative. A set of skills and knowledge that you can pull out at will to ply your trade. After years of study and a great deal (a very great deal!) of practice, learning, honing, etc, I have a business toolbox. It has gotten to the point that it is almost second nature. I don't have to think about, 'well this situation calls for tool xyz.' It comes naturally. That's not to say I am not still learning, of course I am, but this is a toolbox that I have spent a great deal of time working on.
On the other hand, my writing toolbox seems to be quite empty. I have no real method. I write free form, and whatever comes out, comes out. I can only write when I have strong emotions I need to get on paper. I cannot write on command.This seems to me a real shame. Professional writers can sit down and write at will, or so it appears to me. Almost like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. I had the same impression watching professionals conduct business negotiations for the first time. It was like magic. When it comes to business, I can wave the wand myself. I would like to achieve that in other areas as well.
To that end, I've joined a Writer's Workshop class. And it is wonderful. They are all about giving aspiring writers the toolbox they need. For ten short weeks they are helping us develop, hone, and grow our craft. Every week we are given a sample piece of writing, and the following week we bring in our own writing that mimics the example. That way we can practice using different techniques. No one gets to read their own piece, a fellow classmate reads it. The atmosphere is quite special. Everyone is there to learn and grow so there is no drama or ego about it. We all are eager to absorb as much as we can. The energy is quite unique.
So after all that, here is a poem I wrote for this evening's class. It is built upon the example piece "Poem to Some of My Recent Purchases" by Dorothy Barresi (which can be read here).
you attract me like a moth to a flame.
your pull has a power over me like nothing else.
if only I could buy every last one that catches my attention
then maybe, just maybe, one day I might finally have enough
only then is there a faint hope of some relief from this compulsion
Fiction. Drama. Romance. Science Fiction.
Invisible Cities, Orphan Train, Mr. Mani, Under the Tuscan Sun,
Splendid, Keeper of the Heart, August: Osage County, Dune
they whisper insidious promises
“let us show you the world”
“you don't have to stay here”
“you don't have to be alone”
if I could, I would dive into a swimming pool over flowing with books
even if that doesn't seem like the brightest idea
damaging myself and the books in one fell swoop
I need you
because only you can pull me out of the mundane everyday muck
the everyday 59% chance of rain that threatens to make me melt
the 83% average humidity that makes my hair stand on end
dwindling daylight in ever shorter days
you take me away from all that
into a world where no one can follow.
Non-Fiction. Religion. Poetry. Language.
Ignore Everybody, Leadership and Self Deception, Unchosen,
Italiano: Pronti, Via! Le Nouveau Sans Frontiers
The Aura of Shabbat, How to Keep Kosher, and that Siddur I picked up in Greece that I can't even read.
Any last topic, every last genre, I need them all
but never Politics, never Current Events.
I avoid Politics like the Plague
which seems to be sound advice considering the latest outbreak of Ebola
And reading about ISIS seems like a good way to lose one's head
History should also be avoided.
I have my own personal history to fill in the gaps.
Unseen Magazine, Gratitude, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Calvino, Chaucer, Keets, Brown
Dead Man's Cell Phone, An Exaltation of Larks, The Seagull
Encyclopedia of business acumen: my father
read it and you could out negotiate anyone for anything, just like he can,
probably by merely giving them the book and asking them to read it, they'd take one glance at it and burst into tears, caving in at the mere thought of reading all 2,153 pages
cookbook with no recipes: my mother
no Suzzie Homemaker or Martha Stewart
she stumbles her way into pure perfection, both in the kitchen and her life
a conundrum of a mystery novel: my brother
the plot line is so wrapped in fog and confusion, tinged with sports metaphors, that only a lucky few could ever understand it
the rest who are privileged to read it are hopelessly lost but love the drama of the ride.
More books. I need More.
I see the signs “New Hardcover Fiction” or “Fiction Bargains” or “Poetry Sale” or truthfully any sign would do
my heart starts to beat a little bit faster
It is like a short-lived romance. A book catches my eye.
I act coy as if I am not so interested.
But you know better and reel me in.
It could be the elegant design of your cover or your witty synopsis, maybe just the way the typeface sprawls across the page
whatever it is, I am smitten and cannot rest until I take you home with me
there is something about the act of discovering a new book and purchasing it that is almost more enjoyable than the actual reading of it
If I don't have books, how will I live?
How can I dream?
Deep in the Russian Night, The People of Forever are not Afraid, Love in Israel
The Year of Living Biblically, Dual Secrets, Humans of New York
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, and that one that inexplicably glows in the dark...
How can I breathe in this place when it seems the walls are falling down around me?
Maybe if I buy enough books
they can hold up the walls and distract me from the growing darkness outside
They bring in the light.
Books are the Embankments against the flood waters when the driving rain gets too much to bear.
I hold on tightly and can breathe a little bit more easily.