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Friday, June 17, 2011

It's Okay, cj. It's okay.

It was in April of 1997 that I first visited Zona Rosa, the ongoing and the now nationally known writers workshop in Savannah led by Rosemary Daniell. It was there that the seeds of my friendship with Rosemary were first planted. She invited me to become a part of the group and in the ensuing years, we have become close friends, sharing not only our love of words and writing but also the difficulties of being the parents of sons with serious mental disorders. She is a widely published and internationally know author of both poetry and prose, and she was on the forefront of the Feminist Movement. You can read about her, her books, her workshops and more by clicking on the Red Lips button on my sidebar.

Now, can we talk about me for a minute? I have never been a prolific writer. I am congenitally incapable of sitting down and telling myself to “write.” I need to have something rolling around in my head before positioning my fingers on the keyboard of my MacBook.

It is true that I am capable of quickly creating small pieces for the memes in which I participate - Saturday Centus and Six Word Fridays. They are a great learning tool, and I am not dismissing them as inconsequential. They carry their own weight, but what I mean is what happens when my words flow, sometimes rush from my brain to my fingertips, racing to get on the page - without a prompt. It’s a little like what is happening now.

For a long time, probably since I joined Zona Rosa all those years ago, I have been critical of my lack of output. I have actually felt guilty about not writing a dozen poems and six or eight blog posts every month.

I am here to say that I have been too hard on myself for too long. “It’s okay, cj. It’s okay,” is my new mantra. Nowhere is it written that my talent is measured by the amount of work I produce. I used to worry that I would lose my readers if I didn’t post a blog post at least twice a week. Piffle. My readers are my readers. There are not legions of them, but the ones I have support my writing and return to read my pieces when they appear on my blogs - even if it has been ten days since I posted.

One of the wonderful surprises about the Blogger community for me came when I realized I had, indeed, made my way into a community of committed writers who sacrifice their time to read one another - and to leave comments. I am aware that I have readers who do not comment publicly because they send me e-mails letting me know they have visited and read my work.

And I reciprocate. I see this exchange of material as an opportunity, not just to enjoy good writing but also to learn. Our community is diverse, and more than once, I have been inspired to write a post after reading someone else’s. My only complaint is that I rarely receive real criticism. I want to hear what others think about the quality of my work. It won’t hurt my feelings. I may accept said criticism or ignore it, but it would be nice to have it.

It takes me a long time to write a good poem - usually a few weeks, sometimes longer. I edit and rewrite and sleep on it, sometimes for several days, before I look at it again. Returning to the piece from a distance enables me to, sometimes instantly, see areas that need cleaning up or expanding or reworking. Other times, I labor for hours, reading aloud and even reading into a tape recorder to know how my piece sounds. I struggle for words that carry the right weight. I distill the piece down to a poem in which there are hopefully no superfluous words or abstract nouns. This I learned from Rosemary, not only my friend but also my writing coach.

When I began blogging, I published often. I was in personal crisis, not working and in need a safe place to write down my truths.

Now that I am working, posting has slowed down. With the exception of entries in my personal journal, I don’t write on work days. I am on the job at 6:45 in the morning, and many nights I don’t return home until nearly 8:00 or later. Even when I get off on time, it is 7:30 before I make it home. I am not whining. I am stating the facts. When I have worked for 12 or 13 hours, on my feet the most time, I have energy only to feed and play with my dogs, shower and go to bed so I can get enough sleep to do it again the next day.

When I have time off, I do my serious writing, and I have already confessed that I’m a slow poke at that.

So, there. “It’s okay, cj. It’s okay.” I have given myself permission to take as long as I need to do my best work.

© cj Schlottman
June, 2011


Sue said...

And that's exactly what you should do! The only reason I write a post every day is because I'm retired and my husband isn't!


Linda @ A La Carte said...

cj it's a huge step to give yourself permission to take your time. We are who we are and how we work and create is so individual.
hugs, Linda

injaynesworld said...

Good for you, cj. I know I put the same pressure on myself to post a certain number of times a week and that really dampens the creative spirit. I've read your poems and always enjoyed them, but never even thought to leave a critique. I don't write poetry myself or really have any education in it, so I wouldn't feel qualified. I'm just so damn impressed at how hard you work at your writing and the love you infuse in every word.

Amanda said...

I like that mantra!

Most working people cannot post every day. That's understandable. This is why I love Google Reader, it lets me know when a favorite blogger has posted.

Katie Gates said...

What a wonderful mantra, CJ! Self-forgiveness is the key to relaxing and letting the process unfold. I love your writing, as I hope you know, and this bit of advice -- "no superfluous words or abstract nouns" -- is wonderful! Thanks for sharing it.
So... in order to post this comment, I must "verify" the "word" POCORMO. What do you think? Is it superfluous or an abstract noun?

Athena said...


Blog when you can, blog about what is on your mind -- I will be delighted to read when you do.

Criticism will come, when warranted. :)

Life@Cee said...

Good for you. I never make any progress by beating myself up.

deborahjbarker said...

Here Here! Great advice to give anyone - "it's ok" because of course, it is ok. We are all our own worst critics and are often too hard on ourselves. I too find it difficult to post regularly at times and sometimes I have to step back and say, "it's ok DJ" (notice the subtle change of one letter!). Let's give ourselves permission to take our time when we need to. There really is no rush! :-)
I see KatieGates mentions word verification here and on her blog this week - well the word I have just been given is 'shotions' - sounds like an exhortation to slow down eh?