From sizzle to fizzle? 

Ask - collage by Drew Myron
As January comes to a close, has your resolve faded? All that pop and sizzle gone to fizzle?

For weeks, I've heard the zealous plans of overachievers: This year I will write a book! I will write everyday! I will get published!

My head aches. My heart sinks. Big goals may be good for some but I can't take the pressure. Bite-size tasks work best for me. 

I take heart in knowing the race to accomplish is best achieved in small daily steps. Like an exercise routine, I'm aiming for consistent effort, not exhaustion. To that end, I've culled ideas from friends and colleagues to offer key ways to feed your writing life.

Three Ways to Re-Ignite

Write in Short Bursts
A friend of mine writes in small slices. In line, at the grocery, in the waiting room. "I have written something poemish every day this week," she tells me. "I tend to want to wait until I have a length of time open before I dive in [to write]. This year I am writing in the short bursts as well."

• Make a Collage
My favorite kind of art project is one requiring limited artistic ability. Collage is the answer! Simply page through magazines and clip words and pictures that draw your eye. As you arrange images on a blank page you may be surprised to discover themes and ideas that will spur a poem, a story, or more.

• Pick a Word
At the start of every year, many writers take inventory of their lives and goals and choose one word to guide them through the year. This can be a fun and powerful process. Choosing a word forces you to focus while also providing powerful direction. Molly chose persist. Auburn picked certainty. Sage's word is, um, not printable. When you open yourself to possibilities you allow conscious and unconscious forces — some might say the muse — to direct your steps (and words).


How about you: What are you doing to feed your writing life?
How do you create and maintain a writing routine?



Out of everything broken

Today, I'm hosting a William Stafford Celebration. It's one of 62 events taking place this month.

The Stafford Celebrations began 13 years ago. Now readings and events take place every January across the globe, and not just in Oregon (where he spent most of his life) but also in Japan, Malaysia, Scotland, Mexico and Sweden.

In a world of so many writers, why do we celebrate one man?

In part because William Stafford was one of America's most prolific writers. He wrote over 20,000 poems and more than 50 books — and his first book wasn't published until he was 46 years old. He taught at Lewis and Clark College for 30 years, served as Oregon Poet Laureate, and earned a National Book Award.

He was also a pacifist. During World War II, he was a conscientious objector. He spent the war in Civilian Public Service work camps in Arkansas and California, where he did work for the U.S. Forest Service.

After decades of writing, teaching and encouraging other writers, William Stafford died in 1993 at 79 years old.

He believed that treasures were to be found beneath your feet, and that searching for things that fit together was to follow the "golden thread." About his own work, he once said, "I have woven a parachute out of everything broken."

Today's event, and all the Stafford readings, celebrate the life and work of an accomplished poet, but just as importantly — maybe more importantly — these gatherings encourage creative expression and urge us to make beauty "out of everything broken."


You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?

How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?

What scent of old wood hovers, what softened

sound from outside fills the air?


Will you ever bring a better gift for the world

than the breathing respect that you carry

wherever you go right now? Are you waiting

for time to show you some better thoughts?


When you turn around, starting here, lift this

new glimpse that you found; carry into evening

all that you want from this day. This interval you spent

reading or hearing this, keep it for life  —


What can anyone give you greater than now,

starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?


- William Stafford


Shaped by Place

"A shore pine in offshore wind," by Mark Fletcher.

Living between forest and sea, I have one eye to the wind and the other to water. I live in a remote small town tucked against a temperate rainforest that sees over 70 inches of rain each year. It is habit now to search for water's sneaky mark, along each seam and crevice, every window and door.

On this rugged shore, I am shaped by landscape, sculpted by the harsh practicalities of living on water's moody rim. I am living on edge, against a churning sea. Even my dreams are water-logged. I am wading, flooded, soaked. Everywhere leak and loss.

For the last 12 hours, I am braced against a steady storm. A frenzied mix of drenching rain and 100 mile per hour winds have toppled trees, turned trucks, closed roads, pounded doors and rattled glass. All night, windows heave, and tree limbs knock and pop against the house.

This morning I wake, blearied and headached, to the same soaking rain. Lights flicker and tease. Several hours into morning, there is no hope of sun and little light, just a dark gray sky a shade brighter than night.

And yet, and yet. The storm will pass, as they always do. The rain will cease. Beauty will return, brilliant enough to make me ache. The forever ocean. A forest so green and lush it seems make-believe. The trees here touch sky, touch something in me endless and tender.

There is tension in this chasm, a beautiful contradiction that urges introspection, expression, words. I am dry and safe, and shaped — very shaped — by this place.


Are you shaped by place? How does landscape and weather influence your writing?



And the winners are . . .

 . . . Wendye Savage

Congratulations Wendye, you are the lucky recipient of How to Make A Living As A Poet by Gary Glazner. Please send your mailing address to: dcm@drewmyron.com



. . . Gisele Vincent-Page

Congratulations Gisele, you've won 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell: A Guide to Getting and Staying Published by Chris Hamilton-Emery. Please send your mailing address to:  dcm@drewmyron.com




Many thanks to all the readers and writers who entered the drawing and offered writing inspiration. Your participation is much appreciated. Write on!




Live happily ever after

Last chance! I'm giving away two great books, and will draw names and announce winners on Monday, January 16, 2012. Win one of these books and you'll write poems, make money and live happily ever after. *

How to Make A Living As A Poet
- by Gary Glazner






101 Ways to Make Poems Sell: A Guide to Getting and Staying Published
- by Chris Hamilton-Emery





Winning is simple. Just leave your name in the comment section below. If you like, tell me the book that gets you inspired to write. On Monday, January 16, 2012, I'll choose two names in a random drawing. You could be a winner. It's that easy!

Feeling shy? Zip me a private email — dcm@drewmyron.com — that says I want to win

* Results strongly encouraged but not guaranteed.