Try 101

Practice — Process — Projects

Month: January, 2013


by laura didyk

Have had the blues today… blame it on the cold, yesterday’s episode of vertigo, the bad sleep as a result, a vague and general restlessness, who knows why. All I know is I needed a push if I was going to face the day. So I did an active “inspiration search” and found what I needed: this great cover by a band that some friends up north in Lenox, MA, turned me onto.

It gives me a little calm, a little exhale, and, yup, a little faith. Plus, this band is just f*****ng awesome.

Head Toward the Kindness

by tjbeitelman


This from a 2005 interview in The Believer with fiction writer Lorrie Moore:

BLVR: Did you ever consider or participate in the other arts? Music or visual art? Drama? Your characters are often singing — Benna, for example, in Anagramsand Sils and Berie in Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? Do you sing?

LM: My love of the other arts, when I was young, was greater than my love of writing. I took fairly serious ballet — until I had to drop it (cramps in my legs and no useful determination; plus too tall). I loved music — played the piano and sang in the shower (a piano in the shower! this will be an excellent interview!) — and was just at a karaoke bar last night with my graduate students, who all love to sing, too. Who doesn’t? I went to college thinking I might be a painter and within weeks realized I knew nothing about working the paint, getting it to do interesting things. In other words, in so many things I loved I was sadly insufficiently gifted and driven. But writing I could plod along with — and no one discouraged me. People were much kinder. I headed toward the kindness.

And that our kindnesses can — and should — be gifts that drive embolden others to plod along with the things they love.

Tea Time with Board Game

by ajanefountas


Try to believe your eyes. It’s Pride and Prejudice—The Game! Brought to my attention this gray morning by Elliott Bay Books via Shelf Awareness, which found it on Flavorwire which was pointed to it by the Paris Review Daily. The game itself was created by The Ash Grove Press.

Now, try not to buy this game. Try not to play it. Try not to remember watching Colin Firth as Darcy. I tried and failed the first and the latter, which means I will be playing the game. I must admit to a sudden thrill that a book and its characters are living such a long life!

‘Wholehearted’ Meets ‘Lighthearted’

by tjbeitelman


I’m thinking about ‘wholehearted’ and ‘lighthearted’ right now. (And Abraham Lincoln. Obviously.)

Before recently, I would’ve said the two words aren’t related. I might’ve even said they’re mutually exclusive.

I would’ve been wrong.

For the Record:

I’m better at ‘wholehearted’ than I am at ‘lighthearted.’

‘Wholehearted’ shows up a lot in my creative life and in my life-life. ‘Lighthearted’? Not so much.

In my experience, ‘wholehearted’ can lead to ‘heavy-hearted.’

Probably there are reasons for this. I could make some guesses as to what they are, and I have, but I won’t burden anybody with them here.

But Abraham Lincoln?

When I get ‘heavy-hearted’ one thing I find myself doing is reading (and, yes, watching [and watching again] grandiose biopics) about Abraham Lincoln.

Probably there are reasons for this. I won’t burden you with my guesses on this subject either, except to say that Abraham Lincoln’s heart could be both whole and heavy, but his heart was also exceedingly light, sometimes to the chagrin of his cabinet and even his wife.

Read the rest of this entry »

Best Thing I Read Last Week about Creativity

by laura didyk

This, in the words of George Saunders, in the recently published profile of him in the New York Times, and an addition to TJ’s post on “counting” and “what counts” (notice the double appearance, and importance here, of the word “trying”): 

Even for those thousands . . . who don’t get something out there, the process is still a noble on—the process of trying to say something, of working through craft issues and the worldview issues and the ego issues—all of this is character-building, and, God forbid, everything we do should have concrete career results. I’ve seen time and time again the way that the process of trying to say something dignifies and improves a person. 


What Kind of Poems Are Your Cells Writing?

by tjbeitelman


I recently came upon this interview of the poet Li-Young Lee. In it, he answers a lot of good questions:

  • Why did you want to quit writing poetry?
  • You equate your father with your love of poetry, because he used to read to you from the King James Bible. How did that affect your love for words or for the music of words?
  • Do you recall when you started taking yourself seriously — if you did at one point — when you started looking at your poems as poems? Did it come from the encouragement of a teacher?
  • I notice that in your new book you ask a lot of questions. For instance, you say: “What does my death weigh?” “When will I be born?” “What have I done with my God?” To whom do you think these questions are addressed?
  • I read in an interview that you stopped using the word “God” and started using the word “Universe.” 

I was particularly interested in this exchange. It seemed to exactly address — or at least echo — the creative questions I’m considering these days, and what I like about Lee’s attitude is that it celebrates the questions, raises that process of asking such questions to something that transcends mere intellect, something that is simultaneously and primarily physical and spiritual. Therefore: yogic.

Chang: In regard to writing poetry, Stanley Kunitz, said, “You have to move into areas of the self that remain to be explored, and that’s one of the problems in maturing as a poet. By the age of fifty, the chances are that you’ve explored all the obvious places. The poems that remain for you to write will have to come out of your wilderness.” By wilderness, he means the untamed self, all the chaos behind the locked door. Do you feel that you’ve explored all the obvious places or that you have more to discover?

Lee: Well, I feel both. I do feel that, as a yoga that one practices, writing poems is like any meditative path. You move through your own psychology, and then you move beyond your psychology. At that point it gets a little rough, because you have to posit something beyond your own psychology toward that which your psyche is embedded in. That adventure is, I think, an infinite proposition. That, to me, is the real wilderness. Beyond species-specific, beyond gender-specific, beyond culture-specific, what kind of poems are your cells writing? What kinds of poems come out of the space that is our bodies?

Yes. What kinds? Here’s to all of us finding out…

I’m Your Man

by ajanefountas

My last big read of 2012 was I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons. I’ve always been a big fan, more of his music than his poetry (though his music is poetry).

When I finished this biography, I thought: “Let’s never give up.”

If you’re looking for some reasons to try during this lifetime, read Leonard’s story. And if you’re not much of a reader, then just listen.


by theyogaofcake

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.

Henry David Thoreau


I read this quote the other day and it reminded me of my days in acting school. I moved to NYC when I was 19 to pursue my dreams of being an actor. I was living in a glorified closet with two other girls and a large cat. I didn’t like myself very much.  I drank too much, I ate too much I was sad, broke, and lost in the big city. I was in class all the time learning technique and getting my “Jell-O back side” (her words) slapped by my ballet teacher. I spent my evening slaving at Barnes & Noble to have enough dollars to pay my rent. I spent long hours in classrooms, the theatre, and dance studio. I loved it and I hated it but mostly hated it only because it was a time in my life where I hated mostly everything. I spent two years at that school.

On my last day of class my teacher said to us. “Now forget everything I’ve taught you and go out there and get your heart broken.” As he spoke these words he leaned over his desk pressing his body into the side of his desk pointing his fingers at us tears filling his eyes.

I knew what he meant but I was petrified of the idea. As an artist I understood making art but living– really living scared the shit out of me. Still I knew (and know) I have to do it if I want to eventually create anything that’s any good.

I’m getting better at the living part, but it’s taking practice.

So what I want to say is just not to forget the living part of all of this, and how the living is where we begin. 


Don’t Try?

by tjbeitelman


A while back, a former student of mine sent me this photo. He noted the irony — seeing as I’m such a big proponent of the opposite life strategy and all.

I’m not a huge fan of Bukowski, but I am a huge fan of my former student. He’s wise beyond his years, and he’s often given me food for thought, whether it’s through reading his stories and poems or having an extended conversation with him. So, given the source of the photo (if not the photo itself), I had the feeling there was a very important truth embedded in the “Don’t Try” message, even if it felt contradictory to other very important truths. I filed it away.

Fast forward. I recently watched an interview of a talented, successful young writer. The conversation turned to rejection and perseverance. The writer reported, with pride, that he’s collected over 20,000 rejection slips. He said he dutifully recorded each rejection in his notebook. Clearly this has worked for him. He’s well-published, making a name for himself. And it’s quantifiable proof of his relentless effort.

Do you want to know my first thought when I heard the number, though? Jesus. That’s a lot of counting. 

I surprised myself. It wasn’t the rejection that put me off. It was the counting.

While I’ve done more than my share of counting in my life, I think it’s the last thing my creative process needs right now. Read the rest of this entry »

I Did It!

by laura didyk

I read about this twist on New Year’s resolutions from a writer and teacher named Lisa Romeo and decided to try it out. It’s the “I Did It” List instead of a “Things I Promise to Do in the New Year but Probably Won’t Because the Goals and Expectations I Place Upon Myself Are Totally Unrealistic and Don’t Account for the Unpredictability and Nuances of Actual Life Being Lived” List.

My list includes anything I did this year that helped, supported, encouraged, and affirmed my creative life in 2012:

  • Said “yes! thank you!” to freelance and part-time work, including teaching gigs (yes, thank you, Roeliff Jansen Library!).
  • Took a 6-day trip to Seattle where I visited fellow Try contributor and dear friend, and got an inspiration fix talking with her about writing and creativity (and dining on amazing food fixed by her ultra-talented husband).
  • On that same trip, attended a poetry workshop led by the Dickman brothers at the Hugo House and went to the boisterous and fun reading that same night.
  • Resurrected my blog.
  • Applied to 3 residencies—in the spirit of taking myself seriously and admitting: I AM WRITING A BOOK. Results: 1 rejection (Yaddo), 1 acceptance (MacDowell!), 1 TBD (Millay).
  • Signed a 12-week writing contract agreement (inspired by this article) with aforementioned dear friend, and as a result I have written upwards of 25 new (drafted) pages toward the book in the last 8 weeks!
  • In total in 2012, I wrote more than 60 new pages for the book (though it was really the residency applications this past summer that pushed me into its center and the contract agreement that kept me writing straight into it).
  • Bought myself a new car (which has eased my mind considerably, and an eased mind, in my experience, is the best kind to have for creating).
  • Got new head shots taken.
  • Organized all my office supplies, files, etc. See above note about “eased mind.”
  • Taught, taught, taught…a total of 5 courses in 2012.
  • Started my drop-in Writing Practice for Everyone group which has been a great success (and such fun for me).
  • Cultivated friendships with brave, creative, inspired (and inspiring) people.
  • Saw lots of movies! (Thank you Berkshire Film Fest!).
  • Took a job at the Book Loft: I’m getting to know my community; I’m handling, talking, and reading books (more than ever!); I have a place where I get to be my extroverted self and be appreciated for it; all the people-ing makes coming home and working alone that much easier and more productive.
  • Became a student again by attending community writing classes (yes, thank you, Mark Wunderlich, and Jessica Treat!).

What did you do?

Happy New Year!