The Rhythms of Reading and Writing

I’ve commented here before about how I tend to write in the genres I am currently teaching. Although I’ve written for a long time, I’m still discovering things about my writing process, as well as about my writing and reading rhythms. Over the last weeks, I’ve been thinking and analyzing. What trends and tendencies are there? How might I make better use of my time, to write smarter, to read smarter?

One conclusion, after doing some close study, is that when I’m tired, fatigued, or experiencing difficulty concentrating, it’s much easier to write prose. Trying to write poetry, whether drafting or revising, is near impossible and most often futile at these times. I believe part of this is because I’m thinking less precisely on each word, as I tend to do in poetry. (Of course at the later stages of a prose piece, I am scrutinizing each word, but not so much in earlier drafts.)

For instance, a few autumn’s ago, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. each weekday morning to write, more specifically to write short fiction. With the music of Hammock in my ears, with the large mug of hot black coffee, I was ready to enter those fictional worlds. I could pick up where I left off the day before as I gradually awoke to the real and the made-up worlds.

With reading prose–whether novels, short stories, or creative nonfiction–I am also able to enter into the worlds without much difficulty. There’s no warm-up necessary. I resume the novel, the memoir, or start the next short story with relative ease.  Again, this characteristic is a likely result of the way I read poetry, with such close attention.

I suppose it sounds as though I am a “sloppy” prose reader, and when I’m tired, perhaps that’s true. With prose, however, I do focus on the individual sentence, reading just as much for how the writer uses language.

These conclusions are already helping me as both a reader and writer. Poetry is best when I most alert, most awake, which generally means the mornings. I want and need to interact with the poem in as coherent a state as possible. Prose is for any time.

When I have the desire to write but the flesh is weak, I know I can stumble my way through the sentences, wandering through the rooms of paragraphs, not concerned about the hallways, knowing that I can (and will) return when I am alert to renovate the house of prose into a coherent design.

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