It’s not uncommon for lists of writing advice to pop on my Facebook and/or twitter feed. I follow a lot of writers and they have much wisdom to share. This week’s offering came in a list from Sherman Alexie via Tin House.
Alexie’s poem, Avian Nights, is one of my all time favorites:
The starlings mourn for three nights and three days.
They fly away, only to carry back
Insects like talismans, as if to say
They could bring back the dead with bird magic.
I have a slight obsession with birds and I find Starlings particularly interesting. I wrote a poem, aptly titled Starling, that appeared in The New Plains Review and was recorded by the lovely Katie Woodzick.
Anyway. Back to the Alexie’s list of advice.
There’s a lot of solid common sense mixed with wry humor. For instance, #10: Don’t google search yourself, followed closely by #9: When you’ve finished Google searching yourself, don’t do it again. But when I got to #1 I felt myself nodding and muttering, “yes, I need to do that more:
When you read a piece of writing that you admire, send a note of thanks to the author. Be effusive with your praise. Writing is a lonely business. Do your best to make it a little less lonely.
I read a lot of poetry online and often I find myself saving links or printing poems or sharing the piece on the seemingly endless number of social media platforms that I’m currently trying to juggle (I caved the other day and created a tumblr page. I know. I’ve got a problem). But what I don’t always do is reach out to the author through email or Facebook or Twitter and tell them how much I loved their poem(s).
My students and I talk a lot about community as it relates to writing, especially in the context of a workshop. I tell them the importance of being honest and candid in their critiques and feedback to their fellow writers. Writing is extremely personal. Every time a student brings a draft of a poem or a short story or an essay to class, they are bringing a piece of themselves, so while it is important to be candid, it is also important to be kind and respectful.
It’s also vital to praise a piece of writing that knocks the wind right out of you.
I’m not big into New Year’s resolutions and seeing how it’s February, I’m a bit late to the party anyway, but February is the month of love, so what better time to up my efforts and take Alexie’s advice?
One of the best parts of social media and the internet in general is that I have access to so much brilliant work, and guys, there is a lot of brilliant work out there, so the next time you read a poem you love, let the poet know. Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely business.