Typewriter poetry and blogging — updated

Some days all you need

A poem for a friend composed on a manual typewriter

At least eight years ago, an old beat up manual typewriter provided a platform to compose poetry and other writings.1 It was an effort to return to an intentional practice of crafting poetry and prose without distraction of disruptive media.

For years and years, a notebook, journal or sketchbook was never far from reach. But one night after a long night of poetry and music at Beanstreets followed by an even longer time of coffee and conversation at Old Europe, a friend convinced me to try blogging.

Photo courtesy of @mxmulder

Sample journal page of poetry

The immediate response to blogging was infections.2 Connecting with people all over the country, sharing writing samples or books read and being part of an active digital community was exciting. And the feedback on written work was quick — sometimes within a couple days or hours. The practice of writing allowed me to hone the craft of creative writing and exposed me to other writers across the country. One of those bloggers actually showed up at a poetry gig I did. She was on a cross-country trip to visit friends and wanted to visit in real life.

Over time, I noticed that my practice of writing notes, daily sketches and other activities had all but disappeared. Relying on keyboards, display screens, hard drives and servers presented became a crutch. My writing drafts and sketches appeared deceptively crisp and final in neatly formatted text documents and web blog interface windows.

So, I pulled the plug. Returned to handwriting and typing as practice.3 Some friends and fellow poets saw a few samples of typewritten work and suggested I post it on my blog. It was a novelty. A curiosity. So, I did.

One of the first photographs of a poem I composed on a typewriter was written for a friend. It was posted about this time of year — in 2011.4 A few days later I followed up with another poem5 that was later read at poetry event where I and other poets were dubbed “the next generation” of Asheville poets.6

I do not claim to be the first person to post an image of a poem typed on a manual typewriter. But I noticed a trend in that direction about a year after posting those images of typed poem sketches.7 Not sure exactly if I started the trend. Probably not. Maybe other like-minded individuals who sought to return an organic practice of handwriting and typing as a mode of composing their visions and ideas.

After relocating to the southern boarder of the Great White North8, I continued using the manual typewriter as a mode of composing new work — both poetry and prose. Some of this was due to the original intent of the practice — crafting content without distraction of disruptive media. Some of the use of the manual typewriter was due to a period of time that I was without a functional laptop and no internet access. A local writers group saw a lot of typed first drafts from that manual typewriter. One of those typed drafts was later published as a short story.9

Most recent first drafts have all been handwritten if not typed on one — of now two — of the manual typewriters. Blogging. Well, that has atrophied. Maybe I’ll post some photos of typewritten drafts this year as a way to keep the blog active. But, to celebrate an eight year anniversary of analog writing — I’ll keep most of it offline and on paper.10

Keep your stick on the ice and remember to use the lowercase L key when typing the numeral one.

NOTES:
[1] In truth, I composed poems on an electric typewriter prior to that. Did it for decades. Did not own a personal computer until… well, that is another story.
[2] That was when there were a mere couple million web blogs in the world. Now, there are some platforms, like Tumblr, boasting 100 million blogs. The blogosphere has become quite congested.
[3] Examples of some the 30 poems in 30 days journal posts with photos: here, here and here.
[4] April 1, 2011, blog post.
[5] Poem: “Never Look A Doughnut Dealer in the Eyes”
[6] “Rhyme and reason” by Alli Marshall, Mountain Xpress, April 6, 2011. Accessed April 2, 2018. “https://mountainx.com/arts/art-news/040611rhyme-and-reason/”
[7] Examples include Typewriter Poetry (though it seems the web site has not been active since March 19, 2015), Remington Typewriter Poetry (this site too has become inactive with the last entry posted June 2016), and the most popular is Tyler Knott (though his web page has an archive going back to 2003 (which is odd because he uses Tumblr as a platform and Tumblr was launched in early 2007… maybe he migrated his content from some other source to Tumblr… but I digress) the posted images do not begin until 2012 (unless I am mistaken).
[8] A reference to Bob and Doug McKenzie, fictional brothers who hosted the show Great White North (a reference to Canada, aye). For sample episode view Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pPRaD6TKLc
[9] Left of the Lake published “Mortal Coil” in 2015. https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2015/08/31/publication-of-mortal-coil/
[10] Original post published on April 21, 2015 https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2015/04/21/typewriter-poetry-and-blogging/

Typewriter poetry and blogging

Some days all you need

A poem for a friend composed on a manual typewriter

At least five years ago, an old beat up manual typewriter provided a platform to compose poetry and other writings.1 It was an effort to return to an intentional practice of crafting poetry and prose without distraction of disruptive media.

For years and years, a notebook, journal or sketchbook was never far from reach. But one night after a long night of poetry and music at Beanstreets followed by an even longer time of coffee and conversation at Old Europe, a friend convinced me to try blogging.

Photo courtesy of @mxmulder

Sample journal page of poetry

The immediate response to blogging was infections.2 Connecting with people all over the country, networking, sharing and being part of an active digital community was exciting. The practice of writing allowed me to hone the craft of creative writing and exposed me to other writers across the country. One of those bloggers actually showed up at a poetry gig I did. She was on a cross-country trip to visit friends and wanted to visit in real life.

Over time, I noticed that my practice of writing notes, daily sketches and other activities had all but disappeared. Relying on keyboards, display screens, hard drives and servers presented became a crutch. My writing drafts and sketches appeared deceptively crisp and final in neatly formatted text documents and web blog interface windows.

So, I pulled the plug. Returned to handwriting and typing as practice.3 Some friends and fellow poets saw a few samples of typewritten work and suggested I post it on my blog. It was a novelty. A curiosity. So, I did.

One of the first photographs of a poem I composed on a typewriter was written for a friend. It was posted about this time of year — in 2011.4 A few days later I followed up with another poem5 that was later read at poetry event.

I do not claim to be the first person to post an image of a poem typed on a manual typewriter. But I noticed a trend in that direction about a year after posting those images of poem sketches.6 Not sure exactly if I started the trend. Probably did not. Maybe other like-minded individuals who sought to return an organic practice of handwriting and typing as a mode of composing their visions and ideas.

Here is to a five year anniversary of analog writing.

NOTES:
[1] In truth, I composed poems on an electric typewriter prior to that. Did it for decades. Did not own a personal computer until… well, that is another story.
[2] That was when there were a mere couple million web blogs in the world. Now, there are some platforms, like Tumblr, boasting 100 million blogs. The blogosphere has become quite congested.
[3] Examples of some the 30 poems in 30 days journal posts with photos: here, here and here.
[4] April 1, 2011, blog post.
[5] Poem: “Never Look A Doughnut Dealer in the Eyes”
[6] Examples include Typewriter Poetry, Remington Typewriter Poetry, and the most popular is Tyler Knott (though his web page has an archive going back to 2003 (which is odd because he uses Tumblr as a platform and Tumblr was launched in early 2007… maybe he migrated his content from some other source to Tumblr… but I digress) the posted images do not begin until 2012 (unless I am mistaken).

Rule number eight

“Every word on your blog is a word not in your book.”

Sherman Alexie

Write now, set writing goals

...any road wil get you there.[1]

“If you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there.”[1]

Is it writer’s block? Procrastination? What’s keeping you from completing that collection of poetry or that novel you started years ago and you can’t quite get around to finishing it?

A few years ago I sat in a writing workshop and noticed that I was the only member of the group under the age of 50 years old. Further, most of the students at the workshop had been working on a memoir or a novel or something that began at a university. Now enjoying their retirement, the nostalgic desire to complete these literary works grip those writers who had been dribbling out small passages of poetry and prose for what seems to be my lifetime.

I determined at that time to set writing goals and not let time slowly bleed me of creative efforts. So, I adapted some of the productivity and time management skills I use at work to my writing life. Here’s some productivity, or time management, habits I practice at the office.

1. Don’t check email first thing in the morning.

At the office, I schedule two times a day were I read and reply to emails: once in the morning and then again in the afternoon. If I reply to every email that lands in my inbox at the moment it arrives, I would spend more than half the work day reading and replying to emails. I found that if I batch tasks, like emailing, I can maintain focus on accomplishing those tasks more efficiently.

2. Make a list.

First thing I do when I get to the office is make a list. This is a combination of project management and mind-sweeping. This activity allows me to organize and prioritize large and small tasks for the day and week.

3. Declutter the desktop.

This is something that is both on- and offline. And by “declutter” I don’t mean empty your desktop of everything. Declutter has to do with a collection system. How do you collect the papers or files? Years ago I began the practice of collecting items in folders based on the 43 folders system. Here’s how it is presented by Merlin Mann:

  1. identify all the stuff in your life that isn’t in the right place (close all open loops)
  2. get rid of the stuff that isn’t yours or you don’t need right now
  3. create a right place that you trust and that supports your working style and values
  4. put your stuff in the right place, consistently
  5. do your stuff in a way that honors your time, your energy, and the context of any given moment
  6. iterate and refactor mercilessly[2]

Again, the goal of this practice is not to have a clean, empty desktop, but a productivity system in place to help get things done.

4. Plan. Revisit the plan. Stay on task.

Your co-workers and supervisors think every task is an emergency and everything is a priority. Planning and staying on task is one of the most annoying practices my co-workers and supervisors must endure. Yet, unless I identify the goals and chart a trajectory to hit those goals, I’ll never me able to meet deadlines on time or successfully accomplish projects. How does the old adage go? If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

Let’s do this!

Avoid waiting until you retire to complete that novel you’ve been working on, or that collection of poems you’ve been tinkering with for years. Find a writers group that can help you with accountability and encouragement. It is written that no one knows the number of his or her days. Our life is a shadow.[3] Whether it is writer’s block, procrastination, internal or external distraction, find that writing project you’ve been working on and commit to finishing it.

NOTES:
[1] Source: This Isn’t Happiness, accessed May 8, 2013 http://thisisnthappiness.com/post/48296644589/any-road
[2] Merlin Mann, “Getting started with ‘Getting Things Done’,” September 8, 2004 accessed May 4, 2013 http://www.43folders.com/2004/09/08/getting-started-with-getting-things-done
[3] Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (Zondervan, 2010), 271.

Plan on- and offline activities

DSCN1707tiltshiftTheArtistLomoHow do you manage your online and offline activities? Okay, I am assuming you do manage your online and offline activities. For many people, time management is something that is not practiced–especially as it relates to blogging and social media. If you have an idea or thought, you post it on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or blog it.

True confession: I was one of those who did not manage online and offline activities. When I finally purchased a smartphone, I immediately downloaded all the latest and greatest social media mobile apps to stay connected. Or, at least, that was the reasoning. It was difficult for me to understand why some of my friends (online and in-real-life) were not more engaged in social media. For the most part, I disregarded them off as neo-luddites. Yes, I was a social media snob.

That all changed when I joined the ranks of the mega-commuters.[1] With long commutes to the office, there is limited time to engage in blogging and social media with out planning. Or at least, not a safe way to do it while driving through city traffic and mountains roads. Additionally, with the weight of leadership decisions and somewhere between 50 to 75 tasks per week, I rarely check my personal email or check social networks until the weekend.

So, for the last year or so my blogging and social media posts and updates have been automated. More accurately, most blog posts are scheduled using a WordPress feature and social media posts and updates scheduled using Hootsuite.

Saturday mornings or Sunday nights tend to be the time when I write online posts/updates. However, that doesn’t seem the best time to engage people. A couple articles I read [2] [3] suggest when the best time to post content on blogs and social media. So, I preschedule the posts, tweets, and other social media updates on the weekend. Sometimes I preschedule posts and updates as much as 14 days to a month in advance.

The downside of automating posts and updates as the lack of engagement. Sure, the content gets out there on a regular basis, but there’s little or no conversation taking place. This also means I miss a lot of the activity and conversation that is taking place on blogs and social networks. Some Saturday mornings I will spend a whole hour replying to comments on social media sites from the previous week. The point of social media is sharing and interaction.

In a manner of speaking and due to my present circumstances, I’ve sort of become one of those neo-luddites I used to snarkily snicker at. It’s humbling to realize how much of an idiot I had been regarding social media snobbery. Not everyone has the luxury of being accessible to social media. And, quite honestly, terra will continue her daily rotation speed of 1070 miles per hour regardless of my social media activity (or lack thereof).

NOTES:
[1] Matt Stiles, “Interactive: Compare Your Commute To The Nation’s Longest,” NPR’s The Two-Way, March 5, 2013 accessed April 23, 2013 http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/03/05/173515882/interactive-compare-your-commute-to-nations-longest
[2] Daniel Zeevi, “STUDY: When is the Best Time to Publish a Blog Post?,” Dashburst.com, February 4, 2013 accessed April 23, 2013 http://dashburst.com/report/best-time-to-blog/
[3] Samantha Murphy, “The Best and Worst Times to Share on Facebook, Twitter,” Mashable.com, May 9, 2012 accessed April 23, 2013 http://mashable.com/2012/05/09/best-time-to-post-on-facebook/

Where did April go?

April - It's been a blue

Where did April go? It’s a blur to me. In truth, most of this year has been a blur. If you journal or keep a diary, you understand the benefit of review. If you blog you know that you should be able to write a blog post in 70 minutes or less[1] and should have five main components including:

  • Lead Paragraph.
  • Relevant Image.
  • Personal Experience.
  • Main Body.
  • Discussion Question.[2]

Make sure you publish your post between 8 AM and 11 AM on a Monday morning[3] and include bullet points. A blog post without images and bullet points is highly ineffective. Yes, I’m a bit sarcastic. But don’t you feel that blog posts seem dehumanized by formulas for effectiveness and templates for success?

I look at my journal pages and see business cards and receipts stuffed between pages. On one page there’s a list of numbers (after deciphering them, I realized they are the CMYK break down of a turquoise color for a book project). Another page has an appointment date and time crossed out. My favorite is an unfinished note at the bottom of one page that simply ends mid-sentence. No conclusion. Random, incomplete entry. Even productivity guru and author of Getting Things Done David Allen tweeted a few months ago:

“Life is messy; that’s why it’s so dynamic.”[4]

May is almost here. Glancing in the rearview mirror of analog and digital review helps me set goals for the horizon seen through the windshield. If this were a highly effective blog post, I would include a discussion question like: “How does journaling help you create dynamic goals for the next 30 to 90 days?” But this is not a successful blog post even though it has bullet points and an image.

NOTES:
[1] Michael Hyatt, “How to Write a Blog Post in 70 Minutes or Less,” michaelhyatt.com, September 15, 2011 accessed April 29, 2013 http://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-write-a-blog-post-in-70-minutes-or-less.html
[2] Michael Hyatt, “Anatomy of an Effective Blog Post,” michaelhyatt.com, January 31, 2011 accessed April 29, 2013 http://michaelhyatt.com/anatomy-of-an-effective-blog-post.html
[3] Daniel Zeevi, “STUDY: When is the Best Time to Publish a Blog Post?,” Dashburst.com, February 4, 2013 accessed April 23, 2013 http://dashburst.com/report/best-time-to-blog/
[4] David Allen, Twitter post, September 27, 2012, 3:11 AM accessed April 29, 2013 https://twitter.com/gtdguy/status/251111806951649280

Why share your work in social networks?

One of the book cover designs I promote on the social network Behance.

One of the book cover designs I promote on the social network Behance.

“Why share our work in social networks?” was a question recently asked on a professional forum. My reply: two reasons: 1) promotion and 2) personal brand. It was a Malcolm-Gladwell-Blink response and I clicked the “add comment” button without much thought (which is not my usual practice). My thoughts still linger on that question, “Why…?”

A few months ago I came across a few articles asking the question “Does social media promote or enable narcissism?” [1] [2] The article that impacted me most was from a source I never read. In the post, the author, Dodai Stewart, reflects on piece in The New Yorker and her comments are stinging and self-revelatory.

Just look around: Between Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest, the whole ME ME ME thing has swept the nation. Here are MY thoughts, MY pictures, MY shopping wish lists! We call it sharing, but it’s just egoistic self-indulgence, usually. LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I WANT. But wait: Enough about me… what do you think about me? [3]

Hm, narcissism and self-absorption. Herein rests the lingering thoughts of a week or so ago.

As a professional, promoting my goods, services and whatnot help to grease the gears of capitalism, right? Conventional wisdom (or at least American business wisdom), purports that if consumers are not aware of your product/service, customers will not purchase from ME. So, I am advised by business owners and other professionals to promote MY skills, services, products, etc. And not only that, I need to establish MY personal brand (so that consumers can be more emotionally and psychologically invested in the products/services I provide).

Maybe social networks are not promoting narcissism and self-absorption as much as one might think. There may be a greater systemic issue that only social networks magnify.

NOTE: [1] Tara Parker-Pope, “Does Facebook Turn People Into Narcissists?,” New York Times, May 17, 2012 accessed January 2, 2013 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/does-facebook-turn-people-into-narcissists/ [2] Steve Tobak, “Social networks and the narcissism epidemic,” CBSNEWS Money Watch, August 29, 2012, accessed January 2, 2013 http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57502035/social-networks-and-the-narcissism-epidemic/ [3] Dodai Stewart, “Self-Absorbed Is the New Normal,” Jezebel, June 26, 2012, accessed January 2, 2013 http://jezebel.com/5921468/self+absorbed-is-the-new-normal.

Welcome new readers!

Earlier today I notice that Poetryblogs.org features my blog (I guess this means I should update the blog more often). Thanks for visiting Coffeehouse Junkie’s Blog and hope you return and share what you like. If you’re a new reader of Coffeehouse Junkie’s Blog check out the 10 most recent blog posts listed in the right column, the most liked posts in the left column and search through the subject list in the lower right column for content that I’ve contributed since 2004. You may also sign up for email subscription to this blog so that every time I post something new, you receive an email.

Dear friends and loyal followers of Coffeehouse Junkie’s Blog, I do intend to write more posts. Presently, I am buried in work as creative director for an international publishing company. Until I finish designing other writers’s book covers, blogging will be limited. Enjoy browsing some of the recent book designs here, here, here and here.

Letter writing, a vanishing art

A book is more than a collection of letters and pages.

The week before Fathers Day I completed a book design project that is a “legacy of letters from a decorated World War II hero…” Or so the back copy states.

Reading a manuscript like that, at times, seems voyeuristic. The compelling part of the book is the context of knowing that the author was three when his father passed away suddenly. He grew up hearing friends and family tell him “You sure look like your Daddy” or “I knew your Dad, he was one of the best.” The letters that the author collected for the book shares who is father was and what kind of man he was. But most importantly, for the author, it was the only way to hear the voice of a father he never knew.

At times, during the process of designing the cover and page layout, I glimpsed that boyish tenderness of the author (now in his sixties) as he ached for the presence his father. I cherished Fathers Day all the more as I thought of the author.

A couple of things come to mind as I wrap up this project and send it to press. First, the art of letter writing seems non-existent. The last letter I received was from my oldest child who placed it in my boot for me to find one morning. It was a simple note written in colored pencil. It is placed in my journal. I glance at it periodically.

Last time I received a hand-written letter was years ago. There are the seasonal holiday letters that begin filling my mail box every year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. They usually arrive as letters printed out on decorative stationary purchased at Kinkos or Office Depot. But hand-written letters? Do people still do that in our culture?

Secondly, the legacy left behind of those letters written prior to, during and after a major historical event impresses me. What kind of legacy might we leave our children and grandchildren with a mountain of un-memorable text messages. What will our tweets and status updates mean a half century from now? Will Twitter be obsolete by then? Or Facebook? Can you imagine your grandchildren asking you, “What’s Twitter?” After you explain the whole social media birth of micro blogging they giggle and say, “Twitter is so 2012. I can’t believe how primitive that seems.”

Emails may convey some of the gravitas as a written (or typed) letter. However, as Luddite as this sounds, I still have hand-written letters from family and friends placed in an old shoe box. Letters and notes from a woman who became my wife are stored in a similar fashion. A typed note from my grandfather, when age had crippled his hand-writing, is placed in a book of his poems as a reminder and memento. As a child, my grandmother wrote a brief letter to me each birthday and placed a stick of gum in between the folds. I looked forward to that letter each year. You can’t attach a stick of gum to an email.

Besides, I doubt anyone in our culture would wait, anticipate and enjoy a letter that arrives annually. Everything is so urgent… almost panicked. Why isn’t someone responding to my emails, texts, tweets? It’s been 30 seconds! (Place emoticons here.) In my own life, I notice how differently I process social media and online content. There lacks a linear stretch of the intellect when processing clusters of data points from Twitter, Facebook, HuffPo, etc. My attention span fatigues when I have to wade through a barrage of emails, updates and tweets.

Yet I enjoy the long articles in the Atlantic Monthly, London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books or the like. It stimulates my mind. 700-word news articles for the most part bore me. There’s nothing there but a nut graph. No context. No history. No personality or narrative trajectory. Just a Google-like, or Wikipedia-like, democratized collection of information. There’s nothing there to engage my mind. Nothing that challenges my mind, beliefs or values. A book on the Battle of Agincourt offers nuances that blog posts, tweets and texts don’t offer.

Reading through a legacy of letters, like the book I am ready to send to press, captures the exchange of ideas in a sustained, generational conversation between a father and a son. The more our culture engages in the scatterbrained conflagration of data items, I suspect civil, engaging conversation (like letter writing) may become obsolete.

Advice for writers

In the September issue of Writer’s Digest, Sherman Alexie says:

Every word on your blog is a word not in your book.

As someone who has been blogging for a few years, that’s conflicting advice. I was encouraged by a friend to start a blog as a way to work on my writing skills. So, I started blogging as a way to discipline myself to write every day. Six years later I have several working or completed manuscripts and no books. Mr. Alexie may have a point. He also offers this:

Don’t Google search yourself.