(For the T.S. Poetry Book Club (hosted by Lyla Lindquist) on Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, by L.L. Barkat. Read Lyla’s thoughts and find links to other book club participants here.)
In Chapter 20 of Rumors of Water are twelve ways to “strengthen the structure of a work.” I was about to use these ideas to edit one of my works-in-progress but instead found ways to edit my character, my parenting, my teaching.
I’ve said it before: this book is not just about writing. It is about life.
Barkat lists twelve excellent suggestions, but I’ll start with just one.
1. “Why did you keep playing swords inside right after I just told you to do it outside?”
2. “You’ve been doing these ordinal-number problems perfectly the past four lessons. Why can’t you do them all of a sudden?”
3. “WHY ARE YOU COMING DOWN HERE WHEN I TOLD YOU TO TAKE A NAP?!”
Search for pet words and delete them (Are you a the man or a that woman? You might be.)
– Barkat, p.98
After reading the chapter, “Goodbye Purple Clovers: Strengthening Structure” I realized:
I am a why mother.
But now I can take a red pencil to the words and tone of voice that daily come out of my mouth.
1. Stop what I’m doing. Give them my full attention and my eye contact. “Hey guys, did you hear what I just asked you?”
2. “What part of number five do you not understand?”
3. “It’s only been ten minutes since you went for a nap. If you can’t fall asleep, just stay up there for a good, quiet time. I’ll call you when it’s over.”
It’s a small beginning, but maybe in this way I can “strengthen the structure” of my life and character. Another time (soon), I’ll pick up the second bullet point.