Guest Blog Post, Robert Krut: Wherever, Whenever

Robert KrutWith the school year just starting up, I have new students asking about creating good writing schedules, patterns, and habits.  As always, I recommend having a solid daily (or at least “near daily”) routine to get work done, whether that work means starting something new, tinkering with an existing piece, or revising to a final draft.  That schedule is different for different people–when I was younger, it was always late at night.  Now, I do this sort of work first thing in the morning.  Of course, it all starts with a cup of coffee (importantly, though, I don’t allow myself a second cup until I’ve gotten some work done–I still hear Ron Carlson’s voice from graduate school saying that morning coffee can be a crutch to take you away from writing, so that second cup is reserved until after some work is done).  Having a schedule like this, even if you don’t always follow it exactly, is incredibly helpful.  I can always tell when I’ve been good about keeping to it, as opposed to slacking, based on the amount of pieces I’ve got done.

In addition to having that sort of daily schedule, though, I encourage them to write wherever the possibility arises, and (forgive me for using this phrase) whenever inspiration strikes.  I’m not talking about setting a laptop up in a coffee shop to write while spacing out to the pastries case–I mean taking a second, wherever you are, to jot down images, ideas, phrases, words that jump out–this may be because you’ve actually seen something worth remembering, or it may just be that a particular turn of phrase is stuck in your head for some unknown reason.  Get it down.  After many times of thinking to myself, “oh, I’ll remember that later”–and then, of course, not–I’ve tried to be much better about that.

This is an approach I’ve always known to be helpful, but really stepped up my use of it over the past few years.  At least half of the poems in my new book started “on the scene,” so to speak, and then were finished during my regular, home-based writing schedule.  Looking through the table of contents, I can easily point to the places where each started, even if it was just a one-line image: the corner of 6th and Broadway in Downtown LA, the shoreline in La Conchita, a gas station in Tarzana, awaiting jury duty in a municipal building, outside any number of music venues (Largo, El Cid, Silverlake Lounge all come to mind)–the list goes on.  One of my favorite of these memories, though, had me piecing together cryptic text messages on a very bright California morning.

The previous evening, I had gone with a group of friends to a glittery, velvet-rope-having, line-down-the-block dance club in Hollywood–not the sort of place I frequent, admittedly.  The Los Angeles I love and live in is much more Big Lebowski than TMZ, but I also enjoy trying just about anything, so I went along, strolling into a club bordered by a perimeter of paparazzi.  Needless to say, I felt a little out of place walking past the line of people dressed as if they were auditioning for a reboot of Club MTV (a reference that shows my age, but makes sense considering that, a week later, an MTV personality was DJing in this very club).  Thanks to some good planning, and what I suspect was string pulling, by my friends, though, we walked past the crowds and right to our table on the edge of the dance floor.

I am, to be honest, not exactly one to walk into a dance club and immediately break out killer moves (although, I do always fantasize about reenacting the classic dance scene from Airplane in this sort of setting), so after getting a drink and swaying tastefully around my friends for a while, I removed myself from the actual dance floor. Walking up to the rise, near the DJ, I watched the crowd for a while.  Then, moved back down and out to the smoking deck to get away from the crowd for a bit.  Then, back to our table to get another drink, then back to the rise, and so on and so forth.  As the night went on–and it went on a while–I got over myself and wound up back in the mass of people on the dance floor, and everything just moved on from there.  Importantly, during all of this, I sent myself two text messages.

In the midst of the evening, I had two of those “write this now” moments, and didn’t want to forget them.  They weren’t grand reveals of entire poems, but were just images/ideas that jumped out: one from standing on the second level looking at the crowd, and one from leaning on the outdoor patio and seeing people come in and out.  As unromantic as texting yourself poem ideas sounds, I didn’t want to lose the ideas.

The next morning, I turned on my phone to find the two texts.  The first simply said “medusa head dead snakes.”  The second, which read “stones sparking above,” was accompanied by a video.  I had tried to subtly get a picture–subtly because I didn’t want to seem like the creep staring down at the crowd taking photos of strangers, but did want to capture the scene.  I accidentally hit the video button, though, and wound up with an 8-second clip.  Here’s the video, for reference:  https://vimeo.com/76005684

Sitting at my desk with these two clues, I started my regular writing routine.  The “stones sparking above” quickly gave way to an entire poem, with Medusa appearing with a “ghost snake halo” near the end.  It was the first time I’ve ever invoked Greek mythology in a poem, and after revision and revision and revision, it became “The Gods Take Your Secrets, and the Gods Take You Down,” which appears in the new book.

I haven’t shared this story with those same students who asked about writing habits, as I don’t relish the thought of them picturing me dancing around in a strobe-light twitching Hollywood club (years ago, two students saw me dancing at an Outkast show in Atlanta, and they later admitted it was hard to look at me the same way in class after that).  All the same, it reminds me of the importance of writing wherever writing wants to arrive, whether it is at a desk with morning coffee, or in a club, hearing your friends call you back into a crowd of dancing bodies.

Robert Krut’s new book, This is the Ocean, will be released on October 11, but can be pre-ordered at http://www.bonafidebooks.com/this-is-the-ocean/

Robert Krut

Robert Krut is the author of This is the Ocean (Bona Fide Books, 2013), which received the Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Award, and The Spider Sermons (BlazeVox, 2009). His work has appeared widely in print and online, in journals including Gulf Coast, Blackbird, The Cimarron Review, and twice previously in The Superstition Review. He teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara and lives in Los Angeles. More information can be found at www.robert-krut.com.

23 thoughts on “Guest Blog Post, Robert Krut: Wherever, Whenever

  • October 5, 2013 at 2:19 pm
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    Reading this makes me think it’s probably time to stop putting off the daily devoted time to craft. Also, I’m really glad to have the new phone with upgraded camera. You know. Just in case.

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  • October 6, 2013 at 1:32 am
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    I found this post to be incredibly helpful. I’ve been criticizing myself pretty harshly these past couple weeks about hardly ever devoting time to writing outside of the classroom/homework setting. I’m horrible at developing any sort of routine with a pen and paper, which I’m sure a lot of writers can relate to. However, I know for a fact that nothing will get done unless I enforce some sort of schedule. I find that I often think that same thing of I’ll-remember-that-later and I literally never do. And I’ve always wanted to carry a little notepad with me everywhere for this reason exactly, but never have. I think after reading this that I definitely need to make some changes. Great post.

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  • October 6, 2013 at 10:35 am
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    Apparently I need to change up my morning routine (on the mornings I’m not at work that is) one cup of coffee to get moving and then a second cup as a reward, sounds like a much better plan. I don’t think I have ever texted myself writing ideas, mostly because I’m not sure how it would work, but now that I think about it with all the new fancy phones out there and the stuff they can do, who needs a notebook? Also the idea of observing people has never really appealed to me as a writer, but they would give inspiration to characters and stories that I would never have thought of without watching them as they stroll by on their daily business.

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    • October 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm
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      Thanks, Rachel. Notebooks, text messages, writing on receipts – whatever works. We hope it works well for you.

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  • October 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm
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    I live by the notes section on my phone. I can keep thoughts in one place and don’t have to feel bad about not having “enough” to complete it. Every night I go to it and email it to myself. Some days I am really good about sticking to the routine and other weeks I am not. I have never thought about texting the ideas to myself, but I can see the advantage to sending a video with the text, it would help with the images or feelings of the moment. There were some really great suggestions that I need to incorporate into my routine.

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  • October 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm
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    I’m a big notebook keeper and I’m always jotting little things down. I completely agree with his notion of keeping something around to jot down ideas in. You never know when the moment will strike and having something around to remind you of little bits and pieces of inspiration is very helpful. I’m a spacey kind of person, so despite being detail oriented something I lose track of ideas if I forget to write them down or I reorganize the details and thus forget where I was going with it. Notebooks help keep ideas cemented and stabilized.

    As for a routine, that’s definitely the hard part for me since I tend to lose the time for it when life gets super busy and chaotic. However, I usually pull myself back into a semblance of one eventually.

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  • October 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm
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    I used to carry around a notebook with me everywhere I went just in case I thought of something inspiring or something that gave me that “I cant lose this idea or sentence” feeling; but then I just started feeling weird about it. After reading this blog it actually makes me think I should start doing it again, maybe I will actually get something written.

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  • October 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm
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    I’ve never had a solid writing routine before. Creating a routine is one of those things that I have added to the ever-growing list of “Really Great Ideas that will Almost Definitely Improve Your Life,” but that I never seem to make the time to actually accomplish. I’ve already got the idea notebook and the people watching down, so it’s about time that I make it a habit to create something with all of that! Thanks for the reminder that inspiration isn’t all that useful unless you do something with it.

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  • October 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm
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    This reminds me of Louis Auchincloss. While he was a writer, he was also a full time lawyer and he used to write ideas for stories (and lots of times the stories themselves) during courtroom case when the prosecutor was making his/her closing comments. He was a big believer in routine and treating writing the same way he treated his law job.

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  • October 7, 2013 at 8:10 pm
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    I don’t know if it has been the stressful year that lays before me, or I am just slowly starting to lose my mind; but in high school I was always writing and had a wonderful daily routine to do so. I miss having all that time and wish desperately I had that still. I am trying and hoping that this never-ending year will start to turn around so I can get into writing once more.

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  • October 7, 2013 at 11:03 pm
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    Some very good tips in this post! One of them, carrying around a notebook, I already do. I feel the two most important things to be successful are to keep a schedule and a notebook to write down anything and everything because I can never remember what possibly had happened earlier.

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  • October 11, 2013 at 1:45 pm
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    I definitely need to take his advice about the second cup of coffee. It’s always a distraction, not a tool!

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  • October 13, 2013 at 11:18 am
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    Let’s go dancing Robert! Medusa hair on the dance floor!!! Secret Vimeo videos posted randomly all night long!!!

    Reply

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