“If winter comes can spring be far behind?” Shelley’s famed optimistic question. These days the answer is far less predictable. After all, Shelley didn’t have to cope with global warming. Nor did winters keep him from writing or sharing his latest poems with his impressive peers.

I live in New York City, which has been battered by sub-freezing temperatures and unremitting snow and ice, making it difficult and dangerous to keep up any routine that involves venturing outdoors. My weekly writers’ workshop is one of the casualties, for we’ve had to postpone too many meetings.

What the workshop gives us, and what we were threatened to be deprived of, is something invaluable known as Feedback. We customarily read  pages to each other that we wrote during the week and receive insightful critiques. This weekly prodding keeps us going with whatever project we’re working on.

I’ve discovered through the years that being a member of a writers’ group also provides motivation. During the week I sometimes complain that I’m not inspired to write anything new, only to discover I can be inspired when Wednesday night – our meeting time – looms ahead of me. It’s a self-created deadline. Amazing what you can do when that’s staring at you. Perhaps necessity is the mother of inspiration, too.

Since every member of my group feels the same way, we came up with a winter solution. Though the frigid weather keeps us apart, it doesn’t have to prevent us from sharing. So we have been sending our latest pages to one another via E-mails. Knowing I don’t have to wait endlessly for feedback encouraged me to begin a new story, and enabled a member who is working on a novel to maintain the momentum she needs.

Without this sharing we writers work in an echoless void. Much as we can give comments to ourselves or pull them from any hapless family member or friend who’s housebound with us, there is nothing to compare to critiques from fellow/sister writers – in any season!


Should I revise as I go along or wait until my manuscript is complete?”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked that question. I think it depends on what works for you. My own technique varies. Some mornings I’ll go over what I wrote the day before and make small changes, mainly as a way to get my “motor” going. Other times, especially with a short story, I’ll wait to make any changes until I have a complete draft.

I think it would be helpful to readers of this blog to know how other writers handle this question, and all the others that come up about writers’ block, rejections, and so on. As the first of a series, I turned to one of my favorite people, award-winning poet and short story writer Juanita Torrence-Thompson.  Juanita’s the author of eight books of poems , currently the whimsically titled “Secret Life of Scrambled Eggs.” Her work has been published internationally in leading magazines and literary journals, and one of her short stories will appear in an upcoming issue of “Conceit Magazine.” As if this isn’t enough for one woman, she’s also the Editor-in-Chief & Publisher of “Mobius, The Poetry Magazine.”  Here’s what this prolific writer says about how she works.

People write poetry or prose the way they want to. But I once had an instructor at the New School in New York who said, “‘Just write it all out first. Then stop and take a look at it to correct your errors. Don’t waste time as you go along to make them.”
          I found that this method works for me because when I am inspired the words come fast and furiously. If I stop to make corrections, I break my flow of thoughts and might even forget the rest of the sentence I was going to write.
         After I make my initial corrections  I set the poem or prose aside for a day or two so I can distance myself from the piece. I notice that my initial corrections are usually the most obvious, like typos. Others I might not notice until two days later, when I revise in earnest.
          Years ago I read an article that said real writing begins with re-writing!

However, nothing is written (or revised) in stone. Writers occasionally (rarely!) find that the first version is the one they end up with.  Juanita adds that in addition to the more than 4000 poems she revised, I have about five poems where I made no changes – or maybe one or two words, or a comma. These were poems I felt inspired to write and I swear they would be on my list of my ten best poems if I made a list!

There are few experiences as glorious for a writer as that moment when inspiration strikes. This happened to me with a recent poem. It came complete as a gift that I’m awed and grateful for (though I did obsessively “tweak” it a bit later).  .But we can’t count on miracles like that. Most of the time I revise . .. and revise . . . as we should all be prepared to do.

As Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

[COMING SOON: Coping with Writers’ Block]

BOOKS: “Widow’s Walk”-available through; “Turning Toward Tomorrow”-; “Ten Women of Valor” – and Also Amazon Kindle.