Jack Grapes Method Writing Program in SF
December 2014 Newsletter
Fallow Periods
A Guide to Approaching Creative Downtime

Sometimes we can get so bogged down in product, especially after we have decided to do a big project, that we feel like if we're not working on something big we might as well not be doing anything.  But, this is not so.


Creative downtime often comes upon us when we've finished a large project, ended a class, at the end of the year when things start to ramp up and then quiet down, or in the dizzying craze that comes before the holidays where we are so busy with last minute work or family obligations that we can't find time for doing the kind of writing that we really care about. And sometimes we just need to rest and let ourselves relax and rejuvenate. A key to a sustainable harvest is letting the land lay fallow sometimes.


One thing that is important to do during the fallow periods is to rest your brain. Nurture yourself. Be good to yourself. Go to bed early. Wrap yourself in a warm blanket. Watch movies. Drink hot cocoa. See your friends.  Visit bookstores. Go to readings. Take a long walk. Watch the sunset. Listen to music. Dance around your house like a crazy person.  Cook. Eat. Consume art. You need to live life in order to write about it. Let yourself enjoy the little things and the people that you care about. Hide out from the world and be cozy. It's okay. I give you permission. I give myself permission, too.


In addition to letting the mind relax and loosen, keep in mental shape.  This sounds counter-intuitive, but it's really not.  Just pick up a pen and get a journal and write in it. Every day. Just a little bit. Or, every other day.  Or, whenever you get a free moment.  Don't worry about following any artistic impulses.  Write your worries and anxieties in it if you must.  Write about your obsessions, your rants and raves. Think of it as a status update for your mind.  Put your to-do list in there if you want, your grocery list, your notes from a meeting or class, doodles while you are on the phone, random emails from people you've just met, whatever. 


Then, just keep writing.  Who cares if it's good or if it's crap. Stay in practice. When you are feeling scattered or unable to create, know that you are not alone but if you stay in process, product will come eventually. And while you are waiting for the Muse to show up, you will at least train yourself to stay limber and create a disciplined routine to fall back on when you actually have the time, energy and focus to write. Or, when you jump back into production mode.


They say the most fit and healthy people are the ones that do a little bit of exercise or activity for a long period of time.  Be like them. Think of the ladies who are knee deep in the water picking rice around the world. Those are the strongest ladies in the world. 


Think of the tortoise and the hare from Aesop's fables. You have to be like the tortoise. Ignore anyone who claims that writing is easy or can be done fast, or the person who brags about her own fastidiousness in her writing routine.  Writing takes time, but it's a distance race, not a sprint. Most people who write creatively also have day jobs.  Forget about being the hare. Be instead, like the toirtoise. Plodding along gets things done.   


We have all sorts of reasons to resist the call to create.  Greek monastics who lived in the Egyptian desert during the fourth century used a word called 'logoismoi' to describe interruptive disturbing thoughts that bring somebody away from their spiritual path.  According to them, logismoi, loosely translated from Greek as "assualtive thoughts" are something that they believed to be very powerful and were thought to penetrate deep into the heart. They saw self-discouragement as a kind of logismoi.  In some ways, this philosophy aligns with many modern-day philosophies about writing.  Greeks call them logismoi, but to writers, it could be another way of saying an artistic block.  I mean the a small, seemingly logical rational negative nay-saying voice that we use to talk ourselves out of starting some things or making progress on others.  It's a kind of artistic resistance that comes when you are about to sit down and get to work.


In my informal survey with writing colleagues and mentors and while examining my own practice, I don't think these kind of fear-based thoughts ever go away. But, in order to really do the work of creating, you have to begin anyway despite the fact that the work might not be "good," or that you might not be "in the mood" to write.


Another way to take advantage of this creative downtime is to use the respite to print out and submit your work for publication.  Send it out.  How do you know they won't like it?  The more you send it out, the more you will get used to sending. Part of the process of creating a chapbook that we do in our class is the first step of publishing, of seeing your process over time as a product.  It's a different kind of thinking to busy yourself with the work of sending out work.  One of my mentors, poet Barry Spacks, used to grudgingly call this aspect of writing 'po-biz.' What better time to print out and put papers together with a paper clip and stuff envelopes than when you are not feeling very creative?


You don't have to have a 350-page manuscript to send your work out. You can instead send smaller pieces from your journal that you type up as "poems" or short shorts.  Send a chapter of your novel to a fellowship. See what happens. You can find a wealth of opportunities for publication from Poets and Writers Magazine online at  Why not? Just try it.  What have you got to lose?


See this as part of your practice.


Aim high and aim true.  Always look at your big project if you have one....but these lower hanging fruits, small journals and magazines and a reading series or two can help you establish a publication history and give you confidence.  Or, if you have recently had a piece or two published, once the initial high runs out, don't be surprised if you find yourself feeling just as lost as you did when you began...fearing the blank page like when you first started out.


That's okay. It happens to everyone. It's part of being a writer. All writers face this.  That's one of the reasons why it can be useful for seasoned writers to practice alongside beginners. As far as process is concerned--and the battle to stare down our own resistance in the mirror--we're all on the same page anyway. 


Take care of yourself, clean out your desk, stay in some sort of journal practice if you can and get ready for the next phase. The Muse will find you soon. Make room for her arrival.

� Alexandra Kostoulas
Method Writing SF
Jack Grapes METHOD WRITING Program 













Featured Writer from METHOD WRITING SF Workshop

Marien Villafa�a

Can Sadness Shout?


(Click here to listen to Marien read her poem live at

our Write from the Gut! reading series this November.)




Land of mine, wait for me.


Wait for me, rained.


Land of mine, wait for me with your scents 


of mountains, oceans and cement.

Mexico of my childhood,


Mexico of my blood,


Through the day of the death 


I'll sing to you.


Through the day of the death and through my melancholy, I'll celebrate you.


Through this day I'll remember your clear skies, through this pain, your 


volcanoes, through 


this song, 


your life.


Your life through your dance moves and your rhymes.


Through the passion of your youth and the scars of your old people, 


I want to sing to you.


Mexico of my sadness,


Let's celebrate your excess of good fruit, of cinema theaters and rained soils.


Mexico of my despair, 


Let's celebrate your lack of sanity and your lack of idle hands.


Mexico of my passions,


Let me die amongst your thunderclaps.


Mexico of my forgotten memories,


What can I do from here?


From here, from where my deaths have nothing to do with yours.


Mexico of my warm sun,


Today, through these black days, I'll remember your abundance of cheap limes 


and of saints.


Today, I'll sing to your long used soil and long used people.


Mexico of my and your struggles,


Today you are flooded with mother's tears and rain.


If we could water our lands, our corn, with grief.


Where do we find bravery?


My fearless land,


Why am I away? But distance is no excuse.


Is my silence a sin?


Mexico of our struggles,


Your pain should humble me.


Your sharp aches should silence my selfish fears.


Cholula of mine, with your warm days and your blanket-covered nights, 


will I age on you?


Will I age close to your pyramids long abandoned by the gods?


Through the day of the death I ask you:


Why do you make us choose between a war trench and false blindness?


Mexico of my wounds, I'm singing for you.


I'm singing to your cemeteries full of the scent of flowers 


and full of the scent of the color orange.


I'll stop singing and I'll shout.


I'll shout and I'll pray for your hard working people, for the love 


that is born through this pain, through injustice.


I'll shout for our daily fights, 


for peace, 


for a passionate justice, 


for kindness, for peace, for justice.


Land of mine, hear my singing.


Land of mine, I'll stop singing and I'll shout.


Mexico of my deaths,


Let me die in your rain-soaked soil amongst the power of your lightning bolts.




Can sadness shout?


Oh, flawed spirit that suffers,


Do you know how to shout?


Your suffering seems vain and empty,


But through this emptiness I've learned to pray.


And I pray to God and I pray to my blood.


I pray for lands and sorrows that are not mine.


My blood knows how to shout,


My blood shouts through its color red.


But I need more than silent calls,


I need more than this lonely devotion,


I need more than the color red.


My blood is not enough.


How do we make our organs audible?


I want to hear the movement of the blood of the others,


I want to hear their hearts.


Coward thought, make mine, a loud heart.


Flawed spirit that suffers,


Your truths will be changed by time,


So shout now, since this suffering might end too.


How do we make impulses, loud?


How do I learn to shout?


When did I learn to pray?


How do we learn not to be wild, but to be brave?


Stalking lucid madness,


Show me how to battle.


Stalking lucid madness,


Strengthen my blood.


Blood, reach my vocal chords and make yourself heard.


God, I'm shouting, love has to be audible.




Click here to listen to Marien read her poem live at

our Write from the Gut! reading series this November.




Listen to our entire reading from November 23 2014 as a podcast on Coming soon.

25 Taylor Street
Jack Grapes' METHOD WRITING Program in San Francisco

Winter 2015 Classes Start January 28th, February 5th and run for 8 consecutive weeks.  
Cost is $395.  

Click on your preferred day to sign up.



Location: 25 Taylor Street at the Wework building
Above the Golden Gate Theatre
In the up and coming Mid-Market area
January 28-March 18, 2015 6:30-9:30 pm

Location: 25 Taylor Street at the Wework building
Above the Golden Gate Theatre
In the up and coming Mid-Market area
February 5-March 26, 2015 6:30-9:30 pm
Wework Building 25 Taylor Street 7th floor 

Local Literary Arts Events


The 1st Annual Boxing Day Open Mic Reading

Jered's Pottery. 2720 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley. 2pm.

In the English spirit of Boxing Day Sarah Kobrinsky and Fred Dodsworth are co-hosting a post-holiday open-mic reading on December 26th, from 2 pm until 6 pm (or later) at Jered's Pottery. Bring your hammered, ruint mind yearning to break free of the holiday madness. Bring the impassioned words of your seething, teeming soul. Bring those tempest-tost words that burn in your brain to our Boxing Day Reading... there will be beer! and cookies! and maybe even pizza. 

Saturday Night Special-An East Bay Open Mic
Nick's Lounge. 3218 Adeline St. Berkeley. 7pm.

Bernal Yoga Literary Series
A reading series in Bernal Heights.
Featured readers: Black, Chavez, Potts, Roberts, Steinberg, Vossoughi.
Bernal Yoga. 908 Cortland Avenue. San Francisco. 8pm.

Quiet Lightning 
Green Apple Books on the Park.
1231 9th Ave. San Francisco.


Voz Sin Tinta

Alley Cat Books. 3036 24th St. San Francisco. 6:30.

In the heart of the Mission, Voz Sin Tinta is curated with no foreknowledge of how any one performance will unfold... like ink blots spread on the page in unexpected ways...come witness art as energy. Voz Sin Tinta is curated by Jose Hector Cadena and Marguerite Mu�oz

Sponsored by San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murgu�a and Alley Cat Books

Bay Area Poet's Calendar Release Party
5500 Martin Luther King Way. North Oakland. 7:30



Poets and Writers Live
Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th Street, San Francisco. 8am-7pm. 

Poets & Writers Magazine is sponsoring a day-long event at San Francisco's Brava Theater Center featuring a  "poetry keynote" by Pulitzer Prize-winner and former U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan. A highlight of the program will be a multigenre, multimedia "inspiration experiment" featuring acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates.  Literary Mixer-a chance to meet others, share notes, and learn about the work of area presses and magazines.  Registration Fee: $100 



A local website that features readings and literary culture around the Bay Area. 
They have 3 or 4 Bay Area literary arts events per day. Visit for more info.

Publisher, Evan Karp, and Managing Editor, Lapo Guzzini, both alumni
of METHOD WRITING SF, have launched Vitriol, which will come out every six months and feature writing and music from every Chemical Wedding reading series, essays from the Call and Response reading series, and visual art, with videos and other bonus features. I went to their release party at Doc's Lab in North Beach on December 14 and it was excellent! Visit for more info.


Happy Holidays! seasonal_pinecones.jpg

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