The Defibrillation of Jalynn Harris’s Poem, “The Life of a Writer”

I have been reading Robert Fritz’s Your Life as Art very slowly over the last week.  I want to do like he does and observe how products and processes get made.  For example, my friend Kevin Hodgson suggested in the National Writing Projects Write Now Teacher Studio that I read a poem by Jalynn Harris.  Here is the creative journey it sent me on.

  1. Read poem aloud. Will probably return to annotate the poem.
  2. Create a template from the poem.  This amounts to generalizing the actions that the poem takes, line-by-line. Here is the image of this done on a 3X5 card.

3. I used Google Doc’s “voice typing” to turn my handwriting into text.  It works really well to get stuff digitized quickly, but it also gives              you a second opportunity to edit and fiddle.  Here’s the document.

4. After I create the template (BTW YMMV), I filled it in.  Here is that document.   This translation is always the hardest part for me. This is where you make so many creative decisions, some of which will end up on the cutting room floor. So be it. Kill your dainties.

5. This is where I split my revisions between two tools: Etherpad and Google Docs.  Why?  I like the ‘timeslider’ aspect where I can see all my additions and omissions as a movie. I have filmed the whole process and present it below.  I also like how easy it is to share with Google Docs.  There is one added plus to what might seem redundancy. Going back and forth aids the editing process. I don’t know why, but when I read in Etherpad it often prompts an edit which I then add to my Google Doc and as I reread it there, more edits are prompted.

Here is the Etherpad version.

Here is the Google Doc version.

6. Here is the final version of the Google Doc.

7. Here is the “timeslider” movie that Etherpad automatically creates. It reflects a near realtime creation and revision of the poem.  I added a soundtrack on YouTube. If you want more of the real-time feel watch the vid at reduced speed.



  1. // Reply

    Now that’s a journey of discovery, peeled back in layers for the reader, of the reader, of the poem!

  2. // Reply

    Livin’ in yer hedgerows, brother, a marginaliac waiting for the other side of the conversation to drop.

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