The Little Writer that Could(n’t)

 

The evil mancreature was bent on destroying each of us, because we were the group with the power to save the world. It sent terrifying robots and magical monsters disguised as friends so that they could get close and then the battle began. By the time we realized what was happening, it was almost too late.

“Run, Lisa!” someone yelled in the struggle for their life. “Only you can run to get us help! Only you can shut these creatures down if you reach the Capital.”

So I ran.  I had the powers of running with fleet feet at impossible speeds. I ran so fast that I was practically invisible. I could run up steep inclines and faster than traffic. I could weave up and down buildings and through alleys without a trip. The creature stalking me, trying to prevent me from saving my friends, lost me as I followed a complex path.  I only ran into difficulty while running up a giant tree that also served as a playground for children. I had to slow my pace then, for fear that I would harm them. I reached the top, only to discover the only way down and forward was a giant water slide. I climb on and start speeding down toward what I hope is safety. Out of nowhere some of the evil creatures hunting for me appear at the bottom of the slide. They have no idea where I am, but I seem to be speeding toward imminent capture.  What am I to do?

I wake up.

As usual, after my adrenaline stops pumping from a dream that lies somewhere between exciting adventure and terrifying nightmare, I lie in bed hoping I will go back to sleep. Sometimes I want to go back and finish the dream, see where the adventure takes me, defeat the monsters. Other times I know that sleep will not return, as my mind starts spinning with interpretations, trying to process and understand the meaning or the message.

This was one of those no-going- back- to-sleep times, but I think I understood.

A few days ago I crafted a post that made me proud. I spent time finessing every word, selecting the appropriate pictures, and trying to make it into a story someone would want to read. I read it out loud about a million times, checking for flow and language flaws. I did all of this for several reasons:

  • I always want my posts to be quality, and I want to start growing as a writer.
  • The post itself was about a labor of love.
  • I knew, because it was part of a Daily Post Challenge, that it would actually be seen by those with the power of selecting Freshly Pressed posts.

My end product, I thought, was one of my best.

If I hadn’t had high hopes, I would have waited to post that post either later today or tomorrow, as I won’t be giving the gift until this evening. I called my mother and asked her not to read my blog until tomorrow, because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise but I also wanted to try for that elusive golden ring.

Meanwhile, I spent the rest of the week working, for the first time in a while, on my new book. Ideas kept pouring out of me. I had found my writing groove, even if I am still unsure what genre of book I am writing. I felt a surge of new hope, even though (since this is for a course) I must now begin the process of figuring out how I might want to get this baby published. That’s the part that terrifies me, because I feel like finding a publisher or an agent is like battling those dream creatures disguised as friends.

It means putting myself out there and waiting to be judged. It means hoping for acceptance and facing rejection again and again and again.

It means the feeling of looking at the Freshly Pressed page and realizing that I was, yet again, not on it.

What am I doing wrong? I ask myself. Is it because I linked to two of my own posts, posts that were specifically related to the whole story I was trying to tell? Is it because I included ONE picture that did not belong to me, even though I linked to the source and cited it? Is it because I included ONE picture that I have used before? Or am I deluding myself into thinking that my writing is good when in reality it could be printed out and used as toilet paper?

I don’t know the answer. But, despite my disappointment, I continued to work on my book yesterday. I woke up from my nightmare and realized that I had to write, even if I am doomed to facing the demons and monsters on a daily basis. So I got out of bed and started writing this. I will continue to fight the demons, run the race, and mix my metaphors.  I will keep chugging away even if I never get over the mountain.

 

A Summer-y and a New Beginning

I’ve been absent for a while now, on my many summer adventures. I could have written several blog posts about each adventure. but somehow blogging has taken a much lower priority in my life recently.

And I’m good with that.

I also haven’t really been pulling out my camera as much recently. I stopped trying to document every day with at least one photo, partially because each day was beginning to look the same, but also because I shifted my focus onto something else.

I’m good with that too.

Today I have a dual purpose in writing a post. The first is to share with you, in short form, some of the adventures of the summer (in other words a summary of my summer).

Part I: A Summer-y

  • June was consumed with single parenting as Nathan left to work at a summer theatre in Okoboji, IA.  The end of the school year adventures, as well as a dance recital took up a lot of time.

 

  • Sarah and I eventually flew out to join Nathan, despite a lack of enthusiasm on my part. (That’s a long story that I’m not going into at the moment)
  • The rest of the summer at Okoboji was complicated, with a few wonderful highlights

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  • I left before the final week of the summer theatre to have a few (much needed) adventures of my own. I visited my dear friend Amanda and attended some of the Minneapolis Fringe Festival before heading off to Lexington, KY for the American Alliance for Theatre and Education conference as well as an opportunity to spend time with fellow bloggers Kathy and Tori, as well as Kathy’s lovely partner Sara and Tori’s son Thomas. (For more about those adventures including pictures and crashing trees, click on the above link to Kathy’s blog).
  • The conference itself was full of complex emotions for me, as well as inspiration. I can’t seem to put all of this in words, but I left with new ideas about what I want to do with my life. Which leads to me to the second part of my post:

Part 2: A New Beginning

Have you ever noticed how sometimes things need to end in order for something new to begin? I’ve noticed for a while now that I have lost enthusiasm for blogging. Some of it was summer slacking, but some comes from the feeling that I am simply regurgitating material over and over again while achieving nothing. Although my readership has grown little by little, I no longer have a sense of purpose when it comes to this blog. In many ways, the blog has been a lifesaver for me, helping me get through some very difficult years. But it doesn’t seem to be working that way at the moment.

Although I am more settled now than for the past few years (I can’t tell you what a relief it was to come home from the summer theatre and not have to pack up and move again) life is still unknown for me. I am still reinventing myself; trying to create a career that I cannot define, trying to write something worth publishing, trying to live a fulfilling and creative life, trying to support my family while still being myself, and trying to find the balance between myself as individual and myself as wife and mother. This journey is the one I’ve been writing about but at the same time I have held back in some ways–out of insecurity, fear, respect, and other emotions.

I need a new beginning in many ways. And, my friends, for now that may mean I stop posting for a while. I am no longer sure what role blogging can and will play in my life. I need to make some plans, and stick to them, without the distraction of the blog. Because face it, blogs can be a distraction, as you pour your heart and words into reading, writing, and responding and time simply disappears.

So, for now, I believe I am on a short hiatus from regular posting. I will still read and comment, and I am always available for a chat or by e-mail. I may even post occasionally. But, I really believe that in order for me to begin again I need to pause for a moment in order to understand my path more clearly.

I leave you today with this image stolen borrowed from a friend’s posting on Facebook, as it sums up some of my current thinking:

What You Think You are Writing vs. What You are Actually Writing

I’m having a little bit of an identity crisis at the moment.

I know, I know . . . shocking right? Me, trying to figure out who or what I am?

Well, now I have a new symptom of this confusing identity issue. I no longer have a clue what I am writing.

As you may recall, I am currently in the middle of a course/book writing project. I was determined that I was writing an actual adult novel for a change. It was, for all intents and purposes, a fantasy novel, sort of. Kind of. Maybe. But, then again, as I wrote earlier this summer, I am having trouble labeling the genre of this work. Now, of course, many of you suggested that I just write and worry about genre later. And I agree with that. That was also the advice from my editor/instructor in his most recent letter responding to chapter one. (which he liked, by the way).

But he also wrote:

“If I were writing this story (I understand I’m not), I might change that age bit about young women of 21 to young women of 18, and give some thought to a YA novel. As you know, a hot writing niche right now. I just finished the first story in the Hunger Games trilogy, which confirmed what we both know–this isn’t Nancy Drew any more.”

So much for my writing an adult novel. I mean, I know I don’t have to change it, but when he’s right, he’s right!  So, I am now writing a YA novel, but I still have no idea what I am actually writing. Suddenly a romance element has entered the picture, an element that I DO NOT WANT, but it’s creeping in and making me uncomfortable! I am fighting against it, which makes each word a struggle to write.

I guess the book is writing itself and I am just the conduit. Or I simply have lost control of words, my ideas, and my story.

The biggest problem is that every time I try to write now, the doubts creep in and garbage pours out. I know, I know, I just need to let the characters tell the story and figure it all out later.

I just wish I could get out of my own way, and stop fighting myself and my words.

Do you ever find a conflict between what you think you are writing and what you are actually writing? How do your reconcile the two? How do you break through?

New Thoughts on Being Alone

Remember how about a month ago I wrote about how weird it was to be completely alone in the house for an entire weekend--no dogs, no child, no husband? Well, today I have done a total flip and am yearning for some complete, 100% alone time.

I woke up early this morning, even though my body was still aching for sleep. But, when the sun rises, the thoughts in my brain start stirring, at least to some extent. Unwilling to completely engage with the day, and still feeling a little disconnected, I decided to spend a quiet morning reading before I wrote in my Morning Pages and started the day for real. Nathan left to get breakfast, and I chose to stay back and be anti-social. The dogs started to hassle me as soon as he left.

A short time later, after Nathan had left breakfast for Sarah and made the 20 second trek to work, Sarah stumbled out of bed and immediately starting whining at me because she had misplaced blankie. Have I ever described blankie to you? Once upon a time it was a gray flannel shirt of Nathan’s that somehow ended up in Sarah’s hands at some point when she was just a baby. It became the attachment that could never be left behind, and now is a ripped and torn, but well-loved piece of extra soft fabric that dimly reflects its past as a shirt.

In this picture, Nathan is wearing the shirt when in was still actually a shirt. It may have been that day that it became “Blankie.”

In this picture taken the following year (when Sarah was 2 and 3/4) you can see Blankie scrunched in Sarah’s hands just behind Nathan’s head.

Anyway, as any “good” Mom would do this morning, I told Sarah to look all around her room for blankie, including picking things up. When that failed, and the moans and groans of agony started, I solved the mystery after recalling a bizarre experience from the middle of the night last night–one that could have been a dream, except for the evidence from blankie. See, I came out at some point to go to the bathroom only to be startled by the silent and spectral image of Sarah who nearly freaked me out by appearing in the darkness.

“What are you doing Sarah?”

“I’m going to the park.”

“What? You can’t go to the park now.”

“I’m catching fireflies.”

“Go back to bed, Sarah.”

She walked over to the table holding Nathan’s computer and sat down, placing her hand on the mouse.

“Have you been playing computer games?” (The lights of the computer were blinking, but the screen wasn’t on, I was just really tired.)

“Yes.”

“It’s too late to play computer games. Go to bed Sarah.”

“Will you help me?”

“Go to bed!”

She wandered into her room and crawled into bed.

Complete silence in a moment, as I stumbled back to my bed.

I would have forgotten about it, except that I discovered the missing blankie on the chair. She even brought her music player and headphones out. She doesn’t remember a thing.

That mystery solved, I started reading again, only to be interrupted every line or so by a random question about sleepwalking from Sarah, or a random thought about something from Sarah.

“Sarah, I’m trying to read!”

A few moment passes, and another thought bursts out.

“Sarah, your breakfast is in the refrigerator. Please eat while I read.”

“I’m not hungry. But I’ll read, too.” New questions a few minutes later, about words. Questions that I always want to answer with “look it up” as her dictionary was 3 feet away.

“Sarah, I’m heading back to the bedroom so I can read undisturbed.”

“Sorry.”

A few minutes pass. Perhaps a page or so. The dogs follow me back there and start their loud staring, hoping to get something if I could only read their minds. Then Sarah comes back, with a new thing she just has to tell me at that moment.

This happened several times.

“Sarah, I came back here to read in peace. Please do something!” She finally started eating and playing a computer game.

I did manage to finish the book and was finally ready to write in my Morning Pages, but  the chance of me accomplishing that while being tracked by 10 legs, 6 eyes, 2 tails, and one chattering mouth was pretty low.

“Sarah, I am going to go somewhere and I am not going to tell you where. I will have my phone, but you cannot follow me.”

“My guess is a coffee shop.”

“No, I am staying on the lot, but you cannot follow me. I need to be completely alone.”

“Okay, I’m going to the green room. Are we going swimming this morning?”

“Yes, but first I need to be completely alone.”

I found a place underneath the gazebo at the arts center next door, and I wrote in my Morning Pages. My phone buzzed, a text from the people who were supposed to swim with us.  “We’ll be ready in 15 minutes.”

“I’m not ready. Give me 1/2 hour.”

Finding a place to be alone at this bustling theatre is a challenge. Even when you hide away in your cabin, the worlds seems full of eyes and ears and voices.  The 30 minutes or so this morning made me realize how valuable alone time really is.

It is, actually, priceless.

 

 

 

 

Walking, Writing, and Working the Weight Away

Some of you may remember that many moons ago I declared I was going to “Write Myself Right” meaning that I would use my writing as a tool to help me achieve my personal health and weight-loss goals. As often happens, my good intentions lasted only a short time as I found myself trapped into the vicious cycle which goes something like:

self-doubt–>boredom–>depression–>eating out of boredom,depression and self-doubt–>feeling fat and ugly–>self-doubt–>

It’s really an ugly cycle that just got uglier as my job search lead to dead-ends, my writing felt like it was empty, and my confusions about what I want to do with my life grew. Somehow writing myself right became too hard, and I simply tried to write my way out of the slump I was in, without worrying about what my body did.

Over the past month, however, I faced some brutal realities, and shifted my attitude. It was not an easy month, as I took on the role of single mom, while Nathan went ahead to his other home, a place where I have yet to find my place. The month apart was emotional for many reasons, but I began to realize that I am the only one who can change my destiny, and that I was tired of succumbing to the depression. I took strides to give myself a break. I blogged less, but wrote more. I took myself for walks. I cleaned and reorganized the house. I signed up for webinars to help me clarify my personal career goals. I worked on establishing better boundaries and understanding between myself and my daughter, so that she could see me as an individual as well as her mother—in other words, as a person who is not simply the protective extension of her existence.

It was a month of learning, growing, and crying.

Now we are here in Iowa, at our “summer home” where I am always torn about being here. In some ways I love it, but in others I become frustrated as I have yet to find my place here and end up feeling frustrated and guilty half the time.

In my new favorite movie, Brave, Princess Merida asks the question “If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?” I answered the question for myself this week by taking a few simple steps.

Literally.

Sarah had swim lessons every morning this week. I took the time during her 45 minute lesson to walk on the track, adding some oomph to my workout with the help of wrist weights. On Thursday morning, before her class, I took my first ever Pilades class (and I still feel it in my stomach) so I swam a little and soaked instead of walking. I also walked around the theatre lot all week in search of props and helping out here and there. I tried my best (in a place where eating healthy is sometimes challenging as the food is plentiful and decadent) to eat lightly and right. I also gave myself a break from the emotions, but sleeping, writing, and basically trying to just be in the moment.

This morning I put on some short pants that I bought last week to bring with me to Boji. Pants that I wore last weekend. Pants that were a little snug when I bought them.

Today I feel like I  need a belt.

I don’t know what the scale will say. I don’t know if the weight is just water weight. I don’t know if this is a permanent change or what.

But it really doesn’t matter. I feel like something has shifted inside myself, and something good is about to happen. I still don’t know what it is, but I am excited to face it.

One step at a time.

Seeking the Write Space

I am in search of the impossible.

I need to find a place where I can create, imagine, write, dream and be that isn’t cluttered with distractions.

“Why is that impossible?” you ask. Because the place I seek is not a physical space. Yes, sometimes it is difficult to get quality quiet time with the distractions of dogs, child, responsibilities and internet, but that isn’t my real problem.

The problem is the clutter I carry in my mind. I need to find that hidden place of quiet which allows me to achieve all my goals. I cannot seem to quiet the cacophony or silence the inner critic enough to just create.

I’m not blocked exactly. I have ideas bouncing around in my head. Last week I finished the first chapter of my book, and while I impatiently await feedback from my editor/instructor my head is moving quickly through the possible twists and turns of the story. Ideas and images pop into my brain at random points and moments.

But, when I sit down to put words onto a page, I do everything but. I think. I scribble. I surf the net for images (to be fair that’s part of the next assignment). I check e-mail. I go on Facebook. I read. But I do not write.

Even this blog post seems recycled. Didn’t I just write this? Looking back on my past few posts I realize I have written about the inner critic and the search for my writer’s voice. I’ve written about the cacophony of ideas in my head as well as the intimidating silence that comes from an inability to write.

But, while in some ways I am repeating myself, in another way I am at a different point in my journey. I am struggling with giving myself permission to write. I am struggling, while surrounded by people pouring their hearts and souls into weekly theatrical productions, to say “it is okay for you to be moving on in your creative life, it is okay for you to want to achieve new goals, it is okay to let go of theatre.”

Sometimes it is hard to let go.

I spent the last two days being creative in a different way, as I pulled props together for an upcoming production of Hansel and Gretel  as part of the Children’s Theatre season at this summer stock theatre. I pulled most of them, but had to make a gingerbread girl and carve out a fake roast. My hands, as I type this, reflect multi-colored paint stains from various spray paints. I enjoyed the simplicity of finishing my task (minus some chicken bones which I will gain sometimes this weekend) and then being able to walk away, without the responsibility of directing. There is joy about not being in charge, but I wonder if that is a joy that I have convinced myself to feel as I finally have had to accept that I am tired of fighting for opportunities to direct. Have I just given up?

Sometimes I feel like I have given up because theatre has become too hard, or as an excuse to not keep striving to achieve my theatrical goals.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve already achieved those goals, so I am naturally seeking the next creative project, the next part of the dream.

Have I simply  moved on?

Right now I sit across from Sarah in a shop called Hey, Good Cookie!  I had every intention of working on Chapter 2, and managed to convince Sarah to bring something to read and/or do so that I could focus on writing.

Sarah is living up to her end of the bargain, but I am not. Of course, I am sitting here writing this, and that counts, but I can’t seem to buckle down and work on the fiction that calls to me. Earlier today, when I was at a different location alone, I had an internal discussion about how I should not spend money to write in coffee shops because I am not making any money in my writing. Why can’t creation be valuable just in the act of doing it? Why do I continue to devalue my own work simply because I do not get a paycheck?  Everything I do–whether it is directing, teaching, writing, making props, volunteering, parenting, or mentoring–requires time, commitment, and hard work. So why am I so hard on myself about that time?

Prairie Chick is one of my favorite places to write, but its magic was lost on me today.

When and how can I give myself the space and permission to write?

A Story from the Heart, or The Writer I Want to Be

I’ve been doing A LOT of reading lately.

I’ve been reading books of all types and genres. Sometimes I read for escape, but more often than not I am reading to figure out who I am as a writer. One of the flaws of the course I am taking is that it will soon shift into focusing on how to market your book, instead of just on the writing of the book. This is great in the sense that I will have a complete package ready to send off to publishers or agents or  whoever I find the courage to send the book too, once it is finished. But, I find focusing on the market sometimes makes it harder for me to write.

What’s the use of writing if you only write to sell, rather than write to tell a story?

It’s no use marketing something if I cannot finish it.

My struggle lies in naming the genre of the book. I have called it fantasy, but it doesn’t fall into the land of fairies of  elves made famous by writers like Tolkien.  The book that to me has the closest relationship to the story I want to tell is The Handmaid’s Tale  by Margaret Atwood, so I guess you could call my project a dystopian novel or a work of speculative fiction, but that doesn’t cover the story either, or incorporate the “magical” elements. And I am not Margaret Atwood.

So I’ve been reading, searching for examples of what I am writing. In reality, I think, I’ve been searching for a reason to keep writing– evidence that the story I am telling might be interesting enough for someone to read.

I’ve figured out what my book is not. It is not a paranormal romance, although there is an element of paranormal in it and I’m not sure yet whether or not romance will play a role. It is not a literary novel, or at least not one that plays with language and focuses more on character than on plot, although I think I usually write more with character in mind. It is definitely not chick lit.

So what, exactly am a I trying to write?

I still don’t know. So I keep reading, trying to write, and searching for who I am as a writer.

This morning I finished a book that showed me who I want to be as a writer. Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock is is an emotional roller coaster. I cried off and on throughout, especially through the last few chapters. However, it was so beautifully written, and the characters were so interesting I enjoyed every moment of the emotional journey. Hancock writes with lyricism and brutal honesty. She writes a story from the heart, and that is what I love.

Here is the book description as found on Amazon.com:

“An unvarnished portrait of a marriage that is both ordinary and extraordinary, Dancing on Broken Glass takes readers on an unforgettable journey of the heart.

Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler probably shouldn’t have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They’re both plagued with faulty genes—he has bipolar disorder; she, a ravaging family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy’s twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there’s no denying their chemistry.

Cautious every step of the way, they are determined to make their relationship work—and they put their commitment in writing. Mickey will take his medication. Lucy won’t blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, there are good days and bad days—and some very bad days. In dealing with their unique challenges, they make the heartbreaking decision not to have children. But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is.”

The story carried me forward for a number of reasons:

  • Incredible writing that is beautiful, poignant, and honest.
  • Characters who felt real. Mickey’s voice, which we hear in the beginning of each chapter as well as at the end of the book, fascinated me, especially after reading some of the powerful posts Kathy has written over at reinventing the event horizon about her own journey dealing with being bipolar. Kathy has always amazed me, and somehow reading a story like hers in a fictionalized character just made me realize how incredible she truly is. I can say the same about the character of Lucy, the main voice of the story, whose journey made me think of another  amazing Cathie in my life, one who battled breast cancer while watching her daughter fight (and eventually succumb) to a rare form of stomach cancer. She is another woman who inspires me to live life fully because the future is uncertain. I was grateful to be reminded of her as I read the story of Lucy.
  • Although I knew I would cry, I loved the freedom of the tears. I really needed them

This book, combined with my recent reading of Gifts from the Seahave shown me who I would like to be as a writer. I want to write a story that touches people in many ways. I want a story that reminds people of their own lives, their own stories, their own dreams. I want to make people laugh, cry, scream, smile, or simply think. I want to write beautiful words full of meaning and emotion.

So that is the writer I want to be. The hard work will be getting there.

Kathy McCullough in her wonderful backyard, which she wrote about today (click the image to go to her post), when I met her last summer.

The other wonderful Cathie in my life. I stole this picture from Facebook.

The Power of Timeless Words

I just read an amazing book.

It contains words, as books usually do, and offers clarity that can speak to people from any generation, especially women but I think the lessons apply to both sexes. It contains poetry, imagery, honesty, insight, and peace.

While I bought the Kindle version, I wish I owned a hard copy. I want to write notes in pencil in the margin, dog ear pages, and read it over and over again. I know, some of you are wincing at the thought of the desecration of the pristine pages, but I don’t see it as that. I would see it as revisiting an old friend for advice, learning from its wisdom, and giving it the sheen of a well-loved treasure.

What is this book? Perhaps some of you are thinking I stumbled my way into reading the Bible. No, despite my many attempts at reading that story, I have never really found comfort in its pages or lost myself to the beauty of its verse (except a few sections here and there). I have never found wisdom from its messages. I could never really find myself in those pages

You would think that this book, written at a time when the traditional place for women was in the home (1955) would have very little to say to me as I struggle to find my place in the world. But the opposite is true, as this book exemplifies how little some things have changed, and how much we still have to learn. I find myself in almost every chapter, as she explores the challenges of relationships and the lessons of life learned as a woman, a mother, a wife, and a member of a community.

What is this amazing book, you ask? How did I find it? Well, at the wonderful meeting I attended the other day, I learned that this book, written by a Smithie, had been given to high school juniors as a book award. Dean Walters read a passage from it, as she began to talk:

“Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day. How revolutionary that sounds and impossible of attainment. [. . . ]

[. . .] The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone.

[. . .] What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it–like a secret vice!” ( 42-43)

This passage, which I’ve shortened here, trilled to the person who wrote just a few days ago “The Art of Being Alone, Still Learning”.  I knew I had to read this marvelous book.

Why does this book speak to me so clearly? Because her writing and the metaphor she uses seems timeless. Because even though she was writing from a time and a place very different from ours, everything she says seems applicable today. Here are a few more passages of Lindbergh’s that I highlighted as I read:

“What is the shape of my life?

The shape of my life today starts with a  family. I have a husband, five children and a home just beyond the suburbs of New York. I have also a craft, writing, and therefore work I want to pursue. The shape of my life is, of course, determined by many other things; my background and childhood, my mind and its education, my conscience and its pressures, my hear and its desires. I want to give and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and to the world, as a woman, as an artist, as a citizen.

But I want first of all–in fact, as an end to these other desires–to be at peace with myself.”  (16-17)

“We must re-learn to be alone.
It is a difficult lesson to learn today–to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week.” (36)

Seashells.

“When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to.” (100) 

“A new consciousness of the dignity and rights of an individual, regardless of race, creed, class or sex. A new consciousness and questioning of  the materialistic values of the Western world. A new consciousness of our place in the universe, and a new awareness of the inter-relatedness of all life on our planet.” (128)

“For the enormous problems that face the world today, in both the private and public sphere, cannot be solved by women–or by men–alone. They can only be surmounted by men and women side by side.” (130)

 

I’ve said it before, words have power. The power of Lindbergh’s words lie in the fact that her word reach across time and difference to speak to the questions, concerns and challenges that we all face at different times in our lives. I would love to know that my words have that power, but for now all I can do is keep writing from the heart.

I finished a book today, and I am glad I did.

Sometimes I Forget to Pee

Do you ever get so absorbed in what you are doing that you completely forget your bodily functions? Well, maybe not forget so much as ignore them until all of a sudden you realize that your bladder is about to explode and you may not make it to the bathroom.

I love it when that happens. 😉

Seriously, I love when I am so involved in writing or creating that time simply passes. Yesterday, in an attempt at avoiding the terrifying giant black ants that are threatening to carry me away in my sleep, I set out on a mission which would include buying some sweet seduction to rid myself of these scary monsters. I brought my computer along, and decided to work on my new blog as well as write yesterday’s post and maybe do a little work on my novel before facing the stores. I headed to B&N,  bought myself a large iced chai latte (as it was hot and steamy here yesterday) plugged myself in, and leaped into action.

I wrote a little. Took a sip. Wrote a little. Drank some more. Etc. I finished my drink, and filled the icy cup with water, and stayed focused. Time passed. Write. Drink. Write. Drink. Write, write, write.

Eventually, I actually recognized that a bathroom trip was necessary. After creating a little room, I recognized I was hungry so I bought a whole grain bagel, filled my cup with more water and continued to work.

Finally, I reached the point where I knew I had to stop. Words were no longer making sense, and the clock was slowly ticking toward the time when I had to be home from all errands to meet Sarah’s bus.  I packed up my computer and other things, stood up and said to myself  “Ah! I really have to pee! NOW!”

Doing an internal potty dance, I tried to gracefully rush across the store praying that there would be an open stall. Luckily there was, and the release of Niagara Falls pointed out that perhaps I should pay a little more attention to my bodily functions when I am writing.

Especially, when this is my constant companion:

Fill this baby with ice and water drink and repeat. You can never have enough water. (Of course, some people would rather fill it with beer I suppose, it comes with its own bottle opener attached)

I love getting lost in projects and having time fly. I just wish that if I have to forget a bodily function, I’d forget to eat instead. 😉

Diving Into the Pool of Inspiration

“Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship and didn’t ask for anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly. ”
― Cornelia FunkeInkheart

I have spent a lot of time these past few weeks hiding inside books. I turned to favorite friends, re-entering stories I’ve read before, because I find comfort in them despite the dangers, the fears, the darkness, the sadness. The characters are my friends, and their journey of learning and growing becomes my own.

But I haven’t just been hiding, I have also been seeking. I’ve been looking for what makes great stories tick. What makes prose sing? Where do fresh metaphors come from? How does one write, or create, or paint, or anything in a way that transcends what has been done before?

After all  ” every story has already been told” (Anna Quindlan). It seems like every painting has already been painted, every song has already been written, every creative act has already been done.

But, if that’s true, I ask myself, why do so many of us continue to write? To paint? To plot? To sing? To do any kind of creative act? If it’s all been done before, what’s the use?

As I lost myself in Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart Trilogy (a series I’ve only read once before) I began to recognize the answer.

“Stories never really end…even if the books like to pretend they do. Stories always go on. They don’t end on the last page, any more than they begin on the first page.”
― Cornelia FunkeInkspell

If it is true that stories never really end, and every story has multiple characters, then there are multiple ways to tell a story. I’ve asked a question before (oddly enough prompted by reading another YA fantasy series) “where do stories come from?”. This question takes on more meaning in Funke’s series, when the author of the imaginary Inkspell gets read into his own book, into the world he supposedly created. The world he created has grown and changed and become a world he could not imagine, and he begins to wonder if someone else was writing the story.

Who is the author of the stories? Where does creativity come from?

We all know that practice makes us better at whatever art form we aspire to. We all know that if you want to be a writer then you have to practice the craft, just as an actor needs to train, and a singer needs to rehearse, and an artist needs to get dirty.

I think we also all know that hard work and practice isn’t enough. To truly become a great artist or a great writer, we need to have access to that mystical, spiritual, perhaps imaginary place of inspiration and imagination. We need to dive into the pool of shimmering fairy dust and submerge our bodies into the energy and power that comes when people create. I’ve felt it before, walking into a theatre on opening night, or into a classroom of young people  inspired by a creative project. The energy when creative people get together to create is palpable.  I imagine that on a level beyond our sight, the air fills with bright waves of color as ideas bounce around the room. These colors pour themselves into the creative pool, feeding it more energy so that it can grow and thrive. It is a powerful, beautiful, incredible place.

The struggle, of course, is how to gain access. It is available to all, but not everyone learns how to dive in, how to immerse themselves, how to succumb to the creative energy surrounding them and let that energy guide them. Some days, I am able to write or create from that place, but more often than not I get in my own way. I think too much, or let my doubts overcome possibility. When I do that, access to the pool closes and I find myself sitting cold and lonely in the dark, crying tears of loss and emptiness. Too often that feeling comes when I focus on things outside the creation itself. Questions like, “will I ever get published?” or “what will people think if I write this?” or “how can I make money doing this?” or “does doing this make the world a better place”  or any number of things outside the process interfere with the act of creation, and I lose access to the creative pool for long periods of time.

I am empty without it.

So, my goal is not to focus on the practicality of the product, but on the journey of creation. I am tired of not moving forward because of my perception of what I “should” be doing. I am tired of clinging to money or title as evidence that somehow I have am successful or reached a point of achievement. I now want to simply bathe in the pool of inspiration as often as I can, and let it’s energy feed me as I go on a wonderful journey into my version of the story.

I want to fight the battles in this world one creation at a time.

I still have a story to tell.


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