Let there be light! Or at least let there be light in all the dark places. In our writing, it’s sometimes cathartic to bring light using our words to showcase redemption in our dark characters, or to perhaps illuminate the evil that always seems to lurk just below the surface of our skin.
As a writer, it helps sometimes to clear off the desk, ignore the mental clutter, and bring light to our soul simply by writing!
Photography is a whole other ball of wax! Light is an infinite scale to be manipulated, fudged, added, subtracted, by playing with settings, or adding external lighting such as portraiture work, or subtracting overexposure (operator error) with Photoshop or various editing software.
So the other day I decided to photograph my jet black cat in “negative” mode on my smartphone (an HTC Amaze). Sigh! Yes, these are the things writers do when they should be writing. Correction–these are the things all people do when they are avoiding productivity. WE PLAY WITH OUR PHONES!
So really this photo is actually a reversal of light. What is really dark, is perceived as lightness. The cat is black, as is the shelf behind her. The green box is really pink. The purple box is really rather yellowish-tan.
So what could’ve been just another crazy pic, ended up being a stimulus to get the writing hands moving again. Leonard Cohen once said:
There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light get’s in.
I took a picture simply to play. But instead it inspired me to work at my writing. Yes, light is an infinite and timeless energy source, once it’s tapped into, both in the physical world and the metaphysical and metaphorical world.
Voila! Let there be light!
That thing happened again. That person. That event. That habit. That thing from your past that you keep buried deep and far back in the closet of your mind. It/they are your past you remind yourself. Still, from time to time, the door creaks open, and a bony finger protrudes threatening to blow the lid off of all that you are now! I’ll expose you is the subtle implication!
I am not enslaved anymore to that person or event you convince yourself. For it is merely a memory.
Maybe it was a good thing you can never share or possibly explain. Maybe it’s a horrific secret that took years of therapy to overcome. Maybe it’s a little bit of both. Whatever it is, whoever they are, chances are, it may have something to do with the reason you write now.
Skeletons are skeevy this way. Though they cannot speak, they remind you of a time when they were more flesh than bones, once so alive and real, so powerfully remembered. Their story whether by choice or happenstance merged with your story, daring you to break the concrete covenant of silence.
Like the singing siren who softly lures the seaman to come drown in her ocean, the skeleton sometimes rattles in his closet demanding to be let out. He will tempt you with memory and mesmerize you with lies.
It’s okay. Dare him to walk into the light. Come on out and do a little dance with me!
I’m not who I was. And now—I can see right through you.
Write! Write because you loved. Write because you endured. Write because you witnessed. Write because you survived. Write because you lived like you never knew you could. Write because you are not afraid of anything now. Write because you’re stronger than any skeleton or their poison secrets. Write because now you live life true. Write because you’re just brave enough to say it and then do.
Ah the Golden Hour! In photography, it’s that magic window of time that occurs about an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset, where everything is in shades of gold, brilliantly lit with silhouettes who magically appear like whispers on the horizon and where dark characters are outlined by light. In writing, well…..not so much.
I find in writing,the Golden Hour is like trying to corral these three precious dogs! You’ve got your dog Inspiration, the dog that is always super excited, chomping at the bit, and raring to go. You’ve got the wandering dog, Time. She is the rascally one that always tries to get away from you, and then you’ve got Substance (sometimes who answers to the name Results) the dog that is actually your prized purebred, your show pony if you will–the one you hope will make you known.
But in the subdivision known only as Reality Bites, Inspiration always seems to get pushed out of the way by Time, the one who constantly demands you chase after her, so you’ll be forced to ignore the other two. But once in a golden sunset, Time will behave, and Inspiration will sit on your lap for a while, and when that happens, your shy, enigmatic, and often elusive dog Substance will finally make an appearance.
And for once, all is WRITE in your world.
“Is life not a hundred times too short for us to stifle ourselves?” — Friedrick Nietzsche
“When asked, ‘How do you write?’
I invariably answer, ‘one word at a time.’” — Stephen King
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” — Agatha Christie
Writing is a curved process. At least it is for me. It’s never linear. I start on a topic here. And another one there. And then I go back and add and subtract some words from the first piece. Then I start writing about a third and fourth topic. Then life interrupts me about 1,729 different ways and I don’t do any writing. Then I play with my photography. Then life calls again.
Will it all come together someday? Will that novel in my head ever make it to print?
I hope so.
Writers today have to immerse themselves in every kind of technology you can think of just to get your name “out there”. You try and promote your writing on Facebook, and/or Twitter, and/or a zillion other blog sites. You have to submit and face rejection and often absolute nothingness. You have to learn how to multiply your contacts, exposure, connections, and ideas. By the time you figure that out; you’re spent!
You probably waste hours and days figuring out the process when all you really want to do is create. It makes you feel like everyone else is ahead of the curve and you’re a thousand miles behind.
I remind myself daily that writing, photography, and any other artistic endeavor worthy of consuming is unfortunately now days more about learning about process than it is creating of craft. I love creating. I detest learning about process, and yet I know that’s what I must do soon to take either hobby to the next level.
Our words flow in linear fashion but our thoughts and ideas are far from such tidy organization. Perhaps when we are sleeping, both are being stitched together, day by day, like the curves and lines of a peacock feather. One day we finish “it” and just know:
I created something beautiful
Writing can give so much joy; it can also make one feel utterly worthless as if you are wasting time and not living a “productive” life. Then all of a sudden–an encouraging word is granted, a glimmer of hope shines, a nugget of wisdom is gleaned, or a new challenge is mastered.
You’ve been thrown a curve ball. Only this time you catch it and say:
What would you write if you didn’t fear failure? What would you do with your life if you never gave a single second of worry to what others think about you? Who would you be if you were totally uninhibited, and felt completely free to be who you truly are?
I was watching Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium with my young son tonight after an incredibly challenging week. This one line was exactly what I needed to hear:
You’re life is an occasion; rise to it!
Sometimes we let rejection or lack of support hinder our dreams. Why? Because we’re spending more time worrying about what people think. That’s the deadly trap that stops our hopeful endeavors every time. At least it does mine.
Your dreams are fueled by hope. Without hope; dreams die. Hope and vision is something within you; it’s not found in the affirmation of those you wish to find it from.
And trust. Trusting in an unknown outcome. That’s the hardest part. We finite beings always crave knowing how the story ends. Our life. The result of that which we pursue. We race through our life faster than we read a book.
We know this truth intellectually; it’s wrapping our heart around this that hangs us up sometimes:
It really is about the journey!
So slow down. Relax. Stop trying to know what the future holds. Keep writing, or pursing your art, your dream, or that which you most truly are. When we slow ourselves enough to get into the moment, we find confirmation and affirmation: KEEP GOING.
That’s it. Just keep going. And dreaming. And doing.
Rise up. Your life is waiting!
Lily Tomlin as “Ernestine” The Operator – Laugh In TV Series 1968-1973
Writers must be a magnet for weird. Or perhaps they just use their experiences as reference material more readily than other professions. Once, I went to drop a letter at the post office drop box. That’s when seemingly out of nowhere I suddenly become aware of a man standing near me, just feet away from the mailbox I needed to access. He was a pale fifty-something man, hunched over with thinning stringy hair combed over his misshapen head in polyester blue pants, dirt brown teeth, and a black and white RUN DMC t-shirt on. “OVER MY DEAD BODY!” he screams as he rubs his hands over and over one another as if washing with soap. “You know I did NOT start all this! The others were watching and they started it. You know I’m right!” His eyes narrowed into tiny slits as he looked accusingly at……at who? I looked left. Then right. No one! Great!
Who ya talkin’ to?! I think but don’t dare say out loud.
“Tell her!” he barks at me. Fearing for my safety, I nod my head in agreement and turn to the left where he’s still arguing vociferously and non-intelligently with someone who clearly has an invisibility cloak around them. So I look at where he’s looking and say to no one in particular I say, “It’s true, he didn’t START this. There’s no way. “He was WITH ME! We both were at a Run DMC concert.”
Oh no! Now you’ve done it! I think to myself. Prepare to die. I laugh nervously.
He busts up laughing. He says, “See WOMAN! I told you the truth. It couldn’t have been me. She just vouched for me.” Alrighty now! I’ll just slip this little card in the mail and skeedaddle. I fake a smile, wave, and make tracks. I really am not sure I have that much more to say to Mr. Crazy and Ms. Invisible anyway.
Sometimes writing feels like this. When you write, who ya talkin’ to?
Is it the critic who lives in your head? Is it an ex-lover/friend/spouse that you silently scream to: Are you reading this? Are you hearing me now?
Is it somebody specific you hope will somehow glean insight on just how incredibly talented you are? Someone you seek validation from? Or is it ulterior in motive–dribs and drabs of truth dripping out in your fiction in order to speak revenge, love, truth, or perhaps memory to someone else? Perhaps it’s just a quest to write popular to reach masses of fans. Or is just random ramblings and musings aimed at no one in particular?
Who ya’ talkin’ to?
Do you seek a huge audience? Do you wish for fame and recognition? A paycheck? Or do you write just for you—for therapy, to chronicle life, a digital observation of life preserved forever in cyberspace.
I’ve been told and even advised by others you should write FOR you. Hogwash! You should write TRUE TO YOU, but if you’re writing with the purpose of wanting to a bona fide writer (published) you’re ultimately going to have to break into the business of self-promotion a little bit. That’s hard because writers vary in mood from moments of narcissism to self-loathing. How do you promote something you love one moment and feels lacking the next?
All writers write to a certain degree to be admired for their work. Paid writing is a perk. Fame is what you make it—a blessing or a curse. Since I have neither yet, I will refrain from advising.
I will just say this about writing. The process can feel really weird. Because when you are writing, it’s just you, your fertile imagination, and your deft fingers on a keyboard. The audience is still in the future, imagined, but still unseen.
Writing sometimes makes me feel like I am the Jodi Foster character in the movie Contact; you’re broadcasting a signal into deep space just wondering, can anyone hear me, anyone at all? Here you are perched in front of a keyboard, but your head is deep in another place, another time, another persona even. And out of memory, or perhaps out of nothing, you are creating something with mere words.
You’re here, but not here.
It’s weird–this surreal place that defies the boundaries of time. It’s unnerving. It can be disturbing. And then you finish your work. You hit send or publish or whatever it is you do to distribute your work to the masses.
Now the ball is in their court. What will people think? That you’re genius? Disturbed? Clever? Boring? Will strangers read it? What is their first impression of you? Will family and friends wonder if you are okay?
You may even pass by some of these readers over the next few days in real life and talk normal to them. After all, they may hear voices in their head too and have weird thoughts—they just choose not to write about them.
I say, go ahead. Be brave. Write it all down. Transcribe your weird experiences into a book and call it fiction. After all, you’re writing thoughts and stories—it’s not as if you’re not baring your naked body all over social media to be shared world-wide. No, it’s just the essence of who you are, the core of your self-esteem. Besides, what’s a little trampling criticism, or even complete unacknowledgement ever done to anyone? You’ll be just fine!
Here’s the naked truth: Writers are often confident outward but inwardly they are vulnerable to all sorts of crippling insecurities, hence they must write! OK, kidding….kind of.
So why did I talk to Mr. Run DMC that day? Perhaps like me, he just needed to know someone is listening. Maybe he is where once-sane writers end up when they don’t meet their goals, so perhaps a certain amount of mercy is called for here. For a brief moment, we needed one another, though for different reasons. He needed understanding. I needed fresh material.
May you write TRUE TO YOU today.
Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in “Sweeney Todd”
You burden me with your questions
You’d have me tell no lies
You’re always asking what it’s all about
But don’t listen to my replies
You say to me I don’t talk enough
But when I do I’m a fool
These times I’ve spent, I’ve realized
I’m going to shoot through
And leave you
EMF – “Unbelievable”
So I’m having this WRITER’s problem. Ok, stop. Back up. That’s a bit of an oxymoron because I haven’t finished a great work yet. I’ve never been published. I dream of finishing a work of fiction. I start lots of stories. I’ve finished zero of them. Why?
I feel like Woody Allen when he said, “Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.” Here’s my problem. I start a lot of stories. I sit at the computer and have marathon typing experiences! Like a car’s tachometer, the words keep tumbling out 3000, 4000, 5000, 9000…..you’re approaching the red zone, slow down, it’s almost morning and you need some sleep. Let’s take a look-see at what we’ve got here.
And there in the problem reveals itself. While my characters were busy zigzagging around through time and relationships, somewhere along the way they dropped a few important things: Plot, dilemma, resolution. Dialogue that makes sense! The characters, the words they say, the events that happen in a short span of time, are frankly:
It reads back like a Jerry Springer episode on steroids. I confuse my own self. I start too many subplots and don’t know how in the world I’ll ever be able to tie it all together. Bing! Hit SAVE. Then file it in the FINISH LATER folder, which is only one tier above the recycle bin.
In a few hours I’ll crawl minute by minute through the day lamenting the curses and gifts of a writer’s existence, or at least a writer’s mindset.
I have quite a few published friends. I am truly happy for them. I want to join them. But I seem to start out on the journey, get sidetracked in the story, and then to complicate things further, get sidetracked by my own life, and how to utilize the few increments of time we’re given to manage each day, that rapidly accumulate into months and years. I hem. I haw. I make excuses. But the truth is this:
I don’t finish what I start.
Simple as that. No therapy required. I don’t have to look past my kitchen sink most days to see the pattern. Somewhere between 50 and 90 percent of a task, I quit. I stray. I am distracted by the least little thing. Then things stack up, everything becomes urgent, a hundred tasks have to be tended to, and then as the last small brushfire is just about put out, a crisis of epic proportions arrives, and for dessert another one arrives, maybe three.
Looks like it’s time to find a full time job because a part time job and a sporadic hobby of non-paid blogging don’t pay the bills. Quick! It’s an emergency! Go get a job yesterday already as I briefly pay attention to my inner reality check.
Guess what? Being that I don’t finish what I start, the dusty old resume never quite gets finished. Kind of like my stories. So feeling the full weight of fiscal pressure, an amazing thing happens! Inspiration.
Because Woody Allen, pessimistic sardonic genius that he is, reminds me of this simple truth:
“Because it’s much more pleasant to be obsessed over how the hero gets out of his predicament than it is over how I get out of mine.”
There you have it. Reality-avoidance issues, dreamer mentality, occasionally peppered with blinding optimism all rolled into one: me.
It’s time to write! Right now. Roll those sleeves up because it’s hammer time. Step by step is how we get to the FINISH LINE. And when we do, it’s going to feel unbelievable!
And if you’re having a bit of writer’s block today, enjoy the complimentary music link here. And jump around! Can’t hurt. Might help! Ciao!
ART BY ANNE EMOND
6:30 am – Alarm blares. Damn it! Right arm pushes pillow tighter over head while left arm pushes clock off dresser trying to find snooze button.
6:45 am – Shower. Uneventful. Pray for endurance. Again.
6:56 am – Coffee started
7:00 am – First sips. A flicker of inspiration. Didn’t I dream something amazing last night? What was it again?
7:00 – 8:30 am – Daily chaos. Get kids ready for school. Get dressed. Pack lunch boxes. Feed the dog. Kiss the hubby. Review the “to do” list today. Yep. Impossible. Great. Let’s get started.
8:31 am -Forgot work project. Go get it. Refill coffee mug in hand. Oh yeah. Unplug coffee pot so house won’t burn to the ground.
8:45 am – Kids at school. Go ahead and push the pedal to the medal now.
9:00 am – Arrive at day job. Tune out for a few hours while some really great stories invade your brain, making productive work more challenging.
11:37 am – Scratch out a few words on a post-it to remind you later of your amazing best seller book idea: Crumpled, Yesterday’s Scissors, The art of knowing……
12:00 – Head to a drive through since you left lunch on the counter at home. More for the dog today.
12:31 pm – You’re late! Time sensitive jobs really bite!
12:35 pm – Go to break room. Grab last remaining grounds and cold water of stale coffee.
1:00 pm – 2:37pm – Vacillate between inspiration and dire need to take a nap.
2:37 pm – 5:00 pm – Feign productivity.
5:01 pm – Scram!
5:01 – 9:30 pm – Errands, cook, eat with family, help with homework, do a few loads of laundry and dishes, pay some bills, clean up your lunch the dog barfed on the carpet, remind yourself to stay awake long enough to write later, give baths, and tuck the kids in–with someone else’s really good published book of course!
10:00 pm – Make another pot of coffee.
10:30 pm – Last person finally in bed and appears to be sleeping. Head over to laptop for some quality writing time.
10:31 pm – Handle significant news events on Facebook as efficiently as possible. Decide to ignore email until the weekend.
11:00 pm – Review earlier scrap of paper with illegible words. The art of knowing….The art of knowing what? What the hell you think as you ball it up.
Start writing: The…. (Wait for it. Wait for it. Inspiration. It’s coming. Hang on.)
11:55 pm – …..purpose of this story. No, no, no. That’s not right. Start all over. No good writing ever starts with the word “The”. Good writing shows what happens, it doesn’t start out explaining it.
12:00 am – Try to push down feelings of anxiety as you realize you really need to get to bed. You had an hour. You tried. You failed. You half-heartedly forgive yourself. It’s all part of the process you say.
12:05 am – Brush teeth. Go to bed. Say your prayers! Start drifting into dream land.
3:34 am – 5:54 am Gahhhhh!!! Wake up with a startle. Grab glasses. RUN to the computer. I remember, I remember! Yippee!! Will your fingers to please type at least half as fast as your brain is thinking. Pressure happens at the three thousand word count because now it’s 5:54 and you’re just getting started. Fight panic and tears as you have to put a lid on it. After all, you’ve got to get some sleep tonight.
6:00 am – Reluctantly flop back in bed. Pray for speed sleeping.
6:25 am – Deep REM finds you at last.
6:30 – Alarm blares. Rise and shine. Rinse and repeat.
You just don’t get it. You don’t hear what I’m trying to say.
Do you ever have this mental, maybe verbal conversation in life? With people? With readers? With the voices in your own head?
How do you overcome doubt? How to you stave off confusion? How do you avoid miscommunication? How do you convey most accurately what you are trying to say?
How do you avoid being Miss Understood?
Answer: You don’t.
In writing, and in life whenever we open our mouth, or put words out there, we do so knowing that words mean things. That doesn’t mean everyone’s ears and mind are tuned in on the same frequency. Words tumble out and risk is assumed.
Writing true assumes risk. Risk of failure, risk of discovery, risk of opening doors you haven’t opened before or don’t want to open but probably will anyway.
One person makes a statement or asks a question. Another person hears an ulterior motive or perceives a criticism. You write a sentence crafted from an artistic mind. Someone else asks “are you okay?”
You laugh. You know the truth. We are completely separate from our writing, our painting, our sculpting, or our composing. We are not our art. We are completely different indeed.
Or are we?
What are you brave enough to write today at the risk of being Miss Understood?
“Every single cell in the human body replaces itself over a period of seven years. That means there’s not even the smallest part of you now that was part of you seven years ago.”
― Steven Hall, The Raw Shark Texts
Like this sweet little boy who is completely pooped after a big wedding, you may feel like this too after writing a long chapter or a challenging piece. Your tired. Spent. Exhausted.
It’s okay. It’s time for you to rest. It’s good to give yourself permission to stop sometimes, especially when life gets busy.
“I’m just a drinker with writing problems,” the Irish poet and playwright Brendan Behan one stated. In that case, know when to say when!
It’s so easy to dither between unwarranted intoxication or absolute depression over the words we spill all over the page. Don’t let writing make you feel wasted! Translation: There is still life out there that needs to be lived!
If you wrote something today then good for you! Review then rejoice!
If you wrote poorly or didn’t have time at all, than tomorrow is a new day. Take the time now to pause and take a breath. Reflect a little. Rest. Then you can come back tomorrow renewed and refreshed and ready to write.
Renewal: A necessary part of the creative process!