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.
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:
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?
(Therapy song to get your smile on)
Okay, so life hasn’t been a bowl of peaches lately. It’s been the pits. In fact, it’s been pure anarchy, bedlam, chaos, and disorder– a real A to Z list of mad maladies all the way up to the zymosis of your mind. It’s all hit the fan again and there ain’t nothing you can do about it baby.
Except write. Eat. Sleep. Work. Then write. Then write some more. Keep it simple. Just do it. Write.
All those things in life you can’t control can be reshaped and remolded into words. Let black and white be your color. Let black and blue be your drama. Let black on black be your humor. Let your black be others light.
Let go. But hold on. Don’t hold back. You’ve got something to say.
Shhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone this. Even in the bleakest moments, you secretly know life is being filtered thru a lens that others can’t see. You see the other side. You know–the one where it’s all sunshine, daisies, and lollipops.
Or at least beauty. Truth is beauty. Write true, beautifully.
Don’t stop until you get there.
“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!
Photo taken at Key Largo Dive Museum 09/12/12
I was born in a cross-fire hurricane. And I howled at my ma in the driving rain,
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas! But it’s all right. I’m jumpin jack flash, Its a gas! gas! gas!
Rolling Stones — Jumping Jack Flash
How many times to you go out in the world encased in your shell, put on your “smiling face” and answer as if on auto pilot, “I’m fine, and you?”
It’s easy to do. We just suit up, step out into the world like this here poor fella, and go about our day impersonating the persona and reputation we have created for our self. Before you know it, each step meets resistance; it’s as though we are walking against the weight of water.
Gasp! There’s no oxygen down here. We barely have enough reserve oxygen that we hurriedly snatched on the way out the door this morning.
I’m talking about what are you born to do as opposed to what you actually do. What do you do for a living? Do you enjoy it? If you could completely follow your passions, what would it be? What do you do to make a life?
If you were a writer,what would you create? Who would you bring to life? Where would you go? What would take your breath away if you were to describe it? What words would you say that would make you contemplate therapy? What shocks you about your mind?
Jot it down. Pause. Take a step and exhale life into those words. Cool!
See what you did? How’s them words doin’ ya?
Life is good. It’s even better when you write. In fact it’s a gas!
PHOTO: LIZ GRAY — SONORA DESERT EXHIBIT — NC ZOO — ASHEBORO, NC
Perspective is everything isn’t it? I find when I write, especially when attempting to write a fiction story, it’s a bit like this photo above. So many angles to everything!! As a writer who is fascinated with architecture, I marvel at the science of geometry that goes into constructing a round dome completely out of triangles.
This desert environment at the NC Zoo in Asheboro is preserved from winter’s harshness by creating a completely controlled, dry and warm environment year round for the cacti to thrive. Not only are sunlight and warmth preserved, but it feels as if you exist in two places simultaneously: inside and outside.
Writing coherently is like geometry. You write a story with lots of angles, but in the end, you have to figure out how to tie all your plots and characters together. Just like the dome above, you bring your readers full circle by the construction of angles. You take your readers to another time, another place; you take them outside of themselves. Then you take them deeper still. You hold up a mirror, using paper and words, and force them to look inside and outside of themselves.
Geometry in architecture, in words, and in life–it’s a beautiful thing.
What dimension will you write about today? How will you connect your characters across time and space to one another?
Enjoy your writing today as your play with the shape of your words!
Photo Credit: Hurricane Art Found in A Hotel Room — by Liz Gray — July 2012
Nothing like a storm in life, either literally or figuratively, to jar you back into writing. Life’s demands gobble my time and opportunity to write often seems to vanish. But then Hurricane Sandy came to town, er, came to the entire East Coast eating pavement, crashing shores, flooding buildings, submerging tall ships, forcing rescues, and threatening to swallow all who cross her demanded shores. Immediately, inspiration struck.
See I was born on a dark and stormy night–the kind where lightening crashes and lights go out. I’ve been fascinated by storms all my life. I’ve had two homes in twenty years damaged by storms, one a hurricane, the other a tornado. I’ve been trapped on water during a dangerous storm, and stopped from stepping into danger when a storm impeded my plans. I’ve seen rescue from figurative storms that would blow your mind.
I may not be storm chaser, but I’m certainly a storm romancer. There’s a reason for that. Like the surfer who feels called to stay and attempt to ride the calamitous waves, or the stubborn fisherman who sails out into sea, or the native who refuses to leave the island despite fair warning, I am the writer who likes to drown in the sea of intensity when life gets complicated or challenging. Somewhere in this chaos, lies a great story. Fear and solace strangely coexist; I become quiet. I become who I most am. I write.
Every storm survivor knows this to be true: In the eye of the storm, there is calmness–a clarity before impending calamity. You pull yourself together quick, because you already know what comes next! The backlash and final fury of the storm waits to devour you, as it rages and fights for its final breath.
You brace for impact and the long night and days ahead, all the while knowing the battle is already lost. You already know you’ll win; all you have to do is survive. Every great storm ultimately can’t sustain the intensity it creates.
But you can. You do it every day by surviving everything from petty annoyances to devastating losses. You’ve lived through dozens, perhaps hundreds of hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, and the like–sometimes in the span of a single teardrop.
Writing helps us put our storms to good use. We learn from and become our characters who fall in love while being kissed in the rain, or have their true beauty illuminated by lightning’s quick flash. Our souls, like our characters are at peace in the calm before the storm, even knowing it can’t last. Thunder soon crashes and the winds howl and shriek, and we know unless we adjust the rigging on our sails and change course, imminent peril awaits us.
So the passionate lover must die young. The young heroine falls prey to illness. The longed-for parent abandons. The medical experiment leaves side effects, not healing. As we write our characters and stories, we are really writing us.
We are coming to the grips of universal truth:
Nothing beautiful lasts forever. Everything dies. This moment won’t last. We are but a shard in time.
The beauty lies in remembering.
The truth is worth preserving.
The memory was worth cherishing.
So write. Bring your heartache and fattened blazes of joy to the table. Season it with characters that are spoiled, demented, gorgeous, intellectual, or enigmatic. Heap on some drama and see what bubbles up.
And when the storm comes, linger a while in the eye. See what truths await you. Finish your work as you learn more about you.
The storms will always rage around and within you. But you are the master and commander of the ship of you. Hoist the sails; fly your flag. Find peace in the unknown as you embrace your destiny.