Tree Picture Taken at Raleigh’s Raulston Arboretum — October 2013
One dreary evening under a spooky old tree,
a spirit seemed to beckon me.
What do you think you want to do with your life?
A profound question whispered eerily.
Dark and ominous it quite did appear,
but by capturing it in time,
I began to allay my fear.
THIS! THIS! This is what I want to do!
Weave words and pictures together.
What say you?
Saturated: soaked, impregnated, or imbued thoroughly; charged thoroughly or completely; brought to a state of saturation.
Have you ever been absolutely SATURATED with life? Yeah? Tell me.
What color or colors are you saturated with these days?
August and September were hard months in our home. Everything was sinking, it felt like we were all falling underwater so to speak. Everything felt like it was tangled up together. Everything felt completely blue. This photo is at a pond at the Asheboro Zoo, but the reflections look sad and wintery, when I turn up the saturation full throttle.
Our lives mirror our art. Sometimes when looking at a piece of writing, or even a slice of our life (i.e. current circumstances), all we see is murkiness. But when seen from a far, a bigger picture emerges, one of clarity, and color, and vibrance. We are no longer saturated, but satiated.
If you feel saturated with your writing today, or perhaps your life, walk away for just a little while. Look at the bigger picture. Hang in there. Maybe your current work is providing the contrast to the future big picture!
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.
A storm is coming. Danger lurks around the corner, hiding, crouching, like a lion ready to devour and pounce. The warning clouds are hovering above. Moreover your gut is acting up. That’s because your intuition already knows what your mind keeps closing the curtains on.
That’s the problem with intuition. It blasts out alarm signals that only the intuitive–those with ears to hear and eyes to see can discern. It sucks sometimes. This foreshadowing, this incessant foreboding.
The best definition of foreshadowing is that you know before you know. That is you know before it is confirmed.
In life, and in writing, how do you deal with impending storms? Do you or your characters prepare? Hope for the best? Trust in God? Pretend everything is just fine?
There is something magnificent about storms though. If you persist, you will eventually reach the eye. It’s deceptive, but the eye is where everything is calm. It’s the place where you can get still; grab clarity as a life preserver, and finish riding it out without panic.
Storms are always preceded by a foreshadowing. They may pass quickly, or they may linger or destroy what’s around leaving a new landscape.
How do you show foreshadowing in your writing and all that comes after? How do you respond to foreshadowing in your life?
“Joy weathers any storm: Happiness rides the waves.” — Todd Stocker
“It takes a real storm in the average person’s life to make him realize how much worrying he has done over the squalls.” — Bruce Barton
“You can dance in the storm. Don’t wait for the rain to be over before because it might take too long. You can can do it now. Wherever you are, right now, you can start, right now; this very moment.” — Israelmore Ayivor
A woman in the 1770s meticulously and patiently labors at sewing her Masterpiece–a woman’s dress. She may spend a month using only needle, thread, and fabric without benefit of anything electrical to speed her stitches or illuminate her work space. She creates using only natural light. She is not rushed. She is uninterrupted by an in-box or anything electronic that chirps, rings, or beeps. She does not work to music, but to silence. She creates using only her hands, using no pattern other than the vision in her mind. She is not in a hurry. She is at peace.
When you write your Masterpiece can you say the same? Can you find a quiet and uninterrupted, uncluttered time and space to pursue your craft? If you do, you may find that by sunset your soul is satisfied and your work is indeed nearing perfection. Less is more. When you are at one with your work, you are grateful for having been given the purpose of creating something, that until this moment, never existed. And all of heaven rejoices.
What will you write or create today?
“Solitude has soft, silky hands, but with strong fingers it grasps the heart and makes it ache with sorrow.” Khalil Gibran
“You can’t, if you can’t feel it, if it never
Rises from the soul, and sways
The heart of every single hearer,
With deepest power, in simple ways.
You’ll sit forever, gluing things together,
Cooking up a stew from other’s scraps,
Blowing on a miserable fire,
Made from your heap of dying ash.
Let apes and children praise your art,
If their admiration’s to your taste,
But you’ll never speak from heart to heart,
Unless it rises up from your heart’s space.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe — Faust: First Part
Photos Taken: Williamsburg, VA — May 2013 — Liz Gray
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.
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!