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Woke yesterday morning in an extraordinary state of grace. A feeling…how do I describe this…as if I were in the presence of a rose, in the delicate, exquisite space between the sniff and the smell. As if cradled between hands.

A feeling, this was, in the aftermath of a sensual and loving dream. I felt the softness of the pillows; felt every place they touched me. Felt my own warmth returned to me, held in trust for me by my bedcovers. Felt a heightened sense of touch in my left hand, equal, for once, to my dominant right. Felt the cat breathing against me. Felt the quiet.

Not a one-ness with things…but a connectedness to them. The tactile gone spiritual.

This was one of those mornings that makes the writer reluctant to move, to speak loudly or place a foot wrong, afraid to send any sort of ripple through the fragile inner air…afraid to make notes, thinking that even the benign act of pen-to-paper would shred an atmosphere as fragile as a smoke ring.

I wanted to hold the moment, to save it. To write it. To give myself a soft, forgiving place that I could call up whenever I needed its comfort. To share the feeling through the pages of the book-in-progress. The sensation didn’t stay. And not even these meager words can describe what held me so kindly for so brief a time.

Gifts from the ether, these alien, beautiful moments? The brief surfacing of something already inside us? The aftermath of gracious dreams? A visitation of spirits? The breath of self-acceptance and forgiveness? I wish I knew. I do know that I felt the treasure fully for as long as it was mine, this gift of human-ness, this thing that was absolutely nothing else but what it was. I may never feel such a moment again. I’m not sure that I need to.

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Is there ANYBODY, this time of year, whose conversation doesn’t turn sooner or later to the seasonal blues? Whether it’s being starved for light, or the insidious turning back of clocks, or the demands of a relentlessly upbeat holiday, we all feel the downward tug at the corners of our souls.

And creative people: Sometimes I think we’re the worst of the lot.

We talked about this in our e-salon yesterday. What is it in us that lets us—makes us—feel that suffering has more value for our work? The paradigm for comedians tells us that a lot of them have had tough childhoods or challenging personality traits. For artists and musicians and writers (the last category being the one I know best), there seems to be an unwritten rule that we create from a place of melancholy rather than joy. Why?

This silence that attends the act of creation: Is it a natural home for melancholy? Do we turn our melancholy into our art, or does our art create the melancholy?

Personally, I don’t particularly fear melancholy. Truth to tell, I welcome it, am comfortable with it. Paradoxically, I am happy when I’m there. Melancholy (not sadness, mind you—melancholy, a different thing altogether) is a steady state, a level ground, a comfort zone in which delight and darkness can both come to visit. As a creative person, I find more colors in melancholy; more possibility. The language is richer, here, and easier. It gives me good air to breathe.

Melancholy has no expectations. I can smile in the midst of it. And feel deep gratitude. Melancholy is like the friend who listens…and nods at my choices…and doesn’t ask me for anything other than to be what I am.

In taking my leave from dear friend K’s house yesterday, at the end of my overnight visit to Springfield, I found myself having to turn around and knock on the just-closed door, to go back and pick up something I’d forgotten. The act of knocking reminded me of the habit of a character in a TV show I like: knock-knock-knock [Name of Person], knock-knock-knock [Name of Person], knock-knock-knock [Name of Person].

When I mentioned that this show was a guilty pleasure, K seemed surprised…she was nonjudgmental, to be sure, but surprised.

Made me think.

The fact that I’d described this show as a guilty pleasure says something powerful about our ideas about ourselves; the difference between so-called high culture and low. The high places of arts—whether in reading, art, or visual arts–are aspirational. We want them to define us. The low places, not so much.

I have friends who read Fritjof Capra and comic books with equal intellectual comfort. I am wading through the infinite (and sometimes difficult) The Hidden Reality by Brian Greene…yet it is old episodes of, say, Sex and the City that I turn to when I am too tired to think any more.

Now ask which of those pursuits falls under the “guilty pleasures” category.

So here’s the question of the day: Why should  any pleasure should be guilty for a writer with aspirations to advanced intelligence? Preference aside (I will not, for example, be making my way to a show in Branson anytime soon), isn’t there food, of sorts, in all those pursuits?

Okay, granted…one may be food for thought. Nourishment for the soul. Granola for the intellect. The other may be the little piece of chocolate we allow ourselves after dinner. We may not be as comfortable with folks whose lives are spent with the “low” versus the “high”…and the fact is that we judge them—probably as much as they judge us in return.

A long-ago roommate once rejected my (then) consuming passion for classical music, saying that it was “elitist and bourgeois”. I stopped playing it around the house because avoidance was easier than fighting. For myself, even today, I know that there are a country full of folks less likely to see my value as a thinking person’s writer because I live in Arkansas, rather than the would when I still lived in NYC.

What I know now is something that probably seems no-brainer obvious: that there is, must be, room in our heads for all sorts of influences. That doesn’t mean that we have to live on a steady diet of sitcoms to force-feed our appetite for laughter. Even when we try to live in a world of higher ideas, the “lower” ones can add colors, notes…even inspiration from most unexpected and unlikely sources.

Just because we love haute cuisine doesn’t mean we can’t also love White Castle. Does it?

Yesterday, we got caught up in a widespread data outage, so no post got through. Yesterday, I had a whole other post prepared. Then last night wrote this one for me.

Last night, an idea happened. In plot terms, it was an idea big enough to change the course of a river. That the idea arrived to close an exhausting day: That was wonderful.

But deciding what to do with it—or whether to do anything at all: something else altogether.

In the ahahhh moment that was the ending of The Spiritkeeper, the idea was so eye-opening, so immediately right, I knew instantly that the ending of the book had spoken to me.

This idea, not so much.

To take up the challenge of this idea would mean changing what we have spent the book believing about one of the main characters. It would mean rejiggering hunks of the plot. It is idea that tickles with thorns. It is a Tinkerbelle for whom your applause might save not a fairy but a monster.

Prove yourself, you tell the idea. Make me believe.

Good news, bad news. The bad news is that this idea does not give me the end of the book, as the idea that powered the end of The Spiritkeeper did. The good news is that interesting ideas are like gold nuggets: Find one, and there may be others may be close by.

This is one of those moments in which one wishes for the return of the absolute, arrogant, doubt-free confidence that attends a writer’s choices, sometimes…the ability to know (to revisit the analogy above) which ideas are gold and which are lumps for fools to gather.

Is our caution-of-the-moment a message from indecision? Or is it a more highly honed instinct trying to tell us to stop digging and look elsewhere?

The answer of the moment: I have no idea.

What I do know… The state of not-knowing leaves us three options: 1) Fugeddabouddit. Put the idea down and walk away. 2) Let our story be dragged kicking and screaming toward the idea and see what happens. 3) Let it simmer, and discover what other treasures the head finds in the vicinity.

Which of the choices is the right one? Your guess is as good as mine.

Long, deep sleep on chilly November nights is a lovely thing. Warmth under the covers, chill outside, the meringue of soft pillows, the furry insistence of cats plastered to the body. Nice.

Even the three ayem waking wasn’t all that bad: It gave me the view of a butter-colored moon and the sound of…nothing. Insects tranquilized by cold, birds asleep, wind stilled. Just the night and me. The silence and me. The silence in me.

One more waking, around 6:30. To a startling, dreamlike fuscia sky over the little mountain that is my view from the back bedroom window. Closed my eyes to clear my sight, to discover whether the vision was real. Next thing I knew, a half-hour had passed.

A brisk walk in the grey nip, face to the breeze. A half an hour with the freeweights. Shower, coffee, breakfast. And now, a settling in to the tasks ahead.

The day does not belong to me. It belongs to the folks I promised stuff to on Monday. It’s okay. It’s fine. Having the day mapped, knowing what’s ahead…knowing that perhaps some of the time will be mine…it’s part of that conscious gratitude we were talking about, remember?

And there’s another advantage.

The book has been trying to talk to me, despite our forced separation. Like any love, there’s a bit of jealousy going on.

Sorry, can’t spend time with you today.

Oh really, are you seeing other words behind my back?

As a matter of fact, yes….

We’ll see about that. Here’s an idea. Here’s another. Where’s your tape recorder? You’re gonna need it.

So goes this grey and beautiful day.

Today is my 500th post on WordPress. Hard to believe.

When I started this space in April of 2009, I intended for it to share the beauty of what I saw in Nature around me. When, exactly, I decided to change it—to turn in into writings about writing—I’m not entirely certain. But from the change has come greater understanding about writing and the Me of me. And greater joy.

I have been through many revelations since those early months of irregular, ragged posts and reader-friends in numbers that rarely cracked the double-digits. Sky Diaries is, these days, an even more intimate and disclosing reflection of who I am. More than that, it has become continuing chance to explore the labyrinthine wanderings of the writer’s mind. The tiger traps. The Mobius loops. The exquisite moments of gratitude and joy. I have once again found the writer in me…the one who’d been sleeping for years, wakened at last by the kiss of words. And the chance to awaken it anew in each day is a rare privilege.

In a way, 500 is an atificial number. Every day marks a fresh milestone. Every moment of self-examination yields another insight, and each is something to be cherished.

My dear friend Glorious remarked that she didn’t know how the writer does it—this finding of a new topic 5-6 times a week. I’m not sure I know the answer to that. How DOES one continues in the hope uncovering a new insight every time? Some days, it’s a challenge. Some days, I can’t stop myself from taking down the unexpected dictation of my thoughts. I can say this: The exercise of opening myself to the possibilities of understanding has been a remarkable thing.

Is it a self-indulgence to think that other writers—or lovers of the written word—will find resonance here; will find bits of themselves? Maybe. But to try for the unique expression of a moment…to find, even for an instant, the common air in which our infinite imaginations stretch their wings…isn’t that why we write? Or paint? Or sing? Or sculpt? Or dance? All of us?

So…to all of you who have stumbled on this space by accident…to those of you who have decided to come back…to the new friends I’ve discovered and whose wisdom I’ve been lucky to share…to those who have found some of their own quests as writers here…thank you. This space belongs as much to you as if does to me.

 

P.S. Just for the hellofit, the link to The Spiritkeeper, the work that shot me out of a canon back toward my love of writing. First 13 chapters are on me….

I never expected that a single place could speak to me for the rest of my lifetime.

I knew, from the moment I set eyes on this river house and its countryside, that I would love it as my parents did. It was an inexplicable love, greater than the connection my parents had for this place, greater than the hours spent watching the sun cast its light into the water, greater than the sunset over the pasture or than the creatures who come to visit.

Who’d have thunk?

I have always had a restless heart. The need to experience what is not present has been a propelling force in my life. The desire for opposites drives me. Except here.

When I’m writing, I don’t spend as much time sitting out under the sky at morning and sunset, but the place remains present in my eye. The sounds that change with breeze and season. The color of light on water. The rain. The breeze and its touch on the deep notes of windchime that tell me the wind’s direction. Change  comes to small things. And there is no boredom in it, no same in the sameness.

These are the elements that inhabit my writing. The silence that gives me my voice; the ever-different backdrop of my life. It is not a settling for less than everything. It is not the product of getting older. Minute by minute and day by day, the same-and-changing experience tells me everything about itself. And about myself.

Do all writers have this: a place that speaks to us, that helps us write–even if it is only a place in our heads?

For me, the view from a chair. The who I am when all else is stubbornly absent. Of the earth, by the earth, the gift my parents gave me.

I saw it as I stopped to gas up the car, the other day. A horse in a van. Eyes covered with “pacifier” blinkers that completely covered his eyes, to keep him calm in transport.

Reminded me of me. Of a deep desire.

When I enter the transports of myself, bound for the story, all I really want to do is to retreat to the dark room of me, isolated with the book, the character, the words. I want to go where the story takes me, without the distractions, the demands, the interruptions of the house, the job search, and my own straying thoughts.

Those transports have been hard to come by, lately.

I read somewhere that a great painter—daVinci, was it? Michelangelo?—preferred to shut himself away in a windowless room, to work where he couldn’t see the distractions of the changing day. I know how he felt.

Life, at the moment, is schizophrenic. The move, down to the flotsam and jetsam of my life; the bits and pieces that resist organization into boxes and categories. Although I have broken the back of packing, mostly, although I have the help of helpful Moe (who’ll probably wind up accidentally taped into a box), the unpacking looms like a cliff face. I am trying to deal with it one task, one packed/unpacked box at a time. And, strangely, I will miss the obligations of the work when it is finished. The realities of the dark room will invite me in. The thoughts I have had to set aside will be waiting to ambush me there.

I expect novice marathoners must feel like this—or sprint horses forced to race the mile-and-a-half…frazzled in the final stretch, digging for the strength to go on, trying to stay focused, stay positive. The boxes are legion. The words aren’t friendly; the world is less so. The blinkers don’t help. The focus comes from the heart. The heart is tired.

And isn’t exactly when we need that blinkered focus most?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am writing to the sound of thunder. Rain falling. Release.

After weeks of bone-dry, seemingly endless days of drought—inner as well as weather—this is a joy. A relief. A cleansing. A return to normalcy.

Writing is like that.

For weeks we live in the parched landscapes of ourselves. We do the rain dance in our heads, to a universe that is not listening. We wander the desert of our desolate selves, hoping for the oasis to appear on the horizon. We don’t have a clue of the right direction in the shifting sands of our thoughts.

Then it rains. Maybe for a minute. Maybe for an hour. Suddenly the air is easier to breathe. The view is cleaner. The sky is interesting. The land exhales green. The river dances with raindrops. The billowing clouds are a percussion section. Even the birds sing a happier song.

And for that moment, possibilities are glorious. We stand in the joy of it, heads upturned to catch the downpour, our clothes sticking to us, hair dripping into our eyes, glad beyond measure to be part of it all. Everything is possible. For as long as it lasts.

We wait for rain. We accept it when it comes. We can’t make it happen by force of will. In weather, so it is in life, in writing.

Seed the clouds. Do the dance. And have the rain barrel waiting. We can’t afford to let a single drop of inspiration get away.

One of those days. The wake-up-with-a-headache days. The not-sure-who-I-am days. The days of Meh. The days of wha’?

Is it the head-pressure caused by an approaching storm? The summer of earth-falling-into-the sun heat and too many days shut indoors against it? Is it the difficult, highly technical chapter I’m working on? Is it the transition between homes and its attendant chaos? Is it the want of affirmation as I search for a job, wanting somebody to recognize the writer I am?

Is it all those things?

Days like this, I wake tired. I want to shut the blinds and sit in a self-made twilight…do laps in the tub until my fingers get pruny…stare at walls. Days like this, and the empty page stretches out like a football field before me. Deciding on the choices offered up by the keyboard are like trying to catch hail in a teaspoon. I want to yelp into the self-made silence, just to break the quiet. I want someone to tell me who I am.

The good thing about a blank page is that anything can be written there. The bad thing is that anything can be written there. And guess what? There is absolutely no difference between the second-guessing that builds a better story and the one that tears it down. I want there to be. But no.

Those reminders of how good my life actually is? Tell it to somebody else. The consolation that I have my health. Blow it out your nose. I’m sulking. I’m uncertain. The blinking cursor dares me; mocks me. Sometimes even gratitude isn’t enough. Sometimes, delight is nowhere to be found.

And the next five minutes? That’s the thing. At any minute, anything could happen. That’s what makes even days like these so extraordinary.

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