Thursday, January 31, 2019

This week has been a bit much...

The server went down at work last week and I wasn't able to do my usual job of receiving invoices, updating inventory and entering next months' sales in the system. Needless to say, I've had an enormous backlog of work to do and my usual 2-3 day week turned into a 4 day week. And believe me, with Fibromyalgia/M.E., that adds up to one exhausted and achey human. In that spirit, I leave you with a photo of my cats sleeping on the back of the sofa. That should make up for the lack of a writing update this week, eh?


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Streaming Consciousness and Paying Attention

Winter fills me with thoughts of hibernation. I long to take a Winter off, burrow under quilts next to a roaring fire, endless cups of tea, and a computer that won't continually disconnect from the Internet. The roller coaster of Southern Winters caught up with us last night as the moon eclipsed and turned red. We stood in our backyard bundled in flannel and boots and blankets and watched as the Wolf Moon shadowed between the Big Dipper and Orion. It was crisp and cold and magical.

Writing practice has become a daily ritual and one that I'm intent on keeping. Last week I didn't do timed stream of consciousness work, but I sat, each day, and wrote ferociously about a work that has occupied my mind for decades. I eeked along, getting nowhere, letting the threads twine and asking the same old questions, "Why won't you come together?" The SOC work is supposed to release you from all that, so I let it go and just wrote.

Then I sat in the corner chair, the one draped in old fabric, next to the window that looks out on our quiet street. I can see between the oaks and hear the crows as they raucous together over someone's rubbish that failed to land in the floorboard of their car and landed, instead, on the curb. I settled in to continue reading my January book, the book I read every January. Greer Gilman's "Moonwise". And as I read I came to a few lines that shimmered:

Ariane began to cry, terribly, with her hands
in the bowl of potatoes, earth and blood and
grimy water. Mrs. Woodfall gave her a hot clean 
handkerchief that smelled of air and iron, and
she let her cry. She cried for a long time, in 
wrenching gasps, twisting the cloth.

"No light,"  said Ariane at last. "I have no grace."

"No, you haven't. But you've not gi'en ower."

"I'm tired" she cried, with battering despair. "I work
and work at seeing, and she - oh, I'm hopeless. Like
one of those bicycle lamps that goes by pedalling. And
not even then."

"Happen you're dazzled, trying. Let be. ..."

- "Moonwise", Greer Ilene Gilman, pp. 203-204

"Happen I'm dazzled, trying," I said and I breathed and I laughed. Yes, yes of course. I've tried for so long that I've lost the essence of the story. The beginning, the way it was when it first came to me. Not the exactness of the beginning. Ugh. We won't go into the juvenile voice and the terrible, plodding prose. But the deep current that ran through it. The red thread woven that pulled it to my heart in the first place. Of course I had not idea what that was back then. I just wanted to write an epic fantasy. And now I find myself in the throes of the same want and realize that's not what writes a tale.

Dreams are wonderful and necessary in this business. We have to be open to the Other in order to see clearly the world in which we walk. But sometimes we have to put down the witch's glasses and pay attention to where each foot falls. Reading helps, definitely, as I tend to migrate back to the wisdom of that pantheon of goddesses and gods that have always held lanterns for me. And new works trickle in and I'm constantly amazed by the beauty that is held in the chalices of words that line the shelves in the bookshop. 

So here's the task, the Herculean admonishment : Let be. Yes, yes, let that tale tell itself. All I have to do is keep showing up and -- here's the key --- pay attention! The greatest gift a writer can give him/herself is to PAY ATTENTION to the STORY, not the desire to tell it. So today I'll gather up my laptop and sit by the space heater and let the story project my Stream of Consciousness and I won't set a time but let it flow out of my fingers and see if the other lines I discovered -- ones that may have completely changed titles and finally [FINALLY!] removed the last bit of stone encasing my memory -- and I shall let the STORY whisper to me.

Fingers crossed I have enough tea in the house! Wish me luck...I believe I'm almost out of chocolate.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Filling up Papers and Little Blue Lines

Once upon a time I said I wanted to be a writer. I don't remember when that was. I was young, very young, and I'm sure everyone grinned, nodded, patted the top of my head and sent me on my way.

But writing is lonely work and is quiet and uneventful to the outside world. You are writhing in agony over characters and plot twists, over deaths and horrors as yet unleashed on the world but to the rest of humanity you're just another kid sitting at a desk scribbling nonsense on a blank piece of paper with little, blue lines.

So I discovered other talents that were flashier and loud and I let myself get Pied Pipered away with the "What ifs?" of it all. And I flew a bit on unstable wings using the wind from someone else's storm. Down I came and landed; I wobbled on scrawny legs, unsure of the rocky coast line. I wandered and wondered and up I came and found that writing was still there.

The paper still had little blue lines.

I began to fill them and thought, "Perhaps this was the path all along?" but again things shifted and I wanted something else. I needed people to hear me, to see me, to care. And I wrote but not with passion; I carved wounds in paper and squeezed them until they bled. Now they'll notice. Now they'll see just what it is I can do.

The words got all jumbled and I raged and blew and the words fluttered around me, detritus of war. I kicked and shoved and got them out of the way and I found myself back to the wasteland and everything was at last peace and good.

It was then I saw the new growth and the seedlings as they started to rise and in came the rain and I was washed away and had to regain new footing and here I stand on solid ground for the first time in years, words circling my bare toes, clinging to the rocks and slowly shuffling up the sand. I gather them in baskets woven from reeds and willows that grow along the lane. They sit on my counters, on shelves and couches and I let them rise like stars to tell me each what they long to say.

Writing isn't linear and it isn't simple. It's messy and complex and if anyone tells you otherwise they probably have never written their soul onto screen just to have it deleted, back up forgotten. Writing is lonely but there's such a strong community of others that we aren't ever really alone. It isn't flashy and there's little pomp and circumstance until - unless - you make it into that pantheon of household names that non-readers even know and mention. But it is a calling and one not lightly thrown aside. It's something that bubbles up inside you and you tell yourself, "I'm not a writer" and promptly go and write about not being a writer. It's what happens when you finally set aside sacred time and count your typing holy. It's what happens when you decide that it doesn't matter if one dot or one pronoun is published you will write anyway, every day, just to see the stories you dream become flesh on page.

This year is an infant and I'm drowning in renaissance. I'm enjoying finding my footing and relearning what it really means to write. One line, one story, one image at a time.

Find your footing, Dear Reader, and let it anchor you to the shore of your stories. And then write with all your might until you find that Once Upon and Time and let it take you from there.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

All in Good Time

I'm up before 8 and making a proper cup of tea, getting ready for nothing but time with a good book on writing and my own thoughts.

Did you know you can stream radio stations on Alexa? I just discovered this and am thrilled. WQXR - a radio station out of New York - plays the best selection of classical music. The cats are meditative while a piece from Scheherazade plays.

We're in our house. Yes. OUR HOUSE. That still sounds a bit mystical, a bit sacred. I wake up in the middle of the night and look around. Yes, yes, we are home. There's much to do: floors to be refinished, electricians to be called, chimneys to be inspected, roofs to be patched and, eventually, replaced. I focus my attention on the garden and dream of flower beds and herbs, knowing full well that the walls need to be painted and we really should get a dining room table.

All in good time, I whisper.

But first, plants!

Of course I can't plant anything until April but I can dream. I've two plant catalogs on order and should arrive any day. I've drawn up one plan already and it's changed twice. What will go in the raised beds? Should we just plant roses? Will the neighbors ever know we get chickens? And there's the fence to contend with. It's there, only just, between us and the neighbors. It needs a face lift and the chain link along the back lane will be covered up. It will all be painted Ambleside Green, an authentic reproduction of the paint that Beatrix Potter painted her own garden gate at Hill Top Farm.

I spent the first week of January wondering of I was wasting my time writing, if I really was a writer after all. I hadn't really committed to writing since I finished that novel back in the Spring of last year and I now wondered if I was fooling myself. So I sat and I thought and I started writing. Just writing, not in a particular direction, and I found myself floating about with the idea of spending a year focusing on writing.

Not a particular project, not a particular style. Just writing. Putting pen to paper. I thought back to my first creative writing class when I went back to finish my degree. We were required to do Stream of Consciousness writing every single day during the six weeks of that course. It wasn't always easy but I was always amazed at what came out. At the end of the course, we were to go through our SOCs and glean from them any ideas that may become something more. And I remember my jaw dropping when I analyzed my free writing mind. Little tendrils of stories and essays germinated in that fertile soil and I highlighted at least half of what I'd written. Those pages are now tucked away somewhere in the craft room closet that looks more like a war zone than a closet but the essence of those pages nudges me to continue this practice.

And so I have and it's been wonderful. A whole floodgate has been opened and I've slowly shed some preconceived notions about myself and my writing and my entire creative process. It's amazing what two days of dedication will give you. Today I'm off and don't have to go back to work until Friday. I made out a tentative schedule and already I'm thinking it's too rigid. I want to free write without a timer and see where it takes me - not thinking of any work in particular, just to get the words that are jumbled up inside my head out and into the open so I can sift through them and see what's there.

I'm re-reading Natalie Goldberg and letting the truth of cultivating a writing practice finally - finally - sink deep into my hands and I'm amazed at all I'm relearning as I continue to read and write and let the words flow free.

Instead of accumulating, as I thought it might, this practice is helping me to shed some things I'd come to cling to. It's allowing me to push aside things I'd so desperately grasped that I'd not had any hands left to reach for what was needed. It's been a strange bit of cleansing, this truth or dare, and though in many ways I'm relieved I'm also a bit raw from the releasing. But it is good, Gentle Readers, it is very, very good.

Our creative processes are unique and abuzz with things to do and see and want and need. But what we must do - the key to that phrase is the word MUST - is let go of the things we think we need to be doing or the things we think we should be doing and, instead, do the things we must do. The things that, no matter what else occupies our attention, we are always thinking about. Or, even better, the things we thing we're hopeless at, the things that we stop and wonder, "Am I really cut out to do that at all?" and we let them go and we wander around and finally we sit and we start and we realize that those things are a part of us whether we like it or not and they will not ever let us entirely go.

Happy New Year, Dear One.
Has 2019 brought to you any bright epiphanies?

Wander well,