Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Indomitable Struggle for Meaning

Hi folks, This is a real ramble this week. I was out having breakfast at my favorite little breakfast stop yesterday. It was late morning and I was the only one in the place. I took some pages of my WIP, bought my obligatory cup of iced tea (this is Texas), and picked up the provided newspapers to sift through. I still like to read a newspaper one or two times a week. It brings back warm memories of growing up when my family shared the Sunday paper. 

One of the employees was reading from her phone. 

"Oh, I love Shel Silverstein," she exclaimed.  

Her fellow workers all chimed back similar love.  Immediately. 

"Which one are you reading?" one called.

The phone reader called out, "You have to hear this. Hug O'War."

She read it. Tables stopped being wiped. The kitchen grew silent. The manager put down his tablet.

When she finished, I heard murmured happy comments of how much they all loved Shel Silverstein and how they have treasured him their whole lives (18 to 25 years). They called out his book titles; Light in the Attic, The Giving Tree, and Falling Up! And when this conversation ended they launched into the The Giver by Lois Lowery. 

I felt like a very happy fly on the wall.This conversation brought me close to my life's mission -- I'm caught up in the indomitable struggle for meaning.  I know, I have a life mission. I'm fighting the sound and fury part of life. I'm kicking against entropy.

This hunger to share something of who we are and what we want feels like rocket fuel inside me. Unfortunately, failure is an option that I have run into again and again. You see, I really want to create a morning in a breakfast shop in the future where someone reads from their phone, shares my words, and heads nod in happy communing over these familiar words. I so want to contribute a verse. 

I keep searching for that spark of meaning that will light the fire of human souls. I call this an indomitable struggle because I will not quit. I will not, but I must be honest. I've been feeling like Moses looking over into a promised land this week, wondering if I'm just barred because I hit a rock in frustration to make water flow. I'm feeling like Apollo Thirteen astronauts who got  mighty close to the moon but their story became one of just getting home and the wonders of duct tape. The worst of it, I'm feeling like the member of a host of women whose quiet serviceable lives are lost amid the clamoring voices of the flashier members of our species. 

I am the most pedestrian creature to have a far flung dream. I'm off the beaten track, dwelling in the yawning wilderness of suburbia, You really don't hear much about the "Voice that Cried from Surburbia!" I live in a "little box" on a street of ticky-tacky houses. I'm a housewife and a mother. I think the government calls me unemployed. My everyday projects are a garage sale and going grocery shopping. I might mow the lawn.  

And yet I'm caught up in this indomitable struggle for meaning. Here I am, hoping to rattle the bones. You know, a weed will spring up in any crack in the concrete. I hope that you hold onto your struggle. I hope you find meaning on this journey of life. I hope that you share it. Bloom, even in that impossible place. I have a deep seated belief that "every little thing is going to shine."

Will be back next week with more musing. 

Here is a doodle.



In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love. Marc Chagall

Saturday, September 13, 2014

For the Wallflowers and Those Picked Last

Hi, folks, this is a meandering post, but maybe I've said something that resonates.

Where do we fit? There is a day we all come to, at least I hope so. On this day we allow ourselves to be ourselves.  We embrace the fact that we are whatever we are-- animal, mineral, vegetable, you know whatever. We embrace our contradictions and our harmonies. This awareness began to grow in me when I wrote my Rembrandt book. Van Rijn's message was so clear. He was after capturing the shadow and light he perceived in the world. His self-portraits speak so much to me. He drew his face over and over, recording the ravages of time, the gifts of wisdom, and the emerging soul, His art stamped the idea of capturing the world as it is into my artistic vision.

I tend to be on the edges of the party of life. I like to find a corner and a good conversation, The rest of time I hang out by myself. In groups, I like to sit up front, in the back or along the edge. I'm only a mild introvert; this edge thing is something else.  I march to the beat of my own drum. It's not something I want to do. It something that I do whether I want to or not. I'm out of step with the times. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes its unfortunate, but at the end of the day it is me. Rembrandt opened my eyes to just being what I am and being comfortable with that. 

One decision that I've made over last few years is to read what interests me. There are entire movements in the book world that just go right over my head. You know whatever shadows and lights draw me in, I go after them. I don't have to read the rest of it. It makes me a really eclectic reader. I'm good with that. I've given myself permission to skip books that I don't connect with , even if everyone loves that book. I also get to read whatever cheesy popular read that I want to. I have freedom. It's alright be out of step.If you are out of step with world, embrace it. Stylizing yourself to fit in just doesn't really bring out great art in my opinion. The space to be yourself will help you bloom. 

If you are a wallflower in the world or have been picked last more times than you can count, don't worry about it. Watch the world from your corner and do something amazing with the knowledge. Put that "picked last" into perspective. I mean, folks on the edges generally have big imaginations. I find that they have schemes percolating within. That's a good place to be. Stay away from the myth that you must find your place. It may not exist yet, and you may be carving it out. 

Will be back next week. 

Here is the doodle:

Here is a quote for your pocket: 

The finest clothing made is a person's own skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this. Mark Twain

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Literary Aspirations with Sharknado Thrown In

Hi, folks,

A confession. I have literary aspirations but with some serious Sharknado thrown in. That moment in the movie where the guy slices open a shark with chainsaw, that never gets old for me.  I want to write something meaningful and uplifting, but you know with some geekiness in the mix. So I have a I-want-to-write-something-important complex, but I also want to create something so epic-geek-weird-that-it-creates-a-cult-following-lasting-for-generations. I know this is messed up. I'm good with that.  

It's time for me to write another book. Part of me want to cling to the myth that I can study the formulas and create a bestseller, but  I know the deeper truth -- I'm blowing on some dice and am about to throw them out on a table. I wish that so many decisions weren't a crap shoot. I wish life wasn't that way. But I am living on a molten ball of lava that is covered by a thin skin of rock material near a massive fusion reactor (the Sun). Life is fragile, unpredictable, and I have a mere heartbeat of time to share my thoughts with the universe. I have little control and have learned I must take my chances. These are my only days. 

So I started a new book this week. I have no idea if anyone will ever like it. I have my literary aspirations with my geek slant as usual. This time I'm adapting Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing into a down-home Texas mold. I'm making my choices. I will live with them. Life offers no guarantees.

I'm taking my chances. I hope that you take yours too, and if that includes some Sharknado, so be it!

I will be back next week with more.

Here is a doodle:


As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves. Mahatmas Ghandi

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Inspiration Must be Cultivated

Hi folks,

Inspiration doesn't just show up when you want it to.It's something that must be drummed up from the earth of you. Imagine you are a garden --Butchart Garden, a Japanese tea garden, a rose garden-- you pick.  This garden did not just happen. It took planning, work, and weather to create this dazzling place. A cultivated garden bursts with inspiration. The ground of you is the same and to be a place of inspiration, you'll have to work at it.

First up, you have to be rich ground.  You will enrich your ground by reading books -- lots of books, all kinds of books. This adds nutrients to the soil of you. You will absorb fantastic ways of approaching stories. You'll find rhythms, turns and surprises that will inform your work. You'll become of aware of things that don't work. Books will take you on life changing journeys. Without this influx of story, you will struggle to find inspiration.

There is more to the enrichment process than simply reading. You will open up to experience.  Douse yourself with regular bucketfuls of the arts. Engage your senses. Participate in the art. Draw, sing, dance--. If you like to bake culinary masterpieces, go for it. Don't let anyone sniff down their nose at your lowbrow pursuits. If some bachelor reality show inspires, watch it. If some monster truck rally appeals, go. Allow yourself freedom, and you will be welcoming inspiration into your life.

Another important enrichment step: go on adventures. Don't let anyone define what an adventure is to you. If you find visiting tiny off-the-road museums meaningful, huzzah! If you like a walk on the beach, huzzah! If you want to jump out of an airplane. OK. If your idea of adventure is shopping in the garment district in New York, go for it. If your idea of adventure is visiting a website like Atlas Obscura and heading out, so be it. Allow yourself to follow your heart, and you will be opened up for inspiration.

There is more to the cultivation process. All this enrichment will help you on your inspiration road but you must also work. You must work regularly in your creative area to easily access inspiration. This requires you to open up your definition of what work is. Work for me isn't just writing. It's staring out the window. It's taking a nap perchance to dream. It's moving through the manuscript backwards looking for typos. All this work helps prime me for inspired moments.

You've added nutrients to the soil, you've been working, but you need the right weather to make this garden thrive. You know certain things grow in the desert. Certain things grow in the rain forest. Your climate is important. Are you hanging out with a bunch of folks who have no artistic vision? Is anyone supporting you as an artist? No? You MUST expand your circle of friends. Surround yourself with the best and the brightest. Be sure you are in the right climate for this garden to thrive. This is a necessary element for inspiration.

Work on the garden of you this week and you will find that inspiration springs up. It just does! I will be back next week another series on Writer Myths. :)  

Here is a doodle:

Here is a quote for your pocket.
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Should My Work Be Branded?

Hi. folks, this week is a response blog to Janet Lee Carey's post "I am not a brand."  For more on this topic, check out a manifesto statement from Maureen Johnson. 

This is another meandering post.  I felt fire and pain while writing this one. I will wander here some. I hope that something strikes a chord.

Branding is a human activity. We are inherently drawn to symbols. We slap them on everything from our faith to our hamburgers. A good brand offers a clear message. It also offers assurance you will receive a similar experience with branded products. A good brand will also stir up a targeted audience emotionally, will motivate a customer to place money on the counter, and will bring back customers again and again.

Here's a question I circle around. Should my work be branded?

On the surface, it seems to make sense. A book is a commodity. It's sold at the store with a publishing brand stamped on the book's spine. Beyond this, authors who offer readers similar fare time and time again usually find the most success. If the author writes one thriller, then writes ten more, that usually attracts a greater readership. The writer will have to tend that stream of content for a lifetime. Hey, this is a business, folks.

Branding helps writers stand out in the marketplace. So, authors, get in line. Learn the formulas. Refine your message and sell it! Be all bossy and pushy about that message. Hog every stage. What you have to say is the most important thing. To Market!

Sigh. Do you ever think you were born into the wrong world? The problem with "comodifiying" the story journey and branding imagination is this for me: We are all quicksilver. You can't really pin us down.  We shift and change on you. We are fickle. We are not who we were yesterday. We will not be the same tomorrow. If I go all branding on myself, instead of being who I am, I ditch who I am. Not okay.

For me storytelling is an ancient human art. This art circles around two questions: Who are we? What do we want?  These are the two things you own in this life. No degradation can put out the spark of you. Your hunger for what you want will cause you to risk everything. You may have to join a team who dared to have a dream and ended up martyred. But take to heart, they shaped the future.

Storytelling is too precious to mankind to force it into the branding mold. I'm with a little band of others that hop and holler, "Your heart, that's the holy ground! It sure is! Here is a lodestone for you." That said, we have no intention of sparing your feelings. We understand suffering has a purpose.We are immersed in the life-saving art of creating lodestones for the human heart, story maps that will help readers navigate through the rough seas of their lives.

A great book sets you on a journey toward your true north. It will turn you away from stupidity. It will rattle your cage. It will break your bonds. It will help you understand your days. It will help you find your best possible self. No question!

I hope you create something priceless. If you get some money for that, well, people need to eat. If you don't get money for it, well, people don't live on bread alone.

Peace.

Here is a doodle for you.

and a quote for your pocket from the great poet Bob Dylan:

Come writers and critics who prophesy with your pen
And keep your eyes wide the chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon for the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who that it's namin'
For the loser now will be later to win.