Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reflection: Living with Fear

Hi folks, I'm attempting to reflect on some heart stuff of writing this month. I like a little group of writers from the late 1800 through to the last century who spent their lives writing their hearts out and basically not getting everything they wanted out of life.

These gals, Jane Austin, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Anne Bronte, Emily Dickinson, and Louisa May Alcott, I wish we could have been neighbors. They wrote from their worlds and their boundless imaginations and for most part struggled to put together a living. They suffered from many illnesses that limited their lives. They were the kind of people that paddled their own canoes mainly because no big ship ever came their way that could get them to better shores. Good things are born of suffering.

I can imagine how it felt to have the thing you greatly feared to make residence with you and then end up shaping every moment of your lives. Honestly I'm no scholar of their lives, but I have read most of their books. I've felt the pain they felt and the wild dreams that tagged along with them. I'm glad they took the time to share their view with others.

The big reflection from all this is simple. I hope that you keep writing even if things are hard. I hope that you keep spinning the stories that you are meant to spin. Believe a chart is given.

I hope that you live your life large and don't limit yourselves because the walls seem extra tight at times. Seize the day.

I'm calling this week's doodle: "In the dust".

I'm offering a garden of quotes today:

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn? Jane Austen

I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. Emily Bronte

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will. Charlotte Bronte

She was trusted and valued by her father, loved and courted by all dogs, cats, children, and poor people, and slighted and neglected by everybody else.

Anne Bronte

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all.

Emily Dickinson

I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship.

Louisa May Alcott

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reflection: The Unending Fire

Hi, folks, I'm continuing my March series called Reflection. I've spent the better part of my life tapping keys or scratching a pencil against paper. This week I'm going to dip into the cauldron where Art was born in me, the place where an unending fire started.

To understand how this got started, I'm going to give you a peek at when it began. It was in junior high school. During all my teen years, my dad was unemployed a lot and when he did work it was out of state. My mom suffered from serious depression. I didn't really have any words for what was happening. I just knew that most moms got out of bed and mine didn't. My best friend faced her daily share of difficulties too. Her father suffered from numerous grand-mal seizures and her brother had Down Syndrome. Our moms weren't there for us much through our teen years, and neither were our dads.

From the time we were 13-years-old, we had to take care of ourselves. I can tell you right now, we were afraid every single day. We lived and breathed, hoping against hope. Our hope was to someday have a stretch of days when we were not broken by circumstances. We were stuck in wildly rocking boats breaking apart on the coral reefs as we fought with every ounce of our being to find our way to a solid shore. We had to see beyond.

The thing that kept me sane? I breathed in books like air. I exhaled this same rarified air in the form of my words. I didn't start writing for anyone else but myself. I had so much bottled up -- the ground of me cracked open and an artesian well of words began to flow. It still flows.

My words seem inadequate, but I write today so that you hold to your vision and not worry if no one sees or believes in you. Remembering the days of pressure helps me keep moving forward at a writer. It helps me turn a blind eye to the fact that though many people have admired my work, no one has really connected with it in a way to give it a wide chance. I take the lessons of life and hope against hope. I let the Art flow.

I call this week's doodle "Self-portrait at 18."

The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all. Voltaire

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Reflection: Stasia Kehoe Ward

Hi, folks, like I mentioned last week. This week's reflection comes from Stasia Ward Kehoe. Her new book AUDITION comes out from Viking later on this year. Her two blogs: Writer on the Side and A Year of Auditions are well worth your time.

In Stasia's Words: Many of us who write also express our creativity in other ways. We are painters, potters, singers, dancers, graphic designers, actors, clowns... So the question is: Do we compartmentalize these artistic outlets? Paint OR clown? Dance OR write?

At first, it seems obviously and easy to say that we set aside different times and places for different artistic forms. But perhaps this is a limiting conclusion. I believe you can sing a landscape or choreograph a phrase. You can understand the world through your own unique artistic lens. For example, when I develop story characters, I need to feel a visceral, physical sense of them--how their feet touch the floor when they walk, what makes their skin crawl, whether their spine is straight or slouched. When I am doing what I feel is my best writing--and whether the character I'm creating is a showgirl or a professor--I bring to each page a descriptive sensibility that comes from my dancer self. Similarly, if you are a visual artist, your connection to color, light, and line should not be ignored just because you are sitting at a computer keyboard.

Perhaps you've written a manuscript that is technically strong, seems like it should be great, yet some ineffable thing is missing. Or you've got a character you love but with whom you sometimes feel a vague disconnect. Try unlocking your novelist brain to let those other creative parts of yourself get in on the story. It may take a bit of fidgeting with the key. You may have to sing through your opening pages or close your eyes try to picture the absolute, exact colors that make up your main character's eyes. You may think this whole idea is crazy (and sorry about that). But, for me, this is the way to take my writing to its own special place. Lots of novelists discuss the elusive notion of "finding your voice." Writing with my whole creative self turns out to be what this phrase means to me.

Oh this is so true. I hope you take these thoughts to heart and let them really boost your work. See you next week for more reflections.

I'm always doodling to keep the creative spirit hopping. Here is this week's doodle: "Ballerina."

A quote to tuck in your pocket.

Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise. Julia Cameron

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Reflection: All the World's a Stage

I take the month of March and reflect every year. This year my reflection time must be spent celebrating a new book, AUDITION (Viking, October 2011) from my friend and writer, Stasia Ward Kehoe. Stasia and I connected back in Seattle when we spent the day at ALA. Nothing like trying to cross the traffic-clogged 520 Bridge together to cement a friendship. This week's post is about the stage where books are created.

After bonding, we began to meet over bowls of soup and hot cups of tea for writing therapy for moms. She has four boys. I have the 4Js. She'd write a novel, and then I'd write a novel, then she'd write one, and I'd write one. We'd trade some of them and critique, but mostly we'd chat about our snubbed practices to write for flat fees and ponder how we ended up as self-employed building contractors -- replacing roofs, bathrooms, kitchens and vast quantities of flooring, like we didn't have enough to do.

We are working writers, nothing esoteric, nothing heady, nothing sexy about most of our work. It's like this: in spare hours (ha,ha), the spare ones after shooting out that flap copy or that 30 page article about blah, blah, blah, we turn our souls inside out on the page. When Stasia sent me Audition, I was transported into, for lack of better words, "the cult of ballet." I felt desperate for Sara. I wanted to jump inside this book and save this girl before she shattered. But Sara had to suffer, and I suffered with her. This book has unlimited SOUL.

I've invited Stasia to share a deep reflection to give you a taste of depths of her brilliance. Be sure to come back next week. I hope that you visit Stasia's two blogs Writer on the Side and A Year of Auditions. I hope you read AUDITION. I hope this story helps you seize your day.

No doodles this week but Stasia's just released cover:

And last a quote...

Stay the course, light a star,
Change the world where'er you are.
Richard Le Gallienne