Saturday, February 22, 2014

Golden Advice: Henry David Thoreau and a Lazy Life

This last week I'm going to take some more genius from Henry David Thoreau and a Lazy Life. I am offering my take-aways from Thoreau's essay: Life Without Principle. 

Here's what I take from his words.  We live in a busy world with noise all around. We are plugged in and in a hurry. Many of us can't sleep at night, our minds revving with the busyness. Whatever happened to a day off?  Can you a imagine a day when everyone in town took a day off? No stores open. No running to soccer/baseball/football/basketball/lacrosse games. Everyone chilling for a day. Instead we are drowning in work, work, and more work.

And here I am marching to beat of my own drum. I'm living the lazy life. I've made a choice to spend my life scribbling my thoughts down, and I barely have enough money to buy my groceries, much less go to conferences, take courses, or have upgraded software. When people see me at the coffee shop with my computer,  they think I'm at some money-making activity instead of recording my thoughts about alien worlds and hysterical romances.

If I had been born imperfect, you know, without all the marbles up top, or had been so freaked out by some childhood experience, my daily writing activity might make sense. Folks would say, bless her heart, writing is all she can do. But I'm a writer by choice, and I suppose nothing is more useless than that, except maybe being a poet or a philosopher. 

Here I am not making a red cent, while my neighbor is building mini-malls and apartment complexes all over town. He's piling money in the bank for his ungrateful children to spend on flunking out of college and investing in worthless-Amway schemes. Here I am writing and writing, yielding the profit of a well-placed words, but I don't have two nickles to rub together. Yes, I am a lazy bunch of bones.

I'd rather walk through a meadow, dreaming up my stories, than spending my whole life tossing dollars into a stock market that's shearing the world of every bit of beauty in it. 

There you go. Live your lazy life. Write your story. I. Dare. You.

Here is another doodle: "Bouquet"

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
Henry David Thoreau. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Golden Advice: Henry David Thoreau and the Mental Path

Hi folks,  I'm off to the Montgomery County Book Festival today, hence the blog will be short and sweet.

My golden advice is inspired by Henry David Thoreau from his journals. He writes: "As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives."

This makes me think how important our mental path is. I mean you think something over and over and it becomes embedded in the essense of you. It rules you. Your thoughts will serve you or slay you. Think about the thoughts that are coming to you again and again. Is there anything in there you need to stop thinking? Do that now. Do you have some good thoughts repeating thoughts? Rejoice. You won't be easily shaken. 

Here's  another thought to chew on -- a book is a mental path.  You travel through the same thoughts over and over -- we writers fondly call it revision. It is  a journey to create a lasting mental path that will serve hopefully as long as the Iliad. Travel the path of your stories again and again. It is the way to discover the lasting path for the generations to come. Don't be discouraged if you have to travel the same path umpteen times to create the essense of what you want. This is the way of things.

I hope the mental path sinks in. I hope you come back next week for more Golden Advice.

Here's the doodle. Carve out a landscape with your words.

Here is a quote for your pocket.

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn. Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Golden Advice: John Donne and Meditation 17

Hi, folks! I'm continuing my series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose.
This week I'm turning to poet and cleric John Donne who was a contemporary of William Shakespeare. Meditation #17 whispers inside me. It wakes me up. It pulls my head out of the sand.  It's all about this: for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
So let me talk about what I take away from this meditation. When someone dies from a drug over-dose, or from abuse, or from neglect, from persecution, whatever, that wasn't just somebody else's problem, somebody else's loss, not my problem. Mankind is authoring a story. I cannot divorce myself from that story. We are writing one book. I can't tear out the pages I don't like. We are all connected, intimately, irrevocably. 
So what am I supposed to do about the pages I don't like?
Take those pages and write a better story. I am to take the wisdom of  my years and fight for a better tomorrow. I must translate everything into something better. My cancer? Yes, that must be used to strengthen others. The terrible war. Yes, I must share in the grief  and do what I can to help.  A chance to stand up for justice? Dear Lord, I better hop up.
No one is a star freewheeling its way through space. We are all part of a vast galaxy. If one star goes out, hey, the galaxy is less. If your mama dies, or your papa dies, you are less, but listen to this: any person's death makes you less because you are part of mankind. You are involved in mankind, friend. Don't point your finger at those people you despise politically, religiously, those foreigners, those bigots, those zealots, whatever. Don't take a hammer to a sore foot. Cutting it off, cripples you. It needs to be healed.
Above all, never say you have enough of your own trouble to be picking up the troubles of your neighbors. You don't have enough trouble  Extra trouble will mature you, make you better. The more you take on, the richer you will be. By taking on the troubles of others, you'll learn how to deal with your own mess. You can try to stabilize your life with stuff -- money, fame, success -- but the thing that is going to really stabilize you is to reach out to as many people as you can in  the days that you have.
When you write your stories, paint your pictures, sing your songs, do your best work. Why? So that it helps the most.  Meditate on those connections. 
I will be back next week with more Golden Advice.
Here is the doodle: "Bluestars"
Here is the quote for your pocket.
More than kisses, letters mingle souls. John Donne 

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Golden Advice: Ralph Waldo and Self-Reliance

Hi folks, I'm starting my series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way, and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose.

One thing that has always dogged me is insecurity as a person and a writer. I struggle to trust myself and believe in my vision as something of worth. Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay Self-Reliance has throttled me, and I really believe has brought me to a better version of myself.

So his advice starts simply. Cultivate awareness of the light within. Stop the inward self talk that dismisses your work as derivative. You blather about the work of others around you and dismiss your own. Stop it now.

Here's the deal. The stuff that will really move others is the stuff that you have thought about but have been too scared, too worried, and/or too fearful "what others might think" to share. The gist of Ralph's advice is this: form your own opinions. YOUR OWN! I find this one of the dang hardest things in the universe to do, but I am trying.

Great art will teach others to trust the light within themselves and to ignore a sea of people who cry false at them. The tricky part is understanding the light within in. This is what I know about it. It doesn't upset you. It doesn't make you do anything stupid. It blesses you with happy accidents and still water in the soul. It is never imposed upon you. It makes you a better person. This is the art I am striving to share.

Ralph goes on to share the heart of the problem: You think you are a mouse and are always apologizing for it. Stop cowering in the corner. And don't be sorry. You are a thinking person. You are, just like the saints and sages of old. What are you going to add to the verses of history? Take a lesson from nature. A rose blooms. It is beautiful and doesn't worry about the roses before or after. It simply takes it moment to bloom, to exist in God today. 

At the end of the day. Stop apologizing. Again freaking hard for me. Be original. Again, makes me want to cry.  Be brave. Share your inner light. And finally, bloom.

I will be back next week with more Golden Advice.

Here is a doodle: Roses.

Here is a quote for your pocket:

Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.

Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher's Honest Man's Fortune