an iced doughnut of foliage and flower in my yard
beckons me from books and house
leads me to the floor and twirls me round
rings my fingers with dirt lace
I had a thought this week about the core of a writer’s inspiration or drive. I used to think there were a few writers that went about their art in an orderly fashion, making little piles and sticky notes of ideas and dreams, thoughts and overheard quirkiness, and they would eventually sit themselves down and make something of these. I couldn’t relate to those folks. I thought I was part of the majority of writers and we were all lunatic geniuses or possessed. A sort of collection of disturbing savants that readers don’t always associate with some of the resulting masterpieces they come to cradle like babies.
Here’s an example: someone sparks an emotion in me and it hooks onto an idea (similar or not) and enforceable yanks my doppelganger (the little shadow-woman that lives inside of me) until it writes it all down … drips it all out, extinguishes the fire. Here’s another example from the opposite side of that spectrum: I get my feelings hurt or I go into a deep depression and the shadow-woman trails me everywhere, looms over me in my sleep, trips me for the hell of it, and generally makes my life a living frightmare until I exorcise whatever daemon in the form of a poem or prose. Either way, I might go for days, weeks even, without a productive writing day, but when it comes there is steam on the windows when my hands leave the keyboard.
Having made contact with a few writers and a poet now, I’m beginning to think there are innumerable kinds of shadow men and women, muses, sticky-note methodology, prompt tooling and daily regimens, possessions, and general mayhem when it comes to the spark that turns a writer’s hand to paper. I don’t understand writers that function differently from me, and that’s okay, I guess.
What’s my point?
If there are possibly as many kinds of … I’ll call them “instigators,” … as there are writers, then maybe it’s like finding a mate? What would my daemons do if I started trying on freewriting non-stop, or turned my radio on every morning and used the first ten words I heard as a prompt? I’m not talking about the occasional dry spell where I try these kinds of things to hunt for my shadow-woman. I simply wonder if Shakespeare would have been Shakespeare if he’d put aside his usual writing method and tried on something else for a year. Maybe some other Bill would have been a household name if he’d tried Shakespeare’s.
But don’t mind me, I also sit around wondering how the author of Annie got away with stealing Dicken’s Oliver Twist story?
For those of you with birthdays in May, we bulls must moo together. To that end – I give you this contribution.
In the land of Knoll Idg, in the home of Fender Blowhard there was a gathering. Hurry Feathers was telling stories about some of Worm Wood’s family and having a grand time of it. His claim that Bugs Fudd was actually the illegitimate child of Wiley Coyote had a small group in the company furious beyond words.
Since Fender had served his finest fermented carrot wine, and most had partaken, he feared something might get broken in the thick silence that subverted all further conversation. So it was that he invited them to step outside and admire his gardens.
He toured them around the terrace, pointing out this botanical and that. He lined them up and trailed them through his greenhouse; so proud of his green vegetables was he. The sun shone down and the air was an agent of deep breaths and calm hearts. Certainly Hurry Feathers would have apologized to Worm Wood, if not completely retracted his fuss, if not for one Peter Cottontail caught drunk in the carrot patch.
It was no real surprise. The Cottontail family had been long overdue for an intervention and Peter was the most degenerate of the herd. His belligerence made him heavier than his lithe frame indicated, and it took nearly all of them to subdue and drag him to the nearest shed where he could be detained until help arrived. Fender was dismayed at the trampled magnolia and torn cherry blossom limbs that resulted from this fracas , but nonetheless carefully locked a now snoring Peter Cottontail in the tool closet.
Magistrate Bullock Henry soon arrived, having solicited the assistance of the town counselor, Okrah Windfall. He had dealt with several generations of Cottontail troubles and felt it best to have all angles covered. Bullock determined to arrest the boy and asked Fender where he could apprehend the trespassing hare. When Fender hesitated, he asked, “Come now, Mr. Blowhard, do you not want this criminal removed?”
“Pardon me, Sir,” fumbled Fender as he reached for words of diplomacy, “it’s just that you’ve brought Ms. Windfall with you, and the boy is barely more than a bunny. Perhaps you might send her to speak words of encouragement and comfort so that the young miscreant comes to his senses and vacates of his own free will.” Fender congratulated himself silently, for in truth, he was more worried about the further damage magistrate Henry, a rather large Angus, would do if sent to make an arrest.
The judge obliged and nodded to the counselor. “Where then, might I find him, Mr. Blowhard?” she asked.
“He’s locked in the tool closet in my Chinese garden,” said Fender, handing her the key and pointing to the east corner.
Espousing the benefits of sobriety and encouraging a new leaf, Okrah knocked and knocked. But alas, her words fell on deaf ears as she opened the door and found young Mr. Cottontail unresponsive on the floor. She only turned her back for a second to beckon for help, but it was all the time Peter needed to make his escape. A flash of white bounded through the door and into the underbrush that separated the roses from the berry bushes a few yards over. A now agitated magistrate pawed the ground and ordered the gardens secured so Cottontail could be found. He organized a patrol-line from among those guests that remained. They searched the entire garden, high and low, but found no sign of the rabbit.
His garden ruined, and the inebriated thief still at-large, Blowhard sent the party home and thanked the magistrate and counselor for their efforts. To this day, berries go missing and carrot-wine disappears, and Fender Blowhard constantly searches for the little bunny that never quits.
There are two morals in this story, girls and boys. Can you guess what they are?
First, gossip has no substance; it’s as weighty as a feather, and almost always leads to wormwood. Second, (and my personal favorite) – a bull in the China closet is better than beating around the bushes for the rest of your days.
Writer – Bless me Father for I have sinned. It’s been 26 days since I last wrote.
Priest – Have you read anything, my child?
Writer – Yes Father. About eight books since then.
Priest – Hmm. That’s not many. That’s about how many I’d expect if you had been writing.
Writer – _____
Priest – Tell me what you’ve read.
Writer – I read two Stephen Kings, one of them a short story collection, the other a car thing—
Priest – Oh dear – not Christine, I hope.
Writer – No Father, much worse. The newer one. From a Buick 8.
Priest – Okay then. We can actually count that one twice since it takes a real effort to keep reading it.
Writer – Thank you Father. I also read another short story collection called Dangerous Women.
Priest – Have you gotten into the erotica reading? What is this book?
Writer – No Father. It’s a collection of almost “noir” stories with the character type in them.
Priest – Very literary then. That sounds good.
Writer – Unfortunately it’s also full of mysogeny.
Priest – I’ve heard this word. How is it defined?
Writer – It’s when there’s dislike or contempt, usually because of an assumed prejudice of women. Lots of objectification—
Priest – I see. So this book involved … a great deal of sex?
Writer – No. But there was a heavy leaning on the assumption women exist for man’s sexual gratification.
Priest – ______
Writer – Anyway, I also read another Asimov “Foundation” novel, and three indie published books.
Priest – Let’s get back to the, how did you pronounce it? “MY – SOJ – IN- EE?” Explain it so I understand.
Writer – It’s a big topic, Father. What would you like to know?
Priest – Well, the last part about sex; it’s my duty to remind you it sounds scripturally sound, dear.
Writer – Wait – you mean about man’s gratification?
Priest – Yes. Paul writes—
Writer – I know what Paul writes, Father. But it goes both ways about suffering a spouse.
Priest – Have you had marital problems, my child?
Writer – No. I’m just saying, there’s a more enlightened understanding about “suffering a husband.”
Priest – I see.
Writer – Besides, mysogeny is more than just viewing women as sex objects. It involves seeing them as—
Priest – Careful dear – remember the Lord created woman as a “help mate” for Adam.
Writer – Help is not a footstool.
Priest – Footstools can help reach books on higher shelves. Yes. And don’t forget the Marys – at Jesus feet.
Writer – I know the stations of the cross Father.
Priest – Would you look at the time. Tell me about these “indie” novels you read.
Writer – One was a horrible fantasy story set in Irish folklore that obviously mirrored Harry Potter.
Priest – Sounds delightful, you must share your copy with me.
Writer – The other two were great – a spy thriller and a great speculative fiction called Chimpanzee.
Priest – Uh, the premise of Chimpanzee?
Writer – A futuristic society where you have to get your brain wiped of your education if you can’t pay your student loans.
Priest – I see.
Writer – This guy’s wife has a job but he doesn’t so he has to serve on the conservation corps and get his multiple degrees wiped while his wife supports them and they buy a new house.
Priest – Oh dear. I’m not sure that’s appropriate.
Writer – Appropriate for what?
Priest – It’s just that, well it appears you are struggling with your writing because of these confusing ideas you’ve encountered. I can only imagine the toll this is taking on your marriage, child. You should consider this before choosing your next book.
Writer – ___
Priest – Child?
Writer – You know, I’ve also been reading a lot of Moses lately. I’m thinking about changing my pen name to Terzah.
Priest – Who?
Writer – Excuse me Father, I feel a story coming on.
Priest – But your penance, dear. I haven’t blessed you yet.
Writer – I’m a grown woman, Father. Not a “dear.” I need to go. I think if I wait around to be blessed by you I could die a very old and disappointed lady. Gotta’ go write.
The cow got tipped. Anxiety and the fear of becoming invisible (in a bad way) kept the aspiring writer from full-heartedly pursuing the end-all-be-all business plan. Finding and fulfilling new roles (when the career that was your mission and purpose for so long has been set aside) is enough of a challenge. I let myself off the hook and took up gardening as I eased into the daily writing routines. You – who chase dreams outright or in your head and heart – please excuse the the lengthy absence as the cow picks itself up, dusts itself off, and begins striving once again to interrupt a mere fraction of your day to enlighten, entertain, or poke at status quo.
Nixed except for some basic goals for the first year. Outlining methods, to include a marketing plan and platform will be renewed when there’s something of substance to get pushy about. Suffice to say there was a wealth of information on the basic “how to” provided online. My favorites are listed here for those that would like to begin work on their own.
There were a plethora of books, too many to list. Check into it for yourself if you’re on a mission.
Keep in mind that a goal without a deadline is just a pipe dream. Here are the modified goals (having tried on several for size and pitched them when they became stifling or a source of negative self talk) for this baby-writer.
1. I will write every day in my Scrivener created Writer’s Journal, using it as a taskmaster and single place to ensure this happens. Each entry will follow no particular rules as to genre (creative writing, journaling, observations, thought, ideas) but will be purposed toward a single mission – to find a voice that best suites my writing.
2. I will read no less than 80 books in 2015, with a near even mix of non-fiction, literary fiction, sci-fi, YA, and the occasional Indie or unconventional read.
3. I will explore memberships in professional writer associations (SFWA, PNWA, etc) in addition to SCBWI membership and develop a plan for membership into those organizations which best suit me by the end of 2015.
4. Based on finding my voice, and landing on a few projects that I can stay committed to, I will develop project goals and plans for submission and publication no later than June 2015.
That’s it. Enough said. Now we can commence with the grazing of new books, writing resources and practices, the romance of writing, and the overall beauty of the pastures.
Today marks the first day of unemployment that I can’t claim as a weekend or holiday. I’m pleased to say I worked today. I’ll post a helpful progress report on my business plan research tomorrow. Meanwhile, this came to me today and, since as a writer I’m sworn to honesty as one helpful author/mentor wrote, I’ll share it with all you hopeful writers who read me.
The clock on the wall keeps time
as step-ball-change tugs me loose,
and with clickity speed
I must speedily read,
and wealth of good writing produce –
lest my taskmaster soul bells chime.
No orientation exists –
just on the job training and fear.
The list of whatevers
and jaunty endeavors
make lists upon deadlines appear –
and procrastination persists.
Oh this …
fear of failing,
What if it sucks,
and my rows of ducks
go waddling through
and black guffaws,
full of flaws,
to find at the end
a wordful blend
that makes a difference?
They were shapely when they first appeared,
spry and plump with meaning, swift in flow,
sniffing at my eyelids, primed to go.
I stopped moving, still, as each one neared.
Hoped to lure their wild before they feared.
Flanking them in ink, but moving slow,
freshly fallen idea flakes of snow
sprinkled me with shivers as I peered.
Witness to a miracle each time
words caress my head and spring my thought.
Bounding lines, the speeding of my heart,
playing into pens of perfect rhyme.
Form and verse exploring, nearly caught,
out of nowhere, prancing herd of art.
The electric box of inefficient warm is set high,
but the fan pushing the orange hot cools it on impact.
You’d think the oil heater on the other side
would play its part, spew some warm.
Instead it pretends all is well.
The glass patio door makes sure of that.
Heat rises, so the ice air bites at my ankles.
I can’t feel my feet.
I think of the hot summers from years long gone –
the hot pavement shimmering in the radiant day,
but the tile floor and the glass door are still.
Tonight they stare, catatonic, heartless –
relentless refrigerators of my nibbled spirit.
So I put on a housecoat over my jeans and layers,
a tortoise shell against the frigid room,
drink my tea, dance my blood, and wait
for summer or pneumonia
whichever comes first.
Working on my business plan (I will soon post some resources I’ve found for those of you interested), still not at the end of my commitment here in Idaho, and this morning as I’m preparing to leave for work when the following poem flooded my brain. I couldn’t walk out the door without first racing to my mac and getting it down before I lost it. This is the madness of how my procrastination (in going to work) happens. Still, I’m just so thankful for this gift. Needs some work, but thought I’d share. Reminds me of how Spiderman was made.
this is how it happened
as I lay beneath a cloud,
a rainy mist that formed a shroud
descended to my haptic loud.
engulfed me whole;
swallowed my protected soul
and spit me out
(not feeling thirsty in a drought),
but left me changed,
not quite deranged,
painted gifts that left me strange.
made my thinking twisted round –
blocky reason had no sound.
made me swim in music sheets –
crisp and moving rhythmic beats.
and all at once I touched a blank
and flooded word trains like a tank
invading fields of poppies bright.
a lyric frenzy made me write
poetic verse all through the night,
and in the morning when I woke
my veins were smoke –
as if a stranger took a poke
into the rivers
(my flowing rhyme-laced honey givers).
A writer who wants to be published needs a business plan. I’ve been pondering “next steps” as I work to wrap up my 18 year career in the next two weeks and transition to the next career of full-time writing. That’s actually a sentence laced with hefty meaning and depth, because my career thus far has not been the average eight or ten hour-a-day J-O-B. It’s been a mission. A rewarding CAUSE – with the added benefit of a paycheck.
I’m not leaving my job because I dislike it. I’m not leaving my job because writing is more important. On the contrary – writing books is absolutely overshadowed by the importance and impact of my current position. So, why am I leaving my job to write?
A more apropos question is: “Why are you leaving your job and becoming a writer?” I’m leaving my job for the following reasons.
I’m becoming a writer because I can finally enter into this new endeavor without the pressure of wanting to “leave my mark.” I’m a pretty competitive person when it comes to meaningful ventures. Now, just knowing that I’ve been blessed to be able to make a difference thus far, I’m off the hook. Don’t get me wrong. I want to write meaningful things, but if I’m not the best at it for a very long time, I’ll be happy and content to just work on my craft daily, and strengthen my skills.
What does all this have to do with a business plan? As I pondered my motives for writing in the coming years, I still waver between refining my craft and breaking all kinds of records for how quickly I can get published (traditionally) and start selling books. It’s habit. I regress to what I’ve always known – if you don’t know what to do next, just pick what needs done AND DO IT BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. I’m not a competitor at the expense of others. But I’ve always relied on that edge to feel good at the end of the day/week/month about what I’ve accomplished.
Writing is going to be another thing entirely, and if I’m going to accomplish anything (refining or otherwise) I need to keep my head in the right place. So I need a business plan, a set of goals, to stay focused on what it is I’m doing while “successfully unemployed” during the next two years. So if you, like me, are a newly reborn writer and want to expand or clarify what it is you’re actually moving toward … if you ever ask yourself, “what the heck am I doing?” … stick around as I explore how to form a business plan when your first, most immediate goal isn’t profit.
The countdown to becoming a successfully unemployed writer continues with only 16 days 6 hours and 55 minutes remaining at the time of this post. Yesterday I took an important step (not the MOST important step, but a good one) in the journey. I entered a contest. I don’t know why, but it leaves that old song “On a Wing and a Prayer,” in my head. That’s certainly how it feels. Even if I don’t win, I think these butterflies aren’t going to wear off until after the first year of submissions.
I’ll be returning to my home in the Pacific Northwest (I’m not sure if Idaho counts toward the PacNW but it doesn’t feel like it right now in the midst of snowshoe weather). While home on vacation, M made me aware of the ARS POETICA contest on Bainbridge Island for writers in something like a three or four county adjoining region. What better way to start 2015 – my writing year – than to enter a contest in my hometown area? Then I read the criteria:
Okay, they didn’t actually say the last one. Still, most of my poems (blank lines included) are just over the 30 mark. Let me rephrase – some of my BEST poems are just over the 30 lines criteria. UGH! The entry fee covered up to 30 entries so I did the Walmart thing and made sure I got the most bang for my buck. Not knowing if there was a theme or how the contest originated, I did a miniscule amount of research (“miniscule research” – not a recommended strategy).
Turns out there are several poems by that name but the one that seemed most famous or historically significant was by Horace in ancient times. In summary – he wrote it about writing poetry and drama. So I thought I’d stick to similar themes.
What do you think? They’re short (it’s the rules) so you can read ’em quick. Tell me honestly if you think I have a shot. Honest and productive criticism is also much appreciated.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,000 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.
Gusts and lightning, hurricanes
Tornadoes, floods, torrential rains
The Captain lashes to the wheel –
Character – an even keel.
Speaking of the weather,
Let not these words dismay –
Change may be a feather
That falls on who it may,
But each is her own Captain,
Her well marked maps abound.
No feather tells a Captain
Which depths that she must sound.
Speaking of the weather,
I think it’s safe to say,
Change is like a feather
That falls on who it may.
It flits, it floats, it falling, flies,
Emits a casual lift of ties,
But not for easy, not for cheap.
Its shoulder queasy wants to keep
The ties that bind, the merry smiles
The hearty find, the traveled miles.
The bearer, weighted down with change,
Does find the passage dim and strange.
And wanting still to hold that place –
The people, friendships, love, and grace –
Doth reach both ways but stands so still,
The future frays the battled will.
And so she knows the change must win,
And freeing courage deep within,
Releases anchors founded here.
Tucks safe the memories held so dear,
And lets the winds of fortune wail,
The goals she’s set – the billowed sail.
So waving, frantic that they’ll see
She cuts the mooring, cruises free.
The sunset forward, history aft,
Heartaches cried and funnies laughed,
A ballast full of lessons learned,
Friendships forged, demons burned –
The Captain sets a course for Then,
Embraces now, begins again.
So Change unfettered, rides the clock
And elsewhere seeks another dock.
Tune in for the conclusion of this self-fulfilling prophecy on December 20th.
A genius raised, a shroud of mist –
A muse amazed, a writer kissed –
From blue veined structures, lyrics flow.
Into a bloodlet cistern go
The drippings of a mind possessed –
Such humors best to have confessed
Onto the page where readers drink
Transfusions of vampiric ink.
They get their fill; they breath the words,
And bits of meaning flit like birds.
Into their daily highs and lows
A writer’s rhythmic weather goes.