January 19th, is the 210th anniversary of Poe’s Birth.
Although many people are content with the reason of Poe’s continued relevance in our society is the stereotypical tortured artist. There is no doubt he was tortured, and for reasons of which we are all familiar; he was an orphan who lost every women he ever loved.
His battles with alcohol, I believe, are highly exaggerated. But it makes for a good story. I’m not saying he never drank – he drank to excess plenty of times, he may have officially been an alcoholic as we understand the word today; however, it was not a constant. There were many years through his marriage to Virginia that he did not drink or drink to excess. Before his death in 1849, he’d joined the Sons of Temperance Movement – to get people to stop drinking.
The reason Poe has remained relevant throughout the years is his work touches our deepest fears and deepest desires. He has continued to inspire other writers
and artists of all types.
He wrote far more than what we, today, consider horror. He wrote essays, literary analysis, investigative pieces. He wrote about street paving, Stonehenge, and he was inspired by what he read in newspapers. Berenice and others were inspired by stories of grave robbers in local papers.
The famed portrait of Edgar Allan Poe was taken three days after his suicide attempt in 1848.
And, Eddy, my imaginative fiction, was inspired by that suicide attempt. He bought two bottles of laudanum on a cold winter night meaning to do himself in. He’d lost Virginia and felt he had no one. (Laudanum contained opium and derivatives of morphine and codeine.)
For Poe’s Birthday, I offer an excerpt from the novella:
He stumbles from the pub, slips, and falls on the iced over bricks of Boston’s November streets. Save for the muddled voices beyond the closed door, the street is quiet as his body thuds to the ground. His breath billows in front of him as he gasps and grumbles and struggles to his knees, then his feet, to regain his drunken balance.
The gaslamp on the corner offers a wavering yellow glow for the struggling figure on the lonely winter night. Thin strands of hair blow in the chilled breeze; he runs his hands over his head, straightens himself before he pulls at the sagging overcoat and tugs it closed.
Remembering the tinctures of laudanum pried from the chary pharmacist, he hurriedly shoves his hands in his pockets, retrieves the bottles.
His heavy breath mounds in front of him and, for a moment, he can’t see; then the luminous cloud of brandy scented air dissipates. The medicines are intact. Relieved, he stuffs them back in his pocket and buttons his jacket.
“Edgar,” someone calls from the corner; the noise from the pub trails the swarthy figure out until the door slams to a close behind him. “You alright?”
Edgar waves him off without turning around.
The thick shadow chuckles as he staggers in the opposite direction.
The winter is freezing cold, but the snow hasn’t endured. Small white crystals pile in corners and fill the air. The icy rain soaks him before he reaches his chamber on the second floor of the boarding house. The room is small, impersonal, but warmer than the street. An unlit lantern shimmies on the desk as he unsteadily seats himself, glances out the window.
A barely discernable outline disquiets the otherwise muted darkness on the corner of the street below. He knows it’s the black dog that’s stalked him his whole life. Suddenly angered, he shoves himself forward, pushes the unlit lamp aside and topples the ink jar.
“Get outta here, you wretched creature.” The incensed command lost in the night.
Recovering the secreted bottles of opium from his coat pocket, he sets them side by side in front of him. Unsteadily he tugs the lid from one and snorts in a single gulp.
Much love and luck.
According to science, exercise can feed creativity. Before you turn away, click the unfollow button or run off screaming – oh no, she’s telling us to exercise, I knew it! – they say just getting out of the chair, walking for twenty minutes, or even (gasp) cleaning, just moving our bodies can get some juices flowing and give us a fresh outlook to come back to our writing.
So, no, you don’t have to go to the gym, learn kickboxing, or twist yourself into a pretzel, just take a deep breath and walk around in a circle for a few moments. Who knows, dizziness of the circling might give you some great ideas!
I had a hellava 2018. It felt like my life was under construction. My house was growing, my family was growing, and it all culminated right around Christmas.
Since then, I feel the desire to run a hundred miles an hour. I have so much energy and joy, I feel I need to focus on my writing.
In 2017, I had 17 publications. In 2018, it held steady around twelve. In 2017, I finished a novel. In 2018, I began three and finished none!
My inbox is suffering from an overload of hiking challenges, yoga challenges, travel challenges, change-your-life, improve-your-health offers. I sat down and thought – all of these things are important to me; I strive to be healthy, happy, in shape. However, the most important thing to me, at this time, is writing. I feel I didn’t do enough in the last six months and want to stay focused.
I believe writers are living more distracted, less supportive lives. In an effort to focus myself, I thought I would begin my day by being inspired and inspiring others. We receive what we put out there.
Therefore, I propose my own 365 challenge. I want to offer a short blog every morning. It will include writing tips, unblocking tricks, inspiration, and writer interviews. Occasionally, it may be as short as a quote or a question – that’s where you come in. Sometimes, I may offer you a prompt, share your response if you want.
You can follow this blog, my facebook page, twitter, or instagram. I may create a group, but I don’t want to overwhelm anyone. You certainly don’t have to follow all or even feel obligated to participate in the prompts. I’m asking you to participate in your own writing life – whatever that looks like to you.
What makes me the person to do this? I mentioned my publications. I’m also a teacher. I feel I have something to offer. If you feel you can benefit – then join us. Come and go as you please, respond or don’t.
In your responses, feel free to be honest, but let’s be respectful to one another as well. In this harsh world, which is getting harder all the time, leave the negativity elsewhere.
I’m not sure I can do this for 365 days. But that is my challenge for the year – to write every day of 2019.
It all starts on January 1st (my birthday, by the way); I intend to hit the ground writing!
What is your challenge?
In a writer’s group, I asked a specific person how one would use a certain program. They responded with, “I’d be glad to show you; my rates are very reasonable.”
I was shocked into silence. I asked a simple question, and they wanted to charge me for their answer?
But, then again, they have the right to earn a living by selling their knowledge.
How often have I given my knowledge for free? I could charge, I thought, for all the information and skills I’ve accumulated over the years.
But – wait a minute – writers really don’t make that much money, and we’re all struggling in the same boat of trying to get our books, articles, short stories, or other out there to larger audiences.
Think of being on a life-raft and you are the one who has the clean water, or maybe the secret to cleaning the water, would you really sell it to another passenger? Some people would.
There’s a story from a Gladwell book about how post-its came about. (To simplify:) One worker in the paper department bumped into someone from their glue department, they both talked about what they were working on and the problems there were having. If only we could…. and boom – two collaborators came up with an idea worked together to bring that to fruition by sharing their expertise and invented something we all use (and made billions for 3M!). Companies like 3M, Apple, Google, and others now use that theory to come up with new ideas, products, and solutions for every day problems!
When we all work together, we all become better humans. I want to share my ideas and experiences and share other writer’s with you, other ideas with everyone who desires to listen.
I have a job; I have many jobs. I’m not about to take advantage of others who are students in life or in writing and try to make a buck from them. I’d rather share my knowledge. I’d rather help my fellow passengers on this journey.
Thanks to all who have shared their knowledge with me. Thank you to those writers who give of themselves and their resources to make a better writing community.
When we work together, we can all benefit.
I’d hate to disagree with our dearly departed master musician, Tom Petty, but the waiting is not the hardest part – That’s a myth.
Waiting is the easy part.
If I haven’t lost you yet, let me explain.
Some people spend their lives waiting. They dream of doing more, but they create excuses of why they can’t or why they haven’t yet. They’re waiting for…. fill in the blank…. the right time, the right place, until they finish this, until that happens. It’s an excuse.
When you’ve moved forward and accomplished something, the waiting becomes the easy part.
The hardest part is jumping over every damn hurdle that life puts in front of you.
The hardest part is avoiding those people who want to limit you.
The hardest part is not buying into the self doubt that holds many people back.
The hardest part is doing the work. And then doing more work.
The hardest party is putting yourself out there and face the possible criticism.
The hardest part is never giving up.
Rejection is not the hardest part – it’s just part of the whole. The whole world is not going to love everything we do.
Waiting for the results is not the hardest part – that’s part of the whole.
Motivation or inspiration is not the hardest part – not even sure that’s part of the whole, but it helps.
Action is what is required to be successful.
Sometimes, action makes others around you uncomfortable. They’ll try to criticize your forward movement as wrong action. I can’t tell you how many times people have harped on something I’ve done as if I’ve ruined my chances at success, when in fact it was a step in the right direction.
I’m unclear if it’s a fear of rejection or the fear of success itself that keeps people stagnated in excuses. If they become successful, their lives will have to change. They’d have to continue to work, to duplicate their success.
I consider it is not a fear of failure – because, by not trying, aren’t they failures already? Or maybe that’s it – they can claim they never “got their chance,” when, in fact, they never actually took a chance. That’s the true failure.
Success follows action. Action takes work. As long as their is forward movement, there is no failure. As long as one doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up, there is no failure.
Don’t wait. Move forward. Slowly. Consistently. Misstep and get up again. Keep moving forward.
Close your eyes for a few seconds and think of the word ‘inspiration.’ What comes to mind? Are there images of magnificent places you’ve been, impressive people you’ve met, or extravagant stories that stimulates your soul, sparks your imagination and almost brings you to tears? These everyday inspirations lead me to be the best version of myself, however, this is not a source of inspiration for my writing.
What if I told you my writing inspiration is in the overlooked, the forgotten and the displaced? I see potential in the bleakness of a shadow. I take interest in peculiar sights. I notice the unnoticed. My desire to write stems from the stories that are cut short. Not just unrequited love stories, but stories attached to the abandoned—whether objects, people or places. I am intrigued by ghost towns, and the remnants of memories left behind.
Sometimes inspiration comes from one word. I have a fascination and love of words. Maybe it’s a name, a word I overhear in conversation, or one that stands out while I’m reading. To me, words hold weight and are springboards for the fine details of characters, setting and, sometimes, plot. I call these words, triggers. One word triggers a plethora of infinite possibilities. Couple this with an innate curiosity about the little things in life and inspiration calls out from every direction.
Inspiration also comes from pain. Writing is a resiliency of spirit. It provides an avenue to unleash hurt by navigating emotions through an alignment of fictitious stories. I also believe the act of writing is an acute desire to heal. This is true for reading as well, as there is nothing more enjoyable than being whisked away in the transfixation of a book.
I wonder sometimes if writing is a window into the subconscious. Much of what I write is not intentionally thought about, but comes out in a stream of consciousness that can surprise me. In dreams, I hear the music of the most haunting melodies and poetic lyrics. In the middle of the night you can find me scribbling what I remember by the light of my phone, blurry-eyed. Unfortunately, in the morning the indecipherable lines can never match the beauty of my dreams. Words that enter my mind are often ones I’ve never heard of before, and after I’ve written my word count goal, I will look up the definition of the word, to find it fits perfectly with the meaning of the sentence. Although it’s likely words stored in my subconscious, that I’ve encountered somewhere along the way, it shocks me nonetheless.
When I wrote the novel ‘Saltwater Joys’ I had inspirations from childhood memories of oral Newfoundland folktales and ghost stories—ones I still love to hear again and again. I explored these memories and extended the stories into what might have been, had the story taken a different turn. It is like a scavenger hunt in my mind. One idea gives me a clue to where I might go with the story or character next. Other inspirations for this literary fiction novel came from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as many classic tales and poems that made me see the unimaginably intricate, and sometimes horrific, connections in life.
I like to explore the darker sides of life, which is interesting to me because I am naturally a good humoured optimistic individual. There are an unbounding instances of inspirational dualities in life, the play between light and dark, life and death, vice and virtue, and I realize as a writer I am one of them.