What Does Writing Mean to You?

It was suggested to me recently that I give up writing for awhile.

My mouth fell open and my eyes widened. “Give up writing?”

I was in shock. I jumped to defense, ready to tackle, grab the ball and run for the 50 yard line.

What would I do with all the voices in my head? All the characters who wrangle for a voice, the scenes that require breath to be brought to life? These are real things in writer’s heads. People, places, stories. Non-writers don’t readily understand that.

(I wonder what it’s like to live in a non-writer’s head? What goes on in there if there are no stories? Is there math? *Shudder).

Who in their write/right mind would “give up” their passion, their purpose.

She asked, “What does writing mean to you?”

I realize my defense is not really an answer. What does writing mean to me? I know what is used to mean – it was a survival mechanism. But it was more than that too.

I’m still working on it by the way – a current, present answer to what writing means to me. I just know I can’t not write.

Share with me please – what does writing mean to you?

To Infinity and… I’ll Stay Here, Thanks

Richard Branson flew to space, then Bezos and his blue crew. A friend of mine wondered about their choice. I said, hey, they’re filthy rich; they’ve been all over the planet. They need something new.

Those who know me know I love travel. I have a deep seated need to experience new spaces, new places, new cultures and people.

For a sliding moment, I felt sorry for these billionaires whose only novel rush might come from a space flight; however, I rejected that thought quite quickly as reductive. They have the cash, why not fly to space?!

And what about the lucky soul who won the extra seat from the person who had to cancel? (First, imagine that! No refund on that ticket!)

I, like many of you,, cannot afford to go to space. But would I want to? I have to ask myself this question. I used to dream of winning publisher’s clearing house, occasionally wish I could guess those lottery numbers. Hell, I’d take finding a wheel full of cash along side the freeway. (I’m not sure why I would ever be on the side of a freeway looking at tires, but stranger things have happened.)

Given the current state of the world, I’m concerned about getting on a plane because of all the f’n nutty people acting out after a year of being locked in. Everyday someone’s being an asshole, refusing to wear a mask, smacking a flight attendant, or trying to open an emergency exit while in flight (did you see the woman duct taped to the seat?!), and getting yanked off a plane by the police.

Bottom line – I’m not ready to fly in our atmosphere. I’m not sure I’d want to fly out of it. Then I heard the trip to space was only ten minutes long. Ten minutes? I’m risking my life for 10 minutes? Yeah, I don’t think so.

When can I spend a week up there? Call me when they have a Starbucks and a CVS. Kitchy shopping. Trinkets to bring home. First painting done in space. Where I can sip space tea next to an asteroid crater. Hike the lunar landing site. Let me know when we can see how real aliens live and tour old space ruins.

I guess there’s still plenty to see and do here. For me, anyway. The natural beauty of New Zealand awaits. There’s an owl sanctuary in Spain, cocoa farms in Costa Rica, the ruins of Pompeii.

I’ll be here. Gaging my luck, I’ll plan my next flight to NC to see my bestie.

Maybe someday space. But not now. I’m writing.

The Beauty of Forward Motion

At the beginning of the semester, there’s an effervescence in the air on campus. The air around us is charged with positive energy. Thousands of students are buzzing with dreams and goals. They are brimming with the excitement of forward motion, their brains producing dopamine, which seems to affect everyone around them.

The excitement of learning, of trying new things, of working toward something new is like a drug, makes one giddy.

Excitement is lost in routine. Some people go on about their lives, thinking they’ve done everything they need to do and they’ve reached a place of comfort. And they get lazy in that comfort, forget to be open to new adventures.

I asked someone recently about Geocaching. I think of it as finding a treasure, accomplishing mini goals; my brain already releasing happiness hormones in response to the thoughts of the challenge overcome!

His response: It sounds childish.

Yes. Maybe. And isn’t that exciting? The very beauty of youth is excitement at every new adventure, big or small! It’s an energy wrapped up in an overflow of snapping and bubbling. And it’s engaging and enigmatic!

Forward momentum – new challenges – it is what keeps us young.

Einstein was said to have been working on a new theory even on his deathbed. After he passed, his brain showed a lack of plaque. Plaque the normal brain develops with aging.

Writers are all about the new and exciting. The next scene, the next chapter, the next story!

Have fun, engage that childlike excitement, set new goals and accomplish them or fail them – it doesn’t matter – just as long as you keep moving forward!

Do you write better during the good times or the bad times?

During bad times, some writers seem to pour out a more substantial amount of work. If the pain and heartache are authentically transformed on the page, the work touches readers.

Some writers in history seemed to have sought out heartache and drama through alcohol, affairs, or other. As if their creative bent fed off their self induced suffering.

But a writer needs to produce when things go well, don’t you think?

I’ve heard of many “one-hit wonders.” Their first novel, fraught with the strain of life’s challenges, zings. But then, sitting back with their big, fat check, they are unable to produce.

My hardest times are relieved through poetry. As if words are squeezed out in some sort of rhythm that requires the concise, mystical format of a poem.

But I recall good times, great times, when my writing poured out too – the excitement of new challenges on the horizon lit up the page.

What do you think? Do you write better in good times or bad times?

A fondness for 4am

4am

The world is different at night. Those early morning hours before the sun rises, it seems no one is awake, no one is moving around ready for the world.

Even if you live in a big city. Maybe you hear some far off traffic. A train somewhere in the distance. Still it seems the world is your private microcosm.

There’s not much one can do at 4am. There are no appointments to keep. No errands to run. No one to call. Polite society (and even maybe not so polite society) are, too, in their own little secular places.

It’s quiet, mostly. It’s serene. The crickets are quieting. The birds are stretching.

All there is to do is reflect, to write, to enjoy the chill in the pre-dawn air, and the peace that has not yet been disturbed.

It’s a special time for us, artists, writers, thinkers to belong. We are separate but together.

I’ll (not) see you there.

Character (and human) Motivation

Learn How to Find the Motivation Within to Succeed | Inc.com

Recently someone did something for me. I did not ask, she volunteered. I was apathetic for a few reasons: I didn’t know her very well; when someone does something for us – there are usually invisible strings that will sway our way at some point.

Many of us operate on societal, cultural, and sometimes puritan programming that is mostly unconscious. Expectations seem ingrained in our very being.

What she expected in return was for me to behave a certain way given her grace. When I did not, she claimed to be hurt and upset, frustrated, why had she bothered?

She was entitled to a “Thank you,” which she received. But she was not entitled to control or to judge. She didn’t understand this. She didn’t realize (and denied) she was making judgements based on her own expectations. If her motivation was to “help,” she had accomplished her goal. But, then, why was she upset?

As writers, I think we see things more clearly. Maybe differently. We are observers of human behaviors. If we’re good, we’re looking for motivation.

This person, like our character, didn’t understand her own unconscious motivations and was, therefore, disappointed by the outcome. It is a rare character who can see their own faults, analyze their misguided or unclear motivations before they act. It’s only with reflection, and maybe help from their besties, that our characters grow to understand themselves and their own actions, motivations, and goals.

Time for a good book burning?

What do you do with all those old notebooks? journals? piles of notes?

How long should we keep them? forever?

I guess, there’s different things here. My old notes and notebooks full of ideas are floating in various places, saved for that some day I might mine them for good ideas.

Yet, there are other types of journals and notebooks – our personal ones. Does anyone every throw those away? burn them?

One woman told me she was sorry she threw hers away. She’d like other people to see them, read them, understand they weren’t alone in their thoughts and feelings.

Certainly, that is why I write. However, that is not why I keep a journal. And those journals, over the years, have piled up. I have nightmare images of my daughters reading them after I’ve passed, wondering if they should have committed me.

There’s probably some good mining that could go on in them, but I don’t want to reread them. They are the past, dark things best left there – aren’t they? Or do I use them, dredge things up, use them to add authenticity to my writing?

There’s plenty of me in my writing, my fiction. Need I add more? Or do I destroy the evidence?

I like ’em short

I’ve been reading and writing novel length works lately. I belong to a few online book groups and people are always posting great reviews of this book or that. Sometimes I pick them up, sometimes I like them. It’s hard for me to find that book that hits the sweet spot – the perfect mix of good writing and a good story.

I love the exceptional use of language. That’s a talent.

In my literature and writing classes, I use Best American Short Stories. I chanced upon an old copy the other day. I read half of the first story and felt engaged, awakened!

Picking up the book of short stories immediately energized me with ideas for short fiction.

The joy of reading a short story happens because they’re tight, no nonsense needed, straight to the point, well written and excellently executed niblets of fiction.

The joy of writing a short story is the challenge. The point, the characters, the setting all expertly set up in concise wording in a small period of time. The use of language is easier to control, the beauty and rhythm easier to accomplish.

I once belonged to a short story group. It was so gratifying to read the short fiction. If you didn’t like what someone chose, you could still read the ten or twenty pages and talk about it. It’s not 300 pages of silently cursing your book group.

So… I’m going to recommend some books of short fiction. Of course, I recommend the Best American Short Story Series. Wonderful writing by newbies and scholars alike!

And mine: But also – I’m a huge fan of Jo Rousseau and Ron Terranova.

Jo Rousseau and Ron Terranova also have websites/blog. Stop by and check them out!