Posted in a writing practice, creative writing, work in progress, writing

Some work in progress–The beginning of a story

My Scribbled Secret Notebooks

This is the beginning of a story that I scribbled down in the coffee shop today.
I have had this idea in the back of my mind for a while.
It showed up in my notebook today like this.

My grandmother was quiet and mysterious and knew mysterious things.

She was part gypsy, at least that is what I grew up believing.

She could heal wounds, and cure sickness, and she always knew how things would turn out.

She could predict bad news, and see right through untrustworthy people.

She knew what to do about both.

She had secret recipes, and special remedies,

and wise old sayings, to fit every situation.

She believed in good luck and friendly forces.

She also believed in the unfriendly forces,

and she took great pains to protect us from them.

I would watch her fill a little cloth bag with needles,

and nails and…

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Posted in creative process, creative writing, life lessons etc., work in progress, writing

Mind your own business

Scan
“There are only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s.” ~ Byron Katie

Today, I had the urge to write about something that I was outraged about. I was annoyed  about a particular internet  art star. I wanted to be the kid in the crowd who cries out that the emperor has no clothes. But I changed my mind. And even if I am right and the emperor is truly naked a lot of people love her. A lot of people hang on her every word and lavish fawning praise every time she overshares on her facebook fan page.

My grandmother used to say- “A still tongue in a wise head” In other words, keep your opinions to your self. So I will. I will not blab my snarly opinions, even though I want to. I will not be a critic. I will not be a judge. I will hold my tongue. It is just me being skeptical, about what I see as bullshit.

Truth is, I feel threatened by it. Not sure why. Some form of jealousy maybe? Some kind of resentful feelings about her success. Feelings of injustice maybe? My judgements might be my own insecurity. I don’t know. Then again I could be right. My skepticism could be spot on. What I see as a load of crap, could be indeed–crap. But it’s not my business. People apparently love crap. So who am I to try to counter that. Who am I to tell them what to believe. So I have told myself– Don’t sit around grumping in self righteous indignation about whether or not someone deserves their success.

You have your own work to do. I am reminded about my grade two teacher Mrs Clippingdale who never listened to tattle tales. She said if we were busy doing our work we wouldn’t be noticing other people not doing theirs. So thanks Mrs. C. I am taking your advice. I will do my own work. It’s not my job to save the world from naked emperors. Life is too short. So now–Back to work on this play. I am on draft three of that and I have a ways to go. Right now my play sucks so I need to stop avoiding it with indignation and other wastes of time.

Sally LIves Here
Sally LIves Here
Posted in creative process, work in progress

Phew!

Scan

I am working on my play again

after a couple of months of avoiding it.

I feel like I am standing in front of a house with no door–

and I am trying to figure out how to get back in.

Today I am going for a long walk around Trout Lake with my characters.

I hope they will speak to me and tell me where the secret door is.

Walking is often the way that I re-connect with my imagination,

when it has been otherwise engaged.

Lately it has been busy scaring me half to death about things.

Life has been complicated in recent months.

But my imagination likes to get in there with the worry,

and exaggerate it–turn it into an epic tragedy.

It likes to get me to rehearse my internal drama

and perform it to myself long after the curtain has

come down on whatever difficulty or annoyance or perceived injustice

I am facing. Yes I am obsessive.

Time to re-direct my unruly imagination and tell

it to stop scaring me– and instead help me write my damn play.

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Posted in creative process, creative writing, work in progress

Accepting uncertainty and living the questions in life and art.


 

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.
Live in the question.”    Rainer Maria Rilke

I love these words.

I try to call them up when

I face uncertainty

 

I am in the middle of developing

an idea that is slowly forming in

my mind.

I don’t know if it is a play

or a short story

Or something else altogether.

My  desk is covered in sketches of  artists who have  inspired me I am not sure why I drew them.

The images are clues or perhaps  threads  of  a story – slowly weaving itself in the back of mind.

poests painters and revolutionaries 2jpg

If I stand back and speak to

my images I might say Jackson

Pollack and Lee Krasner and Andy Warhol–What are  you trying to tell me?

Why are you here? What are you pointing me to?

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For me drawing opens a door into  a deeper

more potent form of imagination.

Something beyond intention and anything

conscious.

Maybe these drawings are part of a search

into my own psyche.

Maybe I am digging, sifting through the layers

of  my early romantic ideals-

when my fascination with these famous artists

woke up some kind of young longing in me.

I don’t know. I have to sit with the unknowing.

Here is the thing.

There is a relationship somewhere

between the drawings and the writing I am doing

and my own life right now.

It’s not always immediately evident.

I  look at the drawings that come out

after a session of writing

and I think  ok–

I  think that  the subject of what

drives someone to create

is the subject I want to explore.

And somehow death is part of the subject

And how the need to be present for life

is part of it. And how creativity

is the way of showing up.

And I think that somehow

spirits– as in the spirits of the

dead artists  are alive to all of us who

look at the art they made and left behind.

But I don’t really know.

Maybe drawing the artists

and even writing in this blog

is like playing with a Ouija board,

and I am summoning spirits from within myself–

to help me with my troublesome imagination.

I know the location of whatever I am writing

is somewhere just west of collective unconscious.

And has to do with a place where artists

can meet and converse.

 

e thing is, with art and with life–

sometimes we have to tolerate

the churning and distracted feelings of  uncertainty.

Because on the other side of this unknowing,

is the path to where it all makes sense.

It’s true we  must learn to live  in the questions–

as Rilke tells us–and just wait–because beyond

the  clouds of uncertainty,

is the bright blue sky of knowing.

The story will weave itself together and everything will be revealed.

 

Posted in a writing practice, work in progress

Preparation and effort–Ideas as tools.

“Creativity is not a gift from the Gods bestowed by some divine and mystical spark.
It is the product of preparation and effort and it’s within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it.”
Twyla Tharp.

I love this quote

and I believe it–

I am perhaps a little more of the mind that magic is involved–

But I agree the magic part is only there–

when the preparation and effort is in place.

Ask any magician. They will agree.

And as far as the part about Gods bestowing divine and mystical sparks-

well I think that is the business of the Gods–

and our business as artists is:

the rigorous preparation and effort.

So I am with Twyla and I am encouraged by what she says,

But Twyla is a dancer–

so the daily discipline is clear–

but for a writer?

What is the preparation?

A dancer prepares every day by standing at the barre.

Maybe for writers it’s standing at the bar?

Just kidding. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

I do believe writers could learn from dancers in how they practice–

and how they understand the various functions of practice

or in other words what they are doing and why.

The warm-up to a dancer, is very specific and done in a particular

order to achieve desired results.

When writers sit down to work is there a preparation?

Something that focuses the mind and tunes up the imagination?

Is there a preparation for writers that readies us for the work

by opening and releasing the imagination

in a specific order?

Something that builds the muscles of our craft?

Something that strengthens our ability to

imagine and create intrigue, pathos, emotional truth?

I write this blog as a warm up to my daily writing session.

It’s my preparation

But it is a bit haphazard.

Whatever pops into my mind is what

ends up here.

What if I were to think like a dancer and focus on a particular creative

technique or tool.

For example I know that I need to raise the stakes for my character.

Raising the stakes is an expression used by actors and directors and screen writers.

It is an idea that works like a tool. It’s an idea with a purpose.

Here is an example:

An actor is playing a scene as if his character knows he will get what he wants from another character.

He is cocky self assure oozing with charisma but–the scene is boring.
.
The director might tell the actor to raise the stakes for himself in the scene.

He needs the actor to think about what it would cost the character–if he didn’t get

what he wants. This idea–this tool- could get the actor to think of the negative outcomes

–the losses–the pain that he would experience if he didn’t get the other character

to agree to the plan.

Suddenly the actor can see another way to play the scene.

Now he can use the tool of raising the stakes to layer in a whole level of anxiety

underneath his words. The actor himself is affected now–

He has an inner life to his character now.

His character has terror to contend with–

and this inner life makes the once boring scene, now, riveting.

See what I mean by an idea that is a tool?

You use the idea. You apply the idea.

Not all ideas about writing are like tools.

In my case I know I need to raise the stakes for

one of my characters.

I have to make him really scared to lose anything more.

So far he has been ok with having nothing to lose–

and that’s the problem.

He’s never in any jeopardy.

He’s always pretty much ok.

Nobody worries about this guy.

I chose to have him be this way but now–

I need to force the issue that is facing him.

I have to make the audience see what he is up against–

I have to make them care.

I have to make him face himself and do what a hero does.

He has to come up against something that all his easy going acceptance

and street wise spiritual enlightenment can not fend off.

I have to find the modern day monster that will devour him unless he kills the monster.

–ok so how could I prepare for pushing him over the edge and into the monster’s lair?

Maybe I just did. Maybe defining the tool and thinking about why I have to use it

actually opened my mind a little–stretched my imagination nicely–

and hey– I do want to get to work now.

I am excited. Gotta push that guy into the fire and scare him–

I just realized, I been to0 easy on him.

I liked him too much.

I still like him–and I will save him–

but not til he faces the monster.

Posted in creative process, work in progress

On Moths and purpose and creative process and such

Metamorphosis: a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism,
as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the moth.

If you know me or if you visit my blog,

You know that I have been working on a play.

I am in my moth stage now.

After months as a pupa,

I emerged from my cocoon but–

now I am flitting around

crashing into the walls.

Is this what all that hanging upside down was for?

Ok. So anyway–

Welcome to the moth stage.

This is the part of the creative process

where the artist asks herself

What the hell are you doing?

No really What are you doing?

Right?

Ever ask yourself what the hell a moth is doing?

Well they do have a purpose.

It’s a biologically determined drive,

to accomplish an essential task.

But it’s not always obvious,

especially when you have to chase one around

your room at two in the morning.

Poor misguided moth is just trying to fullfill

it’s destiny and achieve it’s purpose.

But Moths aren’t supposed to be in your house.

They are like butterflies–and are supposed

to be outside in the natural world,

pollinating various night blooming vegetation.

Yet they some how manage inadvertently to end up in our closets–

making meals out of our favourite cashmere sweaters.

And we hate them for it.

Poor misguided moth.

She’s just trying to fulfill her purpose.

Moths and the nocturnal plants they feed on–

like the Honeysuckle flower or the Red Valerian–

can’t live without each other.

Miraculous nature has provided the moth

with dextrous long thin tongues–

an attribute completely wasted on wool sweaters,

but very important in pollinating night blooming

flowers. The moth is always looking

for the flowers. The flowers are always waiting

for the Moth. See what I mean about destiny?

So what in the world am I talking about?

And what does this have to do with my play?

Well–the moth stage of the creative process

is when the writer-

-that would be me in this case–

is madly searching for the flower but can not find it.

I’m madly flying up at that light bulb and singeing my wings.

The flower is the essence or the meaning– or the soul of the work.

I’t’s the inexplicable thing that blooms in the mind of the audience

or the reader. It’s the truth of the work.

I need to find it.

It can’t bloom without me.

There is no art without this relationship.

See. I believe this.

So there you go–

That’s the Moth state.

I saw a play recently that had no soul essence or meaning

and yet I know the young writer probably believed it did.

It was timely. And it seemed to delve into a solid and important question.

But it was trite and obvious.

She didn’t go through the moth state.

Nothing unfolded or bloomed or revealed itself.

It needed a moth.

The Moth state can drive you mad and you can end up

in a drawer pollinating your socks.

But it leads you to the thing that the story is about.

It leads you to the thing that makes the audience

sigh or cry or ache or laugh in recognition–

or even just connect to your idea at a deep level–and engage.

Because this is the purpose of art.

That is what we are trying to do

Kandinsky puts it very well–

“The artist must have something to say,

mastery over form is not his goal,

but adaption of form to its inner meaning”

My play has a deep truth in there somewhere.

I know it.

I feel it.

I am drawn to it.

I am shaken by it.

I have come close to finding it–

But I haven’t yet.

Not quite.

Now it’s dusk and that’s when Moths get busy.

So hopefully tonight–

Hopefully I will find the flower that is waiting to bloom in my play.

Posted in work in progress

Some work in progress–The beginning of a story-reposting to inspire myself to finish it.

This is the beginning of a story that I scribbled down in the coffee shop.
It showed up in my notebook today like this.

My grandmother was quiet and mysterious and knew mysterious things.

She was part gypsy, at least that is what I grew up believing.

She could heal wounds, and cure sickness, and she always knew how things would turn out.

She could predict bad news, and see right through untrustworthy people.

She knew what to do about both.

She had secret recipes, and special remedies,

and wise old sayings, to fit every situation.

She believed in good luck and friendly forces.

She also believed in the unfriendly forces,

and she took great pains to protect us from them.

I would watch her fill a little cloth bag with needles,

and nails and bits of broken wire.

Sometimes broken twigs and spiky leaves and dried nettles–

for the teas and salves and poultices she made,

would end up in the little bag.

She would put the little bag under the door mat.

What are you doing Gran? I would ask.

“Doing what needs doing” she would answer.

My mom would tell me, “Oh it’s something Irish–

a superstition that’s all.”

But I would watch my Grandma hide a bottle of my Grandad’s whiskey,

way in the back of the cupboard.

She would carefully sprinkle a line of coarse salt in front of it,

and then stack the mason jars of peaches and carrots

and crabapples in front of the line of salt.

What are you doing Gran? I would ask

“You can see what I am doing.

Or are your eyes just for show then, and you can’t really see?”

My Grandad would come home, and look behind the piano for his whiskey.

He’d come into the kitchen scratching his head.

He’d open the cupboard and move the jars around.

“Where have you hidden my whiskey Maggie?” he would say.

But he would never find the bottle.

It was right there in front of his eyes, but he couldn’t see it.

If I asked Gran too many questions though,

I was always told something that would make me feel

as if I shouldn’t have asked– as if knowing this information,

would be a terrible burden to me.

It wasn’t what she said, it was what she didn’t say that made me know this.

So I didn’t ask questions–

at least not often.

Sometimes though Gran would make me feel,

as if we had shared a special secret.

I could never remember the secret.

I just knew something wonderful had passed between us.

And every moment I spent with her seemed magic, and precious,

and I was convinced she had remarkable abilities.

I was convinced she could make things happen.

She did things efficiently quickly and without any fuss.

She seemed to do whatever she did, without actually doing it.

She would tell me a story of her girlhood in Ireland,

while she ironed the shirts, baked a pie, washed the dishes,

and swept the kitchen floor.

I would be so carried away with the sound of her voice

and her tales– of the fancy french seamstress that taught her

at the Dressmaking school in Belfast, or the Scottish School Master,

who was sweet on her sister Esther–

that I couldn’t remember the unfolding of the

ironing board, or the basket of white shirts, or the

flour and lard, or the rolling pin or the big bowl on the table,

or the broom or the dustpan. Yet suddenly she would be taking

a golden brown apple pie out of the oven.

And the shirts would be hanging crisp and white on the hangers.

The dishes were washed and the floor was swept.

I didn’t have to ask any questions

I knew she was magic without being told.

Posted in a writing practice, work in progress

Creativity and Anxiety and Fearlessness and other humorous topics.

Last year at this time I decided to be fearless–

and do something that I had wanted to do,

for a very long time.

I learned that deciding to be fearless,

does not mean conquering fear.

It means to go ahead despite fear.

Deciding to be fearless, actually increased my fear.

It was like a challenge to my fear–

and my fear didn’t want to back down.

Somehow though I persevered.

Fear was not going to stop me.

Anxiety attacks would grab hold of me and I would

breathe through them or pant and wheeze desperately,

as the case demanded. I used anything and everything

to stick to the program and not give up–

or avoid or delay or make excuses or change my mind.

My inner demon keeper kept sending me all manner

of dire warnings, and predictions of doom and disaster–

but I kept going. I fought my fears.

I used Buddhist chanting. I recited affirmations.

I prayed. I meditated.

I took up EFT and tapped myself calm.

I even used a Youtube Hypnosis video– by The Whispering Hypnotist.

Are you familiar with the Whispering Hypnotist?

I found him when I was surfing the internet in the the middle

of one terrible sleepless night.

The whispering hypnotist made me sleep.

I think looking back, his video didn’t so much,

calm my fears as scare the shit out them.

He was much scarier than they were.

Point is–I got through it all.

Because I was more scared of not doing

what I had always wanted to do–

than doing it.

Now I am looking at a new goal and getting ready

to be fearless again. I did it the first time

so I know I can do it again–face the fear I mean.

It’s just fear. And fear is just a yucky feeling.

Fear can be transformed to courage–

It can. It really can–

but only when you face it.

If I can face it you can.

I am a girl with a few issues so I mean this.

Here’s my goal.

I plan to do a marathon writing month in April.

I want to complete ninety pages. I want to go past the dead zone–

where the ideas suck– and the point is lost– and the characters

are weak– and the language is trite– and the story is boring-

and the idea is derivative. I want to penetrate the murk of

my own mind where the ooze of mental mud threatens to suck me down.

Ok–sorry– I know– you get the point.

But if fear begins to rear it’s ugly head

there is always the Whispering Hypnotist.

Posted in creative process, work in progress

Magic cures for writers block- Day One. Ask good questions.

In this post I am going to address the notion of writer’s block.

In all honesty I don’t actually get full blown writers block.

I write every day. I am always journalling, blogging, scribbling,

pondering, musing, reflecting, or working out something on paper.

Writing is how I clear my mind, and make sense of the world.

It’s a habit I guess.

However–I do get Writer’s Delay.

I do reach a point where I hit the fabled brick wall.

I stop. I agonize. I worry. I get depressed.

I want to quit- throw in the towel.

I tell myself horrible things and predict dire circumstances for myself.

None of this is useful of course, but luckily I don’t spend a lot of time on this phase.

Eventually I ask myself where do I go from here?

Thing is–I am rarely able to answer this question.

Where do I go from here? It’s not a helpful question.

It is what I call a bewildering question.

A better question is What does my character want right now?

Or What is getting in the way of what my character wants right now?

What is she going to do to get past the obstacle right now?

Sometimes I go deeper– and I ask Why does my character want what she wants,

right now?

Or how desperate-how driven, is she to get what she wants right now?

Is she hiding what she wants from herself? Is it a secret?

What will it cost her if she doesn’t succeed? What will she stand to lose?

Has she admitted to herself or anyone else what she really truly wants?

How does, what she wants, affect her?

Does she think she deserves what she wants?

Does it drive her insane?

Is it killing her to not get it?

Or one of my favourites–What is she willing to do?  To sacrifice?

Who is she willing to hurt, maim or kill?

What is she willing to risk, or lose or destroy?

Do you see what I mean?

Do you see how all these questions focus the story,and move it forward?

Do you see how these kind of questions enliven your imagination?

Do you see how can amplify and intensify the action of the story?

These are the good questions, that will help me write a more compelling story, and better dialogue.

So there you have it. My #1 Magic Cure for Writer’s block or writers Delay.

Ask Good Questions.

Sometimes my plot, theme, and everything else will emerge from these questions.

If I am at the wall, it’s because I have forgotten the questions or I need to ask them again.

Ok Now maybe you are not at the place where you think you even know what to write about.You are not ready to ask what your character wants, because you don’t really knowwho your character is. Or maybe you have an idea but you don’t know what to do with it? It’s a idea that is getting dirty with waiting.

Sometimes I haven’t got a clue what to write about, and I am sure I have

an inferior imagination, or that I lack the intelligence that a writer needs–

see yesterdays post here

and other times I have so many ideas clamouring for my attention–

that I can’t decide what to write about.

So next time I will share what I do when either of these things happen.