Friday, March 6, 2009
One of the single most important challenges in daily life is to Believe. Even if at times when it seems impossible Believe in the world around her, in others, in one's talents,in one's system of faith and values, or even in oneself, Believe in the sheer, unequivocal fact that no matter how bleak or disappointing, frightening or frustrating, helpless or hopeless a situation may seem, it can only last but so long...and when it ends, it is almost the inevitably followed by Hope.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Usually, when I write, I complete the project in a single draft--essentially editing as I go. It is a method which many who know me find quite baffling (in some cases even infuriating) because there is neither reason nor rhyme to the order in which each piece unfolds. Sometimes, I begin with the original idea in outline form then flesh out the body itself. Equally likely is that I might jot down a series of key phrases then work outwards towards the beginning and end. I have built entire short stories around a single conversation, idea, setting, or visual sketch. There have been times when, inspired by an individual encountered on the street, a particular meal, a current event or newspaper article, or basically any commonplace feature of my day, I have simply begun writing, jotting down images or details until a story come into being. Usually, though, an idea forms, and I rush to record the images before the mental depiction fades, expanding upon that original concept as I write.
This week, however, I am completely stumped.
Two weeks ago, disturbed by oddly indecipherable dreams, I awoke with an idea for the collection of modern "fairy tales" on which I had been working. Ostensibly, the book itself was finished--first draft completed with my loathing to touch it lest I mangle "perfection"; however, this story was so bizarre, so eerily unusual that rest would not come until I finished it.
Until that point, my children's stories flowed into being in a very smooth, very seamless effort, flowing onto the page as though I were telling the tale aloud to my own children, as I had done throughout their childhoods. This stubborn creation, though, refused to take shape. For an hour or more, its imagery seemed to guide itself from the realm of imagination onto my computer screen with little (if any) help from me. Ah! Dame Inspiration had struck and I had but to bow to her demands.
Then I realized...
It didn't have an ending.
The general idea was in place, as were the main characters, their personalities, the setting, pivotal conversations, the plot, the conflict, even the "moral" (as it was a fable)...yet absolutely no resolution whatsoever!
I had no clue as to how to end it.
Then, worse, when in the days that followed an ending materialized, I could think of no way to ease the main characters from that point at which I had left them suspended to that grand and glorious end.
And I still don't.
Perhaps this humbling experience is an atonement from my rather obstinate refusal to in any way alter my "formula" for writing. Or, maybe the time has come for me to face the need for some systematic approach to the story-making process. Some would even call it just retribution to my indignant and rather scathing responses (born of the "It's MY work! Don't touch it!" attitude) to constructive criticism--oddly ironic in one who "edits" the work of others for a living (though, in my own defense, I am just as passionate about preserving the very distinctly original voice of those others, as well).
Regardless of the why's and wherefore's, "The Sorcerer's Assistant" stares expectantly up at me, waiting patiently for an ending. As Far As the Mind Can Fathom is without its dark, somewhat macabre "last" entry. And I am left searching for an appropriate twist in the adventure of my hapless protagonist. I suppose his fate has become my own--a main character left in suspended animation until some resolution can be found.
But, then again, is that not the essence of all art: becoming somehow at one with that which is being created (and it becoming an extension of you) until elements of both are taken and received, forming on both sides a completely new and wondrous entity?
What is "writer's block" to you?
Monday, March 2, 2009
This morning I awoke to the gentle call of the wind as, once again, lacy white doilies of fluff wafted gracefully to the earth below. It always fascinates me how rapidly those minuscule entities--such insignificant objects in and of themselves--collect, together forming a force of nature so great as to paralyze entire cities, stop millions of determined individuals dead in their tracks. It is, I suppose, another reminder that although one act, one person alone might, likewise, appear insignificant, when joined, as a force, to others can easily become a power with which to be reckoned.
That, ironically enough, is how I would categorize my day: a wealth of small obligations and tasks which amounted piled up quite swiftly. That is not to say that any of them were "done". More accurately, the vast majority were touched upon with dubious results before I found myself sleeping through the day.
Around me, the disarray of my apartment and work area sat in silent testimonial of my recent convalescence. The question of accepting a new editing project glared up at me in comparable condemnation. My two daughters each faced their challenges in maintaining positive spirits and motivation at this pre-break stage of classes. Not far away, my son dealt with computer problems at Dartmouth, where the "buzz" of the day was the new president, Dr. Jim Yong Kim. I discovered another "flash" writing competition, which I promptly decided I was in no condition to enter today, even though my thousand-word objective loomed before me like a mammoth snow drift demanding to be shoveled. In the end, however, it quickly became apparent to me that being "fever-less" did not make one any less exhausted; accordingly, these endeavors--plus countless others--were grudgingly placed to the side for another day.
One question, nevertheless, refused to be ignored?
Why is that male writers share the same three maddening traits? There work seems to always include the terms "bulbous" and "globules." An eyeball must be gorily gouged from the sockets in an bluntly defined mass of oozing liquid matter. Dismemberment is a must: usually leaving a major character minus a limb or witness to a smooth, one-stroke decapitation. And, finally, there must be the inevitable crunching of bone and sinew. I believe that even in a cookbook or travel manual, somehow one must endure the ocular delights of crunching bone and sinew.
Above all else, it was this single, baffling dilemma which sent me back to the warm and security of my covers. E-mails could wait. The debris within the apartment would still be there come the morning. In a spate of inspiration, two-thousand words can be written as effortlessly as one. Even the minor crises of motherhood were easily soothed with a band-aid or two of advice and encouragement.
But cracking the Mystery of the Bulbous Globules proved absolutely insurmountable!