Six legs, two wings and a whole lot of perspective

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Yesterday, on my drive to work, I noticed a bug desperately clinging to the outside of my windshield. I know this is a strange opening line for a blog post but that bug, after stubbornly hanging on for the over 5 kilometer ride for me to get to my job, began to represent something much more than just a bug on my windshield.

I had all but written him off during the first kilometer but I became more amused as one kilometer stretched into two, then three, and his sheer determination would not allow him to let go. Wind billowing at his wings, he held on to his place and eventually his tenacity began to rekindle something deep within me. His utter disregard for common sense made my brain kick into a different gear and that bug made me realize how important it is to hold on to the things you feel are important in your life.

bug on a window

Despite the fact I had a few giggles thinking of how that little insect reminded me of Kevin Kline hanging on to the plane at the end of A Fish Called Wanda, I was reminded of an important life lesson by a 6-legged black and red bug with a stinger and an attitude – if it’s worth hanging on to, do everything in your power to make sure you don’t let go.

This somewhat hypnotic suggestion made me want to grasp, not only my writing but, everything else that is important in my life a little bit tighter. It is so easy to take the little things for granted. It is simple to lose sight of the things that may seem arbitrary but will have a deep impact on our present and our future. The really important things, the things worth holding on to, may not be evident in the beginning but the more you focus on the things that mean the most to you, the more you realize everything can be defined in simple terms.

Life is a gift. Life gives us people and things and it is up to us to understand why those people and things have profound meaning in our lives. And it is our responsibility to know what to hold onto and what to let go. A five kilometer ride with a bug desperately clinging to my windshield reminded me of that fact and now, more than ever, I am focused on the things that mean the most to me and the things I am not willing to let go.

Hold my attention

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Facebook is alive and well with ads for the latest Masterclass contributors. For those of you lucky enough to NOT be sucked into the vortex of Facebook, Masterclass is an online platform for creative people, giving them the chance to learn from their famous mentors. The one who caught my attention and made me investigate this latest phenomenon was Margaret Atwood.

The beginning of her video makes me want to quit everything I have been doing, my job, my charity work and my social life, to just write. When she rewrites the beginning of Little Red Riding Hood by starting with, “It was dark inside the wolf”, fireworks went off in my head. Expletives poured out of my mouth, tripping over each other to be heard and, more than once, I had to pick my jaw up from my lap. Those six words made my entire novel seem like a four-year-old wrote it.

One minute and eight seconds into her official trailer, she said the three words that make writers lose sleep, “Hold my attention”. As an avid reader, I know exactly what she means. If a writer veers into a mundane few chapters, I am more than happy to put the book down and I will eventually forget I started reading it. But if a writer can keep me on the edge of my seat, I am in it for the long haul and I will lose sleep to finish reading that book.

Writing is a tough business, but as Margaret says, “You become a writer by writing. Do it, and do it more. Do it better”. Many people, just like me, have written books. Many people, just like me, believe so much in their story and are convinced it will be published one day. But many people, just like me, are one tiny dot in a portrait created by stippling. We are a minute speck in a massive painting. But the more we write, the bigger our speck becomes. The more we write, the more our words have a chance of being discovered. And the more we write, the more we will master the art of holding your attention.

2019 – The year of Lark

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I thought he was a character I created, but I am slowly coming to realize he is defining himself. I named him Karl, but from the moment he began to tell me his story he referred to himself by the anagram ‘Lark’. He is a complex soul with stories buried far beneath his skin and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. He repeats the phrase, ‘the dead claim their own’ and I have yet to figure out why but I know he will show me on his terms and it will become a significant part of the novel.

If you have been following this blog, you will know I love to write. I am utterly amazed by the words that travel from my brain to my fingertips at such a speed I have to stop and read them to keep up. This new book I have begun to write is a prime example of that wonder. I wake up in the middle of the night, patting my bed in the dark to find my phone so I can mumble almost unintelligible words that take me a while to decipher the next morning. I hear phrases during the day I feel the urge to write down and I see landscapes I know will become a part of Lark’s world.

He was never meant to be the main character but his voice is rising loudly above the din of the other personalities who already hold a spot in this book. I am eager to welcome the new year so the holiday bustle will become still and Lark can make his way to center stage and shine a light on the life of atrocity he is eager to share with me. He is a poet. He is a killer.

The actual sounds of silence

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I made a bold decision a couple of months ago. I contacted my satellite provider, cancelled my subscription and sealed the deal by sending back my receiver. I had only suspended my service in the past, which resulted in my first finished novel, but I have never gone that extra step to fully end my relationship with my television. If I could catalogue the number of hours I spent mindlessly watching shows that held no interest for me, I would be mortified.

I am a true product of my father. My habitual pattern was to come home from work and immediately turn on the television, as he would do. Perhaps the background noise soothed him from his busy day, but eventually those mindless distractions would lure him from whatever room he was in and he would settle into his chair, randomly flipping through the available channels but never settling on one particular program. I didn’t want to follow in those distinct footsteps.

I am not saying that I do not get lost in the vortex of Netflix or online sporting events from time to time on my computer, but lately my life has revolved much more around the sounds of silence than the overwhelming din of gratuitous television. My post-work hours are spent more on reading and writing than channel surfing through the overwhelming number of anesthetizing broadcasts.

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My Kindle is loaded with new novels. My second book is in the works, my third is more than a promise and my brain is firing on all cylinders. And the moments between reading and writing are destined for the continued quest to become a published author. Those sounds of silence have been loud and clear and have been leading me in a direction I should have been following for a while. And the more I listen, the louder those sounds of silence become.

I wouldn’t change a thing

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It’s been a busy season for me. I love my job and I love the people I interact with, but the thing I love the most in my life is curiously absent. From May to October, my writing takes a backseat to my real world. Characters are hushed, story lines are left in the wings and my creativity is quieted to a faint whisper. All the important pieces of my imagination are sent into the recesses of my brain and that skill and those creative endeavors are limited to the moments when my dream sequences become aware of their true potential.

Writing is a funny thing. The artistry behind the words knows how to take advantage of the calmness in our lives. It feeds on the still moments in our brain and it dapples the blank pages in our minds with stunning and eclectic representations of stories we had never even thought possible. When the mind is idle, inspiration transports us to places we never imagined. It creates a spectral portrait of a life we had only, until now, dreamed was possible and it lets our fantasy become a reality on the pages we create.

I needed this day to get back to me. I yearned for those voices to speak to me again in a volume that rose above the din of my daily life. I wanted those characters to tap me on the shoulder and remind me their story was in a holding pattern, waiting for the chance to take off and tell their tale. And, more than anything, I wanted those voices to convince me that I was the only one who could truly convey their angst and their emotion on the pages I constructed.

Writing is a long journey. Most writers takes their queues from the voices who guide them, who wake them in the wee hours and who demand they spend every minute of their free time composing the opus of their lives while they, the writers, give up small pieces of their own existence to tell those stories.  Knowing what I know now about the creative process, and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

Coming back to myself

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I have not been myself lately, Aside from still battling the lingering effects of the cold I have had for the last nine days, my energy has felt foreign to me. I am usually a very cheerful person but I have not had that effervescent feeling for a while and I don’t know why.

Sure, we are seven weeks through the nine crazy weeks of summer at the lodge and those weeks lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, but this is different. This feels like something has shifted and I can’t quite explain it to myself, let alone describe it to you. Whatever this funk is, it has even caused me to shy away from writing and that is not normal.

Thankfully, today is my day off. When I feel out of sorts, the first thing on my list of things to do is organize my house. I purged my closet of the clothing I have not worn in the last six months and that helped me feel like I had gained some control of the chaos in my mind. As much as that helped to start the process, the best place I can go to feel grounded and to get some of myself back is my kitchen. I reorganized my fridge, made my salads in a jar for lunches this week and I have ribs cooking slowly in my crockpot for dinner. Just the familiar smell of those ribs is bringing me back to a feeling of contentment. My disconnection is slowly being reconnected the more I focus on the things that are important to me and forget the stress that lingers outside of my four walls. I would be doing myself a disservice if I continued to wallow in whatever this low tide is that has been trying to drag me down.

These words may not be the exact phrases I would normally choose, but I’m writing and that is the last piece of the puzzle to get me out of this feeling of despondency and bring me back to myself, one word at a time.

It’s happened before and it will happen again

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They are gone. The words from my beloved muse have disappeared from the recesses of my brain and left behind a stagnant pool of mush. I want desperately to write and, ironically, the only thing I can come up with is a post about not being able to write.

I have been in this situation before. After sulking for a few days, my muse returned ready to fight the good fight again and we wrote. Sometimes the writing was light and other times it was a frenzy of words fighting for their space on the page but, regardless, we wrote.

Now my fingers dangle over the keyboard waiting for inspiration, that divine breath, to whisper those words into my ears but the silence is deafening. I want to smash this writer’s block into a million tiny shards of concrete and hope that each piece holds a story that will get me back on track.

I put my faith in the phrase, “this, too, shall pass” and await the return of those nagging voices that make me rise at 5:00 am to do their bidding.