Thursday, May 30, 2013

Spirit vs. Religion Required

I recently read Joss Whedon's commencement speach at Wesleyan University this past May and was struck deeply by his words. Not only was it well crafted (I mean, come ON, it's Joss Whedon, one of the greatest dialog writers in the entertainment business!) but it was meaningful in a public sense for so many of our lost youth.

When I say "lost" I mean those hundreds of thousands of children (and some adults) who have no direction and no understanding of why they have no direction. He explained it all in this speach. I have other reasons these people are lost. Religious reasons that back up Joss's philosophy. But Joss framed it in terms sans religion so people could see the point without that politically charged lens.

Basically, we're all at war with our two selves, the spiritual/mental self and the physical self. When we can't reconcile these two selves, we lose direction and focus. We become focused on trying to please one or the other and never finding what pleases us because we can't please both at the same time.

To quote Joss, "You have, which is a rare thing, the ability and the responsibility to listen to the dissent in yourself. To at least give it the floor. Because it is the key, not only to consciousness, but to real growth."

Wow. What a revelation. For years gurus have told us we have to be at peace with ourselves when what we really need to do is to listen to the inner conflict so that we can grow as a person. No wonder our youth are having so many problems! Now how's THAT for a revision of the week?

If you're interested, here's a link to the whole transcript. Read it. It might bring you some insight. But not inner peace.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Summer: this changes everything

I recently joked with my writer friends that in a couple of days I'd be done with teaching and be a real writer for a few months. I wasn't really joking. During the school year I am so busy, I rarely have time to do anything in depth when it comes to career building, composing, networking, etc. I think that's why I have a lot of Twitter fiction published August through May: it's all the attention span I can give outside of school.

So as I sit on the cusp of a brand new summer just brimming with writing possibilities, what do I want to do? Play video games, read books, do crossword puzzles, do crafts,... ANYTHING except what I've wanted to do all year. Why?

I think it boils down to fear. As writers, we're laughed at as a profession, rejected by agents, critiqued by our fellow writers, and if we DO get published, our loving audience often rakes us over the coals for some small slight or grammar slip. Who in their right mind chooses to pour their heart out on a page and wait for the vultures to descend?

Those who have stories that demand to be told. Those who have built up a thick skin. Those who sacrifice personal time, TV, and sometimes clean houses just to get that last chapter typed in. We're a little crazy. We're sometimes a little socially awkward. But we're writers.

This summer is gonna be a great year in Cannon publishing history. :-)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Stagnant pools of dead fish stink

Growing up, one of my strongest scent memories is that of stagnant pools of dead, rotting fish. Since my parents took me on most of their fishing trips, I encountered a lot of dead fish one way or another. Those little cut-off bits of water were fascinating to me because of the variety of plants, insects, and general stuff that collected in them, but they STANK! And if you touched them, you stank. If you wiped your hand on your shirt IT stank. The rocks, the plants, your shoe, anything that touched it stank. The stank was contagious and something my mother was always warning me about. I didn't understand as a child what she meant, except she didn't want to sit with a stinky kid all day. Which is understandable. But I think she meant something more.

When you get in some private time by yourself, perhaps to recover from an injury, rest from stress, or focus without the world interfering, this can be a good thing. We writers especially need some alone/focus time to devote to our craft. But if we spend too much time alone, we begin to stagnate. Our water of humanity stops flowing new life into our little pond, and our fish begin to die. It's hard to live in the real world sometimes with all its pain. It's frustrating to see friends and family go through crises and not be able to help except pray and provide a shoulder. The longer we stay in our safe little place, though, two things happen: we start to care less for people and we become stilted writers. I don't

There's already enough stank in this world. As a natural introvert, it's hard for me to come out of my pond and explore, but I know that's the only way to make myself a better person, make my little corner of the world a little better, and be a better writer. I don't want to be part of the stank. As a revising goal, this will take a lifetime, but, hey, isn't that the point?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Who am I as a writer?

Revising who I am as a writer was never a question until lately. I've always been a storyteller. Stories require words, usually many words, but only as many as are required to tell the story. I've always resisted being a poet as opposed to being a storyteller, first on the premise that I hated poetry (which isn't really true. I just hate BAD poetry, which there is a lot of!) second that I wasn't a good poet (what do teachers say about practice, hmm?) and third for some reason I couldn't quite put a finger on until just recently.

Without going into gory details, life happens: feelings boil over, bodies fail, and you find yourself at a point in your life where you're dealing with emotional and physical issues that are literally life-changing. I have found myself lately unable to deal with these very personal issues in story form, but instead, they reveal their coping strategies to me in verse. Verse? Poetry? Huh?

You see, for me, poetry is a very personal, very visceral thing. It cuts to the core of who I am and reveals not just my heart, but the atoms that hold me together. I have no characters to hide behind, no plot to re-direct the reader, no scenery to distract. It's. All. Me. And when it comes to poetry, apparently I have intimacy issues with my readers. If you laugh at my story character when he's supposed to be serious, I can take that and re-write it, no problem. If you laugh at my poetry when I'm pouring my life-blood into your hands because it hurts too much to keep it inside, then, we have a problem, Houston. Yeah. Intimacy issues. Thought I was over that a LONG time ago. Guess not.

So my revision issues now are to try to allow myself to take up poetry as an expression, first, then second, (and more difficult) allow others to read it and help me revise it to the point it's good enough to share with the public. Definitely a cold dish today, folks. Possibly even frozen. Where's the defrost setting on my microwave?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Life is revision...or should be

Some people are a little unforgiving when it comes to life revision. When they make a judgement about you, they think you are that way forever. While it is true, I believe, that at the core there are some traits that stick with us all our lives (selfishness, greediness, etc.) I still think we can overcome those. Just because we THINK with those baser thoughts first off doesn't mean we have to ACT that way.

It worries me that so many of our children see adults that never learn this. They act on their first thought, never considering that old adage, "Think before you act." Or as the builders say, "measure twice, cut once." These "reality shows" are changing our perception of what adults should act like. There's a reason I don't have cable or watch much TV. I believe we should be trying to better ourselves. Revising our lives. Not in a deceptive way to try to fool others but in a positive way to become a better person and make the world a better place. Revision in writing is hard. Revision in life is even harder. That doesn't make it any less worthwhile.