Thursday, June 21, 2012

The It Factor

It seems that most of us go through life looking for the elusive ‘it’.  The thing that makes us who we are.  The thing that makes us tick.  We tell ourselves that if we can just find that one thing that sets us apart we'll find the missing connection.  We'll get our 'Aha!' moment, the lightbulb will go on and suddenly the world as we know it will make sense. I can't help wondering whether this is a giant recipe for disaster.  Can any of us live  up to the ideal self?  Is there such a thing or is finding yourself a karmic accident?  Are those who find it ready or just lucky? For me I always thought the answer was writing.  I have spent my life writing poetry and journaling and though I work at other things I have harbored the desire to write for a living painfully close to my heart so close that it has become harder and harder for me to act on it for fear of losing the elusive connection.  I don't get anything from writing monetarily.  I don't have a fan base, no followers on my blog or book deals.  I've thought about quitting a million times.  But I can't because worse than giving up writing would be giving up the dream of writing.   
I read once that the three ingredients to happiness were someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to.  It is because of the latter that I became a fan of the perpetual dream.  Having a dream that doesn’t come to fruition can be just as beneficial to our psyches as the one that does.  It keeps us looking forward.  We continue to be engaged and striving instead of jaded and complacent.  It reminds me of the movie “That Thing You Do” about the band who made it big only to come undone.  It was the dreaming not the reality that sustained them. 
 I look at my writing like this.  I am a writer because I write.  If there comes a day when I am published then I will be a published writer but I no longer want to place the value of my self worth as a writer on a single adjective.   The way I see it, it could be a “be careful what you wish for you just might get it” scenario.   Perhaps if I were to publish I would encounter a new set of problems, deadlines, criticisms, poor sales.   Who’s to say?  In the meantime I will continue to write as the need arises or the inspiration or even the desperation.  And I’ll keep dreaming, who knows, maybe one day I’ll even add that adjective. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Yellow sat under the shade of a bearded tree watching the gator taking its time near the shoreline.  She wore a dress made of an old fabric called Dotted Swiss that she’d found in the church bin.  A party dress for a happy day.
She’d been crouched there for awhile now.  The calves in her legs were beginning to complain but she wasn’t ready to leave just yet.  A bead of sweat formed between her shoulder blades and made its way down her spine and she shivered despite the heat. 
She enjoyed watching the gator.  If he knew he was being watched he gave no indication.  He moved with a malevolent grace in the rusty water.  He was king here and it was good to be king. 
She was remembering the first time Roy Brown had called her Yellow.  He said the name suited her, “Yellow Brown, piss and shit, good for nothin’ and a relief to be rid of”.  And then he’d laughed.  But he wasn’t laughing now. 
The gator glided toward her and opened its mouth wide.   The arm floating in the shallows disappeared with a satisfying crunch. 
“My name is Grace,” she said.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


We all saw it
The shift
Before you left
The silence after the storm
And we wondered
Who would take care of us
After you had been replaced
Who would we become because of it
Someone who is misunderstood
Someone who gives up
Someone who hurts the others
But carries on as if nothing matters
And nobody knows
Someone who uses their body as
A means of escape
Someone who’s forgotten
But we are all okay
Aren’t we?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Character Sketch in Poetry

I use poems to help me in my writing.  This is a character sketch I did on a villain by the name of Silk.


Mr. Silk is slippery
Slides between your fingers
Lifts a watch
Steals a purse
Everywhere he lingers
He is called a dandy man
Dressed up in velvet cloaks
Knows his way through busy streets
Cuts his neighbours throats
Comes across a charmer
You’ll think he’s on your side
But rest assured he’s after you
You’ll run but you can’t hide

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Ahh the writing life.  I get up in the morning, pour myself some coffee write brilliant prose for awhile and carry on with my day.  Not.  My writing day goes more like this.  I get up and the first thing I see after I’ve poured my coffee is the large blue notebook I write in.  It’s actually a sketchbook with paper heavy enough to paint on.  It measures 7” x 10” and I’ve become fixated on this particular book to write in, if only I could be that committed to the stories that are in the pages.  It lies open, waiting exactly as I left it.  I drag myself to my desk in the ‘do I have to?’ way of most third graders and sit down to try and get whatever has gone awry back on the rails.   And while I’m corralling my wayward story, using the words ‘and then’ a lot and knowing I’m in a flat spin another idea will pop into my head.  “Well,” I think, “that’s the problem.  I didn’t want to write that story in the first place, I wanted to write this one.”  So I turn to a blank page and it’s as if the other story never existed.  I’m lost in the new and improved idea, the one with legs the one that has to be written.
I’m back in the zone.  Ideas flow, post-its abound and then somewhere around page 20 or so I start to slow down.  The characters are losing their lustre and I begin losing interest and if I’m losing interest, the reader will lose interest.  It’s in the bible of writing, Vonnegut ch. 3 vs. 1.   And so I start again with the next big thing.  It could be a process of elimination I suppose.  Maybe I’m just struggling to find my voice.  But I know and you probably know too.  It’s fear.  Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of spending months writing something that is garbage when you could have written something great or at least good and the ultimate fear, the fear of rejection. 
When this happens I crawl back into the safe cocoon of poetry.  Poetry fills my need to get words on the page, to get feelings out of my head and into the stratusphere.  I can use my poems to sketch out ideas or lament my expanding waistline.  It is forgiving and welcoming and expedient.  It’s entirely possible that my whole problem is a giant case of attention deficit.  Hmmm a character who has a severe case of ADD....I should write that down.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Poetic Aside

I trip on words
get tangle up
lost among the sounds
make a world
tied up with string
that always comes unbound
to write a story takes too long
I can't commit I know it
and that's why I shall always be
have always been, a poet

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chill Before Serving

Did you ever do that experiment in elementary school science where you created a tornado in a bottle?  It's basically akin to stirring up a batch of Kool-Aid but more scientific like.  My writing life is like this.  I start with an idea, which is basically like the water.  It's pure and clean and pretty much whole in my mind.  Then I add the flavoring, characters, locale, villains and give it a mighty stir.  At first everything is suspended, yet separate and crystallized.  Then as it gains momentum it begins to come together and starts to form a story.  But if I start to stir too fast a hole appears in the middle of my Kool-Aid and all the great ideas that were coming together are pushed to the side to make room for this giant nothing that threatens to take over.
I find myself writing faster trying to squeeze everything in the space that's left.  I jump around in my narrative. I'm unsure where things fit and the more I stir the greater the emptiness grows while everything I thought I had is frantically trying to become something else.   Even when I let go of the spoon the bright red concoction continues to turn.  I'm learning that the only way for it to become what I want it to is to let it.
As writers, we're hard on ourselves.  We feel bad when we have to start again or rip out pages.  But that's the beauty of it.  We can do what we want.  It's not a one off, we get to try again.
I'm there with a story I've been working on.  I'm a month in and I've been stirring too fast.  I'm at the point where I might just make a new batch, this time with sugar.  After all, Kool-Aid is a drink best served chilled.