Saturday, May 29, 2010

Listening to the soul

Writer Anne Sexton advises other writers to put their ear close to the soul and listen carefully.

As an editor, I find there's a distinct difference between writing where the souls of characters are being examined and attended to by the author and writng where they aren't. I've edited some interesting manuscripts where there's good plot and suspense, good dialog and description, but the writing doesn't move me. It's interesting but it isn't profound, and I've realized it's because it doesn't go deep into the character's being but rather skates on the surface of actions and words.

A step up from this are stories in which the main character's soul is of interest to the author and he or she delves deeply there but all the rest of the characters remain superficial as if there isn't room in the story for their souls as well.

Then the most satisfying are those where we listen to the souls of most or all of the characters. We see their souls communicate with each other, we see the darkness in them and the light, we see the fears and joys.

Of course, some readers, perhaps even many, aren't interested in this depth of communion, hence the popularity of genres that remain on the surface of life. But I can tell you as a writer and editor that writers who can go there get my vote every time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Creativity questions from Eric Maisel

My current creativity class with Eric Maisel is coming to a close and as part of the final handout, he sent some provocative questions and ideas for those of us who live a creative life (or want to). I thought I'd share them with you.

1. If I am not doing the work I'm intending to do, why am I not doing it?

2. Am I willing to believe that my efforts matter, at least to me?

3. Given the facts of my existence, what efforts must I make in order to have the creative life I want?

4. Am I doing my creating?

5. What action will I engage in today in support of my creative life?

6. How wil I define personal success in such a way that I can feel like I am having some successes?

7. What is the first thing you will do or say to yourself on a day that you are disinclined to create?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Words about a wordless event

Six weeks gone,
My mother’s ashes laid to rest
Grey October rain
The firs in Laurelhurst,
Older than my mother’s 80 years,
Gently pin me to the pavement
They circle up, lean in, and whisper
Sighs of solace,
They hold me, know me, love me
In my orphan’s grief

Ten seconds gone, ten minutes
I hear a dog bark, a stroller’s wheels
The traffic on 39th

Monday, May 24, 2010

10 minutes a day

I've long been a proponent of 10 creative minutes a day. It's a practice almost everyone can implement, whether you've been at your medium a long time or would like to fool around with a new one. You can dance, draw, sing, write, doodle, garden, anything for 10 minutes a day.

I think this practice is particularly helpful with writing. Ten minutes a day of writing for a year will make a massive difference in your style and clarity. Whether you journal the day's events and their meanings, you use prompts and write descriptions, you capture dialog between characters or real people, you write a poem or a haiku, you will get better.

You will get better if no one reads your work, if no one edits your work, if no one critiques your work. You will get better whether you reread your work or not. There's something magical about just doing it.

If this idea intrigues you, consider scheduling a time to do this. Before your day really gets going is always good or in the last hour before bedtime. It can make a nice way to wind down. And if you try this, let me know what you think after six months.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A recent writing

At 5 in the afternoon, she knew for sure that he wasn’t going to call. This one she had pinned high hopes on even though all the telltale signs of danger and incompatibility had clearly been there.

And she felt a tremendous sense of ease and release—she had thought that the disappointment would be fierce—she had liked this one a lot. But she was learning that while there might not be a Divine Plan, there was a Spirit of the Universe that wished her well, wished for her highest good, and he wasn’t part of it.

So she made herself a cup of tea and took down an orange from the red bowl on top of the refrigerator. She sat herself down at the dining room table and focused on the brilliant red and fuschia primroses that had sprung up lush and unbidden in the pot she had neglected since August, its dirt covered with moss and grass.

She felt no more alone than earlier in the day when she had thrown herself into a tedious editing job to make the time go faster. Was she angry that he’d said he’d call and hadn’t? A little. What was it she wanted anyway? To be saved from her loneliness or to be saved from more bad choices? Both, she knew.

The tea had cooled in the cup and the orange had been eaten unknowingly, unmindfully. She scolded herself. Her heart ached a bit—she so wanted the happiness she could feel was out there, the deep connection that others seemed to have. She sighed and got up and went back to work.