(fleeting) Inspiration.

One problem that every single writer who has ever lived (or ever will live) has come across is the problem of writer’s block – a period of time where inspiration decides to leave us in the dry, cold, colorless dust.  It’s an incredibly frustrating feeling: wanting to write, knowing you should be writing because you haven’t for far too long, but unable to conceive of a worthy topic or just unable to put anything you think and feel into the right words.  It’s like feeling out of sorts.  Nothing is right or normal or the way it should be, and you feel unsettled and uncomfortable in your own skin until the feeling goes away, or – for writers (and other artists) – until inspiration returns.  Which usually happens in long-anticipated floods of emotion and epiphany and color.

But how does this ebb and flow of inspiration work?  What makes it flutter away on disdainful wings like the spiteful Muses of old, and what makes it return in such productive floods and overwhelming relief?  (I think the Muses had/have Bi-Polar Disorder.  It would explain a LOT.)

Some writers turn to alcohol and/or drugs to prolong (or induce) their surges of inspiration.  Others feed off the emotional roller-coasters that dominate their lives – and sometimes those in the lives of others, too.  Sometimes it’s a combination of both those things that provides the impetus for new pieces to be created.

Not long ago, I wrote a journal entry about my current (at the time) state of mind and related it to the descriptions of how other writers get their artificially-induced periods of inspiration, and I think it does a pretty good job of describing my position on the issue of inspiration and how it comes to a writer.  Following is a section taken from that journal entry:

“I assure you, I am NOT saying that I’m “under the influence” right now, but I think I can begin to understand why [the writers doing drugs] did that… for the last few days now, I’ve been hovering in this state of mind where it’s as if I’m in some sort of detached unreality.  It’s like I’m still living my life, but I’m also observing it from a perspective that lets me see more – perceive more – than my normal outlook would usually allow me.  It’s giving me so much inspiration that I’m hardly finishing the first draft of one poem before the words of the next get shoved through my mind and out my fingers…

I am not a sadist or a masochist, nor am I the type to think of the glass as either half empty or half full (actually, I tend to really dislike that metaphor), but the pain that I’m going through has been a blessing as well as a curse.  I won’t be sorry when it’s gone, but I also won’t be sorry that I went through it.  Make of that what you will, but I can understand why those writers might have tried to prolong the time they were in the state of inspiration.

Nothing good (usually) comes of writing without inspiration, so they tried to figure out how to bring it on at will.  Granted, it was very often through using illegal substances or being irresponsible drinkers, but you see my point, right?  I tend to not call myself an optimist or a pessimist because there is truth in both of those labels for me, but I like what’s coming out of my pen right now.  It’s a slightly new style than my norm, but I’m letting it take me where it will, and I’m just fine with going along for the ride…

As long as the ride ends happily.  If not, then I’d be ok with it continuing for a while longer…”

My point in sharing this excerpt is that life gives us every reason we need to write.  It provides too many topics for us to ever explore thoroughly enough, and its ups and downs leave no time – or reason – to use anything else to augment the flow of that vital inspiration.

My Creative Writing: Poetry

Finally I’m getting to show you some poetry that isn’t ancient history!  I feel like I’ve come a long way in improving my poetry since I started writing it regularly, so it’s nice to look not-so-far-back and feel good about the quality of these pieces.  Today’s poem is one that I wrote in March, called “I Never Said I Was Ordinary.”  As always, I would really appreciate comments about the poem’s quality – what works and what doesn’t?  Does the meter flow well?  Do the images make sense/ are they clear to you?  Do the rhymes work?  Is it too long/ are there parts you think are unnecessary?  Thanks for reading!

 

I Never Said I Was Ordinary

you look at me as if there are stars in my eyes
blinding you with an unknown brilliance~
at least, unknown to me.

you say I don’t know it, but that I am wise
and I push you to the limits of resilience,
though I am too far gone to see.

you say the glimmer in my heart
shows itself in my written art,
yet I can’t see what it is I write,
as though my mind takes flight.

for though you see an innate beauty in me,
I only see what my eyes perceive~
if that is truth, then so be it.

I only see the world in its reality
with all the pain of humanity it can conceive
and the fleeting beauty within it.

my mind roams amongst the sea mist,
floating like a bird o’er the water, sun kissed
so yes, my eyes take on the absence
and glimmer with the reflection hence.

you say I am noble, radiating poise,
that I show a dignity born of confidence –
if I do, it was born of a once profound disquiet.

you say my voice is light and lilting, a sweet noise,
that my words leave you listening in suspense,
but I only hear the beauty of the still and quiet.

my dear, I am simply crying to the moon,
aching to sigh and sing and croon,
my voice rising with the song of a faery –
for, my love, I never said I was ordinary.

The Writer as an Artist

How would you describe a writer?  What definition would you give?  “Someone who puts thoughts and ideas into words,” perhaps?  Or maybe “someone who creates stories” or even “someone who can express themselves through the written word”?

My definition is much more simple: a writer is an artist.  Artists use their surroundings, emotions, perceptions and ideas as their material to create their own medium of communication.  That medium is their chosen form of art, and through that art, they attempt to communicate their unique and profound perceptions of truth and beauty.  This is exactly what writers do.  There may be many, many, many forms of writing out there, but there are myriad types and forms of art too – painting, pottery, sculpting, drawing, photography, animation, jewelry making, cinematography, acting, singing…  The list goes on.  Granted, there will always be disagreements about which forms of writing (and other art forms too, for that matter) actually qualify as art, but my point remains the same: writers are artists.

Some would argue that writing is a lesser form of art than the ones I listed above because pieces like paintings and sculptures are forms of “visual art,” and are therefore universally easier to understand because they lack a language barrier.  I would counter that any kind of visual art can be just as hard to understand as a piece of writing that isn’t written in your language.  Every piece of art has a profound concept behind it, and it’s the skill and intention of the artist that makes that piece of art easy or hard to understand.  Also, other types of art have just as many restrictions as writing does.  Pieces of writing can always be translated (even if some of the original meaning can get lost in the translation), but other forms of art have other restrictions that writing doesn’t have – such as being confined to one still image if we’re talking about photography or painting, or being restricted to a certain time frame if we’re talking about cinematography or animation, or even the restriction of one specific pose or shape if we’re talking about sculpting or pottery.  All of these restrictions put pressure on the artist, forcing him to refine and clarify his concept before pursuing it in his chosen art form.

I would even go so far as to say that writing might actually be a way of reaching more people than any other form of art.  Because no matter what picture you wish to convey in your reader’s mind, it will always look different to every eye that reads it.  You want to paint the image of a beautiful woman?  She will be beautiful, no matter what details you use to describe her because everyone who reads that description will imagine their own version of beauty.  It might not be your version, but you succeeded in communicating what you set out to.

You want to describe a desolate wasteland?  An emotion etched into a character’s face?  An object of rare beauty and mystical power?  Use the best language you can find, translating it from the image fixed in your mind, and if your skill can make the image breathe, you’ve succeeded in your purpose.

Because words are not color; they are the brushes.

Words are not lenses; they are the light by which you see the model.

Words are not the end; they are the means.

Visual artists can only show you one picture, but words can not only show you the whole story, they can become every perspective, conform themselves to every individual’s imagination, and even communicate an ideal in its truest, purest form.  Because the idea behind the words is an essence even the blind can understand.

And everybody knows that even the blind can read.

 

My Creative Writing: Prose

Hey everybody!  Since I have a few more days before my next school-related post, I thought I’d start up my creative writing posts again!  This piece I’m going to show you is the first section of my new flash fiction series.

The point of the series is partly for description practice, partly for character development practice. The characters in it will always go unnamed because I want to practice creating characters who are unique and dynamic without the help of a lot of background and history (which inevitably comes with names). We’ll see where this goes, but for now I’d love feedback on the settings and scenarios I’ve created – are they clear and easy to visualize? Does the plot make sense? Does the amount of mystery I’ve added bring confusion or suspense?

Thanks so much for reading!

 

In the Night – Section 1

As she walked home that dark night, the rain puddles reflected the light of what few stars could be seen in the sky above London’s great city lights.  It was pretty, she thought, but sad that so much beauty could be lost because of something that was beautiful itself: light.

She sighed, and hummed a few notes from a song written in minor chords.  A weeping song, she thought every time she heard it; a song of writhing emotion and contorted feeling.  That’s how she felt now, walking home from the party.  Funny how something of a merry nature could make one feel so contemplative and melancholy.  She smiled a little sadly at the thought.  As contrary as the sentiment might be, she loved it for its truth.

Thus lost in thought, she didn’t notice the shadow that didn’t move, the darkness that shouldn’t be, the still that shouldn’t be silent.  A smirk made the corners of his mouth lift in the dark perversion of a smile as his hands began to tremble in anticipation of his crime.

Still oblivious to her peril, she walked on, her mind lost on a cloud of intricate thoughts, her senses tuned in to the smell of rain, not the garbage that filled the alley.  Her forget-me-not eyes saw only the yellow lights shining on the craggy bricks of the buildings and the little slice of ebony sky above their spires.  Her ears heard the noise of a city full of a unique and diverse people, not the clumsy sound of a man’s footsteps treading in the pools of water she had admired not so long ago.  Her tongue vibrated with the song she sang, filling her heart with the music of a dreamer.

But all cannot happen as it was intended to, for fate is not a thing to be predicted.  It laughs at the chances it gets to use the blind side of things and mangle what might have once been order into chaos.

The feet that so innocently skipped through the puddles turned a corner, and her figure disappeared from his sight.  He growled under his breath and quickened his pace, rushing around the corner after his prey.  But there she was, still wandering in her imagining dreams, and yet… she was no longer alone.

This time she felt the presence of her pursuer, but as she turned her head, all she saw was a ragged figure breathing heavily as he leaned against the corner of the building she had just come around.  He wouldn’t dare follow her with any of his previous intentions now – she had led him away from the forbidden alleys and out onto a common but very busy street.  Vendors selling dessert pastries and beer to passers-by, taxis screeching by with their glowing yellow signs, people meandering along the cobblestoned street with scarves and long coats to cloak their individuality.  She was swallowed up in the throng, and he cursed, his resentful eyes not on her, but him.

Little Calvin

Most people will tell you that the birth of a younger sibling is scary and traumatic – especially if you’re old enough to remember the event later, but not old enough at the time to handle the stress like an adult.

What most people can’t tell you is how much more terrifying it is when there are complications and the final verdict is something you would never have expected.  Such was my experience when my little brother Calvin was born.

I’m sure you can imagine all the excitement the mere news of his birth caused.  Baby number 6 – born 10 days early, but healthy nonetheless… or so we thought.  It’s always a scary moment when your parents tell you to sit down and listen carefully even as the solemn, serious looks on their faces warn you that all is not well.  As I look back, I think the thing that shocked me more than the actual news (on that day, at least) was that my dad started to cry before he could tell us the whole story.  My mom had to finish, and later, my dad told me that she didn’t cry then because she’d already cried away all her tears.

Calvin was diagnosed with Down syndrome.  Unfortunately, it’s a difficult condition to gauge in terms of how severe the case is until the diagnosed child learns to speak.  The reason for that is because two of the main symptoms of Down syndrome are delayed development and a slower ability to learn, so until the child learns to talk, you can’t measure either of those.

I was 13 when Calvin was born – an age (as I’m sure everyone can agree) that is as confusing as it is difficult.  I had recently been transferred into the school I would graduate from when my mom had Calvin, and my family had recently left the church we had attended since I was born – in fact, my mom had grown up in that church, and my grandma still goes there.  As a result, my life was a complete mess: I had no friends (having been home-schooled since 3rd grade before I transferred into the new school), my church family was now gone and then almost immediately replaced by countless others in the hopes of finding a new permanent one, and now my home life had been thrown into chaos by the new and unwelcome little problem.

I won’t go into the details of what my attitude and mental state were during this time, but looking back, I think I can honestly say that I hated baby Calvin for a time.  He wasn’t the only cause of my anger, but his presence destroyed the last bit of stability I still had in my life up to that point.  It took me a very long time find a way to cope with the completely new and alien life that was thrust upon me, but what came out of it was beautiful and well worth the struggle.

I became like a second mother to Calvin and to my other siblings as well because of how often my mom was in the hospital with him.  Children born with Down syndrome are very often prone to other health problems, and Calvin went through more than his fair share of these.  As a result, I was often left to play the role of mother (being the firstborn), so that was the relationship that formed between Calvin and I.  He’s 6 years old now, but our relationship hasn’t really changed.  I graduated with honors from the same school I had recently entered when Calvin was born, and I have many friends and teachers I still talk to.  Plus, the education that school gave me is one of the biggest influences that made me decide on George Fox University, and it prepared me very well for the academics at George Fox.  Changing churches changed my life and my relationship with God – I can’t even imagine who I would be if that change hadn’t come right when it did.

I think the lesson here is that no matter what challenges and changes life throws your way, there’s always going to be some good that comes out of it, any usually a lot more good comes out of it than you ever could have predicted.

My point in writing about this isn’t to just tell y’all about my lovely family or my lovely problems, but to make a point: not only did a lot of good come out of all the things I just talked about, but it’s all become a wealth of writing inspiration and ideas and potential topics, too.  I really have no worries about ever not having something to write about – there’s just no way that I’ll ever run out of things to say!  The adventure will be looking for topics I haven’t really explored yet.

Creative Writing and the New Adventures of Magazine and Feature Writing

Well, I think it’s been a sufficiently long time since I last posted an entry here that I can say, “I’m back!”  The summer is officially over and I am back in school with a new Writing class in my schedule: Writing 300 – Magazine and Feature Writing.  One very exciting feature of this class is that I’ll get a few different chances to send off the pieces I write to (hopefully) get published!  Obviously there’s no guarantee that they will get published, but it’s still an opportunity that I don’t intend to waste!

As a result, we’re back to regular, weekly posts again!  I still fully intend to post about my creative writing, but once a week I’ll post about other various topics too, and these posts will often have something to do with a concept we learned in class that week.

In class this week, the point my Professor made over and over again is that the material you need to write a feature is everywhere – in the seemingly mundane events of your everyday life, in your conversations, the interactions you have with acquaintances, friends and family members, the effect something you read or watch has on you, etc.  I thought this was an interesting (and very important) point to encounter in a Magazine and Feature Writing class because as a creative writer, I get my inspiration from everything around me, too.  Inspiration for both my poetry and creative prose often come from the music I listen to, the artwork and photography I see, the weather, the events of my past, my hopes for the future, the ideas and opinions I form from what I hear and read on a day-by-day basis, dreams I have, and even my various moods throughout the day.

I must admit, though, that when I first signed up for this class, I didn’t really wanted to take it.  Why?  Well… now I know it’s because I was simply ignorant of what this class is about.  At the time, though, I thought I didn’t want to take it because it didn’t fit my definition of “creative writing” – it wasn’t a “Writing Short Stories” class or a “How to Write a Novel” class.  Therefore, I decided it wasn’t a class I wanted to… well, waste my time with.  Now that I’ve attended class for a full week now, however, I am very, very excited to continue the class because I learned that there is an element of creative writing here.  There may be some instances when I need to do some research and conduct a few interviews, but I’ll still be writing stories – just not the kind that I’m so used to considering “real” stories.  If I want to hold my own in the competitive writing industry, I need to learn all kinds of different forms of writing, and this is one of them.  Of course, it’s a plus that this discipline counts as creative writing!

In short, I’ve learned a lot more this week than just the definition of a “feature” and the difference between a commentary piece and a short feature piece; I’ve come to understand my position in my field a lot better, and I have a clearer vision of where my future is headed and what I need to do to get there.  Now on to the hard stuff!