Don’t let the feet propped on the railing fool you. This is phase two of bringing a novel into the world and to fruition – the edits – maybe akin to the last trimester of pregnancy, or the terrible twos, or those teen years where you bang your head against the wall and wonder what you’ve created. Is your art form this way? Do masterpieces spring from you with ease, or is there the occasional C-section? The question of paternity? Or just the exhausted pleasure of knowing you’ve put your all into your progeny and now it’s time to send them forth? The conception of an idea is something I take very seriously. Giving it form and voice and getting it onto my laptop is tedious, but thrilling. Then there is the joyous moment of approval when my publisher says, “Yes!” followed by the knowledge that now the real work begins. Feet on the deck railing. Fine tuning that creation, making it fit for the world while leaving it very much me and my own. Or yours and your own when it’s your art. Go forth and multiply, labor and love.
I’m in between novels, a time of writing without a determined course, a way of keeping in shape much like a marathon runner trains between events, staying honed until the next official race or story appears. It’s an unsettling time and I feel lost when I’m not writing with purpose, so I decided to try something radical to help the next subject come along. A pipe. A tool my grandfather used to relax with, and professors to achieve deep thoughts. Then why not me? They made it look easy, and so when the smoke shop’s owner didn’t flinch at selling a set of pipes to a couple of non-smokers, I was encouraged at the prospect of inspiration, like smoke, curling upward from a briar bowl. The two of us were thrilled. We took pictures, first of the pipes, then of each other as we tried to light and keep lit a mere one third bowl of tobacco, the recommended beginning amount according to the page long instructions the shop owner had included in our bag of smoking paraphernalia. We had scoffed at the measly one third, it seemed pansy until our thumbs were scarred and chafed from the lighter and its flames. And Cherry Flambe, a sweet tobacco name that had thrilled us in the shop, felt like the dregs of a forest fire in our nostrils by the time we were done. We put the pipes up, letting the ash harden in the bottom of the bowls. I had to conclude there was no shortcut to inspiration. Neither was smoking a pipe to be taken lightly. It is an art form in itself, and my hat is off to those who have mastered it. Maybe practice makes perfect, just like in running, and also in writing, when you’re in between major events.
In between books, in between sculptures, in between masterpieces, in between photos, in between relationships, in between… I have a book on the market, one with my publisher, a dozen churning in my head until one drops to my heart where it will blossom into the next novel I write. In between is where we should rest, rejuvenate, celebrate what we’ve done and anticipate what’s coming next. I find that difficult to do. My hands, my mind, my emotions want to keep creating. When the next idea comes and the new novel begins – then I will relax, then I will rest.
Woman’s World Magazine once said every woman has a story. True. And more true, everyone has a story. Reality TV is mesmerizing audiences with ordinary lives, incredible lives, and plots portrayed by people who aren’t actors. Again, it comes to everyone has a story and everyone else is their audience. Tell your story…
Dead end ahead? Or a turn in the road? It’s only a dead end if you stop. Keep going, keep creating, keep loving, keep trusting…for me it was keep writing. And when I press forward and find it’s a turn instead of an end…I keep going, keep creating, keep loving, keep trusting…and keep writing.
Stories, lives, personal masterpieces…begin well and end well. “In the beginning…” “Once upon a time…” “It was the best of times…” to the “Amen.” “And they all lived happily ever after.” Even if the middle is made of a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” (stolen from one of my favorite children’s books), catch your audience with an intriguing first impression and end with beauty that reminds us of what we’ve seen.
I was told a person has to write four or five novels before they write one that’s worth publishing. That was true for me. I pounded out about that many before I discovered who I was when I sat down at my computer’s keyboard. Maybe none of what I wrote was worth publishing, but it was worth writing, therefore worth the effort. Keep writing, keep drawing, keep trusting, keep finding your way…whatever it is you’re led to do, do it.
Creativity, in my case writing, often comes with an intense burst of energy followed by a much needed break to rejuvenate…let the brain cells rest, the soul regroup, and the eyes focus far away instead of up close. The perfect late winter/early spring break for me is the shed hunt – looking for antlers that have been shed, no longer attached to a deer. It’s truly a hunt for a needle in a haystack, not made any easier by the help of my trusty pug, i.e. pugs are purely ornamental and not bred for any sort of hunt. But we had a great time. Do you see the deer horn lying amongst those leaves? We didn’t either, but we sure had fun looking.
Created works of art – movies, paintings, sculptures, music, books, photographs, and much more – do they entertain, or do they engage? There are times I want to be entertained, but more often I want to be engaged, moved, changed by what I see and/or hear. I want to be affected, I want to carry a piece of another person’s creation away with me in my soul. Books and movies use conflict to engage their audiences, and all the better when that conflict is internal rather than external, i.e. a rending of the heart, a life and death choice – personal moments that speak louder than a series of chase scenes, arguments, or brief sexual encounters. Personally, I’ve almost concluded I’ll be disappointed in an R rated movie. Why? Because they too often forsake a good story to ride on the sensationalism of violence, cursing, or sexual moments. A fellow author recently lamented the disappointing remake of a movie based on a classic novel. It was nothing more than a video game in motion – the original author’s story and lines nowhere in the movie, only a succession of chase scenes and battles. Now we know. If we’re exhausted and need an escape – go see that movie. Crunch popcorn and let it entertain. If we want to be engaged and swept away – read the book. Thank you, to all of those who entertain us, we need you when we want to laugh, unwind, or have our eyes widened in surprise. And thank you even more when your artwork engages us, makes us think, sinks into our souls, and leaves us changed.
Most of us are watching trees shed their beautiful fall colors right now. This fall was magnificent and could bring out the artist in anyone, sending many of us grabbing for paint brushes, plugging in laptops, buying new cameras or lenses. We had to capture it on film, on paper, or in our memory because now the dance is on, Mother Nature’s strip – trees.