Blissful Understanding

Alligators

Alligators (Photo credit: Jombie9)

“We do not write to be understood. We write in order to understand.” ~ Cecil Day Lewis

These words tell the whole story for me. Writing if done correctly is not easy. According to Willliam Sarovan, “Writing is the hardest way of earning a living with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.” Mr. Sarovan knows whereof he speaks.

Like any other exercise, and I call writing an exercise, as it uses the “muscles” of the brain, one must persevere in order to get results.  Our muscles develop over time and help us with the heavy lifting of expressing ourselves, and in that expression, understanding ourselves.

Often, when I do my workaday writing, which is reporting on what goes on in municipal politics, I find I need to understand the topic I am writing about before I am able to write an article. Sometimes when I am confused, I start with the end in the mind–what the decision was that was made at council, and then work my way back through the story to get to why that decision was made. What went into it? By starting at the end and working back, I find a way to understand the topic. And of course, if there is any question in my mind, I use my due diligence and ask some more questions.

When I write more creatively, I find that much of what I write ends up on the proverbial cutting room floor. When I was in school decades ago, and we edited film, we actually cut out the parts we did not want–until then I did not realize how true to life that expression was. When you write and edit, more often than not, you just delete–but by writing and deleting, and then finally coming up with a product you are somewhat pleased with, you come to an understanding. You delete the things which did not add to the “understanding” and keep the things that seemed to clarify it.

One of my favorite quotes, and one I have used before is that of E.M. Forester who said quite brilliantly, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” I am of the same mind. When the words from my brain are tapped out by my fingers, there is a process there–a process of pre-editing–of things that were formed in my mind, chewed up, and spat on the page in a form that is pliable.

The quotes that I have used in this post are from Dinty W. Moore’s book, “The Mindful Writer”, and he has his own take on them, which he admits has a bit of a “Buddhist approach”, or mindfulness. He says though that his writing actually opened his mind to mindfulness and nonattachment, rather than it informing his writing. He says that writing “is not explaining” nor the “mere description of an idea.” Rather, “to write requires learning, discovering, examining and interrogating.” He believes that “writing is the process of putting down words, then stepping back, considering those words, trying to understand them.”

Do you agree with Moore? Is understanding one of the goals of your writing bliss?

Writing samples

Writing samples (Photo credit: churl)

Note to my readers: I have Recipe Saturday, and now Writing Wednesday–so those are two things you can depend upon — I am finding a little calm in the chaos by assigning myself topics.

Shuttered Windows

The Shuttered Room and Other Pieces

The Shuttered Room  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“One wants a room with no view, so imagination can dance with memory in the dark.” ~ Annie Dillard

I am afraid I am with Ms. Dillard on this one. Perhaps it is because I have self-diagnosed AADD (Adult Attention Deficit Disorder), but the less stimuli I have when I work, the better I am. A view would take my concentration away from the matter at hand.

I work in a corner of my “office” in front of shuttered windows. I have pics of my family on my desk and occasionally glance at them, but I take them somewhat for granted, thus they are not much of a distraction. I know if I opened the shuttered windows, I would be lost in the scenery outside, lost in thought.

Lost in thought is good for creativity, but it is the inner imagination dancing with memory in the dark that produces good writing.

Do you write in a room with a view, or do you find bliss in shuttered windows?

Published in: on February 19, 2013 at 1:21 pm  Comments (64)  
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~ Words of Comfort for Writers ~ On Originality

Writer Wordart

Writer Wordart (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

Essentially most bloggers are writers–and as writers we have many fears. I found a passage in Elizabeth Berg’s book, Escaping Into the Open, The Art of Writing True, that I found particularly comforting and thought I would share it with you.

Ms. Berg is a favourite author of mine and I would recommend her book on writing to anyone who wants to plumb the depths of their creativity.

Without further ado, here is the passage that I find freeing:

“….it does happen that writers can end up creating things that are very similar. If you subscribe to the belief that everything’s already been said, that should come as no surprise. But there are a myriad of ways of saying things, which brings me back to the importance of writing in your own voice. Every individual, amazingly, really is unique. Therefore, every individual has something unique to offer. When it  comes to writing, you’ll see the singular aspect of an author made manifest not so much in what he or she says, but in how they say it.”

What do you think ~do you think that everything’s already been said? Or do you agree with Ms. Berg that it is how we say it that is important ~ moreso than what we say?

V ~ is for Vicarious

Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion, t...

Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion, the first Trixie Belden mystery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If a movie is really working, you forget for two hours your Social Security number and where your car is parked. You are having a vicarious experience. You are identifying, in one way or another, with the people on the screen.” ~ Roger Ebert

I have a rather positive outlook on vicarious experiences. Though I may not have experienced something firsthand, that does not mean the experience is not worthy.  In fact vicarious experiences can be just as satisfying. Is that not what we do when we get lost in a good movie as Ebert so ably puts it, or better yet, when we read a book?

I remember as a young girl reading the adventures of Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, and living them in my imagination. The things that they dealt with did not happen in my “real” life, but I was richer, as was my imagination, for having experienced them vicariously.

I sometimes live through the tales my friends tell of their adventures, their travels, and their creative acts. And by listening to them, my attention is rapt, and their memories become not my memories, but an open door to things I have not had the chance to do or create.

Some of the synonyms I found for vicarious are not at all how I define it.  The words second-hand, displaced, remote, indirect, removed or distanced do not play a part in my vicariousness.

To me, living vicariously opens up worlds that may not be available to me otherwise. It also provides an impetus to do the things that I find appealing. Sometimes living out something in your imagination translates itself into action.

I have lots of things on my life list (as opposed to my bucket list which sounds a little too final to me) that I want to do: travel, publish a book, learn to golf and play tennis, get involved in more community activities—and as I work on this list, I derive pleasure from those who do travel extensively, write books, play the games I want to play, and join the activities I want to take part in. It is part of the learning process—it is all part of my life research.

I think of  “living vicariously” as a practice run wherein I am identifying what it is I want to accomplish.

1966 cover of the revised version of The Secre...

Life Is the Creative Act

Creativity

Creativity (Photo credit: Mediocre2010)

“If you’re alive you’re creative. We “reduce and  deflect” our creative selves in many ways. Life is the creative act, not the canvas or the blank  page.”            ~ Patti Digh, “Creative is a Verb”

I like to think of myself as artistic.  There is no real concrete proof of this, yet I keep trying to find my “artistic” self.  She seems to be playing a game of hide and seek with me that I have not yet won. I keep seeking, and while my artistic self is wily and still in hiding, I continue to try to coax her out into the open and tag her.  (Lest you worry – I do understand that tag and hide and seek are two different games). I used to love playing “frozen tag” where you would chase your prey and tag them and they had to stand in the spot where you tagged them frozen into place—that is what I want to do with my creative self: seek her, find her, and freeze her so she cannot get away.

The first step to being an artist is to realize that we are all creative beings. I like to think that my primary way of satisfying my creativity is in writing. But I would like to expand on that creativity to include other forms of inspired, inventive, and innovative methods of expressing myself, other than letting the dust settle on my furniture and doodling in the grime.

I particularly admire artists who can paint and draw or find other mediums to express themselves in a way that lends just that little bit more beauty to the world. Of late, I have been reading the book “Creative is a Verb” by Patti Digh, who believes that if we are alive we are creative. I love this all-inclusive definition of creativity. It gives me hope that someday I will produce something beautiful, but if not, then just the mere act of creativity is enough.

Digh includes a poem by Osho in the introduction to her book which I found inspiring:

When I say to be creative

I don’t mean

you should all go

and become great painters

and great poets.

I simply mean

let your life

be a painting

let your life be a poem.

Osho’s poem is inspiring, but so is Digh’s advice that we should fully own “that we are creative beings, whether we will ever call ourselves writers or artists” or pick up a pen, brush or camera, or show our art, sell it or “create something fantastically unique.” And I love this line: “What if we owned that making dinner was a fully creative act?” (My cooking, if nothing else is creative and sometimes edible.)

Apparently, we should not limit our definition of creativity, but instead—“Open up. See more, Live Deeper.” That is what Digh believes art is, creativity is, and life is.  So, even if I cannot draw something besides a stick figure that is recognizable, I am still creative. So there.

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