[The shadow] is a force that accumulates when you fail to honor your gifts, follow the call of your muses, or live up to your principles and ideals. Christopher Vogler, The Writers Journey
Most of us who write run into a wall sometimes—- there are exceptions, but I don’t think I know any of those lucky ducks. Sometimes you have to honor the wall— let things be for a while until something opens up and lends direction to your work. Other times, well, some of those other times it seems easy to take that wall and build three more and a roof to box ourselves in and keep the light of creativity out.
Vogler calls writer’s block The Shadow. A one word graphic description of those forces we all battle, whether we are writers, artists, sales clerks or professors. He goes on to say that the Shadow casts doubts upon our abilities and is a powerful sabatuer.
I like to play with the concept of Shadow, whether in stories of heroic journeys or profiles of criminals. I spend a great deal of time reading mysteries, usually British crime novels (I am working my way through Ian Rankin’s work at the moment). At some point along the spectrum of growing up we must lose our innocence and our naive view of the world and what life will bring and grapple with the Shadow. Somewhere in my late twenties I complained to my husband, ‘no one told us how hard it would be.” ‘ It’ being the expectations and responsibilities of adult life, the bills that had to be paid, the children that needed raising, the million compromises we make and the dreams we sometimes have to let go in order to enter into our own next stage on our journey.
View full article »
If you say ‘worth doing’ I venture that most of us will fill in the the missing words for that phrase. ‘Worth doing’ is shorthand for ‘ Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well”—- the battle cry of the perfectionists. Some time ago I came across a variation on that phrase—-’whatever is worth doing is worth doing poorly’—- a ray of hope for those of us who rarely achieve, or wait for, perfection. The point, I think, was that if we have something to do, go ahead and do it, even if it means we will most likely miss the mark of perfection, or even of ‘well’.
After a few decades of stretching, thinking, doing, being and all that other stuff that goes into a life I’d like to offer another alternative to the phrase: Whatever is worth doing is worth doing. Leave off the qualifier, it’s besides the point. So would that philosophy leave us all off the hook to put no more than minimum effort into our work, our projects, our life? Perhaps. But that’s a chance we take every day when we get out of bed. Very few of us hit the marks of perfection in all or even most of our endeavors.
View full article »
Grandma used to pick up threads. And hairpins. And safety pins. She fastened the safety pins down the front of her cardigan near the button holes. There were buttons on her sweater, Aunt Jule would make sure of that. I think she picked up bits of thread and pins because she was raised to be thrifty, to save, to never waste. Grandma seemed so very old to me. The big blue veins that sat on the back of her hands were covered by thin loose skin, her wedding rings held on more by her bony knuckle than by any plumpness of her fingers. There was thread wrapped around the rings to keep them safe below her knuckle. In their steel grey hair these sisters used hairpins, not bobby pins. In old family pictures I saw they once had thick plentiful hair, like I had. Now there scalps were visible and those wide wire hairpins had so little to hold on to that they fell, into the carpet, on to the linoleum, and stayed behind when they arose from a chair. And so they had to be picked up. View full article »
Writers are pretty good at the whole re-cycling thing. Memories of people, places, things, of smells and touch, impressions and observations made over the years are used again and again in the stories we create and the characters we “invent”. Nothing is wasted. Our whole lives feed our work. Our way of being in this world, I think, is different than people who don’t write. Of course, that’s just my theory, a theory that has been tested on anecdotes and observations I have accumulated these many years. Kind of a self proving theory, but never the less, there it is.
I’m pretty darn sure musicians and visual artists approach and absorb life in similar ways, molding and shaping bits and pieces of history and flashes of cinema that run through our heads, whether awake or asleep. I have my own laboratory for developing this theory. Each one of my children is an artist of some kind; they draw, paint, write and perform music, craft inert material into something beautiful and make movies. I have learned so much from them over the years on how to “do” this writing thing. They are wonderful converters of the energy that has been expended on life experiences. They recall, re-use, recycle.
View full article »