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Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Raging Poet's Guide to Ambiguity

I have no adult supervision tonight. So I'm kicking back in my loft having a glass of red wine listening to The Cure Unplugged. The whir of a box fan provides some white noise behind my favorite tunes. Life is good at the moment except my six-year-old son keeps getting out of bed, disrupting my mellow mood. But the warning of an electronics ban seems to have quelled his sleep-delaying tactics.

It's the kind of night that's perfect for writing poetry, but I'm a better raging poet than a mellow poet, so I'll save the poetry for another night. Though you'll never see it because poetry has a way of revealing too much. And those of you who know me know I'd rather streak naked across the field at the Super Bowl than bare my soul.

Poetry is raw and honest, and I can't seem to hide myself in it like I can my fiction. The poet Stellasue Lee says poetry can also be fiction. So it doesn't always have to be a purging of one's soul. You could write some fictional poetry and some true poetry and share both. Then people would always wonder is that snail trapped in the jar her, or is it just . . . a snail trapped in a jar. I think I did actually post that one a while back (here). Now you're wondering aren't you?

Do you think Stellasue could be pulling our leg (by the way, clich├ęs are forgiven a writer when they are accompanied by a glass . . . or two of wine - I'm pretty sure I read that in The Chicago Manual of Style)? Maybe all of Stellasue's poems are her - Stellasue slicing her chest open, ripping her heart out, and holding its beating and blood-dripping form out for all to explore. It could be fiction lingers in our heads providing enough ambiguity for Stellasue to be able to pop her heart right back in and go about her life. No harm done.

We'll never know will we? But it sure makes it a lot easier for a raging poet like me to realize maybe I can hide myself in my poetry after all.

Writer friends: How about you? Would you rather streak naked at the Super Bowl or truly bare your soul for all to see? Do you hide yourself in your writing (poetry or fiction)?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Seduction and the Moody Writer

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you're flying? I never just take off flying from the ground. I have to climb on top of something - a car, a building, a deck rail - anything that puts a little distance between me and the dirt. Then it's just a little leap, and off I go as my long hair dramatically flows out behind me, stroking my bare skin.

I look at the scene below - the rusted out car, the charred building, the moldy deck rail - and I am ebullient flying high above life's ugliness, and I never want to land.

Some days are just like that for a writer. Some days are absolute perfection in writing heaven. Your take-off is flawless, the wind is at your back, and you're flying so high the ugliness below has faded to nothing. It's just you and that steady, flowing pace, so you set your cruise control in a wide open sky and let your hair fly free. And your writing angels cheer your greatness with every keystroke.

Oh, yes! Those days are the ultimate in writing seduction, and a writer seduced beyond satisfaction has the power to transcend a story in unbelievable ways.

Other days, I climb up on that rusty car, take my little leap, and . . . nothing. Another little leap . . . nothing. Finally, a full blown jump - I will fly today, damn it!  And, I land . . . hard, sucking back a mouthful of dirt. I spit out what I can, jump up, slap myself off, and storm right back up on top of that car, then THUD, I'm chewing dirt again.

Some days are absolute torture in writing hell. And you fight it until your writing demons slam you to the floor, have their way with you, then scrape their dagger claws over every square inch of your body. Finally defeated, you crawl into your dungeon of failure and brood over why you ever got hooked into all this writing nonsense in the first place.

What if I've written my last great line? Have I ever written a great line? What if nothing ever inspires me again? What if that thing that turns me on in the morning, and that thing that keeps me turned on at night - that sleep-depriving seduction of words - is dead? Might I shrivel up and die from passion neglect? What if I have to grow up and get a real job? Why would anyone in their sane mind want to read my crap? Who am I fooling, I'm no writer - I've obviously been faking it.

But then something happens to a writer. You wake up on a new day - maybe not the next day but a new day - and suddenly a flicker of light is there. It might not be a bonfire, but even a lit taper is confirmation that the desire still burns. And you run toward it knowing that writing still seduces you in ways of which you cannot fully and properly speak.

So you smoke your cigarette and get back to the business of writing.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Inspiration By Accident

Inspiration is a tricky thing for a writer, isn't it? You can't really force feed yourself inspiration. You can't hammer through that big knotty hole in your story by simply sliding your chair back, closing your eyes, and declaring, "Okay, bring on the inspiration!" I'm sure there are some freaks of nature out there in writing wonderland who can conjure it on demand. But most of you, no doubt, are just like me - you can't will inspiration into being.

So what do you do? You live life and rely on those glorious accidental moments when inspiration whacks you so hard you think your brain might have twisted in your skull a few degrees.

Because suddenly all you can think about is that sycamore tree down on the river - the one with the open trunk so huge three people can stand inside it. Or how stinkin' high Fall Creek Falls is, and is there any scenario in which a person could survive plummeting over it? Or why you can't get Cece's favorite monster cup, the one she broke at writers' group the other night, out of your head, and discovering the answer when you reach a scene in chapter seven of your current work in progress.

Funny to think that stories live and grow through a series of accidental moments that inspired something magical in the mind of a writer.

Writer friends: What accidental moments have inspired you to create something magical?

Psst - click on "Cece's" above to read her blog - one of my favorites.