“Writers tend to work e…

May 27, 2012 § 3 Comments

“Writers tend to work early in the morning, or late at night, when brains are naturally able to focus deeply on one thought. In the middle of the day, distractions are unavoidable. I wonder if anything worthwhile has ever been written in the afternoon.”
-Scott Adams

Definitely true for me! Mornings are, in my humble opinion, some of the best times for writing. Mornings can be the best times for anything, but there’s something about the feel of a morning that makes it perfectly suited for a writer’s work. Mornings feel solitary. They feel like our space, space where we are free to create without the rest of the world butting in. The same is true for the night-less separates us from the page when the world is asleep. Insecurity is a little less alive during these times, and creativity reigns.

My afternoons are reserved for reading. As Scott Adams said, my brain is simply too bogged down to write anything that isn’t, well, crap in the afternoon. I do, however, find that a good book and a cup of tea are totally acceptable. What do you think? Can you write any time of day? What’s your writing schedule?

A Yellow Dress and a City Street

May 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

A Yellow Dress and a City Street

Today I’m wearing a yellow dress with white polka dots. It’s long and flowy and ties tight with sash. My grandmother says it’s charming.

I wear it with my platforms, the ones with the jean fabric and the bow.

It’s amazing, the power of a dress.

Today I walk downtown. I pop into vintage stores and candy stores and funny stores filled with the joke gifts I used to give everyone, until it became clear I was the only one who found them funny.

And when I walk into these stores, I smile at the people. At the candy store, two young girls are fooling around behind the counter. Giggling behind rows of chocolate and bags of multicolored jelly beans. They laugh and throw their heads back and flash quick smiles at me as I walk through the door. In my yellow dress. They quickly return to their conversation, which consists mainly of giggles followed by more giggles. I don’t mind.

At a bookstore, I buy a Brave New World. One of those important books you figure you should read before you die. One that could change your outlook, save your life, be a good dinner conversation. I scan each aisle carefully before making my selection, listening to the way my jean platforms creak on the old wooden floorboards. I like the creak. It says, I’m here. I creak as I head up to the register, book in hand, smile on face, yellow dress on nineteen-year-old body. And the cashier boy is cute. Not a face I’ll remember, but cute. His eyes flash to the dress, but then quickly move to the book. It’s great, he tells me. Have I read it? No? I’ll love it. If I like it, I should check out this other one. He read it first when he was sixteen, and then again a couple years ago. I smile and laugh and it’s funny, I can almost see my eyes sparkling. Because I feel like that girl today: the girl with the genuine smile and the twinkling eyes and the yellow dress with white polka dots.

A man is sitting outside the vintage store. At first I think he is like many who populate the downtown’s sidewalks…the homeless, the wandering. But when I walk in he gets up and follows me in and wishes me good afternoon. The yellow dress is promising to him. A girl who wears such a daring dress must surely be interested in some risky pieces, some fashion dares. He disappears through a narrow staircase leading to some sort of basement, I assume, and when he returns a very alternative sort of music starts to play. It’s all just sounds, really, like marbles spilling to a floor and someone clicking their tongue. I sort of enjoy it as I mosey around, grabbing at enormous overalls and outrageous pink sequined pantsuits. I stay longer than needed because I feel something for the man behind the counter. He’s turned on his music for me. He’s standing patiently behind his counter of antique watches and purses with worn straps, watching me swish around in my yellow dress, looking at these clothes he’s collected, taken care of, watched over. I smile and say thanks as I leave, and he actually looks taken aback. Really, truly, surprised. You’re welcome, he says to me, and he manages a crooked, yellowed smile. A real, true smile. Have a good day.

The woman at the costume store is closing up, but she allows me to look at her fabulously seductive and wonderfully crafted mermaid costumes. When I leave, she tells me how pretty I look. “What a dress,” she says.

And as the city lights dim and I walk back through town, past two girls singing while playing ukulele, and a couple listening to a man on guitar, and a boy whose eyes fix themselves on me, I breathe in my yellow dress with white polka dots. And it’s just a dress, but it’s lighting up the night. The city lights are low and even the sounds of the city only rustle tonight, but the dress is loud and clear. The people look when I pass. I am a girl in a yellow dress.

And if it lights up my soul, and a few other souls lining this street on this day, this one day, can it really be a just a yellow dress with white polka dots and a sash?

Tension

May 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tension

In my life, I’ve experienced sadness so all-consuming, so deep, that I believed myself to be Sadness. We were One. And every morning was a fresh bruise.

I have also experienced hope. Standing by the ocean, the tide low and the sun sinking towards the earth. I knew it would rise again tomorrow. I knew I would rise again tomorrow, no matter how many times I fell.

There has been joy. The silly moments. A wild dance party, lights dim, an uproar of music and laughter. Someone grabs my hands in the dark and we twirl, and all I can see is a blur of happy.

There has been anger. Lying on the leather couch, cold and unwelcoming, and staring out at a summer day. Resting my body as it wrestled with well-known pain. Pain to which doctors shrug their shoulders. My mind a blur of Why? My temples throbbing, my pulse quickening, the tears a cry of It’s Not Fair.

When I feel, it is these blurs. In my panic, reality dissolves, replaced by that larger-than-life Terror, that overwhelming Fear. In happiness, my world slips away and all I see is Right Here, Right Now, the Wonderful. In anger, all that exists is the colors blinding my eyes and the roaring in my ears.

Feeling is a blur. Living is a blur.

But I find the worst ache is the not living, the not feeling. The confusion. The “stuck.” The tension.

Outside the blur.

Some days I walk through life and I can feel this tension in my soul. Feel it physically, as if I got mixed up in a game of tug-o-war gone wrong. I walk down the street and my throat feels constricted and my heart beats boom. boom. boom. Steady. I watch my arms swing by my sides and my feet move step after step. And I can hardly stand it. Being in reality, but being neither here nor there. Or even there. Anywhere. Feeling…nothing.

Feeling…

Tension.

Some people describe it as “lost.” Not knowing where to go. Dreams clouded by fog, belief in self in critical condition. Staring at s sign that points down two roads.

For me, it is Tension. It is getting up and brushing my teeth and eating my breakfast and a few hours later crawling into bed. It’s a million days repeated. It is, to be quite frank, Who Am I and What The $%^ Am I Doing? It’s wishing you could break into laughter or burst into tears and instead sitting in a rocking chair. Back, forth. Back, forth. One place.

And it’s true.

Nothing could be worse.

A Note on Writer’s Block

May 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

A Note on Writer's Block

…We’ve all been there.

Writer’s block is a funny concept, and one that, I would argue, is somewhat misunderstood. When considering writer’s block, most people envision hands furiously darting across a keyboard (or piece of paper, if that’s how you work), eyes alight with that focus, that I-know-exactly-what-I’m…and then nothing. Suddenly, every possible plot twist or character choice is nowhere to be found. Your mind is wiped clean, or, as the term “Writer’s Block” suggests, you reach an impasse. Beyond that wall, who knows what adventures and mind-blowing mysteries await! But for now, you’re stuck staring at ugly concrete.

Writer’s block for me rarely happens in this fashion. And even if you feel it does for you, you may (just may) be misdiagnosing the problem. You don’t get halfway along in a story and then suddenly have no idea what to do next. At least, not totally. You know your character, you know this story. I’m a firm believer in the let-the-story-guide principle, so I’m not suggesting you know the ending at the beginning and therefore can’t get stuck. (But then again, if you think you know where you’re going to turn out from the beginning of your story, that might be why you hit that aforementioned wall. Be wary of preconceived endings!) If you are smack-dab in the middle of a story and suddenly feel a little unsure of how best to continue, maybe you’re done for the day. Take a break. Go drink some tea and read. Look at it tomorrow morning.

But what writer’s block really boils down to is a both simple and fabulously frustrating and tricky little word: trust. Think about it: when you’re in the zone, you’re not slowing yourself down with self-doubt and countless, Well, am I sure?-type questions. Whatever you’re doing feels right. Not just right, but exactly what makes sense with that particular character in his/her particular circumstances. When you find yourself grinding to a halt, it’s often for the reason that you suddenly start to waver. Subconciously (or even conciously, if you’re like me) you start to think: Do I even know what I’m doing? What if I’m wrong? What if this sucks? And that quickly turns into fear to continue. So, you stop. You hit the wall. You half-hope the wall sticks around so you don’t have to learn the answer to those questions.

I usually encounter this trust/fear dynamic right at the beginning of a new project. Avoidance becomes my middle name. I’ll start right after I get a snack. Clear my desk. Check Facebook. (When you reach this place, just give up on writing that day. Nothing drains the creative mind like the overwhelming amount of mindless, distracting and addictive social media sites nowadays.)

Instead of admitting I don’t trust my abilities, however, I end up blaming the long-abused Well, I don’t have any ideas. I don’t know what to do. And so, in essence, I run away from my writing. I run away from the fear of failure. I run away from myself.

The only way to get over that wall, that block, is to trust. Trust that you know what you’re doing, and then occasional snags are not only normal; they are in no way a reflection of your writing ability. You do no suck because every moment isn’t that magical in-the-zone beautiful, beautiful place. You are a writer. You are a good writer. Trust yourself to deliver this story. Trust yourself to respect your characters.

Perhaps when it comes down to it, pushing through all the possible obstacles of writing comes down to just a few things: faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust.

C.S. Lewis Quote

May 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

C.S. Lewis Quote

And we write to find out if we are… (that part’s me…)

Creativity Takes Courage or, Days You Want to Break Things

May 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Okay, there’s gunna be some real talk today.

Many of us are plagued with not feeling good enough. Something, somewhere within us takes everything personally, attributes every failure to some intrinsic fault and downplays every success. And I’m sick of it.

Because it’s not just the thoughts-you know, I suck, I suck, I suck on repeat for hours-it’s the exhaustion. I will actually physically tire myself out waging war with my mental assaults. I am fully trained to go at it for days, weeks, months, years. It’s amazing how I can work at building self-esteem for months and then watch it plummet in a matter of seconds. But that’s certainly how it feels. I spend days breathing through small pockets of disappointment, thinking positive thoughts, telling myself it’s not only inaccurate, it’s unfair to blame myself for everything that doesn’t work out the way it should. Then one day something hits me square in the face, and I fall flat. The thoughts come storming in, taking over and all of my carefully designed defenses are actually laughable.

 

I guess what I’m trying to say is, ugh.

 

My life path, the reason I’m on this earth feels intertwined with endless possibilities to rip myself open. The poor artist. The poor creative-minded. We all deserve some sympathy. Because really, we are screwed.

At the essence of writing, as I’ve said before, is vulnerability. When writers write, they divulge a piece of their soul. And if you write, you know that’s no exaggeration. What lingered in the dark recesses of your heart is suddenly staring at you on the page. That’s a pretty scary thing. And then, on top of that, we share that writing with others. We say, here, here’s a part of my soul, would you take a look and give me some feedback? Some constructive criticism? That’s a pretty screwed up business, if you ask me. 

I’m also involved with theatre. If you have low self-esteem, it’s not the best passion to develop. Again, you make yourself vulnerable, you try your best to communicate something real and truthful, and someone literally gets to tell whether or not you’re done it well enough, if you’ve done it right. Or, if you’re too something or not something enough. Either way, something is either wrong or right, there or completely lacking. Which can certainly mess with one’s head.

Usually, I wouldn’t write about this in this manner. I would say, that thinking is too black or white. It’s not rational. It doesn’t take into account the director’s vision and all the nuances of the creative process. You don’t know what happens behind the scenes. You need to separate self-worth from this messy, complicated mess of an art form.

Today, I say screw it.

There are a couple things I’ve learned about mental health: Yes, some days you need to think positively, to stop yourself from running down a self-hate path to nowhere. But other days, you have to feel. You have to acknowledge: that disappointed me. This made me feel like crap. This made me feel like I suck. We are human beings, and we feel. We are artists, and we feel. To deny feeling denies our responsibility.

Striking a balance is key here, and it’s not something I’ve completely figured out, if I’m being honest. How do we keep our sanity, our self-esteem, our sense of worthiness and at the same time, live every day in this world, this powder keg of emotions? How do we not end up like Sylvia Plath, Vincent Van Gogh, the creative people who just couldn’t cope? Can we?

For now, my answer is: keep creating and keep breathing. Creativity takes courage, and that’s something pretty under-recognized in our society. So be brave. Some days, move on. Other days, throw things. All the time, breathe. All the time, keep going. Keep creating.

Where Am I?

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