Thursday, 11 September 2008

Doing What We're Meant To Do

I remember the feeling I had when I successfully made it through my first semester of teaching:"This is it! I've finally found my niche! God, this feels great!"

I'm getting that feeling again...

Writing is nothing new--I've been writing since I was a kid. But I always thought my first publication would be a novel. Maybe a chap book of poetry. Instead, it was a Physical Geography textbook. Public triumph, personal yawn. BFD. Not world-altering. Not even money-making, and I'm already working on the second edition. It didn't feed the soul or offer freedom of expression. A hurricane is a hurricane. There isn't much wiggle room there.

Tolstoy once wrote, "Every time you sit down to write, you should leave a piece of your flesh in the ink pot." Didn't really happen this time, Leo. There were stories scrabbling to get out, scratching and whining. Only there was no door.

And then I tried to write a screenplay.

It was like getting into a jacuzzi after a long workout. Add candles. Some anti-frantic music. My honey. (Let's save the champagne for the first sale, shall we?) Ahhhhh. Feel yourself melting? Me, too. No more thinking. Just float. Oops, sorry...too many bubbles. That's better. Just flow.

There is something so freeing about writing a screenplay. The experts say it's an "all show, no tell" medium. I don't have to spend five pages describing Edinburgh Castle at sunset as seen from The Craigs above Holyrood Palace and dive deep for metaphors to connect with my reader. That's what the camera's for. "EXT. EDINBURGH CASTLE - SUNSET" Done. Take a knee and pump an arm.

Now it's all about the relationships, the dialogue, brief cues to body motions or facial expressions. It's people first. I'm so frigging DOWN with that, right now.

So the first screenplay is about my experiences in Scotland. (Shocker, I know.) I can't believe how many stories I have to tell and how many different "characters" I met in the eight or so months I lived there. You know, like when you look into your storage space and can't believe how much CRAP you've accumulated and you have a garage sale and make a little money? It's like that. All the craziness, drama, and emotional CRAP, boxed up and laid on a page, out there for someone to buy.

I haven't missed a day of writing since I started working on this project. That tells me something. I am where I belong.

So I blow out the candles and sink down, watching the stars as the steam rises around me...oh, yeah...

Hell, why wait. Somebody pour the champagne.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

A Poem for the Unhappily Settled


The patterns of her life overlap, an old quilt,
each piece interwoven, thinning with age
This security blanket of survival carried since childhood
keeps her quiet, keeps her comforted
Full of so many holes, every winter seems the last she can bear,
every frost hardens her heart

Its stitches unravel, repaired with whatever comes to hand,
for sewing it anew takes so much time and trouble
New threads of perspective,
the scraps of experience reworked, soul-searching and patience
Curling into a fetal position, she stretches the shrinking blanket over cold ankles
and tries to sleep, shivering in the dark

Artnik--A Creative Revolution

Beatniks were travelers--sometimes on the road of life, sometimes only in their heads. Like the gummy, distorted artistic depictions of them in black shirts and berets, always they stretched themselves, trying to find new perspectives. Testing philosophies. Moving their minds forward. "Carpe diem!" a rallying cry.

Like the beatniks, music informs and enhances what I do, though the word "beat" has been changed to "art"--for it is within my many artistic endeavors that I stretch my own boundaries, always searching for the voice within. I may not be the first of the artnicks in practice or philosophy. But it is in that tradition that I begin this blog.

One voice among many, at a distinctive timbre, can sometimes be heard through the cacophony. Maybe you'll have to listen closely. Lean in, turn your head to the side, squint your eyes to block the confusion of combined sight and sound. Perhaps you can make out the words. And they speak to you, connect with some synapses already in place and reinforce the pathway. From a dirt track to a paved road. More connections. A four-lane urban street. Soon, a superhighway moves through your mind.

Maybe there are side roads you hadn't explored. Cross traffic that impededs your progress. Or stop lights that give you pause.

Maybe you flip a U-turn and go right back to where you were.

But if you spent any time exploring...and if you learned something new about yourself...if your mental map became clearer, more focused, more colorful...then I've done what I set out to do.

Join your voice with mine and sing, voices rising above the din. Enjoy the ride on this neuron. Or watch through the window as the rest of us cavort. However you choose to be a part of this creative revolution, I welcome you.