September 25, 2013
These are the immortal words of my Dad, forever reminding his kids, all 6 of us, to remember what is important and to keep our attention on that! Simple words, loaded with wisdom – and words that have helped me repeatedly, time and time again, to return my focus to the task at hand.
Lately, for many months now…(all right, let’s just call it like it is – YEARS now, it’s been YEARS) my “prize” has been the completion, and publication, of my first novel – The Burden of Light. I have my Dad’s words posted on my corkboard in my writing room, and whenever I feel myself getting impatient, or forlorn, or downright filled with despair over the amount of time this book has required from me – I roll those words around my tongue, swallow them whole, feel them tumble down my esophagus and spill into my stomach where they begin to digest, nourishing me, filling me with the fortified strength needed, so that I might continue on…
I recently stumbled on this photograph, taken on a summer trip past, and I thought – That’s It! That’s how I feel! Like I’m staring up into the depths of a towering climb, and there are no ropes, no notches or ledges, nothing to show me I am headed in the proper direction, to guide me, and deliver me, home…
…but of course there is…there is patience. there is language. there is dedication…and determination. there is silence.
When we writers begin to listen to our characters, to listen to the story they have for us to tell – we come to realize that they are the rope that pulls us forward, they chisel the notches for us to find our way home. It is our job to be still enough, open enough, patient enough, and quiet enough, to hear them.
Tara Ison, my wonderful first mentor at Antioch University Los Angeles, where I received my MFA in Creative Writing, gave the commencement speech for our graduating class, and she reminded us to never forget the importance of staring out a window. “A great deal of my writing happens without a pen or paper anywhere nearby” she told us, and I couldn’t agree more. Silence, letting the mind run free, invokes the spirit of creativity; it is an open invitation to our “mysterious possibles” to step inside our room…so that we may listen. So here’s to all you writers out there…find a window and take a peek, your stories are patiently waiting :)
* (an aside: speaking of Silence, please do check out this wonderful podcast from the brilliant radio show On Being, with Krista Tippett – it’s called “The Last Quiet Places” by Gordon Hempton…it is certain to make you want to “listen”)
Please share experiences of your writing life! Mantras, favorite walking places, special cocktails! :) I’d love to hear from you.