June 29, 2010

Women Who Run with Wolves

Women Who Run with the Wolves
"The craft of questions, the craft of stories, the craft of the hands - all these are the making of something and that something is soul." - p. 14
I've had this book for a couple years now. I bought it because it had the words archetype and wild woman on the cover. Sounded intriguing.

I think I read the first few pages of the intro before I was distracted by...butterflies!

Or was it squirrels?

Surely it was something bright and shiny...

So the poor thing sat on my dresser, neglected and forgotten until yesterday. You see, I had left the novel I'm reading at work and needed something to fill the half-hour drive to the boy's baseball game. Since I didn't really want to get drawn into another novel, I decided to give some attention to something off the "research shelf", aka my dresser.

I'm glad I did.

Even though I didn't even make it to the first story, I found the introduction to be very engaging. And it spoke to me. The creative me. The me that I was beginning to think has curled up died or had at the very least taken an extended vacation.

What? Too melodramatic for you? Fine. I'll tone it done a bit.

How about this? The creative spark that feeds my writing has been missing for the last few months.

I imagine a few of you might scoff at this idea. After all, I've been taking lots of pictures and I even managed to complete a scrapbook in a week. Two things that require some glimmer of creativity.

Here's the thing. Photography is light and shadows, composition and focus. It's also relatively stress-free. Unless someone is hoping to use the end results for senior pictures or as a wedding album. But that's a different post.

Scrapbooking is playful and sentimental all at once. There's color and texture and visual appeal, which is completely subjective.

Writing is something else. It requires a different kind of creativity and vision. It requires dedication and determination. It requires the ability to stay invested when the project spans, not days, but months or even years. It also demands passion and more than a little bit of faith.

Passion for the project is pivotal. If the story doesn't scream to be told, to be let free of the flesh and blood holding it captive, it's probably not going to be written. If the author doesn't have faith in the concept, in what can be, there's another insurmountable hurtle, because faith is necessary for the long haul.

Writing is also different from photography and scrapbooking in that the creativity it requires wells forth from somewhere I'm unable pinpoint, somewhere beyond the visual. I hate to even mention the word muse, but I can understand why so many writer's attribute their creativity to one.

Over the last few months, my passion and my faith have been floundering. My muse, if he or she even exists, has been silent.

At least, that's what I've been thinking. However, Estes' introduction makes me wonder if there's not something else interfering in the creative process. There's a passage in those first few pages that really resonated with me as I read it last night, that made me wonder if it's not a lack of passion and faith, but something else entirely that's interfering with my ability to fully invest myself in my writing.

Estes' focus is on the instinctual psyche of women. As I read her words I couldn't help but to think that that element of the psyche she refers to, that she associates with the Wild Woman, is the true source of my creativity. I also found myself identifying with some of the symptoms she associates with the disconnect between the instinctive psyche and most women. Here are just a few..

giving one's creative life over to others (p. 10)

I've been struggling with a decision that could affect my long term chances of being traditionally published. I've been worrying about what it would mean if I made that long over-due Christmas present available to friends and family through Lulu. I've been worrying about the agent and publisher I don't have.

That's handing your creative life over to others.

fear to set out one's imperfect work (p. 10)

Does this one even need explanation? Of course I'm afraid of what others will think of my work, of negative reviews. I fear the voice of my inner critic and too often listen to it.

Not insistent on one's own tempo, to be self-conscious, to be away from one's God or Gods, to be separated from one's revivification, drawn far into domesticity, intellectualism, work, or inertia because that is the safest place for one who has lost her instincts.

There are too many times that I hide behind my excuses. I'm too busy or I'm too lazy. Seriously, you've heard it all. I'm too busy working on reading assignments and school papers. (intellectualism?) I'm too busy running from this sport to that sport or tending to the never-ending chores around the house. (domesticity?) I'm too exhausted to do anything but watch TV or veg out in front of the PS3. (inertia?)

Are these lies I tell myself? I wonder. I wonder because I somehow find the time to do so many other things.

Writing assumes risk, especially if you're trying the traditional publishing route. Is my avoidance - planned or not - a disguise for my need to be safe because I've lost faith in my writing instincts?

I don't want to believe this, but it rings true. The story I've been struggling with? For months, I've second-guessed my decisions with the characters and the plot. I'm uncertain, not of the words or the composition, but of the bones holding the flesh together. I can write a decent paragraph, but does that mean I know how to write a compelling story? I can move the characters through the plot points, but can I give them personality? The fear of getting it wrong overtakes the writer within me, so I don't write.

Reading Estes' work I realized these fears have overwhelmed my instincts. They have robbed me of my creativity, passion and faith.

Now the question is how do I regain the blind egotism of the writer I once was? How do I regain faith in my vision and capabilities?

The logical side of me says I must write; it's the only reasonable answer. I must establish a schedule and force myself to let the dreck live on the page. No editing or revising. No rewriting. No scrapping. The only option is to move forward and let instinct guide me through the story.

June 25, 2010

Playing with Family History

I don't know if I'm into family history because I'm a scrapbooker, or if I'm a scrapbooker because I'm fascinated by family history.

The point here is that I can be a bit sentimental.

Take, for instance, my determination to recompile my great-grandparents' family stories and poetry and make it available to my extended family in a more manageable form. I think the stories about covered wagons coming up to Michigan from Ohio are awesome and fully deserving of surviving another generation or two.

There's also my sudden interest in the 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion, Fifth Armored Division, of World War II. My grandfather was part of "A" Company. I know this because of a rather roughed up old book that somehow managed to survive a house fire in the late 70s/early 80s. The book is missing it's cover, the first 14 pages, and who knows how many pages at the rear. What it isn't missing is the brief mention of my Grandfather.

"It was while we were here that first actual contact between men of "A" Company and the enemy took place. This happened August 5, 1944 when Lt. Devine, Cpl. Cwiklowski, and Pvt. Sherman encountered an enemy road block while out on reconnaissance. The Germans opened fire with machine guns and the fire was returned by Lt. Devine's party long enough to determine the size of the enemy force, then they returned to the Company with the information."
~ History of "A" Company

This passage appears on p. 94 of that old book. The book no one knows the title of but would love to find in its complete form.

As you can see, this passage also appeared in the "History of 'A' Company" on the Fifth Armored Division's website. After doing a bit more digging around there, I think I've deduced the battalion he served in: 628th Tank Destroyer.

I also thought I found a copy of the book that had been so nearly destroyed in Grandma's house fire. I was wrong. It's not the same. Still pretty cool, but not quite right.

Not that I'm giving up. Oh, no. Not yet.

June 22, 2010

So, About That Writing

I haven't been writing very much lately.

Wait.

That's a lie.

I haven't been writing at all. Not for several weeks. Months.

I'd like to give you a laundry list of excuses, but the truth is that the excuses are only that. Excuses. The real problem is me. Not my busy schedule. It's not work, school, housework, or the boys' sports schedules. No, I'm the problem. Instead of pulling out the new laptop, which I so desperately wanted because I was certain it would motivate me to write, I've been flipping on the TV and checking out the DVR list.

Or grabbing a book and finding a comfy place to sit and chill for an hour or so.

Not that I'm complaining about all the reading I've done this summer. I'm not! I'm loving the fact that I've actually made a small dent in my to-be-read pile. I've read a variety of genres already and it's only mid-June. Young adult fantasy, historical romance, thriller, bizarro, post-apocalyptic, and magical realism have all had a turn.

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1) The Road Singer: Waken Geek Love Winter's Tale Fledgling Vanish (Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles, #5) A Rogue of My Own (Reid Family)

So far, there's only been one book that I had to force myself to finish. Winter's Tale was not at all what I expected or hoped for, nor did it live up to the positive reviews posted on Goodreads.

While reading these books has definitely cut into what writing time I could have carved out for myself, I can't say I regret the decision to read them. I've missed my bubble gum reading for far too long. After slogging through literary theories and analyzing Literature for months on end, I must admit I was craving some mindless entertainment, books that don't require deep reading.

And these certainly haven't. Or maybe Winter's Tale did and that's why it was so dang hard to power through.

Long story short, though, I don't intend to change my current reading habit. I won't pick the writing over the reading. At least, not right now.

And since I'm being honest here, I have no intention of picking writing over video games or my favorite television programming. At least, not right now. Right now, I'm indulging, not working and since writing is work, I'm not writing.

I should feel bad about that, but I don't.

It's summer. It's vacation time. And I need a vacation, a time to recharge the creative batteries, if you will.

How about you? How's your creative battery?

June 21, 2010

And Another Weekend Is Gone

This weekend we had yet another Open House (a.k.a. graduation party). This one happened to be for Andy, the very first nephew to graduate! Can't tell you how proud we are of him. Or how grateful we are to have him for a role model to our boys. Seriously. This kid rocks.

And I'm not just saying that because I love him. It's totally deserved praise. This kid is smart, sensible, reliable, polite, and slightly mischievous.

Here he is with his mom and uncle (my hubby)...

Moms always look better with a pair of bunny ears, right?

And no, brother and sister did not knowingly coordinate their clothes. It just happened.

Whereas wife and hubby did not even bother to coordinate...we're we supposed to? Do couples still do that?


And for the record, I really like this picture. At the time, I was worried that my head would be chopped off or the picture would be out of focus. You just never know what you're going to get when you hand the camera off to someone who's accustomed to a point-n-shoot. So kudos to Cody for doing a good job!

Anyhow, back to the open house.

It was a huge success. Andy had lots of friends and family show up. And can I just say how impressed I was by the fact that, as far as I know, none of the minors attempted to sneak a drink from the keg; I can only hope when its my boys' turns, their friends show the same respect.

The only thing wrong with the party is that we had to leave before the bonfire. While we were chatting with family and eating too much food, we got the call telling us that we needed to be at the ball field by 8 a.m. for the last day of 9U tournaments. That call meant we had to pack up the children, who had been swimming in the pool and playing yard games, and head home at a decent time.

This was a bummer. I wanted a bonfire. And a few more drinks. Although, in retrospect, it's probably a good thing I stopped when I did.

June 17, 2010

Crazy Busy

I feel like that's my life's theme right now. Crazy busy. Go. Go. Go.

This last weekend we took the camper "up north" so we could attend two open houses. And because it has recently come to my attention that not everyone will immediately know what I mean by that, I'm going to clarify. We had two high school graduation parties to attend. Second cousins on my side of the family.

I've got some great pictures of the "up north" family and all of us "downstate" people on my Flickr site. To see them, you'll need to be logged in. Sorry...it's habit to put them behind the friends and family filter.

However, I know not everyone has access to my friends and family photos, so here's a glimpse at our most recent graduates:

Jourdan

Tarah with her Mom and Dad

It was so nice seeing everyone. Ken and I have decided we need to pull the camper up again, though, so we can have a more leisurely visit next time. The only problem I foresee is that we're going to have a hard time finding a free weekend!

Seriously. This summer is going to be a blur of weekends.

This upcoming weekend we have our nephew's open house. And a baseball tournament for our youngest. Because we have both things going on at once, I'm going to miss our little guy's second game Saturday (I think I can make the morning one, though, so that's cool!). I figure my sister-in-law will need some help getting things ready for the party.

The following weekend we have yet another baseball tournament. We'll be camping with the other baseball families that weekend, which should be a lot of fun. And hopefully relaxing.

Then we're looking at the 4th of July weekend. We've made plans to go camping with my hubby's family and some of our friends that weekend. I'm also hoping to get some family photos done that weekend while we're visiting the beach. (The pictures on the wall are embarrassingly old and in need of an update. STAT.)

We have a bit of a break after that. Then we're looking at the last couple of baseball tournaments before our big family vacation.

Fun stuff!

June 11, 2010

Baseball pics

No time to do a real post. I've got to be out the door and on my way to the dentist in the next thirty seconds. Therefore, I give you pictures.




June 10, 2010

Looking Forward to the Weekend

I'm taking a long weekend, which means today is my Friday. I'll end my work day with a 9U baseball game, some scrapbooking, and a DVRed episode of Glee. Maybe some Final Fantasy 13, if I can outlast the rest of the family.

Of course, outlasting the family means staying up way too late, which means I may not be at my most charming when I take the dogs in for grooming at 8 a.m. Why did I think that was a good idea?

Oh, right.

The camper will need to be packed. Before I trot the oldest boy and myself off to the dentist.

Ick.

However, there is a silver lining in starting my day so dreadfully early! Waiting for the dogs to get beautified will give me plenty of time to sit at Tim Horton's with my laptop. (Sorry, Starbucks, but you've yet to make an appearance in this po-dunk town). While I'm enjoying a nice cup of tea - not a Chai Latte because they simply don't know how to do it right - I'll have time to work on my writing.

I just need to make sure I charge the laptop tonight so it's up to the task.

So, while it may be a boo for getting up early on a vacation day, it's a defintite "yay" for finding some free time to write!

June 2, 2010

Another Book Review

The Road The Road by Cormac McCarthy


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A fairly easy read as far as the prose itself goes. The strange little quirks like omitted apostrophes and the use of pronouns in place of character names were only a mild distraction. After the first chapter or so, I was more concerned with the story than the presentation.

First, I should admit I enjoy reading post-apocalyptic fiction. Always have, so I'm a bit predisposed to favor the genre as long as I can buy into what the author is trying to sell me.

This author's post-apocalyptic vision was disturbing only because it is easy to imagine humanity sinking to such feral behavior when the very fabric of civilization has been unraveled and survival is all that is left. Distrusting the generosity and humanity of others, as the father so clearly did, could become second nature. I certainly didn't see his behavior as overly paranoid when enough evidence was presented to support it.

Be warned...spoiler alert!

The ending, though. That's the reason this story got a 3 out of 5 star rating. While I didn't mind the fact that child ended up in good hands, it was so unexpected that it had the flavor of a dues ex machina. The idea that the child's "good guys" had been following them, waiting on the father to die, felt a bit contrived as the reader had seen no evidence of "good guys" anywhere along the road. No hints, no messages, no overtures.

View all my reviews >>