Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place


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Being Captured by A Story

I honestly believe that stories float around in the ether looking for a storyteller to bring them life.  They send out little snippets of themselves– images, clips of dialogue, a tripping phrase or two– capturing the attention of the writer who then puts the pieces together and writes the story.   That has happened to me this week.

For me, the structure of a story is classic:  three acts comprised of a set up, rising tension or conflict, then a finale with a resolution.   On Sunday, an image presented itself to me and I thought it would make a great “first act”.   Then another image with some dialogue captured me on Monday for a second act.  Then last night I fell asleep while watching television.  When I woke up about midnight, the third act was right before me.   I had the complete story in bits and pieces.

Before I finally went to bed, I scribbled a tangle of one line phrases into my journal — I was that afraid I would forget it.   Now when the day job settles down a bit and I am not so darn exhausted when I get home, I plan to get to the business of actually writing the story.

The story captured me and will not let me rest until I write it.

 


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The Blogosphere, Fairy Dust and the Public Domain

I was orbiting the blogosphere this morning hoping to be inspired.  (I feel the need to write some fiction).    The Internet fairies took pity and sprinkled some magic dust on me, and I had an “aha” moment wherein I realized that instead of agonizing over coming up with something new that I could do what countless other writers and creators have done and retell a story from the Public Domain.    From there I stumbled across this wonderful video by author Jill Williamson.  She explains in detail what constitutes a work in the Public Domain and thus accessible for re-telling.  I urge you to take a look.   Now, I’m off to re-read some Homer and Grimm.

 


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Listening to Your Storytellers

 

My mother once told me the story of how she watched MGM Studio burn down some of their old stages while filming the burning of Atlanta scene for its movie Gone with the Wind. My grandfather used to regale me with stories of the Marx Brothers’ antics on set and how the Prince came to visit Grace while she was making one of her last movies.   My regret is that I did not pay much attention to these stories when they were told nor did I ask to hear more like them.  These stories from the “golden age” of Hollywood were part of my upbringing and were stories that connected me with my family heritage.  I wished I had asked more questions.

Stories, it seems, are important in imparting our familial and cultural identities.   Stories are also important in their power to change things for the better.

As I have stated before on this blog, the old 1990’s television series Northern Exposure was one of my favorites. I especially enjoyed the character of Ed Chigliak, a young indigenous Alaskan whose desire was to become a film maker. He was also studying to be a shaman, and he frequently cited scenes from movies to help members of the Cicely community with their problems and issues. There is healing in hearing our stories. There is power in telling them.

I don’t know what healing would come from my family stories, but they would have provided some fodder for my own stories if I had listened more. Perhaps I might have eventually found some wisdom in them.

Columnist and humorist, Dave Lieber, in a 2013 Ted Talk said this about story telling: “So tell your story. Take the data of your life and turn it into real people doing real things and you will move mountains. You will change the world.”


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Hearing My Voice in the Din

I have not posted about drumming in the last few months. This is because I have not been to my favorite drum circle in the last few months.  When friends ask “How’s the drum circle?  Still going?”,  I’ve been telling them that I’ve been too busy, or had a commitment elsewhere, or the hot weather was not to my liking, and so on.

The truth is I stopped going mainly because I felt intimidated.

Some of the people who regularly attend the circle are professional musicians. Several of them specialize in Latin jazz or traditional African drum rhythms. I find these rhythms difficult to ease into.  I just can’t nail those syncopated beats.  I felt like I was messing up their drumming because I could not get this.  I had convinced myself that I was not a good drummer.

During my hiatus from the drum circle,  I continued to drum with some other musician friends who play and sing contemporary folk/pop/rock arrangements. I get enough affirmation from them to know that I’m not completely hopeless. Those arrangements are my style, it seems.

I returned to the drum circle today because I missed the people there. But I held back, finding the base beats and softly playing around them so as not to throw off the other drummers.  Mostly I sat there and just enjoyed their playing.

The take away from this lesson is that I need to learn the nature of my own creative expression—what I enjoy, where my strengths reside— and be comfortable enough to not be intimidated by other Creatives who might be better in some respect. My creative genre is primarily writing. I need to know my style. I need to write in that style with no regard of what critics, both my inner and outer, think or say.

If someone doesn’t like my style of writing, so be it. I am going to keep on writing anyway. If my critics make a racket because they don’t like my writing, I’ll quietly persist nevertheless, hearing my voice in the din.


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And What Did You Write Today?

I can be a most undisciplined writer.

Every writer I’ve ever had the pleasure to study has said the same thing: “You’re not a writer unless you write every day” or variations of this.

A couple of wise people I know recently asked if I was journaling.  Yes, I said, but not every day. Not every day.  I felt no judgment from these individuals, but my inner critic, that hideous shrew who takes delight in tormenting me whenever I flex (or don’t flex) my creative muscles, pointed out that I was being lazy and uncommitted to my craft.

Oh, shut up, you old bat.

So last night in an attempt to become motivated, I troweled through the layers of this blog and found a post I wrote last year about how I force myself to write in my creative journal when I don’t really feel like it.  Here’s the gist of that post:

“1) Carry a journal and pen or an electronic device with a note-taking program with you AT ALL TIMES;
2) once a day in the journal or on the device, write one sentence that is an observation of something around you or in your life.  Just one sentence.  It can even be one word;
3) then try for a second sentence;
4) and then a third;
5) and keep writing sentences until no more come.
6) You will end up with at least one sentence a day.  Add them all up and you will have at least 365 sentences.   You will probably end up with a lot more.  It is exponential once you are on a roll.” (3/6/2017)

That being noted and taken to heart, here is what I jotted in my journal last night.  It is not much.  Just words, not even sentences.  But I wrote nevertheless:

“Hot, steamy, my clothes stick to me.  I feel debilitated.  Cold water sliding down my raw, painful throat.  The smoke from the fires.”

So what can be derived from this entry?  First, it has historic or autobiographical purposes:  we’re having a hot summer plagued with wild fires.  Secondly, it is cathartic:  I felt like crap yesterday and I wanted to express that.   Thirdly, and most importantly, there is a lot of fodder here for a creative piece:  an essay on global climate change, the opening words of a love scene in a novel, or perhaps a haibun about summer.  If I expanded in any of these directions, then no doubt more ideas would flow.

So, if you consider yourself a writer, let me ask you this:   what did you write today?  Nothing?  Then get yourself forthwith to the local dollar store, pick up a composition book and a cheap pen,  and get to it.

ljgloyd (c) 2018


Postscript:   I found this video with some good advice on using a journal for your creative writing:

 

Daily Addictions Prompt:  Practice


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Suddenly, She Was Without Words

I cringed when I saw this morning’s word prompt, “Suddenly.” This is a word with which I struggle almost every time I write a bit of fiction. My short stories tend to have abrupt changes in action, especially after several slow paragraphs of explanatory material. For example, “Suddenly, the door flung open and jarred her from her thoughts.”   I spend a lot of time agonizing over this one little word.

Like the word “very “, “suddenly” for me has become overused and boring.   I have tried using a thesaurus to find alternative words, but most of the time these alternative words are just as overused: “quickly” “abruptly”.   Or they don’t suitably or precisely convey the action or the flavor of the piece.   For example another word for “suddenly ” is the word “forthwith”.   This would be fine if I were Will Shakespeare.  “Forthwith, he dreweth his blade and ventured yonder.”

This is an extreme example, but I hope you get that my point is in not relying too heavily on the thesaurus  for your word choice. It doesn’t always work well.

So what is the alternative to using a thesaurus?

Reading.  Yes, it is not an immediate fix, but in the long run, nothing replaces reading as the best way to build a writer’s vocabulary.

For every paragraph you write, read a novel.

OK, that was extreme too, but you get my drift.

 

ljg 2018


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Peering at the World through Cat’s Eyes

The amazing thing about writers, poets, artists, — creators of all kinds– is that we have the innate ability to observe the world around us and feel wonder. Wonderment is as important a tool as pens, brushes, cameras, and musical instruments. Here is a poem I wrote 22 years ago, and I think it explains this.

Peering at the World through Cat’s Eyes

To meditate like a cat,
Poised, enigmatic, sphinx-like,
on a redwood deck
watching morning sun splinter
through dew-drops,
sniffing the fading
night scents of jasmine,
listening to rising
birdsongs and strong steps
of mistress in the kitchen,
to meditate on such as this
in stillness, in silence,
peering at the world
with golden almond-split eyes,
is to watch it crack
open and display
its wonderous beauty.

ljgloyd, 1996, 2018


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Creative Space

I have recently discovered a wonderful podcast series, Write Now, hosted by author Sarah Werner.   This morning I listened to her episode on creating a space for writing where she posed the question:  what is your writing space like and how is it reflected in your writing?

I am fairly agile when it comes to the physical act of writing. I made a creative corner in my bedroom consisting of a bookcase filled with writing, reference, poetry, and spiritual books. I have my laptop, assorted art supplies and writing implements, and several dozen notebooks and pads of art paper. Typically, I write here only in the oh-so-early-butt-crack o’dawn and only on morning pages or personal journaling.  For my other writing sessions, I pop around from place-to-place.

Sometimes I dictate onto a hand device while lounging on the living room sofa.  Sometimes I write at a proper desk on a computer before I start working at the day job.  Sometimes I hand write in coffee houses and libraries.   I have tried writing outside in the park or at the beach but that, for reasons that I need to explore someday, is not an optimal experience.

How does that affect my writing?  You only need to look at the posts on this blog to see:  just as I jump from place-to-place when I write, so too do my blog posts leap from subject-to-subject.   Even my writing style demonstrates some agility:   I tend to write quick, short pieces in a simple, active voice — most suitable for blog-writing.

I wonder how my writing would change if I had a whole room dedicated to writing filled with my entire library and decorated with art pieces and other dinkerdoodles?   Would it change?

Since that is not likely to happen anytime in the near future, I guess I better keep flexing my muscles to stay fit and mobile.

 

ljgloyd (c) 2018

To hear the podcast, go to Creating a Space for Writing