Eureka! My Story is an Infant…

I claim to be a writer of all things.

Sometimes, that feels like a lie.

It’s not as if I don’t have good reason to make this claim. In the past 15 years or so, I literally have written just about everything. From employee training manuals to web content, news articles to speeches. I covered events I had never been to and wrote multi-page news stories about them. I’ve cranked out literally hundreds of pages of web content about things so foreign to me I had to learn a new language to write it.

I don’t claim to be the best, I don’t even claim to be good. I just do what I am stirred to do. Writing is my bread and water. I breathe it in, it sustains me. I’ve done so much writing in so many different ways that none of it really intimidates me anymore. Except for one thing.

Which is why saying I’m a writer of all things sometimes feels like a farce.

I’ve been working on writing a fictional novel off and on for almost nine years. I’ve talked myself in and out of it a thousand times. I’ve (driven my writer’s group crazy) completely given up on it, and then the story comes lurking into my peripheral vision again, and I’m summoned to pull my butt out of bed at 3am to hammer out a new scene. The writer’s version of self-masochism.

Writing a novel is my biggest dream. It also scares the hell out of me.

Why? Because all that other writing, web content and news articles and speeches and such, that’s all small potatoes. If you ask me, fiction is the real McCoy. You’ve got to be a damn good writer to make a fictional story REAL.

This notion terrifies me.

You see, I have these wonderfully enchanting, beguiling stories in my head. (Trust me when I say that having an overzealous muse is both a blessing and a curse.) My characters are…beautiful. They are lovable and jaded and scarred and passionate and mysterious and utterly human. They have rich and complicated histories that bring them to perfectly fit into their place in the story. My book is full of intoxicating circumstances and exciting plot twists and turns that I know, if written well, will keep readers turning pages into the latest hours of the night.

Those are the things that I know, will sell my book. Those are also the things that keep me from writing it.

How will I do them justice?

How will I give my story the writing it deserves?

And so I start and stop and edit and rewrite and quit. I swear novel-writing off for good, go to work on other projects and am slowly drawn back into it. (Damn it.)

I go through it all again. And Again. And Again.It’s like that on-again, off-again boyfriend that you were both drawn to and repulsed by at the same time. (I now fully understand why all the literary greats were drinkers.)

Which brings me back to my book. Which I’m writing. For the hundred and seventy second time. Again.

This go-round has gone unexpectedly well. Last week I finished outlining the plot and chapter sequence and for a flash of a second, I felt like I might actually be able to kick this feeling of inadequacy and get this story written, once and for all.

Eureka!  I drove home from the coffee shop screaming out my car window: “I’m wriiiiiiting a noooveeeeell!” Several strange glances ensued. But I didn’t care. For the first time in maybe, EVER I actually felt like the real McCoy.

And then life happened. Work. Laundry. Kids. School. Tantrums. Grocery shopping. Sicknesses. Cleaning. Family dinners. I didn’t have an opportunity to write again for nearly a week.

And by then, of course I had over-thought the chapter sequence ten thousand times, to the point of convincing myself that all the holes in the story were going to be its downfall.

Aaaaaaaaaaghhhhh! Someone please make it stop!

But….

One night after the house was silent and all the family was long asleep, my muse awoke and beckoned me. I crept over to my desk and flipped open my laptop.

Go on, open it up love. Give it a read.

Read what?

Don’t be bloody ridiculous. You know what.

Since when are you British?

I have your attention, do I not?

Yes.

Ahhh, then no need for further discussion. So let’s have a look then shall we?

Go on love, read on.

I double-clicked the draft of my story on my desktop, and blindly started reading. The first chapter, along with some other passages, sections I had edited and rewritten half a dozen times, struck me as well-crafted. Others were not so hot, obviously slammed out in a twenty five minute increment between a laundry-folding marathon and pick up time at preschool. Some of the dialogue read like choking on cream cheese. And of course a whole hell of a lot of it what I had in my draft, I wanted to cut and paste into the recycle bin.

Keep going.

Why? Self torture?

Just do it.

So I read on. I read through the entire draft. Sure enough, I found more cheese and more garbage. But every so often, I’d uncover gem, glittering in the midst of telling-not-showing, cheesy dialogue and mindless narrative. In a few, fleeting passages I found pieces of the real, whole, perfect story. Characters, waiting for the story to morph and unfold them out of the confines of their pages, to come alive in the hearts and minds of readers. Waiting to be made real.

*Sigh*

I closed the document and sat quietly, my face illuminated by the glow of my laptop screen. I sunk my chin into the palm of my hand and stared into a picture of my two daughters, sitting on my desk.The voice appeared again, like a faint jingling of tiny bells  inside some quiet corner of my brain.

Your daughters. What lovely creatures they are.

They are a lot of time. And work. And patience. But they are lovely, aren’t they?

They are the very products of your life and your love.

Did you know how you were going to teach them things, when they were born?

No.

 When they were infants, did you ever fault them for not knowing how to smile?

Of course not. Watching a smile cross their faces for the first time was magic.

Did you ever give up teaching them how to talk? How to walk?

No. The little one had some trouble. I took her to physical therapy… after that she was off and running in no time.

Will you stop giving them any less love, knowing they still have so far to go?

Not a chance.

I have loved them, adored them at every stage. Watching them grow and evolve, supple spring leaves sprouting, unfolding, fading into a thousand brilliant shades, a new hue and texture and purpose for every season. That has been the greatest joy of my life.

This is what your writing needs, love. Love.

Yeah, but what about the—

You have to love your story for what it is, at any given time. All of it. At every stage.

It is no less loveable now, in its infancy, than your toddler was when she learned to walk. Your 8 year old learning to sing, or when she is a teenager and gives her heart away for the first time…

As you give your time and your love and effort to it, it will grow. It will get bigger and better and stronger and more beautiful with every stroke of the keys on your keyboard.

Slowly, it will become whole.

 And when it is ready, you will know. And then you will let go.

I took a breath. The voice fell silent and I sat for awhile in the dark, thinking about my story, about  what I had written from a new perspective. With the love and hope that every parent carries in her heart.

I realized that at nearly a decade old, my story was still in its infancy. Newborn and pliable and naive and lovable, drool and spit-up and wobbly legs and all. Cheesy and awkward, a little broken in parts, not understanding yet what it means to be whole.

My story is an infant. Wishing for me to love it, waiting for me to help it grow.

*Eureka.*

Back to the keyboard, then, love.

Till next time,

~CindyImage

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Top Ten Tuesday: Candles

candle-light

I have a young friend who is struggling. She is severely depressed and experiencing extreme loneliness.

I have been where she is.

I know the pain.

There are two great lies about depression. One is told by Depression herself; that it will never end.

As bad as that is, the other lie is just as damaging, although at first glance it doesn’t seem like it. We are lead to believe that depression is just temporary and if you change your circumstances it will get better.

The first lie causes hopelessness. When you’re wading through it, it doesn’t seem as though it will ever end. Life loses all of its reason, flavor and beauty. It seems like an endless dark cave with no hope of ever seeing the light again.

The second lie, that it is temporary, leaves room for hope. The danger is that it is often a false hope. True, real, deep depression is not temporary. It can last for years enduring the voices of those around you telling you, “Come on! It will get better!” is annoying and can cause you to sink deeper into depression. Because it can last; it can last for a very long time. People will try to change. They will change their living arrangements, marriages, jobs and anything else, but the depression stays.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Depression can last, but if you hang on, even in the darkness, there are bright moments. There are even bright days, months, and years when depression sleeps and you awaken to light and joy.

I believe that a person can live with depression, and I believe that it you can make it a good life. Part of the secret, for me, has been the choice to notice and reflect on beauty, goodness and hope. I cling to those things. I take them out of my memory and examine them again and again. They become a candle in the darkness, lighting the way for just a moment.

And so, my dear young friend, I give you the top ten beautiful things I’ve seen this week. I hope that maybe, just maybe, my words can penetrate the darkness around you and give you a glimpse of the other side.

10. It was a dank, dark, stormy day. The steel clouds hung in the sky threatening to rain. I looked at the clock on my dash and pushed the pedal down to the floor. I was late…again. The freeway seemed to stretch on forever. I came to the top of a hill. Suddenly, a narrow slit opened in the clouds and golden light poured into the valley making homes, streets and treetops gleam like part of a heavenly city set into earthly life.

9. My hair stuck to the back of my neck and sweat trickled down between my shoulder blades. It had been over a year since I had been hiking. My legs burned, and my lungs greedily sucked air into my body. I rounded a corner and peeked down a narrow path. Water! I scraped my way down to a fresh spring shooting out the side of a stony hill. I put my hands into the crystal water and washed the sweat from my face. Drinking in the nectar of life, I let it cool me to my very soul.

8. A woman, hands shaking, stood in the wings watching the play unfold. Her part was fast approaching. “I can’t do this,” her voice wavered. “What have I gotten myself into?”

Her cue echoed across the stage.

She took a deep breath and stepped into the spotlight discovering, for the first time, that she was capable of more than she knew.

7. An infant’s sleepy eyes drift to the face of his mother as she cuddles close to him on a large, cool bed. He gives her a peaceful grin and drifts into slumber, knowing that he will be safe, warm and loved as he sleeps.

6. Clouds sweep up the face of a rocky mountain on a cool autumn morning. Gray light settles in the valley, slightly shadowing the brilliant colors of fall. I smile, sip my lavender tea and sink back into my favorite novel.

5. The sun sets on an industrial building. Individuals for the next shift park their cars and are slowly swallowed up into the vast structure. Their faces are blank, and their steps slow. The stream of people finally ends and all is quiet once more.

Suddenly, an SUV comes screaming into the parking lot and stops just feet from the entrance. A woman leaps from the passenger side. All the windows come down and small faces appear with puckered lips. She walks around the vehicle reaching to kiss each child. She smiles, shouts, “I love you!” and runs through the door.

4. A dog sprawls across the floor. A small, feverish little girl leans into her softness as the child watches her favorite show on television, feeling the warmth of her fur between her fingers. They both drift into and out of sleep; each needing nothing but the company of the other.

3. A group of woman sit around a table at the coffee shop. They laugh until their faces hurt and tears stream down their cheeks. Each of them came to the meeting feeling lonely and weak. Each of them leave knowing that they are connected to each other in ways they don’t understand. Each renewed with strength.

2. A young girl stacks blocks between herself and her younger brother. She waits, holding her breath. He swings his arm and blocks go flying and bounce across the floor. Peals of laughter ring through the room as she gathers the blocks again.

1. Whispered prayers and silent hopes are answered every day. Miracles are present in the beating of our hearts, the friendships that we forge, the peace that we find in spite of our emotional challenges, the coming of autumn, warmth of spring, kindness at Christmas, good chocolate, warm beds, red roses, pumpkin pie, and emails from friends.

This is what Depression tries to hide from us, the beauty of everyday life.

We are children of a loving and giving God.

The Universe is ours to see it as we will.

This is what experience has taught me: There is a way through. There is hope for brighter days if we choose to hold to those moments which bring us joy. Yes, they can be short and distant, but holding on to them gives us hope and reminds us that there is light in the world.

These become our candles, tiny points of light, to get us through the deepest blackness of depression.

Your writing prompt for today is to write in 100 words or less about one of your candles. Write about something that you’ve found beautiful this week.

What is Magic?

Happy Midweek Firefans.

I’m going to be honest. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to post, and so I think I just won’t. It’s that moment of succumbing that inspiration strikes, and I end up writing something that I really love.

That’s what happened today. I woke up thinking about the terrible tragedy that happened 12 years ago to the day, combined with the little miracles that happen in the bounty of our time on Earth. And this came out. Whether it’s good or not is really subjective, and beside the point. These words felt meaningful, passing through the shadows of my mind and out of my feeble fingertips.

So it speaks something to me…

I decided to treat it like poetry and leave it largely unedited, so forgive me for errors. Also- if you’re musically inclined- I was listening to this song as I wrote.

Hope you enjoy and find some Magic in the rest of your day.

~C

Magic is art, it is color. It is words.

It is purpose.

Magic is finding secrets in song lyrics, hope in half-written poems.

It’s the luminescent warmth of light in a newborn baby’s eyes.  It is the pure and shrill song of a young girl singing of snowflakes in July.

It is the voice of an angel that whispers me awake, both summoned and disguised by the quiet rustling of leaves outside my window.

Magic is being kissed into consciousness. It is falling asleep in the solace of the arms of one who loves without condition.  It is sitting next to another and knowing Love without words.

Magic is a child learning to read.

Magic is the quiet knowledge gained in watching the eruption of sparks in the soul of a bonfire.

It lives inside the heart of the wanderlust dreamer who believes that men should fly, and then makes it so.

It is humans that dive into the sea and breathe inside of water, and fish that use their fins to push themselves onto the barrier of sand and sea.

It is the witnessing of Earth’s evolution in the bud of a new oak leaf. It is proof of God’s great Love in the burning colors of Autumn descending across a mountain slope.

It is knowing and not knowing.

It is the mysterious solace in winter’s first snow.

Magic is ideas.

Magic is exquisite hope.

Magic is love.

 ****

Without Magic, life is bleak. It is tragic. It is gray.

 It is hindered by thick, suffocating clouds of indifference.

 It is decay.

It is shards of broken mirror in a dirty gutter. It is freeways that snake through polluted cities, haunted by greed.

Life without Magic is paraplegic forests with thirsty skin and veins that run dry. It is mountainside wastelands disfigured from careless fire.

It is scars left by silence, wounds made from words.

It is a child too young to have experienced life and yet certain there is no reason to live it.

It is blood-stained and bruised and afraid.

It is a woman covering her cheeks in layers of counterfeit color to hide her own private war. It is her child sitting alone on the cold, concrete porch steps. It is despair.

Life without Magic is a young man in his prime, crushed by the belief that he has no right to claim Love.

It is prejudice. It is children weeping at the feet of their ancestors because the world has denied their existence.

It is Nazi Germany. It is refugees killed in crossfire.

It is ignorance. It is fury.

It is men driven by hate who steer planes into towers of innocent people. It is the putrid black smoke that arises from those towers, streaming pennants of malice and destruction.

Without magic we are stagnant. We are sterile.

We are lost.

***

Magic is the human condition;

We must pursue it and claim it.

We must live and breathe and love inside of it.

Without Magic, we will cease to exist.

Top Ten Prompts to Inspire Creative Writing

If you’re a writer, an artist, musician or creative soul of any kind you’ve probably had those days when you just can’t produce anything worth… anything. The harder you try, the less effective you become and you get yourself into a ridiculously concrete mental block. It’s tough to pull yourself out of this phenomenon, and many times the feeling has negative effects in the rest of your life too.

As writers, we’ve found that completing writing prompts not only helps us get a fresh perspective in our writing, they open our minds in a myriad of other ways. The mental fog clears, and suddenly there are windows where there were once only walls.

These prompts our a few of our group’s favorites– and a few have even turned into some of our most beloved pieces. Give them a try, let us know how it goes, and we might even feature your response as a guest post!

Happy writing,

~C

10- They told her not to open the box…

9- You’re walking along a crowded street and an old woman hands you a brown paper bag. You take it from her and feel that it’s slightly weighted by whatever is inside. She smiles and disappears into the crowd. What is inside the bag, and what does it mean to you?

8-  This picture:

St. Etienne - Muse

7- Think of a character, either from a story you’re writing or a book you’ve read.  He/she has a favorite pair of shoes. Why are they special? Where did they come from? Where does he/she wear them? What stories go along with those shoes?

6- You wake up locked inside a closed coffin. Explain your initial reaction, how you attempt to escape, and what you remember about how you got there.

5- Find and buy (or take a picture of) an object at a thrift store, and write a short story or a scene around it. Below are some examples of objects we’ve used:

Vintage radiovintage gray tub

red high heelsrose colored glasses

4- You and your friends take a three mile hike up to a campsite and you’re sitting around the fire toasting marshmallows. Out of the blue one of your friends reveals a secret that turns your pleasant camping trip into a total nightmare…

3- Write a few paragraphs explaining how this picture came about, or what it represents:(image courtesy of www.vladstudio.com)

2- Write a story from the perspective of the family pet. The family is bringing home a new baby, going through a divorce, recently lost a loved one, the children are starting school, or they are moving across the country.

1- As a person or thing that inspires all your creativity and new ideas, your muse has been trying to contact you. Write a conversation between you and your muse. There are no limitations as to what he/she/it is, appears, or looks like. What does your muse want you to know? What is your reaction?

“I Apologize” and “You Have Some Wonderful Stuff Coming”

 

failure

Well, this isn’t uncommon for me. I start out with a goal and I fall flat on my face. Our first week of guest posts and I only posted two. (My fault, not the group or our guest writers.) But, as I say this type of failure is not uncommon for me and I know how to pick myself up, dust myself off and just keep going. I apologize for the hiccup.

That being said, we will have some amazing writing for you in the coming weeks.

The whole of next week is a story by Josh McCracken. In his words, “it is a bitter sweet tale of first love.”  You’re going to enjoy it! I was tempted to post it this weekend, but refrained. It’s like when you want to give your kids their Christmas presents early. I’m so excited to share this with you!

The following week will have some very special, personal posts. They are pieces which come from the heart. Although some of them are written by people who do not describe themselves as writers, the pieces themselves are full of love, warmth and tenderness…the fire part of Writing the Fire.

And so, with our first week done we are moving forward.

I’d like to personally thank those who have submitted their poems, stories, articles and ideas. The pieces which have been submitted are beautiful, imaginative, funny, heartwarming and provocative. This has been a humbling experience. Thank you to our writers and thank you to our readers!

We are still looking for other writers to join our month of guest posts. If you would like to join us, or you know of someone who does, please email lori.king322@gmail.com. We’d be happy to have you.

Lori