Category: What it takes to be a successful writer

Wild Hope

I’m nearing the final pages of my manuscript and there’s a small war going on inside me. Where is this one going to land and what happens if it ends up some place that wasn’t my first choice? Pouring my morning coffee into what I affectionately call “the bucket”, an oversize mug I made for my son that he left here “to use when he’s home”, I was running through scenarios of editors with machetes. That, naturally, made me envision scathing reviews on Amazon balanced precariously with a reader base that comes to your aide with pens flaming and me standing, like a mother, pleading with both sides to just get along.

Before I needed a case of Tums to face my laptop, I stopped and did what my friend, Nancy, tells us all to do when we forget that stress is a choice; just breathe. Books, like the children we bear and raise, reach a point when they naturally move out into the wide world and cut their own path, whatever that might look like. Stories, books, music, poetry, art; anything we give creative birth to is going to come out of us kicking and screaming and when it hits the air outside of us, it then belongs to the world. It will be treasured or abused. It will be scrutinized or ignored all together. It will touch some people deeply and it will bore others who were looking for something bloodier, sexier, harder, softer, shorter or longer or slightly more beige.

While we are pushing our creations out of the tiny orifice that only artists can locate, we can hold onto the wild hope that it emerges with all fingers and toes. We can hope that it becomes the fully formed, three dimensional, memorable, moving vision that was planted in our mind by a passing horny muse that put its mouth to our ear and in a deep voice, whispered it to us one night as we were falling asleep.

Wild Hope. The phrase reminded me of the album that former pop princess, Mandy Moore, birthed into the world back in 2007. Prior to that, I only knew of her from the snips of music I caught on car radios or from an adolescent’s playlists pre-9/11. One day though, I heard a piece of her music that made me follow it to its source and bring it home with me so I could hear it again. The words were luscious, the orchestration and production nearly flawless. Her voice on that independent album embodied that moment, somewhere in your late 20’s, when shit gets real. The curtain falls down exposing the powerless little wizard you assumed had control over your emotional life and you found out it was just you, making some stupid choices and some surprisingly good ones as well. Beauty.

The title song is perfect and there were many other gems on the collection. I found a YouTube video an hour ago; Mandy Moore-Wild Hope-In The Studio; a diary of the making of the album. At the 5:20 mark, she says, “There is nothing like the freedom of having the absolute control to make the record that I want to make.” She had won a hard fight to break free from her recording contract that was forcing her to barf up mainstream elevator music and this would be her solo flight.

Inspired to hear it start to finish, I went searching my CD stacks. No luck. Someone “borrowed it” (read: stole it and it’s never coming back). Fine, this is the age of instant gratification. I’ve got Spotify. I’ve got iTunes. I’ve got those other weird programs on my Windows laptop that I’ve never used before. I’ll find it, download it and be listening before my bucket of coffee gets cold. Guess what? It’s not on any of those sites. In fact, I had to order a new copy of the CD, from the U.S. outlets though, because the European version is usd$51.oo. Seriously.

Well, that sent me into panic number two this morning and I still haven’t opened my manuscript file to begin my climb to the last pages of the book. Why have they taken the downloadable files away from us? Has someone kidnapped Mandy and the ransom is forcing her to return to a candy filled Willy Wonka factory to turn out teeth and ear rotting junk food music? Is there a telethon for this where I can send a donation? Am I avoiding ending my book by obsessing over the missing Mandy Moore Music? Hell, yes.

Fine. My coffee is cold anyway. My book will go out and some people will love it and some will use it to line their guinea pig cage; though if you’re going to trash it, I would prefer it be kindling for a beach bonfire. So much more romantic, you know?

So, here’s the song. At least you can hear this one. I’ll just have to wait for delivery of the CD that I found online at a record place in Chicago. I’ll get back to writing and while I wrap this manuscript up, I’ll hold onto my own Wild Hope that everything will be all right.

Clarissa, Inner Wolves and Digging for the Roots

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This morning, I am in search of rich language, like loamy, nutrient laden, black and vibrant soil where I can dig my hands down deep and find the root of the story. Like a dear friend who needs no invitation; moving easily to my cupboards for cup and spoon and pouring from my coffee pot; at home in my home, I found Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I should say that I found her again. In 1995, she came into my life because I couldn’t resist her book titled, Women Who Run With The Wolves.

I have a thing for wolves. Who doesn’t? Well, apparently people with guns in Michigan, and Montana, and people who see wolves as some kind of competition in their testosterone laden quest to piss on every tree and own every inch of soil for miles around. I believe they are jealous of wolves and their easy mastery of life in the wild and so they encroach on wolf territory, hunting them down like rabid vermin instead of learning to co-exist with such magnificent creatures and examples of family loyalty.

The draw to Clarissa’s words, for me, was how they cut through the dance around what women should be and put a spotlight on what we truly are. She wrote of women’s native magnificence and our family nature.

She wrote of the nature of our cravings, our need for creating; be it in a kitchen, a science laboratory, an art studio, a bedroom or the creation of a home nest where our brood is safe and nurtured. I don’t read her words everyday though they do seem to find me again whenever I need them most. Her words are like the person you see, after years of absence, and an unexpected smile breaks across your face. They are like long awaited warm sun heating your cold arms, heralding a hard earned spring.

She moves me. She inspires me. She fucks my head up something fierce with side hikes down forest pathways that I have never dared to walk before. It’s time to read that book again. Somewhere in its pages, are the roots I started digging for on this particular morning. I just know it.

 


 

“Be wild; that is how to clear the river. The river does not flow in polluted, we manage that. The river does not dry up, we block it. If we want to allow it its freedom, we have to allow our ideational lives to be let loose, to stream, letting anything come, initially censoring nothing. That is creative life. It is made up of divine paradox. To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down.”

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With The Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman

http://www.clarissapinkolaestes.com/works.htm

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

From her website: Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD, is an internationally recognized scholar, award-winning poet, Diplomate senior Jungian psychoanalyst, and cantadora (keeper of the old stories in the Latina tradition.). Dr. Estés is  managing editor and columnist writing on politics, spirituality and culture at the newsblog TheModerateVoice.comand a columnist at The National Catholic Reporter online.

Marvin Gaye Schools the Writer…

Last night, I stumbled onto this video of Marvin Gaye singing the vocal track for “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. I’ve been madly in love with this song since it first hit the radio in the autumn of my freshman year in high school. Now that I’ve heard it this particular way, I’m not sure if I want to hear it orchestrated, harmonized and produced ever again. It is perfect, exactly like this.

Hearing a song this way is like reading a short poem that rips away the protective rib cage of logical thinking and puts its burning hand right onto your exposed and fragile heart. Single singer A cappella is to perfectly written Haiku poetry, as a symphony is to a great novel.

We hear the original pain and the hard truth of the writer’s drunken 3:00 A.M. confession in each carefully chosen word and musical note. If the singer has embraced the zeitgeist of the creation of the piece, they can breathe life into the song. They can take us with them on our own Ghost of Christmas Past journey to the moments in our  lives when the words hit home with a vengeance.

This should be my goal in every poem and every story that I write; that whatever comes out of my pen will be better than the silence of the blank page.

I have my work cut out for me.

What Does It Take to be a Writer?

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The other day, I stumbled onto an old post on a writing website. The author had asked readers what they thought it took to be a successful writer.

Good soldiers said it took discipline. Several said it required patience. One guy even said it took, “patients.” Perhaps he was a medical writer. A few pointed to skill and there were a few votes for a love of words.

I’d have to go along with the word love fest myself, but I’d add that we must be in touch with our wild selves as well. Real writing worth reading always takes us somewhere that could get messy. We must love to roll around in words like my dog does on the lawn just after I’ve mowed.

Writer’s must be part cat. We need to revel in rubbing up against words with embarrassing sensuality. We also need the cat’s ability to survive being thrown off a roof and still land on our feet when rejection letters and bad reviews arrive in our lives.

The tenacity of a Gila Monster comes in handily in word wrangling; biting into a storyline and hanging in there until our teeth touch and there is nothing left to say on the subject.

We need the vision of an eagle; flying high above all the sameness on the plain of published words and seeing something meaty and delicious, be willing to fold our wings into a death dive, down to where it is and bring it home.

Most of all, a writer must become a word lion; embracing our predator nature, staring down what we want and following it wherever it goes. Without shame or apology, we must set our sites on that feast of words and take it down; bloody truth and all; laying it out on paper to be devoured by our dinner guests, the readers.