“I never know when I sit down, just what I am going to write. I make no plan; it just comes, and I don’t know where it comes from.” ~ D. H. Lawrence

“Double Image,” August Strindberg (1892, oil on canvas) 

 

“The paper I write on or you write on, every word we write, every cross and twirl of the pen, and the curious way we write what we think, yet very faintly . . . In them realities for you and me—in them poems for you and me . . . In them themes, hints, provokers.”  ~ Walt Whitman
"Wonderland" (1894, oil on canvas)

Rarely do I know what I am going to write when I sit down at this keyboard. I may have an idea generated from a dream or something that I have read in the news, but most of the time it’s more a matter of touching the keys and letting the words come out. No great creative genius is involved. Rather, it is more a matter of need: I need to write, to release, to ponder, to construe, to evoke. I need to do this as naturally as I need to breathe. 

That is my reality, and truthfully, it has always been this way. I have been writing about things since I was very young, before I even knew how to string letters together to form words. I would put pencil to whatever scraps of paper I could find in the house, and I would write. Of course what I wrote made no sense to anyone but me, but I knew what I was saying. And I had such a need to share my thoughts that I would take these scraps of paper and slip them under the doors of my parents’ neighbors in the large apartment house in which we resided in London. 

Some of the people knew that these notes were from me, but others were confused by the nonsensical missives that appeared under their doors with no regular schedule. The doorman in our building knew what I was doing, so he ever so kindly explained to the confused tenants that it was the little girl in apartment 13 who had been writing to them. 

Then when I went to school and learned how to form words, I wrote more. I wrote poems, letters, stories. But my dream at that time was not to become a writer. I wanted to be a hairdresser . . . 

“O, how incomprehensible everything was, and actually sad, although it was also beautiful. One knew nothing. And sometimes it seemed that something never seen yet long desired was about to happen, that a veil would drop from it all; but then it passed, nothing happened, the riddle remained unsolved, the secret spell unbroken, and in the end one grew old and looked cunning . . . or wise . . . And still one knew nothing, perhaps, was still waiting and listening.” ~ Hermann Hesse, “Narcissus and Goldmund”
"Baby's First Cradle" (1901, oil on canvas)

In many ways, this blog is like those indecipherable scraps of paper: I know what I’m trying to say, but not everyone who reads my words can discern my meaning. That’s okay, though. The beauty of blogs is that readers can just close the window if they do not find the post interesting, or appealing, or if the subject matter is not something that coincides with their personal beliefs. 

I’m not trying to please anyone but myself. In the beginning of this blogging stuff, I was more self-censoring, not wanting to offend anyone who happened to be reading. I wrote in more general terms, putting less of myself into my posts. Over the months, though, that changed, as I had thought that it might. My persona began to creep into my posts more and more. My life, my family, all of it, became fodder. So much so that now my posts are a virtual doorway into my life. 

Is this a good thing? Perhaps not. Will I change it? Probably not. Do I regret this progression? A bit. 

“The swarm of words,
and little stories
are just to loosen you
from where you are stuck.” ~ Shitou Xiqian
"The Wave VII" (1901, oil on canvas)

When I first heard about blogs—personal online journals that are available to anyone and everyone—I must admit to being personally appalled. What kind of person puts his or her life online for the world to see? It just didn’t seem right to me, someone who had always hidden my journals from other people, seeing them as both highly personal and private. 

Then a few years later I decided to create a MySpace page. I played a bit with the internal blog aspect of the page, which made me realize that the whole social networking thing was really just a collective blog—people visiting each other’s sites, sharing opinions, leaving notes, posting pictures. Then I was given the assignment to create a web page for one of my publishing classes. The site could be about anything; there were no parameters. 

I decided to create a site on which people could create a community poem. I called it The Poem Makers. In concept, it was a pretty creative idea (or so I thought): I would write the first line of the poem, and then anyone who visited could add a line and/or comment on the poem in progress. As part of the site, I wanted to include a blog page on which participants could post ongoing commentary about the project, poetry, whatever. My search for a blog page led me to WordPress. 

Essentially the project was disastrous, mostly because I didn’t know enough HTML to create an interactive site, that and the fact that I knew relatively little about promoting a site.  I eventually abandoned the website, but I took that experience and decided to keep going with the blog. My first post was in February 2008, which means that I’ve been doing this for over two years. 

“Within all of us is a varying amount of space lint and star dust, the residue from our creation. Most are too busy to notice it, and it is stronger in some than others. It is strongest in those of us who fly and is responsible for an unconscious, subtle desire to slip into some wings and try for the elusive boundaries of our origin.” ~ K. O. Eckland, Footprints on Clouds
"Coastal Landscape" (1901, oil on canvas)

In that time I have gone from basic posts about nothing at all to posts that include images and music and cover a range of topics. I like how I have progressed. I know so much more now than I did when I began; in particular, I realize that bloggers tend to congregate in communities and that if you want other people to read and comment on your blog, then you need to read and comment on other people’s blogs—regularly. 

I have also noticed a change in my writing style: Whereas when I was writing for publication, I was much more sparse with my words, never using five words when three will do, always choosing the simpler word over the multisyllabic one. Now that I’m writing without an editor, I tend to be more verbose. I do edit myself, but anyone who writes knows the limitations of such a thing. I do go on and on, and it’s an indulgence that gives me pleasure. I also take more liberties with punctuation than before. Always a stickler for grammar, I am merciless with a red pen when it comes to editing or grading someone else’s work. Too bad I cannot admit to being as rigorous with my own. 

Oh well . . . 

“The process of writing has something infinite about it.  Even though it is interrupted each night, it is one single notation.” ~ Elias Canetti
"Aleja" (1903, oil on canvas)

I remember how excited I was when the number of hits that I had received went past 200. It was a time for great rejoicing. I am now well past 300,000 hits, but I still love to see who is visiting, what they are reading, how they got here. I don’t know that I’ll ever tire of paying attention to my statistics as they serve as my validation, for now. 

I suppose all of this boils down to a few simple facts: I have come to love the freedom of blogging. I sometimes resent feeling as if I have to post until I realize that no one is making me do so. I no longer feel as if blogs are an obscene violation of privacy spurred on by the blogger’s own need for exposure. I take pleasure in reading blogs that are written well, or are visually appealing, or are in line with my own sensitivities. 

For now, this whole thing is an open-ended experiment. Who knows where it will take me, but I’m going to enjoy the ride while I can. 

More later. Peace. 

All images are by Swedish novelist and playwright August Strindberg, who turned to painting during times of crisis in which he felt unable to write. 

Music from Bare Naked Ladies, “Call and Answer”
 
  
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“Words are the voice of the heart.” ~ Confucius

This is my attempt to recreate the post that was eaten by my computer last night . . .

 

“The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments.” ~ Gustave Flaubert

Things I accomplished yesterday:

  1. Finished addressing Christmas cards, ready to go to the post office today
  2. Finally packaged my friend Mari’s birthday present along with her Christmas card in a mailer, also ready to go to post office
  3. Did not eat an entire one-pound bag of peanut M&M’s whilst doing the above
  4. Cleaned off most of my desk in an attempt to find the Christmas stamps for the cards; did not find stamps on desk as I had put them in a very safe place (always risky)
  5. Also managed to find paperwork that I had put in a very safe place, just not the same very safe place as Christmas stamps
  6. Did not put fist through computer monitor when I lost blog post that was almost finished
  7. Realized that I am not supposed to try to accomplish two major tasks in one day as one of them most certainly will become an epic fail

Felt rather pleased with myself right up to the moment when I went to save my post, was redirected to the WordPress sign in page (for some unknown reason), and then returned to blog post only to find that nothing, absolutely nothing that I had written was there save for the quotes.

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” ~ Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

I’ve been having very vivid dreams lately. One that was particularly disturbing dealt with my mother dying. My Aunt Ronnie, who died earlier this year, was walking me through my mother’s house, pointing out things. I remember feeling very comforted that she was there with me. Woke up crying after that one.

But two dreams in particular have stuck with me, and both of these dreams dealt with words and my relationship to words.

The first dream:

This dream was very long and detailed. I was back in college as an undergraduate. I sat down in the common area of the Arts & Letters building, and the person next to me turned and spoke to me. I hadn’t realized that I had sat down next to one of my creative writing professors (it was him, but he looked different in the dream). He asked me if I was going to show up for his class that night. I replied that I had only missed two classes because of my illness, not dropped out, and reminded him that I had submitted the work that was due.

He said that the work was substandard, which really surprised me. Then he told me that the final exam was that very night. I panicked and began to hyperventilate. I told him that I couldn’t possibly take the exam because I wasn’t prepared. I begged him to let me take the final later, but he refused. I went to the department chair’s office and explained the situation. I reminded him that I had doctors’ letters explaining my health issues, and I asked him to give me some leeway since I was a member of the department.

The chair spoke to my professor who asserted that I wasn’t sick; I was on acid. I argued that I wasn’t on acid, that in fact I had never in my life taken acid. My professor again said that I was a drug addict and that he wasn’t going to do anything for me.

I sat down in the common area and put my head in my hands. Two female professors from the department walked by and said loudly enough for me to hear that they thought that my writing professor was only doing this because he hated women (not true in real life). I didn’t know what to do. Suddenly, I was surrounded by people who were enrolled in the class with me; several of them were holding papers—newspapers, pages torn from magazines, cards. One person said that I had to do something extraordinary to prove to my professor that he was wrong about me.

I asked him what I should do. He said that I needed to take the pages that they had all collected for me and create something. I began to look through the pages, and words started to stand out. I began ripping words from the pages and arranging them on the floor. I was creating a poem from the words. Someone gave me scissors, so I began to cut out more words.

My writing professor walked up and observed what I was doing, but he said that he wasn’t impressed, but by that point, I no longer cared about him or his class. I was creating for myself. I couldn’t collect the words quickly enough. The poem soon grew to be about five feet long and just as wide. It was massive, and I wasn’t finished. I needed more words.

I looked up and realized that below where I was working on the floor was a gap and that trains were moving through the gap, but instead of coal in the cars there were small colored rocks, larger than sand, but much smaller than coal—vivid blues, bright yellows, greens. I realized that I needed to get to the other side of the gap to collect more words, so I jumped down onto the first car, which contained blue rocks, My feet began to sink into the rocks, and the blue began to swirl about my legs. I jumped from one car to the next until I was on the other side. When I reached the other side, I suddenly realized what Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” really meant: It was his poem about life, only with paint. I smiled to myself and went in search of more words.

The dream ended there.

“The smell of ink is intoxicating to me—others may have wine, but I have poetry.” ~ Abbe Yeux-verdi

Second dream:

I was working in the newsroom again, but this time, I was a clerk responsible for typing and filing. I was speaking with a reporter with whom I had a good relationship, telling him how glad I was to be back in the newsroom again, even if it meant that I had to do grunt work.

I remember the hum of the actual newsroom in which I worked while I was an undergraduate. An undercurrent of creative energy was always suffused in the air. I felt that in my dream. I looked about me at all of the reporters and editors, and commented that I wished that I could be out there in that pool of people and not stuck in a clerical position.

The person with whom I was speaking asked me why I didn’t apply for a position. I told him that I didn’t think that I was good enough, but I remember thinking to myself in the dream that that was not a true statement, that it wasn’t a matter of being good enough but rather, a matter of being afraid. He told me that I should apply.

Many people who I had actually worked with walked through this dream. Some stopped to chat, others just walked by and nodded. I inquired about the City Editor who had been in charge when I worked there, and my friend told me that he had died. Soon after, I awakened, feeling very calm and reflective.

There is a saying that people who work for newspapers have ink in their blood. I know this to be true. The slow death of printed newspapers saddens me in a way that cuts to my very heart as I wrote my first pieces for publication for the local paper.

“Unclose your mind. You are not a prisoner. You are a bird in flight, searching the skies for dreams.” ~ Haruki Murakami

I have rerun in my mind both of these dreams several times, and what strikes me is that my psyche is sending me a message: I need to return to my writing full time, or rather, on a daily basis, which is full time for me. Obviously, I have words within me that need to be released, to be massaged into something concrete, and I have not been doing that of late. I must recapture the passion with which I first began writing this blog, and I must return to the discipline with which I so carefully honed my writing method: working at it for at least two hours each day.

The brain is but another part of the body that requires regular exercise lest it atrophy. By not working on my craft, I have regressed to my former state of writing only when the creativity hit me, rather than forcing myself to cull to the surface the creativity which resides within me.

In fact, I have been very lackadaisical when it comes to writing daily, and I know this to be true however painful it is to admit. But something inside of me is quietly rebelling at the passive approach to writing that I have been taking. Something—my inner muse, inner self— is sending me signals that there are words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs all waiting to be created, and that if I ignore these signals, then I am doing myself a disservice.

My birthday is next month. I will be yet another year older and no closer to achieving my dream of having a book published. I have no one to blame for this but myself as no one else controls my mind, my thoughts, my muse.

My love affair with words goes back to my childhood, to the time that I composed my first poem when I was five. Believe it or not, that poem had rhyme and meter: a quatrain with six beats per line. From that moment, I knew that I wanted to do something in my life that involved words, just as some people know innately that they want to work with numbers.

As any of my regular readers know, I have a passion for quotes; I have always had this passion. I have collected quotes for as long as I can remember, mostly because they inspire me. I used to use one quote repeatedly in cards that I sent to new graduates: “Only the dreamer can change the dream,” which is actually the title of a book of poems by John Logan. I don’t know when I picked up this quote, but it has always been very special to me.

My dreams about words were a reminder that only I can make possible what I want to achieve, that I am responsible for my path, that I must do all that I can do to make my dream become a reality.

Thanks to Crashingly Beautiful for the Marakami quote. More later. Peace.

I know that you have probably seen this video, but I love it, that and the fact that any videos of TSO in concert are bootleg, and the quality isn’t great. I did find a concert on Good Morning America in 2005, but it’s not the same in a small venue, and the light show really needs to be seen in person to be appreciated; otherwise, it’s just blobs of light in some parts. I give you the Trans-Siberian Orchestra: “Wizards in Winter”