Sunday, January 22, 2012

How to Empty Out

How to empty out:
Tilt the vessel,
not too much, but enough.
Allow a steady flow.
Too fast and there is a gush, a breakdown of barriers: a flood.
Too slow? Torturous drops: insanity.
Tilt until empty.
Do not refill.

I fear this empty vessel.

Nature does not fear, it hates—abhors a vacuum;
I do too. I want to fill it up,
create a new story, bring in wants and desires;
fulfill my needs by being full.

But I won’t.

I will sit with this emptiness and explore its shadowy depths. I will
relish its rough hidden geography and
savour the crags that scrape my hands and cut my bare feet. I will
run in wild abandon; I will
dance out the pain.

My blood will spell out my name,
capitals all, a flowing script of
indelible ink. There will be no mistake.

This vessel is claimed: the emptiness complete.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Creative Paralysis

Once again, my age-old refrain is heard: but, but, I have been writing, I really have, just not on my blog. And true enough. I have four stories ready to be sent out by February 1 to magazines that are waiting, I am sure very impatiently, to see my work and publish it. I am sure of it… truly. I am just not so sure they are so sure of it.

Yesterday, I was putting the final touches to a novella I am writing for a local contest. I put the whole day aside for this endeavour and was feeling quite motivated. Well, I should say, on that day I was feeling motivated. It was a different story the morning of, more like trepidation. There were several reasons for this unease but some of it stemmed from how I define “final touches”. The contest rules stated a minimum of 10,000 words. I had 9380. I needed, therefore, 620 final touches. I joked with a friend saying that all I needed to do was put in an “and” or a “but” every 20 words or so and I would be set. She said, nyet. (Her Russian comes out when disgusted).

So, first thing in the morning, with mind prepped, breakfast digested and tea drunk, I settled down to the computer. Immediately my whole body rebelled. Restlessness roared and I couldn’t get comfortable. I readjusted my chair, arranged a warm blanket over my feet, felt all cushy and then hunger arrived, demanding I get a snack. That done, I sat again only to feel a shifty sort of paralysis come over me. A paralysis, that is, which only forbade writing, not other activities such as walking, reading or eating. Prior experience of this strange malady told me there was no cure but to surrender and to temporarily change activities. I picked up my current fave in detective books, sat back in my comfy chair and tried, once again, to settle down. It worked for about five minutes until, strangely enough, the restlessness grew again. And, slowly but surely, I realized that my unease was born of ambivalence: I both wanted and didn’t want to write; I both wanted and didn’t want to revisit this story that had emotions too close to home; and I was both scared to start and excited to begin. The cause was fear and the result was creative paralysis.

My fear is based on a couple of things. One of them, as mentioned above, is revisiting some rather difficult emotions. Although the story is fiction, the feelings are true. The other is the fear that I won’t be able to finish it, that my creativity is limited and I have used up my quota. It is funny admitting this because I worked through this same issue two years ago when I started writing my first blog. I wrote an article describing how this type of fear is based in codependence: that there is never enough and /or that I am not deserving to be bestowed with such an amazing gift as creativity. What I worked through back then was that creativity springs eternal: humans are inherently creative and, therefore, infinite in their expression. Moreover, we are inherently worthy and infinite in our value—it is not a question of whether we are deserving of creativity but whether we choose to manifest it.

With new resolve I sat down again at the computer only to be overcome with a caffeine thirst. Fine, I said, make yourself a cup of tea. I actually like the idea of drinking endless cups of tea while writing even if my body doesn’t. I have this romantic vision of the prolific if not a little crazy writer drinking volumes of tea and pouring out novel after novel from her hermitage high in the attic of a gothic house. Tea made, I sat down once more and bade myself, with threats of never allowing myself to eat chocolate again, to stay sitting.

The tea was comforting but still each word I typed was like trying to slot fifty pound bricks into a perfectly fine mile long wall. I created a sentence, deleted it, wrote it again, changed two words, replaced them with new ones and deleted them too. One sentence took over an hour but, then again, I was fifteen words closer to my goal. I pushed on. The minutes flew by and my brick laying muscles grew. By lunchtime I was half way there and at 7pm I was 15 words over goal. Yowser.

I have put my story aside for a few days and will do the final editing then. But I do know with practice and a lot of self talk, I will make a master brick layer yet. Better still, if the tea is constant and the snacks ever present, I may even win a few contests along the way.