Monday, 25 March 2013

Only the Wind and Your Breaking Heart...

“Writing is like hunting. There are brutally cold afternoons with nothing in sight, only the wind and your breaking heart. Then the moment when you bag something big. The entire process is beyond intoxicating.”

― Kate Braverman

This isn't going to be the first time you've heard me say this. I've talked about it many times which pretty much says it's a huge issue for me. As far as writing goes, that is.

So here goes.

I'm...can't think of a better word...depressed. Frustrated. Heart-breakingly so.

I decided to speak of it out loud because the subject on my mind comes up in various forums and I realize I'm not the only writer who suffers this 'malady' on occasion.

And here's my ugly truth.

I have a dear friend, a fellow author, who happens to be one of the most eloquent yet simple, in-touch-with-the-human-heart writers I've ever met. And I've met a lot of them so that is saying a lot.

I won't mention his name, and I'm not talking behind his back, as he and I have talked about this. The only reason I'm mentioning it publicly is because I saw comments from more than one author on more than one forum who cited that they shy away from reading other authors because it discourages them, and ignites doubt in their own writing abilities. While sad to hear that, I was kind of relieved. That meant I was not the only one, that others suffer this insecurity at times as well.

And, yes, yes, I know. I talk about insecurity an awful lot. Yep. I do. It happens to be, probably, my number one weakness in my writing process.

  I remember one author---who I love dearly---claimed that she had resisted reading certain authors because she was...yes...jealous. I admired her honesty, her bravery in facing her fear. Because, let me tell you, she is not alone. I knew exactly what she meant. The funny thing about it? She, as it happens, is one of the authors I resist reading for that very reason. So there. Go figure. Us writers. What characters we are.

Anyway, back to my gifted author friend. I told him, as humiliating as it was, that I was hesitant to read his book because I'd read such powerful reviews about it. I was scared. Books which promise to blast me with emotion----no, not just angst, killing off characters and torturing them, but deep heart stuff, human stuff.

We're all insecure to a certain extent with our talent. Even when other praise us, when we see good reviews, there's still that speck of doubt deep down. I suspect even the most successful harbor those misgivings at times.

I will at least admit I write fair-to-middlin'. My prose, anyway. Oh, I've got miles to go in the plotting department, boatloads to learn about characterization, dynamics, everything.

But here's the kicker. While trying to pinpoint what I DO feel is lacking, what I DO see in my author friend's work that I feel missing in mine, I came across a quote by Eudora Welty from her book, On Writing, "To write honestly and with all our powers is the least we can do, and the most."

And I realized. That key. Honestly and with all our powers. And I knew, then, that the element missing from my attempts is that seemingly small but oh-so-gigantic all our powers.

You know that that means? ALL our powers? It means writing on all eight cylinders. Letting go. Giving it the gas. Letting it rip, gunning the engine, speeding right through those barriers of fear that keep you from going too far. It means writing fearless. Opening all the windows on that heart of yours.

Some seem to feel letting it go means to superficially shock. And I suppose it could. But, for me, it means losing all my inhibitions about exposing my gut to a reader. Emotion.

And that's where my depression sets in. I see these other authors who have that GIFT---and I consider it is a precious gift---of doing just that. They have this beautiful ability to express what is actually deep inside them. They are fearless in doing so. I admire that, I crave that.

It's not about words, either. I can come up with the words. I've got a warehouse of words, ready to be used to express my deepest soul. But, for some reason, fear of SEEING in that deep dungeon of emotion keeps that warehouse door barred to me.

I don't know what it will take to open that door, to bust off that rusty lock. But I DO know it's going to happen because the prisoners---my innermost thoughts---in that secret place cry out all the time, begging to be set free. All it will take is me.

So the depression, in a way, seems to be able to give way to satisfaction and then exhilleration. Because I DO have the key in my hand.

Who knows? Maybe, if I DO read those authors whose gift I fear, I'll feel something in their fearlnessness that will push me over the edge.

Ray Bradbury said, I did what most writers do at their beginnings: emulated my elders, imitated my peers, thus turning away from any possibility of discovering truths beneath my skin and behind my eye.

That sort of thinking, those beginnings such as he mentions, might have been one of my biggest obstacles. One WILL be miserable to read other authors in order to emulate their gift. Their gift---the one I seek anyway---is not something that can be copied. Their gift is unique to them but, oddly, available to me as well. Because the truth----MY truth----is beneath MY skin and behind MY eye.

Hot damn. Is that exciting or what? So rev her up, baby. I might not be able to go zero-to-seventy in one gunning of the pedal and be comfortable in sharing my innermost soul through my writing overnight. But I CAN get there. The destination IS within reach.

For me. And for you.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Adventure of Being Ordinary...

William Gedney, Photographer

“What is the adventure in being ordinary? It is daring to love just for the pleasure of giving it away. It is venturing to give new life and to nurture it to maturity. It is working hard for the pure joy of being tired at the end of the day. It is caring and sharing and giving and loving…” -- Marilyn Thomsen

Negativity's been swirling in the air once more in the m/m society, and I've watched with curiosity and discouragement...but a tiny bit of relief to be only a tiny speck in the big scheme of the genre. For once, I was kind of glad to be a nobody.

I just write. Simple as that. I think I like that simplicity.

Simplicity. Just working hard. Loving my uncomplicated life, loving my stories, loving my small fan-ship, loving...just loving my situation as it is.

Coincidentally, while ruminating on this 'settlement' of life, this old fashioned mental publishment (sorry---heard this word in an old American folk song and wanted a chance to use it) that's come over me, I stumbled on the photographs of American photographer, William Gedney.

While studying them, I ached with the beauty I found in the black-and-white candids of a series on rural life in Kentucky.

The subjects of the photos, their lives, tore my heart because they were so damn beautiful. Excruciatingly gorgeous because of their basic, raw painting of ordinary lives. Ordinary days.

The photo essay brought me back to my own roots. A very simple life where, as in the photo above, menfolk gathered around the cars and either worked on them or gabbed around them or both. And they were happy. So damn unwealthy yet abundantly rich. The kind of rich I long to be.

I almost cried over this photo. That's my idea of a lovely moment, there on that porch. Coffee in hand. Maybe sad, maybe just tired. But somehow so serene.

That hidden world where men might be as good looking or better looking than most movie stars, but no one knows them, has ever heard of them. They're just

Something about the porch, no shirts, babies and bottles...

I've visited this porch a million times in my mind. I've sat on on much like it at my sister and her husband's fishing camp. Solitude. Warm, gritty, comfortable. The bevy of brothers in the photo...well, what can I say?

Something so ungodly happy about the nothingness of doing...nothing. Just BEING.

I long for those days when I was a child---so very much like the folks in these photos---who found so much pleasure in absolutely nothing. Pitching a tent made out of old sheets between two shrubs, the sweet smell of cotton and warm grass within that cozy shelter. The only thing that could ever draw us kids from that magic make-believe world was our parents' call or the clanging bell of the ice cream truck.

Climbing the tree in the back yard and sitting, hidden in the shelter of its leaves, for hours. Or doing nothing but sitting on the porch. Watching the world as it did nothing either. Reading. Reading and more reading.

No air conditioning, just attic fans that made the window curtains billow like silent, frail ghosts while---one some days---I lay in my bed and did nothing but daydreamed. Listening through the screen of that window to neighborhood kids who were also doing pretty much nothing, only performing their nothingness outdoors.

Oddly, this reverie does sort of connect to my writing life. The beautiful, really beautiful thing about these photos is the absence of the clawing to be anything other than what the subjects are. If their lives aren't up to par with society, they seem totally and blissfully unaware of it.

In reference to an upcoming author/writer convention, a reader blogged that she---quite honestly---did not want to pay money to be in the room with 'nobody' (or was it 'so-so'?) authors. Well, being one of those 'nobodies', that slammed reality in my face. That left me feeling this aching lack of something. This need to try to BE a somebody.

And you want to know something? Had it not been for a reader---for anybody--to scramble us authors around like a handful of jacks in the dirt then arrange us into neat categories, wanted and unwanted---I wouldn't even have been cognisant that I AM pretty much a nobody. Sure, I only have a tiny handful of books to my name, but I thought I was important anyway. I naively thought I fit in somewhere in the big scheme of authorly things. This reader kindly, very politely, informed me I am wrong.

It stung for a while. But, then---once my self-confidence washed away the stark truth---I still came back to who I am, to my heart. And my heart is an author's. I'm glad to say that the reader's proclamation of my invisible status in the writing world cannot change that. Damn it, I'm still proud and I'm still going to write. Because I'm not too bad at it.

I want my career as an author to be the simple, beautiful way of these photographs. To just write and be content and enjoy the loveliness that comes with writing to create, not writing to be popular, not writing to BE something. Since I can't STOP writing, no matter how many bloggers inform me I'm not worthy to share the room with the 'must have' authors, I might as well embrace it and do the best work I can. Not to be popular.

But because it's how I do things.