Well Begun is NOT Half Done, But It’s a Start


Well begun is not half done.  Not even close.  But it’s a start.

So, there’s been a little writing this week.  A couple small poems started, waiting to see if they lead anywhere. One is a spoken word poem about intrinsic self worth.   Yesterday morning I saw a couple Turkey Vultures on the peak of the barn roof and it made me think about a haiku  –

Two Turkey Vultures

Sitting on the old barn roof

Scan for cat’s dead moles

Yeah, that last line might need a little work, but at least I’m writing something.

I’ve been listening to Ted Talks about storytelling and writing while I work on things that don’t require my full attention this week.  I get all inspired and then when I can actually write, I’m too tired.  It sucks.

Today my goal is a list of everything I want to be doing, in writing, outside and inside the house.  I think it will help me focus on chipping away at my goals.

I’ve also been thinking about how the root of great writing is storytelling.  I grew up with a father who told really great stories about his childhood.  I think that’s part of what got me interested in writing.  I’ve heard of a writing method called the Snowflake method.  Someone told me about it once and the way they explained it, you start by writing down your story as if you were telling it to a friend or a small group at a party, to entertain, then you flesh it out, adding character traits, setting, details, etc.

There’s an ehow on how to write using that method here, but that isn’t the way it was initially explained to me.  I think I prefer the way it was explained to me.  This results in more of a synopsis that you can fill with details.

Overall, I prefer more of an organic method for writing, just starting with an idea and seeing where it leads me.

We looked at a writing method last night in writer’s group that suggested breaking the parts of writing out so that you research at the beginning, then write, then edit, doing things in an exact order.

I personally prefer to research until I reach a sort of escape velocity/ maximum threshold where I have to put pen to paper and start pouring the synthesized ideas out into something new.

One writer pointed out that he prefers to write then see what he needs to know and do the research then.  I suspect it’s a recursive process for most of us and while it’s wise to try not to edit while you’re doing the bulk of your writing, the writing and the research will circle around each other.

So, the light is peaking over the horizon and the writing has begun again.  I don’t feel quite as blocked but it’s building slowly instead of galloping along.  Time for a list and some good old-fashioned elbow grease.

Fear, Creativity and a TED Talk



I live in fear

What should I do?

What can I do?

How about – what  I want to do?

Should anything else matter?

I haven’t been writing lately. That’s not entirely true. I have been journaling a LOT. I’ve also been dealing with a lot of fear. You see, it’s May, and during this month three years ago I had my daughter two months early and it was a very difficult recovery for me. Then, two years ago, a tornado hit my house while I was home alone with her. Both were very difficult times when I felt very alone. I’ve written some about the tornado (which you can see here in a flash fiction and here in an essay) but I’ve never really written much of anything about the events surrounding my daughter’s birth. Maybe I need to do that.

Anyway, it’s May. I managed to push aside those feelings of anxiety and dread until the couple days before her birthday then I got through it and felt better. Then we had a storm system come through and I realized my anxiety level was quite high so that instead of just making preparations and getting on with whatever else I needed to do, I went into hyper alert and spent nearly all my time flipping back and forth between the weather and Facebook. It isn’t very productive. It’s just stressful.

So, I’ve been thinking about dealing with that fear. I was sitting down to work on a crocheted necklace last night and decided to turn on a Ted Talk and in looking at the Entertainment selections, I found one by Karen Thompson Walker on What Fear Can Teach Us. One of the first things she talked about made me cry just a little and feel so much better. She said that fear is something we’re expected to grow up and get over, but some of the most creative minds in history, had profound trouble letting go of fear.

“But maybe it’s no coincidence that some of our most creative minds fail to leave these kinds of fears behind as adults. The same incredible imaginations that produced “The Origin of Species,” “Jane Eyre,” and “The Remembrance of Things Past,” also generated intense worries that haunted the adult lives of Charles Darwin, Charlotte Bronte and Marcel Proust.”

I admit, thinking myself in the company of such creative people immediately made me feel a little bit better. The fact is that my storytelling mind, which extrapolates into what could be, is going on an unauthorized journey and taking me along for short spaces of time. Maybe it’s saying that I’m not giving it enough of a workout, or maybe it’s just being obnoxious. Her talk made me think that I’m grateful for that part of my mind, even if it’s giving me more fear than I want at the moment. It’s my storytelling mind.  So, our creative story telling capability can be a double edged sword.

“But what if we looked at fear in a fresh way? What if we thought of fear as an amazing act of the imagination, something that can be as profound and insightful as storytelling itself?” Walker asked.

She goes on to tell the story of a whaling ship that inspired the story of Moby Dick, and how the people could have survived if they hadn’t been so scared of cannibalism that they passed up much nearer places where they could have gone ashore  in favor of a place that was out of reach.  Ironically, many starved to death and some turned to cannibalism to survive.

We all have fear to lesser or greater degrees. I would swear that I didn’t feel so much fear or have so much anxiety a few years ago but I have to work with where I am now. Maybe it could be useful in my storytelling. Certainly, it can help me to relate to characters who might be experiencing it. And if I can just find the fear in my mind that tells me I can’t possibly write the kind of book I want to, I may not be able to root it out and remove it but I can confront it and use those scientific skills Walker talks about to analyze it and refuse to let it keep me from doing what I want to do, from accomplishing what I want to accomplish, from writing a novel.

Fear is about the little stories we tell ourselves, either of the things that have happened or things that may happen. Sometimes the latter is triggered by the memory of the former, as when high winds and storm clouds around my house make me anxious.

Martha Beck recommends, in her book The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life, creating a moment of truth. I figure out what I’m feeling – angry, sad, scared, happy, etc., then ask myself what the story is that I’m telling myself that’s making me feel that way? Then I working on re-writing it.   It has been very helpful in a lot of instances when I’m angry or sad, but I tend to forget to try it when I’m scared, maybe too much adrenaline.  Here’s hoping it helps.

So, for the moment, journaling and blogging, not so much on the fiction writing.  I’m working on it and I’ll get back there.  It’s just going to take a little time.