So, dear friends, I need your help. I’ve had a book percolating in me for some time now. But I need your help in pulling it out and getting it down. I’m inviting you, my dear readers, to help guide me on this journey.
Many of you have faithfully followed along with my often random, esoteric ramblings, with grace and dedication. I am utterly gratified to be in this with you. Truly.
Of the pieces you’ve read, what has struck you most? Deepest? What are the bits and bobs that have most touched you, made you laugh, or cry, or angry? I mean, the kinds of bits you’d read more of were they to find themselves between covers? So, this is an open invitation to you, my beloved readers, to walk with me toward some as yet undetermined goal of a memoir.
I appreciate you all so much. Your input is invaluable in the discernment process for this little project. Whaddya say? Can ya help a guy out?”
These are interesting days. I approach my life much as I do the page, with contentment but with trepidation. The clumsy plasticine oozing from my pen leaves me a bit numb. A little bored, to be honest. A stultifying sameness guards the words from taking on a life of their own, of actually taking anyone on any kind of journey.
This is especially true of poetry. Ironically, I find my greatest enemy to be the stronger, more captivating work of previous years. It is the equivalent of creative shadow-boxing, a grasping after one’s own ghosts. It is to hide from the potential of my own gifts. The glory days, whether in life or art, can straight-jacket us right out of good days now.
Life is often this way. In creative-artistic terms, this is so commonplace as to be ridiculously cliché. This haunting of the present by an elusively successful past can choke the life out of bold, new ventures. Even the very desire to try is rendered impotent. A sterility can only be achieved by writing. Shit, but still writing. When acedia takes hold it keeps me from even getting that far. Writing poorly is still better than writing nothing at all. Bad sex is still better than no sex at all!
Does this call into question my dedication to word-craft? Do I need to turn in my lit-card? Have I become less a writer and more of a word-ler (word burglar)? I suppose the creative struggle can be compared to dieting. One can lose weight through amelioration of already good habits-in-stasis while destroying bad ones. But, for it to “take,” a completely different way of living is required. Sure, lose thirty pounds, buy new clothes, take a thousand selfies on a new, air-brushed social media persona. Eat McDonald’s and chocolate cake for a week or two afterward and one’s previous successes merely mock present realities.
“Look how well I was doing,” we crow. “The effort really paid off,” we chirp. “It’s about bloody time,” screams our waistband. We gaze with fondness and well-earned satisfaction at our accomplishment only to groan with the recognition that that was then and this is now. Shit.
It can be genuinely depressing to read poetry or other bits and bobs of writing from even a few years ago when I had over-weening confidence in an under-developed, largely self-indulgent output. Now, possessing some measure of success, a proven track record in this whole letters enterprise, I find confidence a bit shaky to say the least.
Perhaps this is a case of art imitating life. Never have I been so content with so little. Not that I have little. I have in fact considerably more of everything than I could ever use. But my requirements are far fewer than ever. My writing is undergoing massive change right now, too. It’s not as clever-turn-of-phrase-y as it was, relying instead on that which, though simpler, might actually say something. I guess I’m losing my desire and, frankly, the need, to write for the academy – words for lovers of words. Insider talk.
Now, I write because it acts like a shower. My soul gets buffed up a bit more. My heart gets a jolly good brushing and I feel refreshed. And, I want to tell people about it. I want people to know who I am so they can meet me here. A welcome mat more than a Hadron Collider of complexity. There is a loneliness in creating something only a handful of erudites with too much industry-speak in their tool-belts can enjoy. And by “enjoy” I mean quietly compare to their own far superior material. Ha! Rightly so.
I guess to live better, we must learn to live on purpose. Correspondingly, to create better means to engage the process with trembling tenacity, even in the face of overwhelming self-doubt in one’s own ability.
I want to be the best writer, poet, musician – person, I can be. But it appears that what that means is a whole lot less words and a lot more conversation. Less erudition, more simplicity. Less academy, more living room. Less library, more kitchen table. Less bookstore, more backyard barbecue. Less thinking, more doing. Less of someone else, more of me.
Well, how about that. I just wrote myself out of my own funk. I rest my case.
I’m new to Julia Cameron’s idea of Morning Pages. Her best-selling book, The Artist’s Way, has changed many lives and continues to do so. Lately, it seems to be the case for me as well. Through so much of what I write or compose, I am seeking to link the deepest places of my soul to the creative spaces in my head. To put it another way, I am happiest whenever my deepest longings meet my best gifts (thank you Frederick Buechner!).
But Ms. Cameron does this so much better, so here we are. I love the idea that art can create wonder from boredom, peace from turmoil, full from empty. It’s supposed to be that way with our spiritual practice as well. Creating light from dark is what the gospel intends to do in all of us.
But we so easily entangle ourselves in all that is quick, convenient, or potentially euphoric. We shelf the best stuff for the fast stuff. It robs us of what our creative and spiritual selves want to share, with us, and with the world.
My interest in Cameron’s book has been piqued for many years now, but only got taken off the book shelf recently. Procrastinator you ask? Um, hell yeah! Nevertheless, we’re there now and she is guiding me into my own well by means of writing as meditation. It remains my intention to write my book from this well.
But, I gotta find it first, relearn how to lower the bucket, and not be afraid to see what comes up. So, here goes. These were my Morning Pages from today, Friday, June 30th. Hopefully they find you whole and happy.
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Morning has again crept with typical stealth onto the broad, brown land. This is a hopeful time of day for me. It’s as though I’ve been granted another twenty-four hour run at this thing. Life may have been a jolly cock-up yesterday, but morning comes again and says “Fuck it. Let’s give this another go, shall we?”
For someone like me, prone to shadow, turbulence, and chaos, this comes as welcome invitation indeed. The equally broad landscape of my life needs this daily reimagining. They are little reawakenings as it were to all the yummy goodness just below the surface of things.
In this desert, although appearing brown and dusty dry on the outside, there holds within it all the possibilities of the world’s first day. If God can step back, clap His/Her hands, and with a smile proclaim, “it is good,” then surely I can do the same.
That should be a regular meditation for each new morning to which I have the good fortune to see. Step outside, listen, take a deep breath of its newness, and, together with my Creator proclaim, “it is good.” Perhaps with such an outlook, every day can be experienced for the next-chance-to-grow it really is.
Besides, if God could create something new every day and say these words at every one, then it behooves me to do the same. Even if I can’t quite get to that level of optimism, sometimes it is enough to say “well, I fucked up a lot less this time. That’s good, right?” The icing is to rest at the end with feet up, heart full, proverbial Gin and tonic in hand (well, tonic water for this problem drinker!)
What could be better?
One can hardly be surprised then to know that St. Augustine’s favourite passage of Scripture was the creation narrative. He elucidates upon it in depth in his Confessions in a way only a genius philosopher can (beautifully unintelligible). He sees things in the creation not readily available to mere mortals like you or me. But, in my ongoing pursuit of contemplative creativity, there is here a wonderful challenge; a holy dare.
I have before me then a challenge to see, truly see, what lies right in front of me. Where I see a sparrow, God sees the perpetual renewal of all things. Where I see a rose, God sees something magnificent from humble beginnings. Where I hear a crow caw, God hears a virtuoso in training. I taste dirty water, God tastes the banquet, spread out with delights borne of its nourishing goodness.
In the brooding darkness that so often smothers me, a good long look at a morning like this one acts as reminder that it is truer than me. It is the darkness that is askew. The brilliance, colour, and cacophony of sound is the real. And it is before me now, insistently mocking all sadness and doubt.
If God is so capable of seeing perfection in the imperfections and incoherence of each new day, then that is what I am called to see. What we are all welcomed into.
So then, step outside with me, stretch, yawn, blink, breathe in deeply, and stare into the day. Then, together, with He/She who built it, say…it is good.
These are those delightful, though humbling serendipities that add such a glow of grace to life. Please check out this wonderful initiative of which I am honored to be a part…
“ALTARWORKis delighted to present a sample of Rob’s poetry – eight poems in all. Rob has a unique voice and style – eclectic, uniquely profound – and is unafraid to stray beyond convention with regards to his subject matter, point of view, and wordplay. Rob is a highly enjoyable read.”
These words flow from a pen both weak and hungry. They dump onto paper in an effort to unload excess flotsam from my soul. My pen is also hungry for words other than those that seem only to spill out in self-expression, self-deprecation, self-indictment, self-actualization, self, self, self…blah! There’s so much me that there is precious little room left for anyone else. At times like these I’m left to ponder whether I’d even recognize the harmonious, lilting song of God above the shrill, cacophonous din of my own voice trumpeting its need of something or other.
Instead, let me bring the pen of a ready writer, a writer, ready and poised to praise the One whose words I seek. The Logos – the Ultimate Word – forms the inspiration for my little words. Maybe as I write my words in praise of the Word, my story will begin to take on the shape of the Great Narrator. Let your wise and beautiful words, O Logos, letter my life with beauty, honesty and truth.
It’s not that I’m a snob, although some might disagree. Nor is it that I’m lazy, although others might disagree. I simply haven’t had guest posts as often as I should. With this offering by blogger, Janet C. Hanson, I’d like to change that. When she posted this and it found its way into the internet aether, it was pounced upon quickly like hungry birds to a free meal, tossed around, shared and shared again. She’s insightful and warm and wise and witty. You know, kinda like me (as I am in my bios).
A l’oevre on reconnâit l’artisan. You can tell an artist by his handiwork. ~French proverb
“You can make art or make a product. The two are very different.”
My art teacher, Randy Blasquez, shared the quote on her blog. The context was art and love. “Why doesn’t love come across when you look at a painting? Because it wasn’t put into the painting! The artist was pleasing the gallery or trying to sell.”
How much of your life is spent trying to please the gallery?
The books on writing, the books on art, the books on living life to the full, all agree: Skill matters, but love is essential in any work of art.
I think you would like my writer’s group. Around the word-slinging circle you’ll find a Whitman’s Sampler of styles. We take turns being the discouraged, remind me why I am doing this member, or, less often, the poster child for astounded success. I’ve learned by watching these women wrestle with their art. Things like,
A good writer is generous. They bleed their fears, doubts and delights all over the page, with nothing held back for later.
A good writer refreshes. They peer into the fog and refuse to blink until they notice a reason for hope.
A good writer lights the way. With words gripped by ink-stained fingers they draw us from the dark.
Bad writing may sell books, but readers are left in shadow. A bad life may look successful, but the world is left just as dim.
Art As A Work Of Life
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10
Together, we are God’s handiwork.
Does your story prove that it’s true?
Generous, refreshing, bearer of light, are we changed by the reading of you?
Every day, we’re given a choice–to be just another product, shaped by the world, or let God shape his image in us.
Where have you noticed God’s artistry at work in your life?
Find out more about Janet and her wonderful material here.
I recently shared a guest post on robslitbits, my literary site, which outlines the place of the poet in society. It was by Kate Harris, writing for a favorite blog site of mine, Art House America. Since the subject can be approached from a host of directions and focus in as many ways as one can conceive, I wanted to do the same here on innerwoven. This is a guest post by another Kate (Katy in this case) culled from another favorite blog site, The Grunewald Guild.
Beauty changes the world more thoroughly, more quickly and more meaningfully than anything else. To that end, I share this little essay. I hope it worked in you like it did me.
As I’ve shared before, I am one of those who cares deeply for words, big words, little words…words about words. I recently read Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s brilliant tete a tete on language entitled Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. In her book she offers some strategies by which those of us who make this claim can begin to reclaim the power, clarity and beauty of language from the many dangers both immanent and potential that beset it. She encourages us to become caretakers of language. At the top of that list is a simple but obvious one: become a lover of words.
Language and all it represents is a gift worth fighting for. God uses it to create and recreate. God, in some mystical sense most of us will never understand, is language; is words – the Word. Hence there exists an inseparability of language from the One whose idea it was to speak all things into existence by means of it. From the first words we read in Genesis, “In the beginning…God created…and it was good” we get a picture of the dominance of speech in the totality of human life. God, as Word, speaks words by which all we are and have come to know now, exists.
Language seems like it’s a God-thing alone in the first broad brush strokes of God’s ex nihilo creative activity. It’s not until another comes, by God’s design and in response to God’s words, that language can be seen as the glue in communication between parties. It now acts as the bedrock of love, community and progress. As language that is beautiful, reliable and truthful disappears, so does the community it was meant to gather and nurture.
We’ve lost our trust in the reliability of language. Words change over time. In many ways this has always been true and, to a large extent, inevitable. The problem is, however, that the purest forms of speech that give voice to our deepest needs, desires and passions have become as distorted and bent as we who use it. Whatever is meant by “the fall” it took language right along with it.
It’s common for any collective to morph according to the will of the alphas in the group. Similarly, the shape and demeanor of our communication will bend to the loudest kid in the room; it will come to serve whatever happens to be the most influential force to which we pay homage.
English is the undisputed language of commerce worldwide. Because English is the language of so much conquest, it is well practiced in the macabre arts of dominance and privilege. The sheer volume of English words coupled with its global dominance make its destruction both troublesome and ominous. Language has, for too long, been lashed to the flagpole of corporate nationalism, the yardarm of the sinking ship of words for their own sake where form is function. This cross-pollination of words has left a confusing moral-linguistic morass. For example, to use the warm-hearted language of family and connectivity in corporate interests or sports gibber-gabber to describe the horrors of war, we are effectively removed from the wider, deeper concerns language begs to convey and possibly amend.
Conversely, since English is also the collected amalgam of the street-speak of vanquished foes and victims of such empire building, it is a language of unparalleled nuance and texture. It needs those who love it for the latter while seeking to undo the damages of the former. It needs caretakers.
For words to do the work for which they were intended and move beyond mere factual transmission at best to manipulation and domination at worst, we must re-tool ourselves to being lovers of community built upon communication with words at the deepest levels. Words are performance art over against utility, a dance instead of marching army or typing pool. Like discovering our enemies have fears and dreams like we do, words can be freed to promote beauty, friendship and good will.