Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Boredom Can be a Good Thing for Writers!

I read a Harlen Coben novel over the past weekend and there was a passage in it that rang true for me. In fact, I thought, “At last, someone else has put it into words.”

The idea is that for at least some creative types a lack of stimulation is a good thing. The brain settles down and then the thoughts and ideas raise to the surface and insist on attention.

I gave up having a television about three years ago. It has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing. The hours that were spent in mindless entertainment over the years are ones I’ll never get back. It’s not until the quiet seeps in that I find my muse. I still curl up with a book, sometimes for a full day, but when I close it I’m ready to continue with words – this time the writing of them.

I just watched the film “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly”, a true story of the 42-year-old editor of Elle magazine who has a stroke and is paralyzed except for the ability to control one eye. A therapist devises a way for him to communicate using blinks and he then proceeds to write a book about his experience. Yes, he wrote a book with just the use of one eye. Amazing.

However, part of the will to complete a project like that came from being trapped inside himself, alone with his thoughts. That’s actually the same state, only mentally, of course, that I’m talking about here. The activity of the brain is heightened because it’s the only thing going on.

Stimulation is not a bad thing. It is the womb of ideas. However, often an artist doesn’t have any lack of ideas, rather the will and strength to focus on one long enough to see it to fruition. Allowing a sense of restless boredom in can be just the thing to kick start a writing spree. At least for me.

And I was so happy to have Harlen agree!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Have Logophilia and It’s Incurable

Before you panic – and I know you were almost there, trying to decide whether this requires a gift or maybe a card would be sufficient – logophilia is the love of words. Boy, do I have it and bad!

I’ve always loved words as far back as I can remember. In the fifth grade, I fell in love with pugnacious. The sound of it thrilled me. I would find any excuse I could to use it in a sentence - “You sure are pugnacious, today!” For those of you who aren’t crazy for words, pugnacious means ready to fight, combative. It wasn’t that easy to work into daily conversation without starting a fight myself, especially at age 11.

I moved on to tintinnabulation, a word created by Edgar Allan Poe, to describe the ringing of bells. Say it. It does, indeed, sound like bells pealing their musical sounds. And it’s very fun to say. So, in Junior High, I ran around saying tintinnabulation like everyone knew what it meant. I got some very strange looks.

Today, I’m a writer who rarely uses words beyond the scope of the average reader. I write very simply and I find myself annoyed by writers who will throw in a perfectly good, but seldom used word in the middle of a very prosaic sentence. Oops, there I go. I just did it. But, hey, I love prosaic – meaning dull or ordinary. I was listening to a news story on NPR this morning and the reporter referred to Congress as recalcitrant. How many listeners did he lose with that one?

Anyway – my love of words hasn’t diminished but rather increased. Only now, I don’t go around flaunting my beautiful, melodic expressions to just anybody. More often than not, I hoard them; sounding them out in my head or saying them out loud in the privacy of my own home. The interior of my car is splattered with the invisible remains of linguistic sounds I tossed out while driving just to hear them and for no other reason.

I told you. It truly is incurable.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Life in Three Stages

I believe most people would recognize that we live our lives in stages in many senses; each stage defined by sociologists, psychologists, our parents and their parents, basically the world outside our own selves.

I recently had an epiphany, which relieved my mind greatly. I was struck in a flash by the distinct stages of my own life as defined by myself.

I realized that if I were to divide my life so far, at the age of 59, into parts that were clearly on one path, it would divide fairly close to thirds. Until the age of thirty, I would say I had spent most of my life without direction, in pain and basically screwing up everything. This was my infancy.

From thirty to sixty- or 59 to be more exact - I have been in the process of finding myself, growing and becoming a personality that is individual. I am now clearly my own person, unafraid to declare my beliefs and more importantly, fearless in pursuing my one true passion – writing.

I’ve spent sometime beating myself up for taking so long to get here. But the truth is I wasn’t ready to write anything substantial until a few years ago. A story had to be about something other than what I knew because to write about what I know – as everyone says you must – I would have revealed too much of myself. Even to me.

So, now I’m set for the last third of my life, during which I plan to do what I do best – write – and pursue another great love in my life – travel. These are to be the top priorities as I cruise through the best stage life has to offer – what I’m calling my True Blue period.

We all develop differently. I am not a prodigy – that’s for sure. But I’m not a failure either, because I’m not yet done with trying to secure my success in the one thing that matters to me – writing. I guess I’m a late bloomer. Picturing myself as a bulb that’s been lying dormant for years, finally gathering enough nutrients and water to push through the ground and at last bloom into a beautiful tulip – my favorite flower – is somehow warming to my soul.

Whatever stage you’re in, may you soak up everything you can and enjoy as much of it as possible.