Archive for Thoughts on writing

A Writer’s life is like being on a Ferris-wheel…within a Sherlock episode…

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2014 by Mj Rains

ferris wheel

A writer’s life, and life in general, is often compared to a roller-coaster ride, but I like to think of it as being on a ferris-wheel. A circle up, a circle down.  On the sweep up, everything is cool, in order, coming together, filled with the anticipation of the top, the peak, the fruition of all the set up, the buckling in, the securing of the gate, to make sure you can safely reach the top and enjoy the ride.

At the top, the view is amazing. We see everything without obstruction. The air is clear, crisp, oxygenating, almost ethereal. We fill our lungs. We feel high, because we literally are.

Now put all this imagery into your job as a writer. We’ve all been on the ferris-wheel of writing. We’ve all been at the top, where we write every day, inspiration comes easily, as easily as your lungs take in that crisp, clean air at the top, and we see our story before us, almost writing itself. Ideas continue to flow. We can’t wait to get back to the computer screen because it’s no longer a blank lifeless page staring at us, but is filled with our words, words we are sure will be the next greatest novel ever to exist. Sometimes the ride stops for a while, to let some other riders board, and we get “stuck” at the top, but it’s not being stuck at all, because we are so high with our writing, our story, our characters who’ve become our friends, our family. We are not “stuck” at all, unless, of course, you’re afraid of heights. Unless, of course, someone next to you starts to panic a bit..

“We can’t stay here forever, right?” this Other voice says.

This Other voice is the procrastinator, the inner critic, and he usually wins.

The ferris-wheel ride continues. We move downward, we slack off. We are not at the top anymore but are creeping down, sometimes slowly…

Slow Descent = playing with websites/blogs more than writing, cleaning closets, watching tv, following 20 people we don’t know on Twitter, taking pics for Instagram…

…and sometimes quicker…

Quick Descent = I have to get off this ride because it’s not good. We listen to the Other voice saying, No one will like it, You are a lousy writer, Why bother, surely it’s been written before. And we think we have to start over.

And starting over gets shoved aside because now we are on the downsweep of the ferris-wheel. We get few circles around. We are bounced briefly up again, but it doesn’t last. Finally…it stops at the bottom. The safety harnesses are unbuckled, the door is unlatched. Time to get the fuck off and let someone else ride.

tumblr_mzkjwsupfp1t1nkcqo1_250Let’s go back to the top – and that Other voice. This “other” you that decided to come along, uninvited, on the ride even though he didn’t want to.  I like to compare this “other” you to the villain in the last episode of BBC’s Sherlock Season 3, Magnussen. He has this control, this power, and it’s source is his words. Only his words. You can listen, take heed, do as he says, and because he has all that power, you believe you have no choice. We discover in the episode all the information Magnussen holds over people to control them, all his “files” are merely stored in his head. His power lies only in what he tells people, how he manipulates them, and his wealth makes it happen. Our inner critic is Magnussen. He’s got nothing however. His “wealth” is our insecurity, our doubt, our lack of believing in ourselves as writers, or in our story, and he uses this doubt well to get what he wants. He takes us off the ride. He brings us down. We descend into his delusions. He tells us again that we are not good enough. “You are nothing,” he says.

And, as he does to Sherlock in the episode, he sets you up so that you go to prison for something you didn’t do. So, my advice: Do what Sherlock did. In the climactic scene Sherlock stands up to him. After all, the Inner Critic/Magnussen admitted all the evidence is in his head. tumblr_n62kuqSp0p1sopacdo1_250Sherlock grabs a gun, even though authorities have arrived to intervene and are yelling at him to step away from the villain so that he can continue to live and steal people’s lives… In one swift move, Sherlock grabs the gun, points and shoots. You can’t believe he had it in him, to kill a guy point blank, but he does. And we have this power too, to kill the inner critic while we are on the upswing, while we are on the top of the writing ferris wheel, before that inner critic has time to get comfortable.

Seems graphically blunt, I know, but I’ll go further. I say, after shooting, throw the fucker off the top and make sure he splats completely.  Nothing left. (Hopefully he didn’t land on anyone…) And then, stay on the ride. Let it sweep down and up continuously, because down is fun too. It’s where we loose our stomachs and giggle and dive in. It’s where we know we are going to be to be swept up once again…

…up where the air is so cool…
where our writing flows no matter what…

What a ride…

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7 or 8 Things

Posted in Continuum Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2009 by Mj Rains

Whenever I write a new story, I take a tip from Michael Ondaatje, one of my favorites, and write out my own version of his short piece 7 or 8 Things I Know About Her  as a character study.  It always brings out curious, things un-thought of previously…I’m not sure why.  Here’s one.  This is a fiction piece.

               The Father

She waited every day for her father to return.  He’ll be home, probably tomorrow, her mom would lie.  She didn’t know it was a lie.  She’d listen for the Camaro’s engine every night until she fell asleep:  it was always quite loud when it came up the drive. 

              The Music

She loved the rock band’s songs.  When her mother took her to what everyone called the club, she thought of the tree house Sandy down the road had in her back yard and the ‘club’ the two of them created.  They played music on Sandy’s tape recorder.  They threw their supply of fist-sized stones at the boys who tried to climb up the ladder.  They played “I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett and the Black Hearts and sang at the top of their lungs.

              One Dog

They adopted a dog with three legs that had been hobbling around the neighborhood.  He was old and raggedy but her mother patiently gave him a bath.  He slept on the rug by the kitchen door.  She took him out before school.  He hobbled off one day and never came back.  Mr. Pierce, who owned the bakery down town, said the dog was living with him for three weeks.  His name was fluffy.  She had called him Scruff.

              First Criticism

She is five years old and her parents are screaming at each other.  She sits and watches Sesame Street with her hands over her ears.  Look at that silly, stupid girl, her father yells.  She doesn’t know whom he is talking about.   She covers her ears tighter.

             Listening In

Over hear her in the bathroom of the dorm:  “You could have started over, you could have started over, you could have started over.”

              Self-Criticism

“I don’t like to feel sorry for myself but I always do.  Why do I always wear these same clothes?  Why don’t I get the highest grade, even when it’s an A?   Why do I have to wait to get picked every time?   I wait patiently for my time to come, because my mother says it will.  But when?

             Fantasies

To be picked as the lead singer of the famous rock band.  Her father says she’s got the chops.  She is given the spot without even trying out.   Everyone loves her.   She becomes more famous than her father.  He sits in the audience every night and claps for her.

             Reprise

At Sandy’s old house in the neighborhood, they tore down the tree house.  It had been up there for over twenty years.  She imagines she can hear that old Joan Jet song again as she drives by in the custom tour bus that is painted black and silver with her name emblazoned on the side in gold.  When the bus stops at the drive way a crowd of people she doesn’t know are there to greet her.  Her mother and father stand on the stoop smiling.

Femme de Lettres

Posted in Cats in Art, Writers with tags , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2009 by Mj Rains

Colette with cats

She was the original femme de lettres qui a mal tourne–the woman of letters who turned out badly.

In The Vagabond she describes missing writing so much when she had to earn her living on the stage:

To write!  To be able to write!  It means the rapt hypnotized gaze, caught by the reflected window of the silver inkstand.  It means the burning of the divine fever on cheek and brow while a delightful death chills the hand that traces words upon the paper.   It means also oblivion of time, the idle nestling in a corner of the couch while yielding free rein to a very riot of invention.  It means emerging from the debauch tired and stupefied but already richly rewarded and the bearer of great wealth to be poured out upon the virgin page in the circlet of light sheltering under the lamp…

Oh, to write!  That joy and torment of the idle!  To write!  Time and again I feel the need come upon me, urgent as thirst in summertime, to take notes, to depict.  And I seize my pen again and begin the dangerous, deceptive game anew, seeking to capture with my flexible, double-pointed nib the sparkling, fugitive, passionate words!   It is merely a brief crisis,  the itching of a scar.

Ah, Colette!  One of my favorite cat worshipers.  What a great description of the urge to write.  The Wit here is finally “itching her scar” with regularity this week, and finding some time to blog as well.  Here’s to hoping for the ever-lasting “oblivion of time” to get it down on all my virgin white paper, and to emerge tired and stupefied.  Feeling very “femme de lettres.”

Peace…

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