Wrestling Jello

I’ve been trying now, for a couple of days, to write something cohesive and interesting. So far all I have are bits and pieces of incomplete sentences and thoughts, a nonsensical pattern of my scattered mind. It seems that I flit from topic to topic, writing about this and that but never getting to the core of why I’m writing this stuff. I try my hand at poetry and now I have a journal full of one liners and things that have popped into my head and made it to the page. None of it is ready for prime time, as they say, but at least they are somewhere accessible instead of residing in the labyrinth of my own thoughts. Being an introvert and a major procrastinator, if I don’t write down what I’m thinking at the moment I’m thinking it, then it is lost to the ages. Sometimes it does repeat itself in one form or another later but then I’m stuck trying to remember why I thought that thought in the first place.

So now here I am, using my blog to post my writing angst for all to read not knowing what people are thinking. I think, and this is just me, that bloggers write to be heard in a way that they are not in their daily lives. If not as introverted, as I tend to be, then it becomes a question of not feeling like you’re being listened to, that your ideas, questions, deep thoughts are somehow a nuisance to others. For myself, and this is not a psychological profile (or is it?), I remember school days when you were just a number, one of many kids all vying for attention in a Lord of the Flies kind of way. Being quiet and not feeling all that smart, I tended to seek the quiet corner, what I now call, as an adult, keeping myself under that radar. Even now, as a priest, I still tend to stay back when at a gathering of my colleagues and let the more extroverted ones have their say. I find it exhausting trying to step into the fray and the few times I have tried it has been dismissed as one would dismiss a bit of fuzz on their lapel.

Maybe, I’m being too harsh. Sure, I don’t just jump into the deep end and yes, I am unsure of myself even after all these years of living. It might just be that I take all of this way too seriously and I want what I write to mean something, to have some meat to it rather than a skeleton of dried, dusty bones. I’m not saying that I need or want to be famous, or widely read. I have just started reading, The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets by Ted Kooser. I have only gotten into the first couple of chapters but this caught my eye; “You’ll never be able to make a living writing poems”, and I have to guess that I will never make a living writing in my blog, but at least I’m writing.

Maybe one day, when the dust has all settled and I am in fact the dust that is settling, one of my grandkids or even a great-grandkid, will happen upon this old man’s musings and take it upon themselves to write. Maybe they will create the next great novel, or become a world recognized poet, even a poet laureate all because of these seeds I am sowing now. Yes, it’s a nice dream but isn’t that the reason why we write because we don in fact have dreams. Dreams are the soil upon which we, upon which I, through out the seeds of my thoughts. These seeds are in the words, the images, the very heart of all that I see and reflect on. These seeds come in the quiet moments, when I sit down and take pencil to paper or when I pop open my iPad and begin tapping away at the keyboard. I never really know where it will take me, or what it will look like but there I am struggling with the muse who has entered into my life.

I guess what I am trying to say is that my writing is more like wrestling jello, I just can’t seem to get my thoughts to settle down enough to write about them. Right now, I have three thousand words of a piece of fiction that I’ve been working on for months. Where will it end up, I have no idea but there it sits, on my iPad as a Pages document taunting me to delve into its mystery. I have no idea where it will end up but at least I’m writing.

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As we grow older

As time fades and we grow older

my heart is yet full of love for you

my desire for your touch never ebbs

your skin is as soft and warm

as on that first night we lay together

so many years ago in a long lost age

Writers Block or Not

I can’t really call it “writers block” since I just read a litany of quotes that deny the existence of such a malaise, for instance:

“I don’t believe in writer’s block or waiting for inspiration. If you’re a writer, you sit down and write.”

– Elmore Leonard

“I haven’t had trouble with writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly. My first drafts are filled with lurching, clichéd writing, outright flailing around. Writing that doesn’t have a good voice or any voice. But then there will be good moments. It seems writer’s block is often a dislike of writing badly and waiting for writing better to happen.”

– Jennifer Egan

“All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?”

– Philip Pullman

“I’ve often said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block; the problem is idea block. When I find myself frozen — whether I’m working on a brief passage in a novel or brainstorming about an entire book — it’s usually because I’m trying to shoehorn an idea into the passage or story where it has no place.”

– Jeffery Deaver
“Writer’s block is a luxury most people with deadlines don’t have.”

– Diane Ackerman

“Lower your standards and keep going.”

William Stafford

I love the last one from William Stafford mainly because, I can’t lower my standards much more than I have already. Then again, what are my standards? That’s a good question and one I’ve never given much thought. Sure, I would love to write that one great piece or that one great novel or poem, but do I really have the stuff, the inner smarts, to write like that? No matter what some may say, I believe that the really great writers have a skill that us mere mortals do not. Somewhere in the genes, in that magical mix that makes us human beings, the great writers got something else, a bonus gene that allows them to see the world through different lenses. Sure, many of us can describe a sunrise or sunset, a forest full of tall pines or the view of the ocean from atop a mountain, but can we see what’s underneath, the glimmer on the glass, the undulating waves, the various shades of green that fluctuate as the shadows of the clouds pass over the distant scene.

There is a sense of the magical, of wonder and desire that some people can easily write about. Love in it’s infinite ways of being, how it feels in the deepest parts of our souls, how just to look at one’s beloved brings a depth of feelings right into the core of who we are. No wonder we say, they are broken-hearted, for love can and does not only break a heart, it shatters the fragile flesh.

There I go again, off on a tangent not at all sure how I got to this point when the point was about writers block and my own style. Maybe, and this is a big maybe, it’s really not a block but a more of a drought. Ideas, ones you thought would make for a great story, once written down seem flat, dead and rather silly. Yet, each day I try to write, something. A small piece, a bit of poetry, micropoetry, something that forces me to dig below the surface and mine the richness that is waiting to be exposed to the light of day. That is if all I discover is a vein of fools gold, it looks all bright and beautiful but upon inspection and retrospection is found to be worthless. As I write this, I’m thinking, isn’t this all part of writing and wanting to write, the self doubt, the fear and wondering if what is written is any good?

I’m sure that most of this sounds familiar to many who have read some of my stuff, it’s become my theme and maybe my vocation. It allows me to express my doubts, fears and inadequacies and put it out there for all to see and read. I also hope that by voicing my own lack of confidence that it might just help someone, who has more talent, to go ahead and write that one piece that has been rattling around in their head for so long. As for me, I’ll continue throwing out the words that I see with my minds eye. I will continue to write knowing that I tend to jump from one thing to another in the most haphazard of ways and really, isn’t that the reason to write?

Letting Go and Learning

 What is it that I’m trying to say? It’s the question I ask every time I sit down and begin to write, what do I want to say and why say it? Maybe every writer goes through this angst, questioning their writing, wondering if it makes sense and if it’s any good. As I continue in my own quest to find my voice, these questions arise more and more as I grind away at my keyboard. It’s a case of the flying monkeys swooping in then scattering all my thoughts like they scattered the poor Scarecrows body. My first thought is over there, my second one over there and my main one is way over there. So it’s always an attempt to take my scattered, messed up thoughts and try to corral them into one place where they can be managed.  

Of course I say this knowing full well that I will never manage these thoughts anymore than I will be able to wrangle a herd of cats in a calm and cohesive manner. The introverted brain, my brain in particular, tends to shift from one thought to the other and never will the two thoughts meet. Not only will they not meet, they won’t even look like they came from the same unstructured mind that bred them in the first place. It’s a wonder that I can even get out my simple little blog never mind write a full blown memoir or story. 

 At some point, I need to find that place, the one that lies deep within, and drill away exposing the riches that lie beneath as well as that vein of fools gold that we all seem to have an abundance. You know, not everything is pretty, not every thought is pure and not every word is golden, yet everything is precious. My memories, our memories, are the libraries we carry with us each and every day. They are the repository of our histories and the way we interpret our surroundings. Sure, one day some historian will slog through the blogs, the Facebook postings, the Twitter feeds, other social media to try and figure out what we were thinking and doing. What will they find? Hopefully they will find our humanity. They will see that we did indeed try to make our world a better place, that we tried to set aside our differences to create a space for every human being. Yes, I know that is a fantasy, given the rhetoric we hear and the negativity of our social media feeds, but somewhere, within all of this crap, lies our better nature. 

 Today, I wrote a poem about my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Toro, who I remember as an autocratic, mean spirited, old lady who seemed to delight in torturing me. All I can remember is her face, dark and foreboding, looking down on me, calling me a liar and sending home notes to my mother telling her of my seedy crimes. Already I was marked and it was then that I learned that not every person, not every adult was nice, honest or kind. It was then I began to build that shell, the one that would protect me from the slings and arrows of words used to hurt. It’s my memory, it’s my history and it’s part of what has formed the person I am today. Without knowing it, Mrs. Toro began laying the foundation of my own journey into writing not realizing that one day she herself would become a topic, a memory, a history that I will mine and drill for all it’s worth.

 These bits and pieces, these stories, all distorted by time and space and by my own imperfect vision, make up what I write today. It’s cutting through, right into the marrow of life, sucking on the richness that lies there, and using it, writing it, telling that story. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry or prose, I tell what I know and in these words a part of myself is revealed, and in a way healed. The shell, so carefully constructed and maintained, is slowly if not painfully being pealed back and now I’m at the time in my life where I feel that I’m ready to tell the tale.

 In Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, I learned that to write one must be willing to deal with those shitty first drafts, to go through a process of just doing it, vomiting words onto a page and then basically killing some of those words to create your story. I’m not sure I’m there yet. My introversion is my security blanket and like Linus I’m loath to let it go for fear of what will happen. So each word, each sentence is a slow, painful process of letting go and learning.

Personal Dilemma

My desk is littered with half read books

journals that I have barely scanned

bits and pieces of sermon notes

and reminders to myself to do something.

On my iPad there are unread poems

that I intend to get to as soon as I can

but there is always something else,

a death this week, a crisis of faith next.

I intend to write more poetry and prose

I want to reveal the inner fears and dreams

yet, those old voices creep shouting 

and my own ego is much deflated

as I would rather seek a place away

somewhere deep in the enchanted woods

where I may lay my head and dream in color.

Away from all of the mechanical noises

that burrow into the skull polluting the mind

and overwhelming my ability to just be.

I look now at this poem, this small offering

above it another half written poem awaits.

Deep down I know I want to write

then again, 

deep down fear crowds out creativity.

Where do I go from here?

How do I end this poem?

Maybe that’s the answer,

no poem is ever really finished

no poet can ever sit back satisfied

the world is so full of darkness

and I hold a palette of vibrant colors

as I seek to paint with the words I see

streaming across the subconscious 

like wild horses running across the plains

unfettered, unafraid, untamed and free.

A Drone Dares to Write

There comes a moment when you realize you suck at something so bad that it’s time to either shit or get off the pot. Writing, sure it’s not easy, sure it takes time and sure not everything written by you is worth reading, but there are those for whom writing is a lark. By that, I mean they write effortlessly. Now don’t give me some bullshit that it’s not all that easy when a seasoned writer can vomit clever lines and titles with the ease of a person having a stomach virus, the words just spew forth and all in a colorful pattern. Those of us, I should say, people like me, who have struggled creatively with everything they have ever tried (yes, I’ve tried plenty times to be creative) only to be beaten down by the critical voices both within and without. When I write all I hear are all those English teachers who only fawned over the literary geniuses in our class, rewarding them with extra credit and special one on one critique. While the rest of us drones were relegated to reading Jane and Dick books in the vast mausoleum that was called a study hall. We were the cannon fodder, the kids being readied for the factories and janitorial jobs that no one wanted to do, then the geniuses closed down the factories and the drones were truly flightless. Now, here I sit, doing what every English teacher told me I could never do and that is write, write creatively. As I enter into the later part of my life I write, a bit of prose, a bit of poetry pouring out my heart onto the blank pages. Really, what do I have to lose, all the ego and self respect as to my own creativity I once believed in, now litters those long dormant study halls of the past. I’m never going to be a “published” writer, as such, that domain belongs to the geniuses and spewers of fine words. Me, well, I’ll throw out my words like one throws spaghetti at a wall and see what, if anything, sticks which in the end only creates a mess but at least it’s my mess.

I Can’t Title a Poem

It all starts with a title

yet, I suck at titles

I never really know where

these words I write will take me.

On a journey within

or across the vastness of the world.

Into the realm of fantasy

or the mundane life of reality.

Will I experience fear or hope

will I laugh or cry or mope.

Nevertheless, there’s that title

that all important piece

that captures the eye

and makes one want to read

the driveling’s of an old man

who only wants to write

not really caring about titles

but only about love and faith

and my journey in this life