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.

The Headache of Zeus

I’m looking for that perfect sentence

the one that will open this poem

the perfect metaphor never used

so that you will read my poetry.

I even bought a book or two

to help me on my quest

to find the right combinations

of those words that I seek.

Poetry for Dummies is one

that claims to help demystify poetry

only will it help demystify me.

I dream, dreams of words aligned

all in perfect poetic order

then when I sit to write they are a jumble.

Outside the sun shines bright

and I hear the birds singing

the world is slowly waking up 

as I emerge from the dreams.

Now I sit here writing once again

looking at the blinking cursor

on the blank screen of the iPad

trying to remember what I dreamed

in the midnight hours

because what I saw was that sentence

all pretty and perfect

just waiting to be birthed

a sleeping fetus

enclosed in a darkened womb

of my mind

the headache of Zeus

that refuses to be born.

I AM

I am no sound 

just a whisper,

a slight breeze

tingling your neck

in the soft kisses

lips meeting

in the twilight.

I am the blade of grass,

sitting among the flowers

stretching out of the ground

towards the noonday sun.

I am but a plain man,

another face in a crowd

indistinct from the others.

I am your lover,

in the secret spaces

of the heart.

I hold you close

as our bodies cling

shutting out the noises

of a world gone mad.

Resolve

The New Year dawns

I hate making resolutions

they never seem to work out

sure I’m told you need to focus

my answer, focus on what?

I’m no genius, I just try daily

my writing is sparse, a desert

nothing seems to grow

only the weeds of my thoughts

choking out the fine nuances

that mark the good writers.

Yet, I try each day to see beyond

to reach deep within mining the heart

looking for that one metaphor

that goes beyond mere description.

There are writers and poets

who seemingly do this with ease

their brains are wired that way

it’s a gift not to be wasted.

Maybe, I’m too old for rewiring 

too set in ways beaten into me

by teachers who had no time 

to deal with a daydreamer

yet I resolve to write more

to risk it all on a few words.

Risk Taking

 I haven’t written much in the past week, with Holy Week and Easter plus the added fun of having family visiting, I really was pressed for time to write and writing, for me, takes time. It’s not something that I just sit down and then pour out all of my thoughts onto a page. It’s a process of experimenting with these thoughts, putting them into words and then trying to make sense of what I’ve written. Once in awhile I’ve tried some of those one word prompts, some do generate a good line or two, most just don’t get my creative juices flowing. I see something, think about it, then try to let the words flow from the brain onto the page, the trouble is that it sometimes looks more like the scribblings of a mad man. Crazy thoughts generated in my Swiss cheese mind doing their best to flow through the many holes I have created over the years.  Next week I will be starting another writing course, this one will focus on creative nonfiction. It will be an opportunity for me to explore a genre that I feel a bit more comfortable with rather than straight out fiction writing. With nonfiction writing I hope to open up a few more avenues into my creative process writing about those things that I find both interesting and baffling. It doesn’t mean that I will be creating some kind of best selling story or book, but I will be creating a picture for myself, a painting in many various shades and hues of the world that I inhabit. Like most works of art it is all up for interpretation, someone may love it, another may hate it, then others will see something totally unintended by what I’ve written. In a way that’s the beauty of the creative process, it’s in seeing the various responses that helps me to hone the material into a more cohesive piece. 

 Workshopping a piece with others in a creative and supportive environment is what I like about these classes. I live so much of my life within, always just mulling over a thought until it becomes mush. Even writing in this blog is taking a major risk. Exposing my inner thoughts in a less than welcoming world, a world that is so set on its own agenda, sets my introverted self on edge. Yet, I cannot allow that fear to drive me underground or to stifle my thoughts. Sure, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not one of those bright lights, shining in the distance. I’ve always figured that amongst my colleagues in the Episcopal priesthood, that I’m definitely not one that stands out. Mostly that’s been my choice, staying in the background, flying under the radar, so to speak, and just doing what I do without the fanfare and bright lights others seem to crave. However, now as I begin to contemplate my next life beyond active ministry, it’s time for me to take stock of where I am and where I’m going. 

 I’m sure stuff will be spilling out over the next few weeks and that some of it will make it onto this blog. Some of it may not look pretty and some may be a bit puzzling but at least I’m taking the risk to put it out there.