Thursday, August 7, 2008

Oh, the places I'll go!

Today somehow I got the inspiration to do something about my writing. I started a novel last November and got undulated by the mundane. My job. House keeping. Fretting about the spiralling cost of living here in Jamaica. Sleeping. Tinkering with blogging. Et cetera.

Tuesday, after much planning to and intending to and hoping to, I had finally got around to pulling up my novel and a critique Donna Hemans had made of it. But that's all I did. I pulled it up on the screen. Browsed a bit and closed it again, making a mental note to print out a copy and start working on it again.

After that I thought about my state of mind, how not-fit-to-write it is. And I said to myself I do not want this to colour my novel grey, so maybe I'll wait around a bit. (This reiminds me of something I read in Dr. Seus' "Oh the Places We'll Go!" You should read that if you haven't already. How does he manage to embed all that profound philosophy into children's books?

Anyway, today, somehow I got the inspiration to do something about my writing. Was it the sweeping that did it? The washing maybe? I'm not quite sure but here I am doing something about it. I've printed out the stuff I need. I put some links to resources in my sidebar. I read "At the Barber" a short story by Anton Chekov. Oh the places I'll go!


Daisy Soap Girl said...

Hey! I think you're onto something with the Dr. Suess advice. I think I will go back and reread his books. Since I retired I am reinventing myself and now I'm in the childhood stage. Now I'm doing all the fun, carefree stuff that I have always wanted to do.

JackMandora said...

Good for you! I have a two year old and a five year old so I am very much into kids books.

Let's keep blogging!

silent storm said...

I get writer's block too often. I wish I could write a novel myself... ah, but I reckon that needs a lot of concentration. Maybe I really should quit my day job! lol :)

Great blog :D

JackMandora said...

Thanks Silent Storm. I wasn't able to move away from chpater one until I put an issue (which I cannot name here) behind me. It was not obviously connected to what I was writing, but the week after that I wrote several chapters. As I wrote though, I saw the connection. I'm not suggesting anything about you. I'm just sharing this experience.

This leads me to ask, to what extent do writers actually write about themselves? This sounds like a topic for a future blog post.

Geoffrey's Place said...

Hi Jackie

I read this post again earlier and I've had that same experience of writing myself through a personal problem or issue many times now. I've recently finished writing my first book (novel) and it maybe too long. I have other misgivings about it too but I'm working on those. It was a tremendously exciting moment when I wrote those last words...I did drink a little too much wine that night I confess.

I believe all writers write about themselves at some level. I'm not sure that it's possible to close off our emotional selves when doing creative work, so I believe our feelings are often expressed through what we write even if indirectly.

I love kids' books too but then I'm just a big grown up kid and I wouldn't have it any other way! Perhaps stay clear of Dr Seuss and be yourself. You have something to say and a positive (and nurturing, I notice) warm nature.

JackMandora said...

Hi Geoffery,

I can imagine the excitement You felt writing those last words. I've felt thrilled just to have a break through, where I see the next step in my story clearly and I can feel it coming together.

I'm seeing it takes a lot of courage to write then, since it is so difficult to close off one's emotional self. Because surely people will recognize you in that story no matter how cleverly you disquise it. Not that being seen is such an awful thing, but it's a matter of being seen by whom, like those closest to you. And it depends on the subject matter.

But if you're going to bother to say what you have to say, why not just say it? Why put a mask on it? That puts a hole in the courage I mentioned earlier. Maybe we write fiction because we do not have the courage to say what we really want. But when you think of it, there are many writers who experienced this same 'should I say it or not?'. Some had their work published post-humously for this same reason.

I am not hung up on Dr. Seuss at all, I was just making an observation. But that's solid advice, and one that I struggle to follow: 'be yourself'.

Walk good. (Another one of my Jamaicanisms, meaning go well, stay well)

Geoffrey's Place said...

Hi there Jackie

It's nothing at all to do with courage. I'm not sure how one would ever close off one's emotional self in any work of creativity whatever it is. I'm not suggesting that it's a mask to hide behind or a means of emotional denial or evasion either, merely that if one writes inevitably your feelings and your expressions become part of your creativity.

It happens in all art, whether it be writing, painting or music.

Writing can be therapeutic too. For many, it can be a means of developing self-understanding, since it encapsulates an experience and makes it graspable and comprehensible. It can also be a way of unlocking feelings that have been repressed into the unconscious mind, probably because they were too difficult to face or deal with at the time. It can be of real benefit in resolving past emotional difficulty. But that's a different sort of writing that I talk about in my "Love's Passage" blog that deals mainly with psychology and the psychology of love. (I'm a qualified but non-practising psychotherapist who chooses to do different sorts of work! *smile*)

Writing is a funny thing. I often find myself writing from the "other side" of some life episode, like using the episode as a reference point to try and explore different feelings and ideas. But maybe that's another blog post!

You walk good and look after that kind heart of yours.

JackMandora said...

Gee, I was teetering a little on the brink there wasn't I? Let me try and find my balance here. I don't agree with you that it has nothing to do with courage. Writing must have a great deal to do wth courage because it involves making a commentary of some sort on society, human nature, existence. It must take courage to make a commentary, especially if it is different from the prevailing sentiments. Ask Jane Austen, Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn or Salmon Rushdie. But writing is not only about making commentary, it is also a form of creative expression and it can also be a means by which we heal. And these have nothing to do with courage... or do they? (Virtual smile) Chasing my tail.

Geoffrey said...

You wrote:

"Writing must have a great deal to do with courage because it involves making a commentary of some sort on society, human nature, existence. It must take courage to make a commentary, especially if it is different from the prevailing sentiments. Ask Jane Austen, Alexander Solzhenitsyn or Salmon Rushdie."

I see I must choose my words with more exactitude. Perhaps I should have said writing is not necessarily anything to do with courage.

Writing, popular writing that sells, is as much to do with entertainment as anything else. If one looks at the top twenty selling books of the past decade, Dan Brown and J K Rowling command eleven places in that top twenty. Tolkien gets the odd point or two. Okay so Brown may have upset the Pope a little but his writing is not about courage. J K Rowling chose to write in a warm cafe rather than freeze in an apartment somewhere...but her writing did not take courage either. What about Twain, Dahl, Updike, Steinbeck, Lawrence, Hemingway, Dickens, Shakespeare, Hardy and Collins? Do you believe they were fighting some social cause or became outcasts as a result of their writing? Did they have masses of courage?

I don't believe so, but they had a very great gift of writing what interested others.

Solzhenitsyn was different - he wrote against the prevailing order of communism in the former soviet union. But Jane Austen? Come on, Jackie! She didn't even publish work in her own name and was never a literary success until after she died.

Salman Rushdie was perhaps more like Solzhenitsyn.

But these heroic writers who take on the world with their writing are in a small minority. I'm not sure that writing fantasy, romance, historical fiction, thrillers, adventure, popular fiction, science fiction, war stories and all the other stuff that sells millions of books takes any courage at all. It's a gifted skill like good painting or music, and a real skill at that. To imbue it with courage and heroism feels a little far fetched to me.

I do believe writing can be healing too. But that is not necessarily writing for popular consumption but for one's own benefit.

Writing "commentary of some sort on society, human nature, existence. It must take courage to make a commentary, especially if it is different from the prevailing sentiments" is a very special sort of writing. It is not, however, that common, nor do I believe that ideas about it are easily generalisable.

It is darned wonderful though, and perhaps as we have talked about elsewhere, the world needs a few courageous writers right now.

JackMandora said...


It seems that changing my settings did not help you. I'm going to put them back.

As we comb out the tangles...

You are perfectly right, it takes no courage at all to write pulp fiction.

And to put Jane Austen with Solzhenityn and Rushdie is rather careless.

So putting things into perspective:
We write letters, poems, journals, personal blogs to heal ourselves, commentaries to change the world, and pulp fiction to make money!

Thanks for an intense exchange! :)

Geoffrey's Place said...

Hi there Jackie

Hope it wasn't too intense! LOL

I'd have real difficulties in defining Dickens, Shakespeare, Twain, Tolkien and Thomas Hardy as "pulp fiction". Great fiction may be that because people simply love reading it.

Fiction can simply be art. Art doesn't necessarily have to have a social or personal purpose. That's all I meant really.

It's fun talking with you!

JackMandora said...

Ah Goeffery!

You will see by the new description of my blog that I have lightened up a little!

Let's keep talking!

Geoffrey's Place said...

Aw relax Jackie. I like you exactly the way you are...I feared I might have been a little intense and pedantic.

How's that mango tree? Keep smiling...

JackMandora said...

I had to look up the word pedantic. LOL!

Not at all, it was a reasonable exchange, I learnt a couple of things, and I see the purpose of writing in a clearer light.

At one point we weren't actually talking about the same things- at first I was actually thinking about the novel I'm writing and some issues that sometimes seem bigger than I am. But I wrote in general terms so you also wrote in general terms. That thing called meaning...

I am trying to optimize my site so the change in the description mirrors this exchange but it contains some of my key words as well!

Crop is over, the last mango fell yesterday. A Bientot!

Ruthibelle said...

OMG! I LOOOOOVE this book (don't own a copy yet, but internet, bootlegging... ya know :D). I have a copy of that poem in my Vision Document (the result of goal-oriented OCD, don't ask) and I read it just about every day!

I have fantastic writing dreams too...even got the Nobel Prize mixed up in there (is it that all bloggers secretly hope to be writers, cause this is a fairly common phenomenon, lol).

Good for you though, I sincerely (and quite seriously) hope you write that novel and get it published. In fact, I'll even promise to buy one as long as you get it done!

And oh the places you'll go! :)

Jacqueline Smith said...

Hey Ruthibelle,

I read "Oh the Places we'll go" in during the summer to my five year old. I have to say I enjoyed it more than she did! I've since returned it to the library. Out of all that silly Dr. Seuss repitition comes some serious statements about which attitudes get us places.

I think there are bloggers out there and then there are bloggers. Some of us truly love to write. I can see you are one those who are passionate about writing.

Let's do our best at it and hope that recognition comes.

Did you read any of Doris Lessig's comments when she won the nobel this year? She is this, what we call in Jamaica, renk and feisty little old woman, don't bright yourself with her or you will feel the scorching wrath of her remarkable tongue.
Well when they finally gave her the Nobel, after having ignored her brilliant work for most of her life, her off-hand comment was something like, "I guess they thought they'd better give it to me before I kicked the bucked." By that time she didn't care less about them and their prize.