Archive for the ‘Life in general’ Category

When focus is both needed and unwelcome

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

As a writer I’ve often talked about how creativity means letting go of our foothold here, to drift and dwell in vaguely defined places of our mind.

I am nearly finished with a new short story, and yet to execute the last 2,000 words I know I’ll need to leave this place for at least a day, if not two, in order to follow these haunted characters to their conclusion.

In the meantime, here I am, in a way also haunted, by living in this cramped physical world with its requirements and obligations.

Yet to finish it, I must contend with the real-world obligations to make sure I have Internet, power, water, and food. To make sure my animals have their walks, meals, and head pats.

At the same time I need to cut ties with all that and pursue the waking dream I call writing.

As typical in this world, I am walking the tight rope. I hope to publish a draft soon on this blog. Working title: My Secret Song.

I’ve updated my web page too with items from my professional portfolio, as well as the enormous independent study I completed in graduate school. That paper resulted from semester-long research into global laws protecting farmed animals.

Have a look at www.marionblackburn.net

The work life-life’s work balance

Friday, January 25th, 2019

I’ve written about the difficulty of writing and having any other type of activities in a day. Another aspect of writing, perhaps less known, is the mental disappearance that can happen.

When we sit down to write, we willingly break with the so-called “real” world, that is, the world that appears solid to us. The world we can touch, smell, hear, see. The world that has bills, meetings, and schedules.

To write means to cut ties with this world, and have the mind entirely free of any other thought. That’s self-evident.

What many people don’t know – including writers, that is, until we’re neck deep into a novel or story – is that writing also requires a break with another world, the world of our own mind. The world of our own sanity. The world where we are in charge, and events happen in someone predictable, or logical ways.

When we let go to submerse ourselves in writing, the break required to really create shifts our inner identity off its base, then shatters the base, and leaves us hanging.

When we are hanging in that way, adrift, maybe terrified, that we find art.

Disappearing Writer

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

One aspect of writing that’s difficult to describe, is that we disappear when we write. That’s one of the toughest requirements, or should I say fallout, from writing. To do so requires a person to vacate their own life, their own mind, their own daily activities. In their place, the writer inserts stories about other people, and their struggles, goals, and nightmares.

In the meantime, the real person, the physical writer, sits at a desk. Hours pass, even days. Dishes accumulate; the floor needs to be vacuumed; the bed sits unmade. Calls go unreturned, and of course, bill pile up.

Life outside the writer’s mind continues.

But the writer agrees to exit life, to create this other thing, this other living body, this story, this novel, this essay.

It’s an uncomfortable choice, but a goal that compels me to it.

Niched

Monday, January 14th, 2019

I’ve started a new short story. It started as a look into a recurring nightmare which over time I realized was also my worst fear.

It seemed interesting to explore it, to examine all the thoughts tied in with that recurring dream. I also described what happened in the dream, as well as my responses to it.

Once I explored the recurring dream, people emerged, deep ideas, fears, and emotions. I found the short story has taken off.

Yet what I’ve figured out is that the story will be a chiller, a “suspense” piece, and clearly a niche work.

Why do we do that? Why do we consider Science Fiction, Horror, Detective, and other types of stories to be “genre” fiction?

Is not one of our greatest writers, Edgar Allen Poe, a “genre” writer? Have you actually read Poe? Today, his work would be shunted into a category, and never see daylight.

So my horror story is in progress. When I have a draft, I’ll put it up.

Walking into My Dreams

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

SPOILER ALERT: This post is about a process, so I won’t write specifically about my dreams or nightmares. Not yet. The novel will comprise these images, sensations, and events.

I have a nightmare. It haunts me, in the way dreams can. How do dreams unsettle us? They put us in a world we do not choose and we must suddenly make sense of. In dreams we sense a presence of beings who impart to us general sensations. In turn, we feel vague responses.

My feelings in dreams come fast, and they are of two kinds:
POSITIVE
– an overwhelming sense of peace
– knowing I am loved
– romantic love
– subsumption in the divine

NEGATIVE
– terror
– unease
– sadness (such as dreaming one of my dogs or cats dies, family member)
– THIS ONE IS HUGE: shame

Shame forms the basis of my worst, recurring, nightmare.

TO BE CONTINUED ….

New Year’s Day 2019

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Update: I had a sudden urge to run and got in 5.3 miles this morning after all.

The New Year rolled in, and I saw it this year. I spent the last day of the year running 11.25 miles through Charlotte. Last night, I attended my cousin’s wedding, then enjoyed a vegan dinner, dancing, and revelry.

I hoped to run this morning to start the year, but it’s just not in me this morning. I only slept a few hours, and today is the long drive home.

Tomorrow I plan to really start my New Year. I hope it is a time of personal change and growth. Among my goals are writing more, eating better, and reaching my running goal of 1,500 miles (that’s 500 miles by April, and 1,000 by August).

I’d also like to be more focused in general. Pare down material possessions, spend more time with friends, family, and my beautiful animals.

The first part of the year brings a couple of concerts – Sean Lennon in DC, then Shaky Knees Festival in May.

I’m looking forward to spending 2019 with you, FD readers.

Holidays Drawing Near

Monday, December 17th, 2018

Winter means quieter days, especially this time of year. It gives us all a chance to reflect, to plan, and to appreciate what we have right now.

This year is different, as I have returned to my novel. It means spending hours a day in that world, disconnected from this one. I have to keep up with regular responsibilities, freelance, bills, banking, returning calls. I also have my critters to take care of.

In the end, I hope I’ll have several hundred pages to share with you.

Guiding me are three principles:
What is the story
Is it important
Can I tell it

I also struggle with my overall approach:
Sweeping, broad, complex (Russian novel)
Succinct, moving, lean (du Maurier)

I tend toward writing like the Russians. The only concern is I may not finish if I cram everything I’d like to in there.

Dog Days … are Every Day

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Tony, a gentle Walker hound at the Pitt County Animal Shelter

Yes I am a writer, but as most of you know I am a fierce animal advocate. I’ve joined as a volunteer shelter dog walker, through an amazing program at ECU (led by Dr. Melanie Sartore-Baldwin). Dr. Baldwin enrolls students in the program to study kinetic movement, and its effect. But the real treat is for the dogs … who get out of their pens about three times a week.

The community can join too. That’s how I participate. Often on Sundays after my long runs, I’ll head to the shelter in my running clothes. It was hot last summer, and today I walked in the chilly rain.

The doggies are not perfect, and indeed, they often have never – EVER – been given human attention. So they simply don’t know what to do. Champ is a big pittie who loves to hump my leg. He just doesn’t know better. He chases cars, too.

I always love to spend time with the hounds. Today, I sat in the pen with Tony and stroked his sweet face. Another hound girl was in quarantine. I’ve named her Sheila.

Animals lack the ability to choose evil. That’s why they are “innocent,” and we are not. We are fallen. We are born into a sinful nature, because we will intentionally choose to harm another being.

That’s why it’s incumbent on us to protect animals, children, the elderly, the poor, and other vulnerable people.

Do you have a nearby shelter? If so, why not go find your new best friend! Or maybe take a few dogs to walk.

More on Writing

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Writers share many traits but if I had to guess … I would say losing track of time is high on their list of commonalities.

How do writers lose time, and why? It’s nearly an occupational hazard for writers. That’s because writing – especially a novel – requires us to sit down and genuinely work at disconnecting from the world around us. Indeed, it’s necessary if we are to write.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve worked on my novel. That’s because to start means to lose about four hours. Yes, to review my notes, read what I’ve written so far, review my plot outlines, characters, and motivations … well that’s a couple of hours. Then to have their next actions come to me, along with the weather that day, other people and their actions, dialogue, and feelings, clothing, colors, landscapes … that’s several more hours.

And like all other writers, we labor under the need to publish. That’s for the basic reason that we need income, but most of all, we like finishing a beautiful project.

So for me, it’s been better and more accessible to wrap up an analysis, presentation, or freelance project, rather than pick up my novel.

It’s coming though. I’ll take those four hours to get back in the bath. Then I’ll race against time and my own impatient nature to get a few chapters written.

Thanks for tuning into Fiction Daily.

My World and Jack’s

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

This morning opened with a 6.2-mile run, begun before sunrise and ending just as the day warmed. My friend remarked the moon’s cusp was so bright, the dark half also shone. I get a sense of the physical sphere up there, the Moon as object, when the Dark Side is illuminated. Looking up at the Moon I feel my own life more concretely.

After many years focusing on research, data, and analysis – and really forcing all my right-brain creativity into a narrow left-brain chute – I have emerged on the other side. I opened up the novel files to see if I still cared. Imagine my astonishment: Not only do I still care, but I have so much narrative stored inside that took shape over the last eight years.

Yes, opening those files and reading that opening, I felt my own breath, my own life, return. I am different now than when I started the novel in 2002. Among many other life changes, I am now eight years divorced – as compared with two years’ married. 16 years is a long time, and yet for the life of the novel, what matters is not the years, but my own understanding. And for that, I am grateful. My artistic vision now is more polished. Thanks to many years as a data gal, I am also more focused and disciplined. My thoughts still unmoored in many ways, and yet they are no longer so fragmented and unconnected. I see the thread of narrative now. I respect the tedium of explanation, although it’s still not a strong point.

Back to Kerouac. I revisited his home with a friend in June. I am revisiting that time in his life, roughly 1952-1957, or the years prior to On the Road’s publication.

I’d like to explore those years more, define them. I’m not sure that’s been done. No, I’m not Ann Charters (the amazing Kerouac scholar). But I feel affinity with Kerouac for any number of reasons.

His first language was French, my second, nearly native, is also French. I think, feel, express myself, and experience the world differently in French. I believe he did, as well.

We also share a Christian mysticism, along with curiosity about, and dedication to, Buddhist principles.

Last, there is the mystery of nature which Kerouac embraced. Indeed, it may be at the heart of his travels. His road stories focus on the surroundings, the freedom of space and setting. His stories about Big Sur, his letters about writing often focus on the woods. There’s usually a trail nearby, especially in works outside of On the Road.

I’ll post chapters as I complete them, unedited as they are. “The secret of writing is the rhythm of urgency,” Kerouac said. With this window in my life, there is urgency.