Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Captain of Her Heart.



I own Splash on VHS. I’ve only owned two cell phones and both were gifts— as of this writing, I am not textually active. Place the latest gadget in the palm of my hand and I am worse than all thumbs. In the breakneck currents of ceaseless data streams, I am definitely the small— somewhat turned-around— fish in a big, big pond.

Having said that, working on art has always been a solitary endeavour, and one in which the burden of consummation lies not on the school but squarely on the artist. So because that burden, prior to the signing of contracts, must be shouldered largely by sheer perseverance, it is good to periodically take inventory of that which is helping and that which is hindering the journey.

I recently read a bit of advice for aspiring authors: if you’re going to blog, you are well-advised to commit to updating at least twice a week. If all you can give is a single post in a month’s time, it’s better not to do it, at all. This counsel— from a respected, well-read source— caused me to shake in my Danskos for a day or two. You see, in order for me personally to post something about which I can feel good leaving ‘out there,’ a bit of a time lapse has to go into effect. Call me old-fashioned— and you wouldn’t be the first— but it seems to me that if one is going to borrow the attention and imagination of a reader, it might not be a bad idea to let one’s words sit for a bit before offering them. But before I go a word further in this post, I’d like to steal a moment to express my gratitude, dear reader, for the time and attention with which you have graced my ramblings in this forum, as it has been my honor and pleasure to write alongside three talented and respected authors these last six months.


Still, it must be said that sometimes a little voice inside may be angling for a period of withdrawal from the ‘manyness’ of available opportunities. Everyone knows too many cooks spoil the brew, it’s sometimes hard to hear your part in a chorus and that vessels must be allowed to dock after a particularly debilitating voyage. Sometimes, a season of going-inside is what is called for in order to guard the spring from which your stories issue.

Which brings me to the question: How does an author know when her work is ready for submission? As our society— in privileged and developed nations, at any rate— grows increasingly out of touch with hard-and-fast realities rooted in ordinary time, how does the novelist— at one time the leader in escapism— adapt to a culture in which her scribblings are now arguably more fantail than bow? A novel takes time to sit and read. It is not like a television program which can be consumed in twenty-two minutes. A novel takes time to process. How is it, then, that some novelists feel inadequate when allowing themselves to take time to ensure they’ve got it right?

S. E. Hinton reportedly experienced writer’s block for three years after completing The Outsiders. It is rumored that Tolkien took twenty years to execute his masterpiece. Twenty years. One has to imagine that the man who began the journey is not the one who completed it. How different are you from the writer you were twenty years ago? Three years ago? I bring this up not because it is in any way prudent to suggest that most novelists can indulge the luxury of that kind of time but rather to bring attention to the fact that, in penning a novel, there are always two narratives— that of the protagonist and that of the author. As writers are humans, it is a fact that while their characters inhabit an abstract space, they themselves move about on a more absolute plane. Hence, they age— methodically and without reprieve. Many feel a bit knock-kneed about this reality— maybe in part because the manifest effects include hearts that have grown a little weary.

But isn’t that, in itself, a stimulating thought? Yes, a heart that has been pumping for decades means increased fatigue but it also means that it has had time to develop second sight. It has memories that act as modifiers— exerting their perspective on faulty, unusable paradigms. It has pliability and compassion. It has substance— and such which cannot be attained by any other way save through the passing of time. Perhaps what is true of the human heart is also true of the words which proceed from it?

As for myself, I’m currently bumbling about a bit in my efforts to navigate by fixed point. And my wish for each of you is that— if you’re searching for it— you find your true north and, more importantly, the steadiness with which to steer by it.

Keep it real, fellow skippers.

Ever your,
-Aurora Falsestart.

15 comments:

  1. I believe in you....always.
    You rock my heart!

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  2. I believe Wordsworth had much to say on the practise of "forcing" writing. You might find his Preface very relevant if you haven't read it :)

    But...yes. I am consistently in awe of romance authors who will boast of writing 500k words a year, namely because in order to make a living, that's what they have to do. I am slightly ashamed to admit that on reading some of said 500k, my response is usually, "yeah. It shows."

    A little pressure on a writer can be a good thing. It makes us actually finish things. But we all need a break to recharge our inspiration, to find new voices; how many times have we been disappointed by the fourth or fifth novel by our favourite authors as they begin to rehash old plots etc? Yet the commercial model is not supportive to writers taking a break, and writing commercially takes up a lot of time for those with jobs, families etc.

    It's a vicious circle. Wordsworth would not have approved (although I believe he had the luxury of being rather rich to begin with).

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  3. Dear Sister Aurora,
    You´ve said a lot in a very brief exposition. I don´t know which point to address first. So I start by saying that I agree with you in everything.
    It´s refreshing to know that someone younger than poor old me is not prey to gadget-novelty and in love with new technology. I hate this acquisitive sin that forces us to throw away what was yesterday´s rage in order to purchase and fall in love with today´s new advance. It applies to books as well, and it’s why so much in the NYT bestseller lists s so quickly forgotten.
    On the subject of blogging. Aside from this blog, I manage two blogs at work, plus a personal one. No blog is like another, even if dwelling on similar topics. Every blog has a pace and voice of its own as every writer, develops his own writing dynamics. We can’t force ourselves to create. Ha, this comes from someone who is expected to submit (minimum) five articles per week, but, believe me, I speak from experience, mechanical creations sucks. The product is soulless. So I am with you there, and I wish you the best. Take your time, and find your path at your own rhythm.

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  4. Sister Aurora,
    I, like you, can't stand a lot of technology out there today, mainly because as a society we have become too busy and too complacent in giving away our privacy. I agree with Violante that forced creativity just stinks, but at the same time we often fall into the trap of doing nothing at all. I get a bit tired of the artist's rant (and I am included in that category) that society doesn't understand us and our creativity process. Writing is just like any other career someone chooses. We need to manage our time and have an end product that is going to sell. Perhaps some of us can have the luxury of twenty years to work on a project like Tolkein did, but then you also have to look at how complicated Tolkein's project was. Some genres just don't take that amount of time to write.

    As to blogging, I also agree with Violante on that point. Each blog is different, or should try to be. That's what I love about the Sisterhood blog. We aren't like every other writing blog out there. We have thoughtful advice and we all have the time to really think about what we want to put into a post. Blogging is just another tool in a writer's toolkit, one that we all should take full advantage of. After all, don't we all want to improve in our writing skills? Find an idea and a space that works for you, and go with it.

    ♥ Mary Mary

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  5. Sandra- I've said it before and I'll say it again, every person should have a sister like you.

    Lucy- at your suggestion, I have read Wordsworth's 'Preface to the Lyrical Ballads.' The execution was wildly ironic, given the subject matter, but it nonetheless gave further shape to my personal aspirations as a writer. Thank you so much for having mentioned it.

    Violante- your words have often worked a practical magic on my heart. All I want to say at the moment is that I believe in you.

    Mary Mary- I agree with you, whole heart, about the Sisterhood blog. I, too, love it and will continue to read all of the posts in this forum- both by the three who remain and the new writer who will be coming on board.

    To all writers who might be reading these words, I would like to offer my father's comment on this, my final post to this particular blog. He has been commenting on all of my blog posts- but through email. I now take the liberty to share his wisdom, which shapes my quest every day:

    'I still dont know how to post a comment; besides all would come to know my misspelling, so i keep it between Aurora and papi thoughts. I sometimes mix my sales ,retail ,with wholesale and frankly i like the long dollar in retail ,rather than the quick dollar in wholesale. Having said that i say this , i know what its like to accomplish endurance and distance, and satisfaction. nothing beats the heart softhter than to reach the goal, your comment on a on a ship comming into port is well recieved, however after only two maybe three days a ship in port ; made out of steel and mass , talks to you and its heart pounds for where it belongs, at sea! a writer with writers block ,last but for a short spell however many days or years that may be, Art from the heart is never rushed.............. it pounds softly ........... retail is an art in itself. nobody but you and i would understand , in your artistic trade you are a retailer! dont wholesale your work there is no satisfaction in a quick sale ,once its gone its gone............ words from the heart , tu papi.'

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  6. Just reread my dad's words and started to cry. Today is my 37th birthday and I just want to tell the world that I love my father and want to 'grow up' to be like him. :)

    Thanks for reading, everyone.

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  7. Happy birthday, Aurora!

    Like in all things, there needs to be a balance in both technology and writing. I am glad we are writers in the 21st century and have the luxury of word processors, spell check and internet. If it takes so long for us to write now, imagine how long it took to do it by hand or with a typewriter? Not to mention how easier it is to do research now. We also have the comfort of sharing thoughts and encouragement with colleagues in every corner of the world without having to leave our homes. But we have to be conscious of not becoming TOO comfortable that we want everything to come easy or that we become addicted to the new technologies to the point where we stop interacting "physically" with others. Even worse, with all these social media we have the potential of becoming so distracted that we can easily lose our focus and productivity. That is where balance and discipline comes in.

    The same goes for the creative process. We can't rush that novel and send it off to agents before it's in top shape if we want to produce something of quality, but we can't over think things either to the point where we become paralyzed. We take time for granted but the truth is we may not have "all the time in the world" to develop that novel. Things change and sometimes without our control. Too much freedom and too much isolation can also be harmful to creativity.

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  8. Happy Birthday, Aurora! I just want to add that sometimes I would like to stop my professional writing career and take twenty years to write my next trilogy. That trilogy would be really good. :-)

    The grass is always greener.

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  9. I missed your birthday, Aurora! Happy belated. Thanks for sharing your father's words. It's so nice to see another daughter so close to her papi. :) It can be a rare thing.

    I took a long break from fiction when my kids were little, because I couldn't share my brain with my family and my stories both. The little people needed all my energy. Although I had to do this, I feel sad for the lost years. I felt like a novice when I started up again. Now that I'm in a critique group, I am at a point of forced writing and it's painful. Almost physically painful. Sometimes when I sit to write, I want to jump up and run screaming down the street. I know what comes out will not be pretty, but usually somewhere in the muck is a seed of something usable. Occasionally I even start to have fun.

    I love what you wrote about how a novel contains two narratives -- that of the protagonist, and that of the author. It's like the little incremental annual metamorphosis of our lives is expanded and magnified in our characters.

    Thanks for posting.

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  10. I just wanted to wish you a belated "Happy Birthday!" (I'm throwing confetti and blowing on a noisemaker as I write ; )

    I wish you the best in all you choose to do with your writing. I will say this, though -- after spending years learning a second language, nurturing it, allowing it to grow, only to find myself rarely using it, makes me all the more rusty and uncertain when it comes to using it now. It makes me sad, plain and simple. If I had the opportunity to continue sharpening and using my language skills in my adopted second language, I would never had made that decision to let it rest until I really needed it. Once you hone a great skill, don't just let it go. It may not be what it once was when you're ready to return to it. Take it from someone who's learned the hard way.

    Good luck in all you choose to do!

    ♥ Mary Mary

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  11. Like usually, I am always the last. Happy Birthday Sistr A. I can only shield myself behind the excuse of being overworked and underpaid.
    I have read all the comments, very useful and informative, but I will say, as someone who has recently returned to fiction writing, that you (the writer)might think you neeed time, isolation, space, whatever. But what really keeps you moving is motivation. Wanting to write, having a story to tell, falling in love with your characters. When motivation is missing, everything else fails.
    May motivation always be with you Sister Aurora

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  12. I think every blog has its own voice. As for posting so often, it's a silly rule that came out of nowhere, probably a computer's idea of what a blogger should do. I follow a blog because of an overall interest and look forward to what the blogger has to say. Can I read every blog? Well, not really. I have a husband I enjoy being with, a house that needs periodic cleaning, friends I want to join for lunch and so on. As for Wordsworth, I think he was rich so didn't have to worry about pennies.

    Kick back and have a great weekend!

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  13. Thanks, everyone, for your well wishes and your commentary. You all have a great weekend, too.

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  14. Late Happy Birthday Aurora! You're six months older than me. :-)

    Your Papi sounds wonderful, and as for the learned source who said once-a-month bloggers shouldn't bother? Please. Spare us all.

    I'm very happy to hear a considered post from someone once a month, in fact I much prefer it to hearing from someone twice a week, let alone every day! Perhaps we should adapt the old maxim, blogging daily is silver, blogging once a month is...

    Which is all my way of saying, everyone writes (and blogs) at their own pace and this is not a race. If it were, Barbara Cartland and Enid Blyton would be revered more than Joseph Conrad and Tolstoy. Which they're not, at least in most circles!

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  15. Adina and Stephanie- thank you for your kind words about my dad. They are much appreciated.

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