Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sigh


“I wish I could write. I get these ideas but I never seem to be able to put them in words.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Writer Writes

I've been caught red-handed! Last night I went to my first-ever writers' group and felt a bit like I'd been found out. During our time together I wondered if any of the other members of this new group could see through my fa├žade. Would they guess that I was an imposter?

First--and perhaps most pertinent of all--I am not a writer. I suspect that one of the two gentlemen there was clairvoyant.  As we went around the table telling our personal stories by way of introduction, he jotted down several notes and questions, which he posed at a break in the conversation.  The first was: "What is a writer?" Had he peered into my soul? Indeed, what is a writer. From what I've heard, a writer writes. That is to say, a writer is defined not by who she is but what she does. Well, that immediately precludes me from the title. I don't write, at least words on a page. I mean, I do write words all day long in my head. But I don't think that activity qualifies me for such a title. Somehow I judge that a writer is one who not only frequently does so but who can--and does--sit often in front of a blank page and begins to actually set to print what is on her mind. She doesn't find reasons to avoid the activity altogether. 

The second notion that occurred to me as we talked around that table is that a writer also can identify sound writing and why it fits that category. Toward the end of the evening we experimented with critique (a pompously French, polite sounding word that oozes euphemistically while really waiting to stab you in the back!) by listening to one member read a few lines from the book she's been working on. Oh no! I thought. They'll find me out for sure now when they see that not only am I not a good judge of the best writing but I also can't articulate what I like and why. Writers, I surmise, can do a much, not only with others people's writing but also with their own. My secret would be out as soon as it came time for me to share my criticisms.

Apparently being an imposter does not preclude one from being a member of a writers' group. In spite of my lack of qualifications they spoke as if I am invited back. Maybe they see something salvageable here or maybe they just feel sorry for me. Either way, I'm game...until they decide we should impose a writing exercise on ourselves during a meeting!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pure Bliss

Have you ever sat and pondered what it is that brings you joy?  And more to the point, what it is that you do, when you do it, that you feel pure bliss in the doing of it and, perhaps, even in the results of the doing?

Bliss.  I like that word.  More so than joy.  Joy seems temporary to me, a flash in the pan, a candle flame that is easily extinguished or fades the moment the candle has melted.  Bliss, on the other hand, feels more permanent, something that actually becomes a part of you, that lasts well beyond the end of the event or task that brought it on.  It is a word that you don't seem to see much.

I was reintroduced to the notion of "bliss" about 20 years ago in a magazine to which I subscribed, "Victoria." "Victoria" magazine was--and once again is as it went out of circulation and now is back--a tribute to fine living, inspired not surprisingly by its namesake.  It represented everything that I wished my life could be--gracious, beautiful, elegant, tethered to a romantic past.  I was raising 4 boisterous children--three of whom were boys and every bit the antithesis of that life.  But I could dream couldn't I?  Sometime in the 10 years that I was a subscriber the magazine editors began a series of articles that then morphed into a book entitled Bliss, which was dedicated to applauding women who started/owned their own businesses doing the very things that brought them bliss. The supposition was that a woman could do what she loved, that thing that not only allowed her to demonstrate her creative abilities but also was something that she enjoyed doing and make a living doing it.

A little history here:  I have spent my whole life, it seems, seeking that which brings me bliss and have managed to also spend my whole life working at occupations that don't fit that criteria.  The idea that I could contribute to the family budget while also doing something I loved was terribly appealing.  The first problem was uncovering my secret gift: that creative thing that I was good at--good enough to make a living at it--and that brought me bliss. That was the sticking point.

Take note: I'm not talking about doing just what one is "good" at.  There are plenty of things that I can--and have--done because I am quite capable of (perhaps even gifted at) doing. But many of those occupations at best bring some momentary satisfaction and at worst seem like a drudgery, something I have to do because no one else appears capable or willing.  No, I'm talking about a pursuit which one genuinely desires to pursue, that which the doing of, no matter how much hard work it represents, is so worth the doing because it brings pure bliss.  It is something that you want to do even when you find that you have to do it.

I am reminded here of the historical novel about Robert Louis Stevenson--Under the Wide and Starry Sky, by Nancy Horan--that I just finished reading. RLS or Louis (as he was referred to by friends, family and colleagues) was not a healthy man his entire, short-lived life. He seemed to spend a great deal of his adult years in bed just trying to stay alive. Yet, he was a prolific writer, often eschewing sleep and sustenance at times, while scribbling furiously his multiple manuscripts. That is bliss; when one can even rise above impending demise to pursue one's passion.  I can't imagine what that must be like...or maybe I can just imagine.

Don't get me wrong; there are many things that bring me joy...my dog, my cat, my children and their many creative accomplishments, my husband, a sunset, the noise of the waves at night, moonlight on the water, an afternoon spent with a friend, cooking a fabulous meal and having it enjoyed...the list is seemingly endless.  But joy, to me, is short-lived; it comes in spurts, explodes like fireworks and then is gone...except perhaps in the memory...until the next time.  Bliss seems deeper than that; bliss is a slow, steady stream, changing sometimes, yes, but a constant all the same.  Bliss sustains you, even in tough times.  At least this is my image of bliss; I do not think I've experienced it myself.  I'd like to think I'd know.  Bliss should be an undercurrent in one's life, not the leaf carried along in it.  Pure bliss...would we know it if we found it?