Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pretty Good Story in Three Acts

Act One: Writer Hits Bottom

NaNo passed this year without me winning by writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I had (enough) time, I had a fun novel to write, but I didn't have the wherewithal to fill out the outlines of my plot.
I've never been an all or nothing girl. 12030 words in 30 days is respectable output for a  person otherwise employed, and I feel good to have written them. But still, I am disappointed, and I find myself doubting my motivation, ability, and even my right to write novels. Maybe I'm just not good enough, maybe I just don't have what it takes, maybe I should just be happy with my life as it is, and not try to be something more than just a hack.
Since the end of November, I haven't even wanted to write. I feel rudderless, even downright boatless, and I don't know what I'm good for.

Act Two: Writer Explores the Bottom

I read an article today on Salon (the website where NaNo was slammed in an elitist rant) about the difference between genre fiction and literary fiction, and while I thought that much of what it said was true, I decided that what the fellow was really talking about was the difference between "good enough" and "good."
Action - Event - Image
He referred to books by a dead Scandinavian writer who details the pointless activities of his characters with diar
rheal obsessiveness. Reading a few excerpts from the writer's work, I thought, "Action ain't plot, fella. Description isn't story."
Later, I heard someone on NPR talking about a movie that apparently entailed watching the protagonists fall out of love over small things without seeing underneath to understand WHY they no longer loved one another. It made me think, "Event doesn't make a scene. Image doesn't make art."

Act Three: Writer Finds Fertile Ground

Now this is what I think:
A good enough story is one that pulls a reader all the way through and entertains her, makes her laugh or cry or scream in pleasure or fear, even makes her think about something she's never thought of before. A good enough story uses the language with competency if not with grace, and breaks the rules in relatively small quantities. Lots of good journalism falls into this category, which is fine--it's not trying to be art.

A good story, on the other hand, does everything a good enough story does, and more. But you notice, I say it does everything the good enough story does. It needs a plot, it needs to move the reader, it needs to be a story (art) and not just a slice of life (image). It should use language gracefully, interestingly, but not self-consciously. The characters should be three-dimensional, the plot should be fresh or a least freshly woven, and the description should be both evocative and relevant.

Finally, I thought about where my writing falls: good, or just good enough? I say, somewhere in the middle. Which is good enough for me, and better than most of the fiction I see published, literary or otherwise.

Maybe I need to get back to writing.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wax On, Wax Off


My friends on ProzactoPrana and Slippers have been talking about it, and I promised to do it this month. 50,000 words in 30 days during NaNoWriMo may not produce a finished novel, but it is certainly good practice. Where am I? Embarrassingly far behind.

To save face, I'll say that I haven't been trying. Losing my best feline friend on the first day of the month beat the stuffing out of me. But the whole truth is less sympathetic: I am finding every single word of this novel to be bloody, boring, painful, unrewarding work. And I'm not the best when it comes to that. (Honestly.)

Mary K Swanson
Today, I worked on my bottle tree. I cut and twisted heavy wire and embedded hooks to set up the old fence on which I'll hang the bottles. Then, I tried to drill a bottle. I drilled too fast and it shattered. I asked for instruction, and David showed me that it takes ten minutes to drill one small hole into one bottle. "Steady pressure. You have to feel for it. It's more of a meditative practice."

I swear. That's what he said.

Wax on.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Mary K Swanson
Today, I am a year older. At least, today is when I admit that I am. November 1, I lost my alter ego, the cat I have been carrying with me for almost 20 years. I didn't realize until I started to write this that when she died, I lost a little bit of what defined me.

She and her feline sisters have stood in for my feelings in my dreams. When I saw her in a dream, I knew I needed to look for the pure underlying emotion that was driving my actions, but that I had not yet accepted as part of myself.

But it's important to remember that she was herself, first. She had a voice that could peel paint, loved Italian food, hated kisses, enjoyed playing in the sheets while the bed got made, had two color eyes, was white all over, loved to be chased, and to roll in the dirt.

She was a cat.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Learning to Pitch

I am at my Mom and Dad's house for Halloween this weekend. I brought the page of summaries I wrote for FWA just in case I found the occasion to show it to my family. Late in the evening, sitting with my sister Sarah and my niece Kristin, both big readers, I got the chance to Vanna it around. I found myself telling them about all the stories, discussing genres, but most of all telling them about the main plot points and what made each story special.

In other words, I pitched them. Wow! This is a miracle. I never talk about my stories. I would say it was the summaries that gave me the basis for my pitch, but I also told them about Clockminders, a story I didn't (and haven't) written a summary for.

They sounded pretty good.

What I may have learned is that I need to tell more people about my stories, or at least tell my favorite people more about my stories. It works. It felt really good.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Networking for Introverts

Last Saturday, October 23, I attended the Florida Writers Association (FWA) yearly conference. I was nervous, because meeting one new person a week is my preferred networking speed.

Nothing was a bad as I imagined, barring the workshops delivered via powerpoint presentation and the hours-long awards ceremony (which was probably dull only because I didn't submit!).

Here are my observations:
  • First workshop at 7 o'dark: Jamie from Woodstream Writers gave a writing prompt and read around. I knew the prompt would be great as always, but I doubted my ability to write before ten o'clock in the morning. The result? Actual words. I wrote 'em. I don't remember them, but I think I saved the file. The bonus? Jamie stalked every single one of the 50+ participants to give them notes on their piece. Her notes on mine made me glad I wrote it. Thanks, Jamie!
  • Speaking to fellow writers: OK, I expected most writers to be unpleasant and self-engrossed, like me. Not so, not so at all. Some prime examples of their generosity are: Peggy Miller, editor, teacher and poet and Dana Summers, cartoonist.
  • Meeting authors of published books without slobbering or trying to jab them with my pen: These authors were lovely to me, and I would recommend them based on friendliness alone--Laura Parker Castoro and Mark H. Newhouse.
  • The PITCH. Oh, yeah, I did--courtesy of Jamie at Woodsteam, who steered me to the sign up table. During the day, I heard horror stories about agents waving writers away before they even sat down, but I got lucky, lucky, lucky. Veronica Hart signed me up with Roger Williams of the Publish or Perish Agency, and he treated me with such kindness that I was smiling for an hour. He doesn't often represent science fiction (no one at the conference did, as far as I know), but he gave me tips and ideas, and offered to take a look at my mystery novel in progress. Wow.
My take?
Being with a large group in a confined space for 12+ hours almost guarantees that even a social inept like me will eventually speak to writers, authors and agents. Some of whom will talk back.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

Today I took the day off, planning to spend it setting up character sheets and an outline for my NaNoWriMo novel. Instead, I spent the day getting age spots lasered off (and thereafter contemplating my bad decision-making), watching a movie, reading a book on biocentricism, and, of course, napping. 
Finally finding my way to the novel, I realize that the way I spent the day was healthy, even though it didn't produce any pages. My life is so over-stuffed these days that I view my drive to work as my most contemplative time. (Sorry, fellow drivers.) Downtime, time in which I allow the flow of thought to reverse direction, even stop, is essential to my creativity. All I have done lately is work, worry and watch TV.
I have, secretly, been afraid that I have wrung out the dregs of my creative juice, and that there is nothing left in me but words. My pride in what I have so far been able to write was completely obscured by my fear that it was all I would ever do.
There is no magic today. I don't feel a surge of excitement, I don't have a novel beating its way out of my head. But I have allowed my thoughts to rest, and maybe that's all they need.
For those who are noticing, Maniac with a Knife has won. The thousand worlds of Habitas were just too dim for me to see them, right now, so I will be writing the second novel in a series at the same time--and finishing the first draft before--I even get the first one well started.

The Prompt:
Take a day off from your life. Don't do anything important. Rest.

Friday, October 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo is Nigh

A Clip of NaNoWriMo's Banner

Last year, I participated in my first NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the 30 days of November.

I loved it. I wrote "Ephemeral," a novel I consider to be my most grown-up, I'm-actually-a-novelist novel yet. Plus, it made me realize that even while working a full-time job (and even in the midst of changing jobs), I can average 1,666.66667 words a day, without even losing sleep. It was amazing.
The best thing about NaNoWriMo? -- Chris Baty, the director, who sends funny emails to encourage you.
The best thing I got from NaNoWriMo? -- My third complete 1st draft of a novel.
This year, I didn't have a novel in mind, but now I'm considering one that I found in my ideas pile, tentatively titled "Habitas." Also in the running is the 2nd installment of my Zini series, which keeps intruding when I try to write the first one.
So, a challenge: Write a novel in a month!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fallow Through

I heard a story on TED today about how if you want to achieve a goal, you shouldn't tell people. This runs counter to everything I've ever heard, but apparently the science is in on this one. What happens is, your brain is satisfied with the warm fuzzies you get from thinking about getting what you want.

As a secretive and superstitious person, this makes an awful kind of sense to me.

What I need to know, now, is how to get my mojo back. Scratch that, I'll be sitting here with no goals of any kind. Hear that, universe?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Cat-Car Blues

I wrote a little blues song for Lady Momo. She sang it, and I recorded it. If you want to hear, you can download the .m4a file here: The Cat-Car Blues

The Cat-Car Blues

Mama, she threw me in an old box
Tossed it in back and cranked up the car,
Took me wailin' and whinin'
All the way to Wiseman,
Singin' the Cat-Car Blues.

The vet-man, he poked and he prod,
and if I'd been loaded, he would have got shot.
But instead it was me,
and instead o' goin' free,
I'm singin' the Cat-Car Blues.

Well, we've already come and went,
Mama's money's all been spent.
So I'm not alone, she's got the moan,
And we're singin' the Cat-Car Blues.

Lady MoMo in her boudoir

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hot Houndette Gets an Illustrator

Duke Barkin: Art by Joseph Rawlins
I am now working with an amazing illustrator named Joseph Rawlins. He has been drawing the first pages of Hot Houndette, and I think the interpretation is outstanding. Now I just need to figure out how to get it printed, digitally published and posted.

It's remarkable how things sometimes just come together. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hot Houndette: More Pages

Hot Houndette is four times longer! OK, that means I have most of four pages, about 25 panels of Basset Hounds. Right now, we've got washed up TV stars and a little bathroom humor. 

This is so much fun! I have the whole thing in my head, and it keeps coming into focus more sharply whenever I give it a chance.


I just heard sad news. Duke, the 100 pound Basset on whom this story is based and to whose story it is dedicated, has gone to the bridge. His friend Tucker, though, is on his way home to Florida with some incredible volunteers. Suncoast's Facebook page.

RIP, Duke.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Creating Memory

At Wekiva Springs, I took a loungey swim around the pool, listening to the sounds of a few dozen late afternoon families laughing and teasing and diving the cold water. Most of the talk was in Spanish, so I could block out its meaning and hear it like music, just tone and pitch. Part of the time, I let my head sink far enough under the water that the only sound was from the spring, as loud near the bridge as it was over the boil. Planes were flying overhead, strangely inaudible. Two boys and a girl were taking and posing for photographs. The girl was brassy blond and pretty, and the boys directed her, again and again, to drape her body over objects.

I drew myself, dripping and slow, out of the water and onto the stone-edged bank, mirroring the anhinga. Voices playing behind me, I wrapped my towel around to cover the less attractive bits, and stepped onto the boardwalk.

"Notice how the path leads from the lower, wetter hammock of the spring to the dryer uplands, and how the vegetation changes," said the sign. Behind it on the ground was a piece of trash, which I picked up.

I walked quietly, to satisfy myself, and maybe to catch some animal crossing the path. The light is slightly fading and the mosquitos are buzzing, so I walk a little faster.

I see a bug the size and shape of a dragonfly. I keep thinking, "ladyfly, lady slipper," because I know what it is, but I can't think what it's called. I stop and watch, and then realize that I can't see the details. I sit down on the boardwalk and lean over: the bug sits on a leaf and seems to be posing for me, or watching me, or perhaps just waiting for me to leave.

His wings are like slices of night. I can't see detail in them, they do not reflect light. They are rich and plush, without having any apparent thickness. He lowers them gently, like bowing to the queen, but then raises them -- snap! -- like a battlefield salute. Up, they sweep back, in a prayer position. Down, they lay flat, functional.

His body is an irridescent green I associate with unnatural DayGlo colors. Every color of green around him is forest green, grass green, emerald green, ochre, moss, and mist, but the bug is neon all up and down, except his eyes. As I lean closer, I see that the color is painted on the leading edge of his wings, too.

I wanted a video of him, his beauty, his unearthliness, his attentive flight pattern in a circle just within my view. I wanted to keep him forever, to convey his message of form and efficiency to everyone, but all I had with me was my mind and all I took away was memory.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hot Houndette

I am working on a new comic book series called Duke Barkin, Suncoast Transporter, about a mostly basset hound hero (in his own mind) who drives for The Man. The first episode is called Hot Houndette, and I am celebrating the drafting of one whole page, 7 panels!

If you want to check it out, I have posted a PDF.

This comic book is being written for charity, to benefit Suncoast Basset Rescue.

Hmm. I think I might create a website for this project, where I can post progress and perhaps try to find a comic artist.

Freshening up the Blog

When I can't work, I often find myself reorganizing. Apparently, when I can't think of a blog topic, I change my blog template. Some nice ones showed up on blogger, so I had to try them out. Went for simple, again, on this blog--got a little wilder on the ones I use just for me!

Friday, April 30, 2010

101 Pages of Pure ...

ScriptFrenzy ends in a half hour. I have 101 pages of a graphic novel entitled: Blue Loco: Goodbye to the Spy, which is about one half of the plot points contained in my novel, Blue Loco.

This "treatment" of my novel has shorter, simpler dialog, fewer characters, more blatant sexual references, very little narration and not a single scrap of literary merit.

In other words, I had a ball! I did not think that the ScriptFrenzy experience was as good as the NaNoWriMo month, but it was good. And I may have the nuts to go back and revise the real novel.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Half-Made is All Monster

In my dream the other night, I half-turned into a monster made of metal. I can remember a bright silvery mask on one side of my face, and other parts of my body being replaced with machinery. It was terrifying. Two of my friends had undergone the same transformation. We finally realized that we needed to push through it, force it to go all the way. The process was painful and difficult, but when the transformation was complete, we became superheros.

I have been thinking about what I am leaving half-done, and how that incompleteness could be dangerous/frightening/unpleasant. My list includes:
  • my search for a new challenge: I become repetitive and depressed
  • becoming a writer: Procrastination begins to feel like destiny
  • renovating my house: My unloved house seems to reflect my life
Prompt: What are you leaving dangerously unfinished?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reasons for Things

This morning, I was driving up the new bridge on 46 when I saw a black and white duck that had been hit by a car. I realized it was still alive, and I could vaguely sense that its friends were flying around it, just overhead. I passed it, stabbed on the flashers and backed up, hoping that the other drivers would see me in time to prevent total chaos. I just couldn't leave a fellow traveller to die the death of a hundred cars.

I jumped out of the Mini and threw up the hatch. As I ran back, the other birds circled me. When I got to him, he looked up at me. I saw intense yellow eyes and a black and white stripped head that ended in a hooked beak. No duck: this was a full-grown osprey. I reached down, gloveless, without hesitation, which I think shows that I was suffering from adrenaline poisoning.

He didn't look frightened or angry; he looked affronted. Such an indignity to be gathered up, legs dangling, and tossed into the back of a tiny car.

I drove on, simultaneously dialing the Birds of Prey Center. He flapped his mighty five foot wingspan and was practically driving the car. I pushed his wing gently out of the way, cajoling him, "Back seat. Back seat!" The leading edge of his wing was soft, feathered in short downlike fronds. After a minute, he settled behind the passenger seat and spent the rest of the 45 minute drive staring at me. He never made a sound, except the soft flap of a wing.

At the center, I opened the passenger door: he was on his back, legs useless, but wings spread threateningly. I folded one wing, then the other, and lifted. He was heavy and warm. Thin blood dripped from his right wing. He bit down on my leather glove. I slipped my hand out so he could hold on to it.

The ladies at the center told me he will not live. Two badly broken legs and internal injuries will take him permanently from the sky and from me.

The reasons for things escape me.

From the Sublime...

... to the ridiculous.

An article on data warehousing I was reading today said this: "just when you think you have it made and start to put your feet back and enjoy the good life"

Must be a yoga student!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Celestial Anna

As you tell a story of second blooming
a spark of gold flickers and hovers
over your hip

Soon, in the path of your laughter
swirls a convention of fireflies

Then, as you gather your scarf
a blaze of tiny stars stream out
and in your wake
sweeps a comet's tail.


I saw your aura tonight, Anna, and couldn't resist a poem! Hope you don't mind.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Entrails, Vampires and Vixens: Make My Novel Graphic, Please!


PANEL 1. TRANSITION... overwritten tome sliced ruthlessly down to sleekly plotted 100-page graphic novel. (SFX: Sssssnik!)

I may regret this, but I have committed to writing a comic book/graphic novel script in 30 days. In the past 48 hours, I have read up on formatting, time shifts, thought bubbles, captions and sound effects. I also bought a couple of graphic novels to support me in this endeavor.

Oof! I didn't remember that the word 'graphic' meant like as in 'graphic content'!

This whirlwind education is the tiniest portion of what I need to know. I will probably NOT be the genre's next Phil Hester. But I am diving in, anyway. Why?

Because in one day, I have condensed 2500 words down to 1000 and figured out that I need to cut out the first scene, put in a new exciting scene in the first chapter, and dispense with explaining everything. I've revved up my dialog, promoted one plot point and demoted another. Woo-hoo!

I am enthralled. My guts are wrung with joy. This is the best rewriting device EVER.

Prompt: Dust off that novel, and make it a comic book!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Script Frenzy. From the NaNoWriMo Folks

In April, I will write my very first graphic novel (or screenplay; I haven't decided). Or more precisely, I will take my second completed novel, Blue Loco, and turn it into a comic or a movie script. The challenge is to write 100 script pages, using a standard format, in the 30 days that April hath.
Prompt: Care to join me?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Better Living Through Alchemy

I had a dream in which, instead of renting a house or staying in a hotel, I was painting a house all white on the inside. The house is mine in the dream, and even though it's small and the yard is tiny, I feel happy. When I woke up, I wondered why I was painting it white--that seemed boring.

Before going to bed, I was reading Robert Bosnak's A LIttle Course in Dreams, just enjoying a book I've read several times before. In it, he talks about the stages of alchemy: the nigredo, or blackening, associated with darkness, chaos and rot; the albedo, or whitening, associated with silver, purification and the moon; and the rubedo, or reddening, associated with the sun and flowering.

It occurred to me that maybe the dream is telling me that my nigredo is over. Perhaps I'm purifying my house, like I did with my real life house to get rid of the smoke-yellowed paint. Perhaps I'm gessoing my new creative house, making the canvas ready for the next phase of work.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Internal Priscilla

I had been rolling in the meadows of lush me-ness that my last bout of shadow-eating brought me. Then, for two weeks, my dreams were filled with toilets, bathrooms, dirt, and chicken shit. I knew I needed to ask for some shadow... but I couldn't name it.

In my daylight hours, I struggled with the twin evils of envy and criticism. I was harsh about my own work, but also that of others.  Rereading Pride and Prejudice gave me my strongest clue; I thought, "This isn't as good as I remembered."

Last night, I dreamed about the handsome neighbor I had as a child, Chuck, who is the only person who has ever sicced his dog on me. On waking, I realized that I've also been dredging up other ghosts these last two weeks:
  • Teachers who called me juvenile delinquent (first use of dictionary in 7th grade), whitehonkybaptistnigger (that just baffled me), and bitch, or said that the reason no one liked me was because of my laugh. 
  • Getting beaten up by the other girls on the playground, right in front of the coach, more than once.
  • Being teased about my hair, weight, glasses, braces, grades, language, clothes.
But about Priscilla.
She was the childhood friend who began calling me "Mary Soup" in a sweet voice that sounded like acid-laced honey. The one who asked me over to play, then told me she didn't really want me to come and teased me for crying. She did this kind of thing right into junior college, where peer pressure finally backdrafted.

I don't like to be criticized, and yet I am a brutal critic. I fear embarrassment the way other people fear violence. I can't watch I Love Lucy. I hate people who make fun of others.

I haven't forgiven those who did it to me.

Priscilla, Chuck, tormentors, all, please give me back my shadows of criticism and envy. I have missed them, and you must have felt them as a weight on your shoulders all these years. I'm sorry I cast them on you, and I call them back.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bad Girl Needs an Audience

Simmering on Slippers post (actually, Slippers and Anna's comments at Migrant Art Worker) and whether art is blunted by the application of chemical happiness, the Wench began listening obsessively to music. Two kinds: blues by women and extremely loud and explicit rock. Hmm. What do these have in common? What does Money Honey or Honey Hush have in common with Bad Girlfriend? The answer is, dirty girls--bad girls who want sexy boys, easy money, and freedom.

How, the reader who is not on musical acid asks, does this relate to chemical happiness? Bear with me... it will get there, eventually, because my subconscious says so.

I have been calling back my shadow, and it has been making me physically sick, giving me night fevers and tearing apart my ability to write lucid prose. And now, the shadow of my unlived life is reminding me that one of my favorite things used to be writing poetry and lyrics. Dark, angry poetry. Lyrics that make me cry. Suddenly, I want to write songs that tell everything I know about love and sex and getting what I want out of life.

I read Lynn's fabulous Facebook post about karaoke last week with horror. None of that for me! I said. Except that I actually want to shake my lovemaker in front of an audience. Maybe for real (I love to dance, at least, the old me did), but maybe in print.

When I was very, very depressed (1978 through 1998, give or take a few good months) I wrote a horde of poetry. Hard for me to tell, but I think it was pretty good. In my good times, I even wrote essays, stories, and a novel that were not embarrassing. Then came  Effexor, Wellbutrin,  St Johns Wort, and four different mental health professionals. In time, I stopped thinking regularly about how I could commit suicide without anyone knowing. (Would they believe it if I "accidentally" drove off a bridge? Was the bridge high enough to kill me for real, not just in a brain dead kind of way?)

Over the 12 years since I started getting help for my whiteout (I always associated depression with white instead of black) I thought I had lost my desire, my edge. I became a cog in the machine, working so hard for just money and not living for myself. I would have put it down to chemical assistance tamping down my fire, but I have been off that for years, now. I could have said that depression squeezed the beauty out of me better than happiness, but how did that account for the four novels I have written since, the gorgeous man I share my life with (a creative endeavor every day) and the literal garden I move around every spring, trying to find the perfect configuration?

My answer to whether chemical assistance deadens art is NO NO NO NO. At the worst, it calms the pain to let the art happen more slowly, because the urgency to create-or-suicide is gone. At the best, (and I think, usually) it keeps the artist ALIVE to create more art, different art; to get older and consume the shadow; to finally be wise enough to be happy and be creative at the same time.

I am going to take my evolving self and write some filthy songs about women with brains and ass.

Now, if I could sing like Katie, bang drums like in a Rob Zombie song, and dance like... a 20-year-old me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shadow Boxing Gives Way to an Appetite for Life

I am reading Robert Bly's A Little Book on the Human Shadow because I have always felt a resonance with his description of shadow as "the long bag we drag behind us." I think it is working, both in my writing and my living.
Shadow, as described by Bly and others, is anything inherent in a person (or village, country or culture) that is not acknowledged by its owner. Shadow is often thought of as darkness or evil, or at least baseness, but is none of this. It is us, and it is not bad until we disown it.
When we reject a part of ourselves, we cast it on others--sometimes our mother or father, sometimes another culture or group. If you want to see your shadow, look for it on those you admire or deride.
So, what happens then? What can a little shadow hurt?
Two things happen, and they hurt a lot: you lose the energy that went with the part of yourself you reject, and the other finds himself more and more burdened with your expectations. If you cast your "achieving" self on your sister, for instance, she may feel your need to achieve as a nagging, debilitating sense that she has not done enough. If you give the power of your anger to your husband, he may feel an overwhelming rage that seems to pass through him rather than bursting from him. You see your sister as a Type A or a failure, and your husband as a fearsome maniac or a pitiful weakling.
But this isn't your sister or your husband--they are colored by your overbearing, unaccepted self.
Bly illustrates shadow by quoting his own poetry and by referring to the biographies of great artists, mostly writers. He says that an artist will not be great unless he is able to see his own shadow, and that as he ages, he must learn to "eat" his shadow in order to mature--and to continue to make great art.
He says that everyone needs to consume the shadow. If we don't, we will slowly feel a creeping weakness and shallowness, reflecting the slight portion of our real selves we still have control of, and how that tiny self is not enough to power the explosion of creativity, goodness, and excitement we secretly know ourselves to be.
I have begun using his formula to reclaim the energy of my rejected selves. (I paraphrase), "Hey you (person I admire or despise), I know you have my (fear of failure, greed, desire for recognition, hatred of traditional religion). Please give it back to me, so I can regain my energy and quit damaging you."
Last night, I saw my "others" in my dreams as their younger, happier, more alive (sometimes literally) selves. They looked brighter, lighter.
Today, I feel like I am recovering from a long fever. I am weak, but smiling. I am thirsty for something.
Maybe soon, I'll get the courage to eat more of my shadow.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Short Story as Psychotherapy

"She sometimes imagined that she could hear the corpuscles knock on the valves, polite as old nuns, before sweeping in with their sacred bath of life."

This is a line I wrote for my short story, called Breathless. It is the post-apocalyptic tale of a woman, a mechanical egg, and how the fear of losing hope can prevent a person taking necessary risks. At least, that's what my story is about.

Prompt: What about yours?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Prompt: Curses

A big mouth with a pulpit says that Haiti was cursed because they made a pact with the devil. In fact, they prayed to their deity, who was most certainly not the devil, and they did achieve liberation with blood and courage.

A curse is a wish that harm or hurt will be inflicted by a supernatural power. A curse needs a human agent. Who was it, then: The French? The Americans? The big mouth's predecessors?

Who Cursed Haiti?

And now, the prompt:
In your story, which of your characters may have been cursed by the forces of oppression or by a malevalent individual? Why does the person curse your character? What are the results of the curse? How can your character lift the curse?