Tag Archives: Being A Writer

Creativity according to Elizabeth Gilbert.

24 Nov

Elizabeth Gilbert TED Talk: Your Elusive Creative Genius

“You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.”

“We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace.”

“In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible. Pleasure cannot be bargained down. And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real.”

“Your treasure – your perfection – is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.”

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Mirrored in Truth & Beauty.

5 Nov

Last night, I started reading Truth & Beauty by Anne Patchett, which is a memoir of Anne Patchett’s friendship with troubled author and poet, Lucy Grealy. Here is a synopsis according to GoodReads:

Ann Patchett and the late Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and, after enrolling in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work. In Grealy’s critically acclaimed memoir, “Autobiography of a Face,” she wrote about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer, years of chemotherapy and radiation, and endless reconstructive surgeries. In “Truth & Beauty,” the story isn’t Lucy’s life or Ann’s life, but the parts of their lives they shared. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans twenty years, from the long winters of the Midwest, to surgical wards, to book parties in New York. Through love, fame, drugs, and despair, this is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined . . . and what happens when one is left behind.

This is a tender, brutal book about loving the person we cannot save. It is about loyalty, and being lifted up by the sheer effervescence of someone who knew how to live life to the fullest.

Since starting this book, I have seen myself in Lucy Grealy. Though I have not faced what she went through, the loneliness, fear, and desire to belong are all feelings that I have known all too well. Lucy’s words throughout the novel (seen especially in the letters she writes to Ann), are heartbreaking and brutally honest, but in more than one point in the book, I have felt like the words have been taken from my own soul. Even though this is definitely not the first time that I have seen myself mirrored in the emotions of someone else, I feel like this is one of the few times that it’s been so spot on. Throughout the book, Lucy exhibits numerous times when she is down on herself due to her situation. However, that being said, she is a poet, and writing is the way that she comes back to herself. Writing and her friendship with Ann are what allow her to come back to her reality with gusto. Though I am only about halfway through the book at this point, I have found myself, on more than one occasion, clutching the book almost like a life-line, holding it close to my heart and whispering words from the novel that seem to apply to my own life.

“Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.”

When I came across the above quote, I smiled. I smiled with the realization that during certain times in my life, I too have viewed writing as a friend, as the friend who is always there, day or night, waiting to welcome you home with open arms and a carton of ice cream. Yes, the ice cream addition was my own tid bit, but it’s what writing has been for me for so long: the one thing that I can come back to, again and again, like a long-lost friend that you never seem to lose touch with no matter how much time has passed. A friend with whom you can pick up right where you left off, as if you saw them just yesterday and not years ago. Thankfully, I have had the pleasure of having more than one friend like that in my life, and it is one of the best feelings I have come to find in this life. Sure, there are other things that come close to that kind of magic, but they aren’t moments that are also full of deep conversations that last into the early hours of the morning or moments of laughing until your stomach hurts.

“That is one thing I’ve learned, that it is possible to really understand things at certain points, and not be able to retain them, to be in utter confusion just a short while later. I used to think that once you really knew a thing, its truth would shine on forever. Now it’s pretty obvious to me that more often than not the batteries fade, and sometimes what you knew even goes out with a bang when you try to call on it, just like a lightbulb cracking off when you throw the switch.”

Truth & Beauty is full of more honesty than I can only hope to achieve one day with my own memoir. It’s not even just honesty that causes you to pause and think, That’s got to be truth. Those feelings are so raw that the only place they could have come is from the deepest and most authentic part of the soul. It’s more than that, if at all possible. It’s sitting on the kitchen floor with a cup of coffee in one hand and the book in the other, staring down at the page and thinking, I can only hope that one day I am as in touch with the deep and dark parts of myself like this author is able to portray. Though I have become incredibly introspective since beginning my memoir in January, I have not reached this level of raw authenticity. To do so, I believe it takes many more months, if not years, of sitting in the dark corners of your memories patiently awaiting the day when they decide to come out into the harsh light of day. You’ve got to sit in the dark and get to know them on a level that’s more true than you’ve ever known. You must sit with them, day and night, until you know their features and ways in which they move through the world. Until your breathing matches their own with such accuracy that you can no longer tell the difference between your breaths and theirs.

“Our friendship was like our writing in some ways. It was the only thing that was interesting about our otherwise dull lives. We were better off when we were together. Together we were a small society of ambition and high ideals. We were tender and patient and kind. We were not like the world at all.”

Though I am lucky to have an incredible best friend, when I read the above passage, the first thing that popped into my head was the level of comfort that can only be achieved through a childhood friend. I thought of a friend that I have known since kindergarten, and the nights that we would lie in my bed and stare up at the ceiling, talking about our futures like they were millions of miles away. The nights that we would hold hands when we got scared in the middle of the night, only to end up burying our faces in pillows a moment later when we were overcome with laughter. We looked at each other then, smiling and breathing heavily once the laughter subsided, not even knowing what we found so funny, and yet realizing that nothing could top the happiness that had been wrapped up in that moment. It enveloped us, that pure bliss, wrapping us up like a quilt that was stitched with every happy memory of our relatively short lives. We knew, no matter what, that we had each other.

The finding place of my words.

20 Oct

“A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.”

The above quote is from Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, and when I came across it this morning while on GoodReads, it really stuck with me. Maybe it’s because I know after reading Jeanette Winterson’s memoir that she had a really tough life. Maybe it’s because I am reminded that even though I persevere and trudge on, I have a tough life. Like Jeanette, I have constantly continued to find myself not in other people or places…but in words.

However, I’m not referring to the idea that literature has acted as my only finding place. Although, I do believe that it all began with literature. At a young age, during the days that I would go inside my closet where I had pillows, blankets and a light, I’d close my closet door and pour over the words. I’d lose myself in the words that I thought only I felt: those words that signified loneliness, being different, feeling pain and not feeling like there was a place that I belonged. Over time, I found myself in those words as I realized that what I was feeling wasn’t just confined to my own situation. I saw myself mirrored in others who, though they didn’t have Cerebral Palsy, still felt some of the same emotions that I struggled with from the very beginning. Even though there aren’t necessarily specific literary characters that I remember feeling especially connected with, it never was about making specific connections. In terms of literature, many of us recognize pieces of ourselves in other characters, and the sense that we are able to relate to them on some level acts as a safety net, a blanket that keeps the cold out, even if only for a moment.

As I began experimenting with my own words and realizing that I too could express the emotions that I was feeling, my own words became my safety net. Even though other literature still had the same effect that it always did in terms of helping me to feel less alone, the discovery that I could use my own words to achieve the same effect was life-changing. Rather than immersing myself in literature that had pieces of myself woven throughout it, I created words that held every aspect of me. Instead of just bits and pieces, I was entirely present within my own words. Within my words, all the emotions were there, waiting to be uncovered. The loneliness, the fear, the pain, the tears, the feeling of being so different that there wasn’t a place that I fit. Within my own words, I made all the emotions visible. As I removed them from the dark places that they had been hiding in for so long, they became even more real. Instead of simply residing in my thoughts, they were given a heart, a way to live and breathe in an environment that was separate from me, and yet was an environment that I had completely created.

Today, not much has changed. If anything, my words have become much more authentic and honest. Instead of beating around the bush in terms of the emotions that I have felt and continue to feel, I have plunged right in. I’ve found myself spending hours sitting in the darkness of my emotions, trying to find the perfect way to give them life. Though uncovering every aspect of my emotions has been one of the hardest things I have ever done, my words continue to act as a finding place. I am the truest I have ever been to myself when I am writing. Because with words, I can’t hide. There’s nothing to hide behind. My words still reside in the place that they always have: inside me. Through giving them life and allowing them to breathe on their own, it’s as if I’m living in two places at once. I’m living my current life, but I’m also living in the words that are written down. If one day in the distant future you see a book by me on the bookshelves, I hope you find me there.

Diving below the surface.

6 Oct

I want people who write to crash or dive below the surface, where life is so cold and confusing and hard to see. I want writers to plunge through the holes—the holes we try to fill up with all the props. In those holes and in the spaces around them exist all sorts of possibility, including the chance to see who we are and to glimpse the mystery.-Anne Lamott

Today, I finished reading Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. This quote from the book really stuck with me. Over the past few months, I’ve been drawn more and more to books about writing and what it takes to be a writer. Though I don’t read the books in order to remind myself why I write, I do read them in order to remember that many of the emotions that I feel as a writer don’t enclose me. Rather, they allow me entry into one of the most special worlds I’ve ever known: the world of writers.

I first began to write because I felt like no one understood what I was feeling. Writing was the way that I could be completely myself without having to explain why I felt or didn’t feel certain emotions. As I sat in my childhood bedroom at the age of 8 with a journal and pencil in hand, I realized that I didn’t have to hide. I could pour my entire self into my words, and the only person who had to read those words was me. However, more recently through this blog, I have started to understand the strong sense of community and belonging that I’ve been looking for for so long. It’s been right here, waiting for me to discover it. The world of writers is one that is very hard to explain to those who aren’t writers. However, for those of us who are writers, we know what our world is like. We wake up in it every morning. We plunge into it on a daily basis when we sit down at our computers to write out what is itching to be released. We know what it’s like on the bad days when the words won’t come, when it’s too pretty outside to sit in front of a computer that holds the daunting blank Word document. However, we also know the joy of the little victories: completing a chapter, getting an article published, the sense of relief that comes when another writing project is finished. Even though those little victories can keep us afloat for longer than we imagined, it’s the recognition we want. I don’t mean being the next New York Times Bestselling author or making millions of dollars. I mean being told by one single person that our words have touched them or helped them in some way. That’s the prize, “the big kahuna.” It’s what keeps me coming back to my desk, day after day, to share my story.

I haven’t opened the Word document that houses my memoir in a matter of months. Even though I could use the excuses of college classes, friends, work and other random responsibilities that pop up for juniors in college, I’d just be fooling myself. I’m naturally an introspective person. However, the kind of introspection that my memoir has involved has brought me face to face with memories that I never thought I’d have to experience again. However, for many writers, that’s what writing is. It’s facing our demons and learning to accept them so that we can move on to a better and more fulfilling life. I know from experience that it’s incredibly hard. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I keep trudging along though. I keep on “diving below the surface” of my life for the chance of impacting just one person, for the chance to be part of the reason that they feel even just a little less alone.

Monday’s Musings: October 1st!

1 Oct

Despite it being Monday, there are numerous things that have made me happy today:

  • Completing my annotated bibliography for my Community Psychology project on the social stigma of physical disabilities. If you’ve ever had to do an annotated bibliography, I’m sure you’re squirming at the thought of it. If you haven’t, count yourself lucky. I wish I could still be uninformed about all the effort and time that goes into making an annotated bibliography. I would explain it, but I’m relieved to be done with it, so that’s that. If you’re really curious, there is always Google.
  • The fact that it finally feels like Fall: complete with cool weather and changing leaves. Despite the rain and relative cloudiness today, it’s felt like the perfect Fall day. A pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks would seal the deal, but when is there time to go to Starbucks when I have so many other things that require my attention? Thankfully, I love college, and I’ve always loved learning.
  • A quick trip to Mr. K’s, my favorite used bookstore. Since I finished my annotated bibliography today (despite it not being due until Wednesday), I decided to treat myself to a quick trip to Mr. K’s. Since I have been wanting to read another book about writing after reading The Spirit of Writing: Classic and Contemporary Essays Celebrating the Writing Life, I settled for Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. After reading the first sentence of the Introduction, I couldn’t help but realize how much I’m going to love this book:

I grew up around a father and a mother who read every chance they got, who took us to the library every Thursday night to load up on books for the coming week.-Anne Lamott

  • It’s the beginning of a new month. Though this may seem like something small that made my Monday enjoyable, I’m always excited to welcome a new month. A new month means new experiences, new memories to be made, and yet another month that I get to live and breathe among the Blue Ridge Mountains that I love so much. And as the leaves begin to change, I feel even more lucky that I get to call this place home.

Feel every emotion.

12 Sep

During my early teen years, I took voice lessons, and I still remember the first song I ever sung to Miss Julia Helen, my voice teacher. On my very first day of voice lessons, I was incredibly nervous, and I knew that Miss Julia Helen would ask me to sing for her (since she had told me to come with a song prepared). Around the time I began taking voice lessons, my mom and I had recently returned from a trip to New York City.

When my mom and I were in New York City, we saw the Broadway musical All Shook Up, which is a musical that was based on Elvis Presley songs. I hadn’t been a fan of Elvis before seeing the musical, but once it was over, I knew that I had to have the soundtrack of the musical so that I could listen to all the songs on repeat until I got sick of hearing them. My favorite song from the soundtrack was Fools Fall In Love, and therefore I ended up choosing it as the song that I would sing for Miss Julia Helen. The funny thing, however, is before beginning voice lessons (and even after I took 2 years of voice lessons), I never could read music. When I knew that I’d have to sing a song for Miss Julia Helen, my trick was choosing a song that I would be able to easily emulate with my voice. Knowing that I had to use this process made my song choice a relatively easy one. Though I know that “Fools Fall In Love” fit my voice, I also knew every single word of the song since I had listened to it on repeat for a week straight by the time my first voice lesson came around.

When I sang for Miss Julia Helen, I was practically beaming. Not only was I happy to be at my very first voice lesson, but I absolutely loved the song that I was singing. I just couldn’t stop smiling. Throughout my two years of voice lessons, I had particular songs that really touched me. “Fools Fall In Love” was one of them because it marked the beginning of a new phase in my life, my singing phase. However, two other songs that I will never forget singing are “You Raise Me Up” and “Colors Of The Wind.” Even though all 3 of those songs are each very different, they spoke to me. As well as loving the accompaniment, I was also very attached to the lyrics. Since I was able to become more attached to the songs themselves, I was able to bring more emotion into the songs when I sang them. From my history with singing, I’ve found that emotion is the key component. You want to make the audience feel what you’re feeling. You want them to feel the song inside of them. The only way to do that is to connect to every possible emotion that is present in the song.

Now that I think about it, I realize that the point I just made applies to writing as well. If, as writers, we want to have our readers feel the emotion in what we are writing, we’ve got to feel every ounce of it as well. If we don’t feel it as we are writing it, how can we expect that kind of response from our readers?

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.”-Anais Nin

 

Dedicated to Dawn.

7 Sep

I have so many memories of you, and through the years, I’ve tried with all my might to not let them fade. However, the fact that I haven’t seen you since I was in 8th grade of high school and the fact that you left to move to Virginia with your now husband are two solid reasons why I sometimes find those memories coming up short. You were my next to last physical therapist before I stopped going to physical therapy at the age of 15 because there wasn’t much more that could be done. At the age of 15, I was as independent as I was going to get (physically, at least). Even though you weren’t my last therapist before stopping therapy, you had the most impact on me. Well, you and Meredith, one of my other physical therapist’s who I’m still friends with today, did.

You taught me more than I think you ever realized. Then again, maybe that was because I looked up to you so much. Even though you were my physical therapist and you had to put me through a lot of pain if I was going to continue to be independent, you also never treated me as if I was a child. I remember the therapy sessions where we would talk about books, and movies and theatre productions. As well as being my physical therapist, you were my friend, and that’s what I needed. I remember the night that you came to see me in the beauty pageant that I was in at my school. I was so excited for you to come see me in the pageant, and I was especially glad that I walked all over that stage in my slip-on shoes without tripping or falling! I remember how proud of me you were. As well as pushing me to my true potential, you also praised me in certain situations too, and I believe that balance is why I looked up to you so much.

Your blonde hair and incredibly bright smile is forever etched into my memory. Also, you gave some of the best hugs I’ve ever received. I only wish that I could have one of those hugs now. However, I have no doubt that you are in Virginia enjoying life and making a difference in some other girl’s life without even knowing it. I remember how you always used to give me a mini Snickers bar after our therapy sessions. Best of all, on the days that you ran out of Snickers, we’d make walking over to the nearby Bi-Lo part of our “therapy.” I smile as I remember how you introduced me to the wonderful world of Self Check-Out. Even now, as I use the Self Check-Out on a regular basis when getting groceries for my apartment, every once in a while I think of that time in Bi-Lo when we bought Snickers together.

Even though I hate to admit it, I used to try to find you. Even though I did get one letter from you after you first moved, the follow-up letter was sent back to me. I never have been able to find your current address. However, sometimes I sit and hope that one day you’ll come back in to my life. Before you moved away, you gave me a purple journal, and inside it you wrote, “I can’t wait to go into a bookstore one day and see a book by Amelia Coonrod on the shelves.” Even at the age of 13, I knew that I would try with all my might to not let you down in that regard. As well as being my physical therapist, you were my friend, you laughed with me, and you believed in my writing. Though I silently hope that one day I may be able to truly tell you how you touched my life, I also know that this post may have to be exactly that. After all, in my mind, you are still the person I’ve always wanted to be when I grow up. Not in the sense of being a physical therapist. However, if I can touch some girl’s life the way you have forever touched mine, I will know what it is to truly live.