Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Have Feet Will Travel


This is a beautiful fall. I am reveling in the brilliant colors of the leaves, and even the muted colors of the rain-filled sky and frost-bleached grasses. And the smells of this season, so rich with memories of the vibrant summer that are transmuted to earthy leaf mulch and wind-driven rain! My greatest joy is not just that the season has arrived; rather, it is that for some reason I am more aware this year of autumn's beauty, more linked to the natural rhythms of the season.

Perhaps it is because I have bought a tiny trailer and am outside more this season, hiking and cooking, sitting by the campfire. My wife and I made the choice to change our environment, to buy the trailer so that we could have a "mobile office" where we could work yet be more outside. Now it is fall, and I am outside more, having packed my outdoor clothes--and glad to have done so! Even the cold knife of the wind is--what is the word?--bracing! The world is alive, and to move out into the natural world is to be reminded of those cosmic rhythms of life. It is easy to forget or ignore these natural rhythms when in a highly controlled environment.

While my wife works her business, I write, and lots of my writing has been about our travel--the earth and sky and waters. I have to report that I think I'm getting better at it, but travel writing isn't as easy as it appears to be at first glance. As a fiction writer, I can say that traveloging is first and last driven by setting, by description of the natural world and the human world one experiences.

I recently posted a travel blog entitled "Fall Leaves and Camping, Please," where my wife and I spent five nights camping. "It's late October, just past the harvest moon, fifty-five degrees, and the trees are in full reds and yellows, the sky blues and grays, and the fire is a quiet companion as I sit and write at my camp at Jefferson County Park, a campground just four miles from my house."

In about a week I will be posting another piece at Green Goddess Glamping, entitled "Two Fall Nights on the Des Moines River," where I write about sharing my camp with rain showers and chainsaw instructors. The campground was carpeted with fall leaves. The river flowed just beyond the door to my tiny trailer. I took long walks along a nature trail and gravel roads. "I walked a mile down Hawk Drive along the Des Moines River, beautiful country with trees with brilliant foliage and stark white trunks mixed with evergreens, framed top and bottom by the cloudy sky and flowing river." I met fifteen young adults, all brandishing chainsaws.


It was a journey worth taking, both for the outer and inner joys of the experience. Just as a cold fall rain is cleansing, so too can the experience of being in a cold fall rain be cleansing. And can there be anything more evocative than young adults happily felling invasive trees so that native species can re-establish themselves. Ah, the smell of sawdust in the early morning air!

I'm leaving tomorrow for Indian Lake for some cold weather camping. I want to learn how to be comfortable when the temperatures are in the 30's to the teens range. I believe it will involve warm clothing and a warm camper. I want to get outside, to enjoy the straightforward intelligence of nature, to live simply, and as I write this, I think I need to find my copy of Thoreau's Walden for reading. Simplify, simplify, simplify!

And I'll keep writing, because while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that is only a partial truth. Beauty is everywhere, but only inside the beholder if our eyes behold it. I'm going to experience the bracing cold of the fall wind. There's a chance of snow flurries. That should wake me up and keep me moving.


(Note: a great way to not miss my updates on writing or my traveloging is to sign up for email notifications for either (or both) blogs. Check the blog sidebars for the sign-up gadget.)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Relax, Breathe, Write, Enjoy

I know I'm going to have to revise. I always do, and I always enjoy revising.

Right now, I'm writing the first draft of a short story titled "Blade" at this time. Since it's a first draft, I'm just moving along at a steady pace . . . trying to relax, breathe, write, and enjoy. My strategy is working pretty well, and I'm progressing at a steady if not spectacular pace: 5,187 words so far.

I'm writing for other projects, too--this blog and another, a little of this and that.

I'm also focusing on my overall state of being, my level of rest and exercise, my diet and relationships. Writing has not been my engine for personal growth for a long time. It has more been a means to express my state of being, what I see and hear. I think that's healthy, avoiding the starving, suffering poet experience. I believe Philip Lamantia, a San Francisco Beat poet, described that pursuit akin to beating on the portals of perception until the hands are bloody. I've done a bit of that but prefer less blood and more joy.

Maybe I'll miss writing my great masterpiece because of that--but, really, I think I'm the masterpiece that's being written. It goes round and round, like the snake eating its tail.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Not What's the Point But the Wholeness

I've recently watched a couple of Netflix movies--started them and then fast forwarded through sections, ending the film, and then going back and closely watching key scenes. It was either fast and dirty or just turn the darn thing off. Then I clicked onto IMDB (International Movie Data Base) and read more about the movies and checked out some reviews.

Evidently, according to many reviews, I'm a shallow viewer who is so conditioned to the standard plot sequence normally presented that I cannot appreciate a truly artistic flick. And, according to the reviews, I am not the only creativity-challenged viewer.

The films viewed were Hold the Dark, a movie or survival and alienation set in the far, frozen North; and Under the Skin, a sci fi flick about an alien femme fatale with a gentler modus operandi than the Predator franchise.

I was tempted to ask what's the point of the movies, but I understand the concept that art doesn't need to mean, just be. Art's existence enlivens the mind and pulls one from boundaries to the unbounded. It expands.

In the two films mentioned, a lot happens--death and destruction, despair and tragedy. However, in the end, I was not left with any sense of wholeness. I did appreciate the craft, but the vision was, as one reviewer wrote, left on the cutting room floor.

I'm not here to bash Netflix, but as the company pours millions into new material, I certainly hope it doesn't end up being a lot of "B" grade material bought on the cheap because it got no traction anywhere else.

And as I write my current short story, I am reminded that although art doesn't have to justify its existence, that's only true when it is existence, when it is the drop of water that reflects the ocean. Without the reflection, the boundaries are too restrictive. I don't want my writing to reflect grey water in a grey world; neither do I want to watch movies where the only color is the grey sheen of lead bullets or the grey grime of roadside snow. Where's the sunshine? It's out there (and in there), and, Lord, let me not be distracted by all the shades and shadows between black and white.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Words Per Day Make the Day

It has been a week of writing on my short story "Blade," and I am reporting that moving back to my old standard of minimum words per day has been successful.

I began with a story fragment of 154 words and have written for a week, holding myself to at least two hundred words per day. Now the story is at 2,200 words. The good news, though, is that as I've been writing, the words written each day have grown, the last two or three days much more effortless and sustained.

I even missed one day of writing when I had an early doctor's check-up and other commitments, but I was already a little ahead of schedule, and the next day wrote more and caught up to my scheduled words.

The most engaging experiences have been those moments where I begin following a thread of plot possibility that I hadn't thought of until I began writing. Then I'm off into new territory, and it's quite fascinating witnessing myself write down the progressions and open in my mind. My experience is that this becomes more possible when the daily flow of words is established by routine.

That's the process, though, the first draft opening all the doors and windows. Or as e.e. cummings described the "spring" season experience: mud-luscious. Can't you just feel the mud squeezing up between your toes as you make your way down the path to the river?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Words Per Day--Inspiration by the Paragraph

When I was writing The Stone Dragon, my routine was to write two hundred words per day, Monday through Friday, and then to write a thousand words over the weekend . . . minimum. Often I wrote more, but the minimum word count maintained my writing discipline. This was a reasonable routine for someone working full time and writing in spare time.

My experience is that once I begin writing every day, I begin to think about the story throughout the day, to have realizations about the action and characters, to imagine new possibilities. On some quiet level, I begin to live the story; by that I mean its creation becomes a part of my everyday experience, which is enjoyable and also enchanting.

Now I've chosen to write a short story, tentatively titled "Blade." I've decided on the technical point of view, good old third person, and I feel pretty comfortable about the tone--telling the story as a legend in the making. So I'll write and write, and at some point it will feel like work because writing does take energy, but once the story is unfolding, a certain curiosity also pervails.

Now I need to get the dern thang written, and I'm falling back on my tried-and-true method of assigning myself a minimum daily writing amount--two hundred words. This, of course, is a very low "assignment," but I feel that will establish my daily routine for this duration of this story, and that the momentum of the story will carry the writing for a higher productivity. That's the plan!

Let's see in a week how far I've gotten.