Just Write It Down

In honor of my 100th post, I wrote the following essay as a clarion call for ordinary people to enter into the writing life, whether that be journaling, storytelling, scriptwriting, songwriting, poetry, short story, novel, novella, hymn, an email you’ve been putting off, or even that yellow sticky that will make someone else’s day.

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There is something sacred about that first drop of ink on a blank page. It is a step of faith; an act of creation; a defiance against non-being.

It is boldness to put one’s life and ideas into words.

It is courage to swallow up the margins with presence.

Each word becomes an Ebenezer crying out “I was here! I have a voice!”

The ink becomes a trumpet blasting through the corridor of time; the words are sometimes heard and carried on in another melody, or another pitch, until time itself crescendos with a mighty peel from those who let their words become their voices: brave voices, bold voices, being read and whispered and shouted from the world’s rooftops.

Even the smallest voices carry. The ink bleeds into the hearts of children and grandchildren, mothers and fathers, brothers and daughters who place their eager ears against the earth, hoping to dig up the faintest syllables of those words you are writing now.

Write them your story. Write them your ideas.

If your fingers tremble at the first, if your hand holds the pen against the page haltingly, uncertainly, then breathe. Remember there is only one other who reads what you put down. There is only one other who reads the words etched in love and hate upon the fabric of your heart, and He is not surprised. Though your words be good, bad, or ugly, He already knows what your peevish hands would scribe.

Write for no one. Write for everyone. Write for one. It is all the same so much as you write it true. So much as what is waiting, like a caged-up fox at the gate of your wrist, is let out for a few wild moments to race across the empty plains of the page.

Maybe its tail was on fire and it has torched the life you knew. Then cage it again–those wild thoughts–and thank the Almighty for the ash it left to seed a new world.

You may not like the ash. You may not appreciate the wild fox that was your thoughts careening across the page. Maybe you want nothing more than to trap them, cage them, and lock them away in a dark cellar in your soul. Maybe you want to burn the page and hold it responsible for the words it has mirrored from your heart.

But the page is just a mirror. It will only tell what you tell it. And if you don’t like what you read, it is because it has shown you the contents of a room you were hiding.

It takes faith to believe that what is fallen can be made well. Maybe the thoughts on your page are bad. Maybe they are the worst words written in the history of the world (I doubt it). Do you believe that the Father who brought the Son up from the grave can give life to your dead words? Do you really believe that your children’s children will only care about your victories, in the midst of their defeat?

We write what is true as an act of love. First for ourselves, then for the world. If my thoughts are wild, I will love them, until one day even the fox may lie down with the lamb.

If ever you’ve had a thought, a story, or an idea, just write it down. It is a wonderful adventure to watch an emptying heart fill the margins of a blank page. And I invite you to this adventure.

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Published in: on August 20, 2010 at 3:55 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Writer’s Burden

The Writer’s Burden

The burden of a writer is to bring an idea into the world knowing that it will often be unaccredited to him. Like a parent who rears a child in the hope that it will do good in the world, the writer must release an idea, knowing that children rarely praise their parents.

And if a writer is gifted, and works hard enough at it, to produce an entire world from his imagination, he does so with the fearful knowledge that a well-meaning Executive-Producer-Director-Agent-Axis may entice him with a bag of gold to turn what was meant for print into visual fodder. In the hands of a gracious Axis, his work may survive in some shriveled, half-starved form; more often than not, it will find its end with a bullet in the back of the head before being kicked into a mass graveyard.

Few recognize the difference between screenplays and novels, and when enough zeros are thrown behind a $ sign, these lines become imperceptible, even to the writer himself.

And if anyone balks at this truth, remember that it is only under extreme variation that water goes from ice to steam.

“Why would anyone read a book instead of watching big people move on a screen? Because a book can be literature. It is a subtle thing-a poor thing, but our own.” –Annie Dillard

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 4:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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How to Bait Your Muse

This post started its life as a tweet:

I want to find a ‘How to Bait Your Muse’ class, or even better, ‘Abducting Muses 101.'”

I wrote it using my Droid around 10:00am this morning. It then went onto Facebook where it generated the following comments:

…CREEPY!!! :P”

and

Put cheese on a musetrap

~~

Now, I suppose I could (should?) allow this tweet to disappear into the nether regions of twitterverse, consumed by the black hole of inanity that consumes most of my 140 constrained characters. But my inanity knows no bounds, certainly not those imposed by Twitter. Plus I still want to know How to Bait My Muse.

It perplexes me where ideas come from. I mean, the good ones. The ideas that keep me up (like this blog post is currently keeping me up) until 2:00-3:00 in the morning, even though I have to be up for work at 7:00.

I used to believe that ideas were like fireflies – a writer would go in the woods, alone, in the dark, and patiently scoop these glittering jems out of the sky, bottling them up for the world to see. But oftentimes (and maybe this is just poor me) they are not so obvious.

If it was this easy, if any old bloke could go bumbling around the woods with a big enough jar and cram that sucker full until it could power up the Bat-signal, well -any old bloke would.

But ideas are not like fireflies. Sometimes they light up in the dark, but if they flicker, they flicker slowly, almost imperceptibly, and it’s up to the writer to go chasing them down, hoping that he will be able to find his way out of the dark woods; hoping there really is a trail that led him in; and once he finds what he came for, that a trail will lead him back out; and more hopeful still, that he can somehow remember the way so he can tell others where he went.

Maybe ideas are less like fireflies, and more like the darker things lurking in the woods, the “semi-domesticated animal” that Stephen King writes of:

There’s a mystery about creative writing, but it’s a boring mystery unless you’re interested in this one small animal, sometimes quite vicious, that makes its home in the bushes. It’s a scruffy little thing with fleas and often smells of whatever nasty mess it’s been rolling in. It can never be more than semi-domesticated and isn’t exactly known for its loyalty. I’ll speak more of this beast — to which the Greeks gave the comically noble name musa , which means song…” – Stephen King, “The Writing Life”

It’s interesting to me that Stephen King describes the creative process in terms of waiting for a beast, as though the Muse were just some vicious animal, nearly feral, and that which can never be controlled, only caught for short periods of time, usually at the price of scratch marks and bite wounds.

I also think of the creative process in terms of a hunt, but it’s less like Buckmasters and more like eHarmony; less the bear trap metaphor, and more a courtship. In fact, I can almost picture the Muse’s eHarmony profile:

She enjoys walks on the beach under moonlight, followed by romantic fireside dinners with baked brie and blood red wine the color of former heartache. She enjoys dancing under undying stars where the Milky Way pirouettes into the infinite reaches of heaven. Her favorite colors are sadness, melancholy, exquisite delight, and loneliness. Her worst fears are too much happiness, too little joy, and being suffocated. She is looking for men (and women) who are content in their solitude, afraid in their fears, hopeful in their joys, and  generous with their lives. She also likes cats.

Mr. King and I agree that the only way to meet this Muse is by getting alone with her (standing on the edge of the woods, waiting for it to arrive), which really means getting alone with oneself. The greatest gift the writer can give to the world is solitude, for it is the price of meeting one’s Muse.

She will flirt in books; she will play coy at parties; she will send love notes throughout your day at work, even while you are out with the boys; but it’s not until you get back to your desk, back to that park in the bench where you’ve stopped to enjoy the sun, back to the driver’s seat of your car while trying to get from social event A to social event B – yes, that’s when she arrives. You won’t always know how she got there, may not even know she’s there at all until she bumps you on the shoulder, but you’ll always know it’s her – the world stops; time hangs on a single, yet eternal, thread of decision: continue along the way, ignore her and all she stands to give, or accept her in that moment, that moment that hangs in eternity.

Make no mistake, writer, if you spurn her presence here, there is no guarantee she will return. Oh, she may come back again, but not like she was in that moment, not as the sun caught in her hair just so. If you ignore it, you’ve lost it – whatever idea, whatever inspiration, whatever gift she would have given, it is gone.

So writer, woo her. Writer, cherish her. Writer, pause. Listen. Hear.

And writer, whatever else you may do

Wait for her.

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 4:57 pm  Comments (3)  
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Northwest Profile #777: Coffee Serving Dentist

With bleach product next to staining stimulant, you give the people what they truly want. Hated by the ADA, yet loved by Crest, you realize “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” so why not make a few extra bones?

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My mind thinks of things like this, even at 7:30am while sitting in my dentist’s office. Imagine what it must be like to live inside my head!?

Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Your Daily Jingle

Yes, I know this person. And yes, I am honored to call this jingle-making wingnut my friend.

Some of you might remember one of Brian’s earlier ideas to make the world a better place.

Rivene’s Journey partnered with him to donate his amazing dreads to support Invisible Children.

And thanks to generous readers like you, Brian was able to raise over $5,000 for Invisible Children, by coloring and then cutting off his dreadlocks! (my donation was responsible for one of the Manic Panic pink cotton candy colored dreads).

Well, he’s at it again!

This time he’s using his talent to give us yourdailyjingle.com

Here’s how it works:

You bid on a jingle that you would like to see him create. The fastest bidder wins. The price has already been taken care of, as the cost for each day’s jingle goes up $1 per calendar day; e.g. today being January 8th, the cost would be $8. Want a jingle for Valentine’s Day? $45. You get the idea.

Brian then performs the jingle via YouTube video. As if this were not enough to brighten your day (believe me, I give you Rivene’s guarantee that your face will contort by the end of each video, either in a contented smile or a head shaking grimace, I mean, these are jingles after all!)

but wait..there’s more!

20% of the proceeds will be sent to charities and organizations like International Justice Mission, Invisible Children, and Project Cuddle, via a complicated algorithm that only an electrical engineer could have ever come up with… actually, it’s pretty simple, and only requires that you know how to click a mouse button.

On one level, it’s very creative. On another, it’s just plain silly. And I think that’s why I like it so much. Maybe it’s just me, but I am tired of the late night commercial & marketing technique that guilts me into social justice by playing woeful violin music while an Oliver Twist orphan bums for pennies on the street corner while his African cousin rummages through refuge in the background. I am 100% for social justice and activism in the world, but over the years, I have learned to appreciate artists like U2, Switchfoot, and Derek Webb who are able to wed creativity & social justice into a beautiful marriage of talent & grace.

That is why I would like Rivene’s Journey readers to help Brian’s jingle project off to a great start.

As an added bonus, the first 3 Rivene’s Journey readers to purchase a jingle will get a poem from Rivene himself!

Here are the guidelines:

  • You must mention Rivene’s Journey in the “jingle subject” line
  • You pick the poem! You can tell me what style (sestina, ballad, blank verse); era (biblical, apocalyptic, victorian) ; subject (death, bowel movements, love)… get as detailed as you like!
  • The poem must be shorter than 4 stanzas or 24 lines, whichever comes first
  • Each poem will be posted on Rivene’s Journey once confirmation of the jingle purchase has been made
  • Poems will be posted no later than 2 weeks post-confirmation
  • You must keep in mind my poetic formula mentioned in an earlier post
  • You can Email Rivene your poem’s requirements

As an added bonus

  • Any jingles purchased after Valentine’s Day (guys, that would be Sunday February 14th) will also receive a YouTube video of me performing your poem in front of a live audience! (“live” meaning any open mic I happen to stumble across)
  • Videos of the poem-reading will be posted on Rivene’s Journey 4 weeks after confirmation of purchase, for obvious production reasons
  • I own the poem (and any videos made) and maintain all rights for it. However, for just an additional 20% of your jingle’s price, I will also honor Brian’s deal where you may buy a full-use license of the work. This full-use license will grant you the right to use the video, audio, and poem any way you would like for one year (1 year from the jingle date you bought). If you’re interested in a license longer than a year or would like to own the work outright, just let me know and we’ll work it out. 

Click here to start. And let’s jingle all the way!

(oh, and if you were wondering what jingle day I purchased, keep an eye out for the back of my handsome mug somewhere around early spring on the jingle calendar)

 

Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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