29 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 29: Organizational Harmony: The Key to Creativity

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
~ Leonard Cohen

Perfection.  The enemy of the possible.  I've said it before; I'll say it again.  Holding yourself to an impossible standard is a waste of time and creative energy.  However, holding yourself to no standard is an equal waste of time and creative energy.  At least I have found this to be true in my own life.  The day to day minutia takes over like kudzu and one day you wake up and can't find your desk.  That leads to silly excuses like: "I'll clean it off tomorrow and then I'll really write!"  But tomorrow comes, and you look at the stacks of paper and books and just feel overwhelmed.  And you use that as an excuse not to write.

At least that was the scenario I lived with for a long time.

My tolerance for clutter and chaos is pretty high.  My brain works like a mind-map, not an outline [although I do love outlines], and it is always coming up with creative ideas and considers having to think about organization and rules and filing systems is a waste of time.  But even I, the queen of living in well-orchestrated chaos, have my limits.  And about a month ago, I reached it.

So I hired a professional organizer to come in and make sense of the garbled sheet music that is my boudoir / home office.  After our initial meeting, I knew Alejandra was just the conductor I needed to make my life harmonious and in key again.

Once the dust settles [ahem!]  I will let you know how it goes and whether my creativity did indeed get a boost!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

28 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 28: Summer Reading List

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.
~ James Bryce

Summer is almost here.  Actually, here in Virginia it has felt like summer for a few days now: thunderstorms, humidity [or “humisery” as my yankee friends like to call it] and lovely, baking, ninety degree weather.  A small price to pay, in my opinion, sweet iced tea, fried chicken, and being able to enjoy the changing seasons.

School’s [Almost] Out!
Viewing the calendar in semesters and three months of vacation becomes a habit after living that way for over twenty-two years.  And even though I have been out of school for [cough, ahem] years, I still feel the rush of “Summer’s here!  Relaxation!”  Growing up, that translated into multiple trips to the library. 

I will never forget Linda at our local library.  She always laughed and commented on the enormous stack of books I took home every other week.  It was always at least a foot taller than me.  “Are you really going to read all of those books in two weeks!?!”  Some I would have to renew, but most of them I devoured in a few days.  I don’t know if my family was a burden or a blessing to those sainted librarians: we were always checking out almost half the library!

The “List”
Sadly, the days of three month vacations are over [unless you’re lucky enough to be French].  But it is still a great excuse to read more!  And my library cup runneth over with un-read volumes that I have been meaning to crack open.  Most of them will improve my mind and some will give it a little rest.  Both are important to do.   Here’s a partial list.
Love and Will by Rollo May
Love’s Executioner by Irv Yalom
Can Poetry Matter? by Dana Gioia
Interrogations at Noon by Dana Gioia
The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Conner by Flannery O’Conner
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling [as a refresher before the last movie installment!]
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Beauty and the Beast by Marie Le Prince de Beaumont

What do you plan to read this summer?  Any books you would like to recommend? Do tell!

Oremu pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

27 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 27: The Pre-Raphaelites at the Delaware Art Museum

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. 
~ William Faulkner

Wilmington, Delaware.  I must confess I have never been a fan.  To be fair, all I’ve ever seen of it was as a nine year old and it just wasn’t that exciting.  Now however, I find I have one big reason to fall in love with Wilmington:  The Delaware Art Musuem’s Pre-Raphaelite Collection

Rossetti's La Bella Mona, 1875
As friends and faithful readers know, I am the uber fan of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  I lost count of how many prints I own; my personal library has several books on the art of the Brotherhood, as well as some detailing their soap opera-like lives.  I even own note cards with Waterhouse’s  The Soul of the Rose on the front.  But even I did not know that the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelites in the United States was only a few hours drive north.

Gas may be over $4 a gallon, but I think a road trip is in order soon!

Do you know of any museums in your area that harbor great collections?  Do share!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

26 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 26: The Abbey's 51st Poetry Party

A poem should create a momentary enchantment.
~ Dana Gioia

Don’t you just love parties!? I do ~ especially poetry parties!  And Christine Valters Painter over at Abbey of the Arts is hosting her 51st Poetry Party!  Here’s how it works:

photo courtesy of Abbey of the Arts

Christine picks an image, suggests a theme and title and you write a poem or poetic reflection in response.  If you have a blog, post it on your blog and then post the link at the Poetry Party.  Then tomorrow, Christine will pick a random name and that lucky poet will win a space in one of her courses: Eyes of the Heart: Photography as Contemplative Practice and Water, Wind, Earth & Fire: Praying with the Elements .

My poem inspired by the tree image is below.  What poetry or poetic thoughts does the image bring to your mind?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

The Old Maple
© 26 May 2011, Mikaela D’Eigh

The tree stands tall
And old –
had already sunk its roots deep into the heart
when we arrived thirty odd years ago.

Who knows
how long
it stood watch over lilac, pine, barn and cow,
its trunk full of secrets and memories.

How it comforted
            brothers –
one blue, one gray, lying beneath its shade,
leaving only bullets and bones behind.

And the rain
            silent, sad
that mingled with mother’s tears
when Flanders’ fields kept back her sons.

Then, ah peace!
A child, small
there found Austen and Bilbo
among the wide and changing leaves.

And solved mysteries
            with Nancy
and the Twins and the Boxcar Children
while cradled in its strong and loving arms.

I stand now before it
            a woman grown –
my life thick with experience and history
my heart full of secrets and memories.

This tree, this land
            strong, solid --
brings the comfort as of old friends,
and keeps me grounded and alive.

25 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 25: The Art of the Thank You Note

If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got, he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get. 
~ Frank A. Clark

Do you know where ill-mannered people come from?  They come from one of two places:

1) Ill-mannered parents ~ they taught their children to be rude by displaying their own lack of manners.

2) Indifferent or Frazzled parents ~ these parents either did not care or were “too busy” to teach their children any manners.

There are the rare exceptions, who despite being raised properly, choose to become rude as a form of rebellion.  But my point is this:  good manners start at home.  And unless you want to help fill the world with nasty boorish bums, it would behoove you to: 

1) Learn manners yourself
2) Teach them to your children

Traditionally, a child who learns the good habit of saying “Please” and “Thank you” is not likely to forget it.  It is after all, a habit ~ something that becomes second nature to us and that we are able to do almost without thinking.  Opening doors or not allowing them to slam in the face of the person walking in behind you is another good habit that a child will remember long after you are not around to check on him.

Thank You Notes
One of the manners I was taught as a child that is still very much with me is the lovely duty of writing thank you notes.  My own mother taught me to write a thank you note right away and to let no more than a week go by before sending them out. 

Here’s what Emily Post has to say about it:

Handwritten notes are warmer and more special than other forms of thank-yous. The rule of thumb is that you should send a written note any time you receive a gift (even a ‘thank you’ gift) and the giver wasn’t there to thank in person.

She goes on to say that today you can get by with an email if the gift giver is a close friend, but in my opinion, if your best friend gave you a gift or welcomed you into her home, even more so should you send her a handwritten note!

Stationery for Children
This is also a good habit that children should definitely be encouraged to learn.  And to make learning it more fun, stationery stores have a huge selection of children’s stationery.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Tiny Prints is an online stationery store with hundreds of designs, both for adults and for kids.  These are a couple of my favorites for kids:

Pirate Ship from Tiny Prints

Notice that they have stationery for both girls and boys?  Boys need to be taught the art of saying thank you; it is an art that will serve him well throughout his life.

The Stationery Studio is another online stationery store.

Sweet Cupcakes from Tiny Prints
The Dandelion Patch is online and is also located in Leesburg, Virginia.  It is a great store with a wonderful atmosphere.  And the Leesburg Outlets are nearby too!

The Papery has several locations.  They have a fair selection of Crane Stationery [one of my favorites!] and an amazing collection of invitations that you can personalize.

Roaring Lion from Tiny Prints
Some say that such manners are out-dated.   But I don’t think any acts of love and kindness, no matter how small, are ever out of style. 

Do you?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

24 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 24: Top 5 Favorite Writing Spaces

Some places speak distinctly. Certain dank gardens cry aloud for a murder; certain old houses demand to be haunted; certain coasts are set apart for shipwrecks. 
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

And some places were just meant to encourage the art of writing.  The saying is true: wherever you go, there you are.  So it goes with writing spaces.  No matter how ideal the space, or how far away from external distractions it may be, you are still you and you bring all your internal distractions along.

Some people are absolute geniuses ~ they can write a masterpiece in a cold small room amounting to no more than a closet, with a stub of a candle for light and a broken pencil.  Jane Austen’s writing space was a drafty hallway, with a small occasional table and a little chair.

But I’m a dreamer and an artist and no genius.  And I firmly believe in the power of place.  That our surroundings matter.  That atmosphere has a strong influence over our emotions. . .and our art.  So when I write, I choose to surround myself with rich colours, luscious scents, and sounds that speak to my mood as much as possible.  And when it isn't possible to have all three, I try to have at least one of those elements present.  Here are my top five favorite spots to write in: three are real and two are my fantasy writing spaces.

My Bedroom
Walls drenched in a rich, cranberry red.  Curtains in cranberry toile.  Bookshelves overflowing.  And two desks: a solid maple that was my mother’s first gift to my father after they were married and a huge old desk that was a flea market find where I can spread out and reference my book collection while I write.

The Bathroom
I’m with Michelle Rafter on this one.  Growing up, sometimes the bathroom was the only place with any privacy!  Since inspiration can come anytime, anywhere and where better than under a steaming hot shower or a candle-lit bubble bath?

My Office
Sometimes I come in super early or stay uber late.  It’s rare, but sometimes in those off hours, I can accomplish a lot of writing, even if it’s only topic notes or story ideas.  And I’ve been known to dash off a poem or two at lunch.  Obviously no rich colours or pretty scents here, but Grooveshark is a lifesaver!

Inner Sanctum of Edna St. Vincent Millay, from Writer's Houses
Fantasy Spot 1 - Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Writing Sanctuary
I have to include this one.  What I wouldn’t give to have a spot like this!  Granted, I would paint the walls red or some other jewel tone and have multiple mood lighting.  But what I really crave [and need] is a library in my home.  A room with enough wall space for my book collection.  And my nice maple desk of course.

from A Storybook Life
Fantasy Spot 2 – A Quaint and Quiet Garden Shed
I found this while trolling the net for shed plans.  I’ve read of several artists who had little sheds built in their backyards where they could create in peace.  I would love to have something like this in my backyard, surrounded by nature.  Sort of like a playhouse for grown-ups.

What about you?  Is there a space where you’re at your creative best?  I’d love to hear!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

23 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 23: Love of the Land

Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything,
for 'tis the only thing in this world that lasts.
Tis the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for -- worth dying for.
~ Gerald O’Hara, Gone with the Wind

The only thing in this world that lasts.”  I never knew how much in common I had with Scarlett O’Hara until this past Saturday. 

I gathered together about ten of my closest girlfriends and invited them down to my childhood home for an afternoon tea celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the publication of “Gone with the Wind.”  Any excuse to dress up, eat and spend time with friends!

The menu consisted of fried chicken, ham biscuits, green beans [with pork fat of course!], mashed potatoes and gravy, chocolate-pecan pie, southern tea cakes and a Kentucky Jam Cake, a quartet of wine-based sorbets, and plenty of Southern sweet tea, fresh made lemonade and mint juleps.

After our repast, we retired to the living room where I had set up a projector and a white bed sheet ~ we Southerners make do ~ and watched Scarlett and her entourage live through a heart-wrenching and momentous era in our nation’s history.  Even if you weren’t blessed to be born in the land of soft, Southern drawls and the smell of fried chicken and fresh biscuits, you can still appreciate the writing brilliance of Margaret Mitchell and the amazing vision of David Selznik.

Getting in Touch with My Inner Scarlett
When I first watched the movie, I was very young.  I admired the all the beautiful dresses and the broad expanse of land of Tara and the mannered yet manly gentlemen and wept over the burning of Atlanta.  Other than that, I didn’t understand much of it.  As the older, wiser me watched the movie, I still oohed and ahhed with my girlfriends over Scarlett’s famous green muslin “Twelve Oaks BBQ” dress, her green velvet “curtain” dress and her daring red “Ashley’s Birthday” outfit.  But a theme that I had missed as a child kept coming up to haunt me.

There is a scene, after the war is over and Scarlett is trying to save Tara from her old overseer.  She goes to Ashley to get his advice.  But poor Ashley is stuck like Lot’s wife, looking back at the life that once was and will never be again and has no practical advice to give.  At one point, Scarlett throws herself into his arms and states that they should run away because there’s nothing to keep either of them there.  But he points out that [besides his wife and son], there is something that Scarlett loves more than even him.  He picks up a handful of dirt and places it in her hand.

And that is when it struck me how like Scarlett I am ~ at least when it comes to an attachment to the land.  It gets in your blood.  No matter how far away you may go, or how many times your heart gets broken, or how many jobs you’ve lost, the pull of the land is always there.  And I realized that Gerald O’Hara was right: land is the only thing that lasts, the only thing worth fighting and dying for.

It is always difficult to leave the peace of the country and come back to the noise and indifferent city.  But this time it I felt like my arm had been amputated.  What this means for the future, I have no idea.  But I do know that our land, though nothing on scale of Tara, will always be an anchor and a priority for me and I’d rather die than let it go.

What about you?  What from your childhood still has a hold on you?  Has it had a negative or positive impact on you?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

P.S. I admit I can be as tenacious as Scarlett, and yes, a little pouty at times. But I can say without reservation, that if a Rhett Butler came into my life, I would hold on to him with both hands! Fiddle-dee-dee!

22 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 22: Gone with the Wind Links

I can't go all my life waiting to catch you between husbands.
~ Rhett Butler

This weekend I am out in the country celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Gone with the Wind's publication with some of my close girlfriends.  Once I return, I promise to share pictures and bits of GWTW trivia.  Meanwhile, visit some of these sites for more GWTW news!

Vivian Leigh ~ a great blog all about Vivian Leigh and her role as Scarlett O'Hara.

Gone with the Wind Exhibit ~ wow.  Love. It.

Hooked on Houses ~ a post about Tara and Twelve Oaks with some great pictures of the movie set.

How We Do Run On ~ a GWTW scrapbook blog.  Beautiful fashion plates.

Margaret Mitchell House ~ a website of the house where GWTW was written.

Scarlett Online ~ a site dedicated to the feisty heroine.

GWTW, the movie ~ for those who [horror of horrors!] haven't seen it yet.

Scarlett O'Hardy's Museum ~ largest collection of movie memorabilia

21 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 21: Falling in Love with the Poetry of Dana Gioia, Part III

I am the past that feeds upon the present.
I am the darkness that daylight denies.
I am the sins that you must inherit--
The final truth in a world full of lies.
~ Dana Gioia

Gioia lamented that while we are living in a great age to be a poet in terms of making a living at it, the only people who appear to read poetry are other poets.  It has become mostly an academic pursuit, instead of the art once employed and enjoyed by the average reader.  
Sadly, this seems to be the direction all art is taking ~ save, perhaps, music.  My dear, if you can’t understand it, you are hopelessly uncultured and uneducated!  But art is not meant to be picked apart like day old road kill.  As Gioa put it Tuesday evening, “the purpose of poetry, indeed of all literature, is to instruct, delight, console and commemorate.”  Academia is focused solely on the first purpose and has completely forgotten the other three.

Of course, that is not anything new: look at Christ: he spoke in parables to the crowds, never theology or philosophy.  And see how the academic critics of his day liked it!
How sad is that last statement.  I feel like there was a divorce and I never even knew he was gone!

Reclaiming Our First Love
So what can be done about it?  As I mentioned on Thursday, we should learn to see poetry with new eyes by hearing it recited properly.  And by that I mean with passion and feeling and with an understanding of the rhythm and flow of words.

Sullivan has mentioned that he wants to begin hosting poetry nights.  Each guest will be given a short poem to memorize, which they will then recite at the party.  I think it is a brilliant idea and cannot wait for the first installment.

If you’re still new to poetry and the thought of a party is too much, start by taking a day [or morning or afternoon], grab a book of Dana Gioia’s poetry and head to your favorite spot.  It could be down by the river, in a canoe on the lake, under a tall magnolia, at the local coffee shop, or simply at home on the porch.  Sip your tea [preferably Southern sweet tea, of course!] and let the imagery capture you and the words roll around your mind and off your tongue.

You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to fall in love . . .with poetry.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

1,2: taken from D. Gioia's Can Poetry Matter?

20 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 20: Falling in Love with the Poetry of Dana Gioia, Part II

Poetry speaks of things that are true, with words that are beautiful.
~ Dante Alighieri

Where does poetry come from?  And how exactly does one become a poet?  It often begins at our mother’s knee.  Dana Gioa’s mother recited Poe’s “Annabelle Lee” to him; mine read me Clyde Robert Bulla’s “The Moon Singer.”  Gioia mentioned that his mother came from a dirt poor background; the poetry she was taught to memorize in school was as he put it, a way for her to “access beauty.” For my own mother, reading was a magical wardrobe into a Narnia of learning and better opportunities.

Teach a child to read and you open up vast new worlds to him; breathing on the creative spark already burning within his tiny breast and setting his imagination ablaze.  Teach a child poetry and you open up, not just a new world, but “a different way of speaking and writing.”  That was Dana Gioia’s response when asked for the definition of poetry.  And a child who is introduced to poetry from a young age will remember and cherish those childhood poems well into adulthood.  I can still recite, with only some faltering, “If”,  “In Flanders Fields,” as well as the iconic “Trees.”

In Gioia’s case, his mother’s love of poetry races like quicksilver in his blood and has created a great American poet.  What is your love and what, or rather who, will it create?  Now is the time to fashion the next generation of poets and writers.  What steps will you take to incorporate poetry into your life and the lives of your children?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

19 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 19: Falling in Love with the Poetry of Dana Gioia, Part I

They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,
They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.
I wept, as I remembered, how often you and I
Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.

And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest,
A handful of grey ashes, long long ago at rest,
Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;
For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.
 ~ William Johnson Cory

They told me, reader, that Dana Gioia would be speaking Tuesday night.  So to the University Club, my feet did fly.  And . . . I’m going to stop right there because I will just embarrass myself.  However, I did indeed meet Dana Gioia this past Tuesday at an evening conversation sponsored by The Trinity Forum on Poetry and Beauty in a Fallen World.

Recitation is the Key to Falling in Love . . . with Poetry
I was already a fan of his poetry ~ which seduces you with caressing lines and vivid imagery and his prose essays read almost like poetry, such is his lyrical mastery.  But it was his recitation of the poems ~ Cory’s “Heraclitus” quoted above, and his own “The Litany” ~ that bewitched my imagination and ignited intense emotions.

And Gioia said that it is this visceral reaction to the spoken word that gives poetry its warmth, its breath, its intoxicating scent.  Poetry is akin to music ~ the melodies come from the rhythm and cadence of the words and dramatic interpretation of the human speaker.  The majority of people, he said, do not enjoy poetry because they have never heard it recited properly.

For instance ~ and I apologize that I can only clumsily attempt to replicate his delivery, this being print after all ~ when speaking the last line of “Heraclitus,”  Gioia paused after “Death”, and emphasized “them”, with a slight breath before finishing the line and bowing his head slightly, as if in mourning.  In this sense, poetry recitation’s other sister is the art of acting, since the speaker will often infuse the words with the personality of the character speaking them.  In the case of “Heraclitus” the character speaking is Telemachus and Gioia became Telemachus, weeping at the news of the death of his friend.

It was then, with tears stinging my own eyes as I felt Telemachus' loss as if it were my own, that I truly fell in love with poetry.  And maybe . . . just a little . . . with Dana Gioia.

More on Dana and poetry tomorrow!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

11 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 11: Relaxed Morning Pages

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. 
~ Sylvia Plath

The key to Morning Pages is to relax. 

There is no one looking over your shoulder but you.  The point is to free write and get the ink flowing.  I know I’ve said this before, but at least for me, my poor little brain [or psyche] cannot seem to remember!  It stubbornly reverts back to an impossibly high standard that not even Jane Austen could reach!

Writers are human too.  [Although I swear I have ink in my veins instead of blood.]  We hear voices.  Some are good: they are the voices of our characters. Or the voices of supportive friends and family encouraging us to keep writing.  Some are downright evil: the voices of non-supportive friends and family, editors with an axe to grind [thankfully I’ve found those to be a minority!].  But our single worst enemy? 


Our own fears, doubts, negative [and false] self-image.  We are the only obstacle holding us back.  Having lived with this type of harsh self-criticism for much of my life, I have tried various methods to silence them.  And I’ve discovered that I can’t really shut them up.  I need to shut them out.  Hire a second, bigger chorus to sing louder and in more beautiful tones in order to drown them out. 

This is the only way I have attained any peace, any writing sanity.

The alternative is to end up with an office strewn with unfinished manuscripts, half-begun short stories and un-submitted poems.  Oh, we use all sorts of excuses to explain our unfinished business: fear of rejection, haven’t found the right editor, it’s already been said before, etc., etc.  Rejection is indeed difficult to take, and finding the right editor and publisher is key, but there is more than one editor/publisher out there and in this age of self-publishing and blogging, those two excuses fade like dandelions gone to seed.

As for the excuse that it’s already been said before [oh yes, writers think this sometimes!], perhaps it has.  Actually, yes, it has.  But it has never been said with your voice, your heart, your experience.  We are each unique and un-repeatable gifts, with something very valuable to offer the world.  Your voice, your pen – is very much needed.

So get out there and write!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

10 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 10: Haiku

Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric;
out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry. 
~ W.B. Yeats

The theme for today's Blogathon post is to pen a haiku.  According to Wikipedia, a haiku "is a very short form of Japanese poetry typically characterised by three qualities:
  • The essence of haiku is "cutting" (kiru).[1] This is often represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas[2] and a kireji or 'cutting word' between them, a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colours the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.[3]
  • Traditional haiku consist of 17 on (also known as morae), in three phrases of 5, 7, and 5 on respectively.[4] Any one of the three phrases may end with the kireji. Although haiku are often stated to have 17 syllables,[5] this is inaccurate as syllables and on are not the same.
  • A kigo (seasonal reference), usually drawn from a saijiki (歳時記), an extensive but defined list of such words. The majority of kigo, but not all, are drawn from the natural world. This, combined with the origins of haiku in pre-industrial Japan, has led to the inaccurate impression that haiku are necessarily nature poems."
But of course I like to colour outside of the lines.  So my haiku is 5-6-5.  Enjoy!

Within the circle
Freedom to fly away
Attached, love's anchor.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

09 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 9: Staring Down the Page

So often is the virgin sheet of paper more real than what one has to say,
and so often one regrets having marred it. 
~ Harold Acton, Memoirs of an Aesthete

The urge to write is always with me ~ a slow, agonizing burn just below the skin.  Unfortunately, the only times I attempt to cool the flames is when I am supposed to be doing something else!  Then I write, scribble, and underline like one gone mad.

Give me a whole day: ten or twelve pristine and unblemished hours and I can write. . . .nothing.  Not.  One.  Bloody.  Word.  No coherent thoughts, useable imagery or discernable feelings.  Nothing except the overwhelming urge to do anything but write!  I stare at the huge expanse of white paper and have a sudden urge to cook.  Or call up a friend.  Or go for a walk.  Or sleep.  Argh!  Why is that? 

A good writer needs not only raw talent, but plenty of self-discipline.  And good writing habits.  The number one of which is writing every day.  Hence my joining the Blogathon.  And yet here I am, three blank days haunting me!  And that only partly due to the imbibing of good alcohol over the weekend  ~ Saturday was the Kentucky Derby.

Friday I had two great ideas to blog about; Saturday the same.  But two late nights in a row went by with nary a word dripped upon the page.  When Sunday rolled around, I had lost all four ideas.  Mourn.  Weep. Gnashing of teeth.

Lucky for me, I had been doing my Morning Pages for enough time that I had the threads of other thoughts, lines of poetry, and snippets of ideas for other posts just waiting to be woven into a completely new idea.

So write every day, whether you post or not.  It may save writing face in the near future!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

05 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 5: Once Upon a Time. . .Where Stories Come From

Writing is a kind of double living.  The writer experiences everything twice. 
Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind. 
~ Catherine Drinker Bowen

This must a pleasant commute home for you tonight!”** 

The woman’s smile was rueful yet cheerful, her elongated “As” making me think of Michigan or Wisconsin.  “Where are y’all from,” I asked.  A small Wisconsin town [bingo!], population 1,800. 

Or was it 18,000?

I don’t remember.  Nor do I remember the name of the town.  We only struck up a conversation as I got off with their group of about eighty excited kids and cheerful adults at the same metro stop.  Too late to find out any really interesting details ~ why they were in D.C., was it their first trip, which school were they from, whether any of them were dairy farmers, etc.

Which is a shame.  Because that is one way stories are born.  By keeping ones eyes and ears open, observing the people, events, and landscape right in front of us.  Colourful regional expressions: y’all, yous guys, ya dair. Facial expressions: usually the metro ride consists of worn, exhausted, bored, and full out asleep.  Snippets of conversation ~ like I had with the Wisconsinites ~ that can be used as dialogue.  Or problems and issues discussed that can be worked into a story or poem. 

All writers use “prompts” ~ devices to get the grey cells brewing and the ink flowing.  But some of the best prompts are all around us.  We just have to stay awake long enough to pick them up.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

**My commute actually was pleasant for once. Their group was better behaved than most of the adult commuters I usually ride with!

04 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 4: Five Favorite Books

Except a living man there is nothing more wonderful than a book!  A message to us from the dead, - from human souls whom we never saw, who lived perhaps thousands of miles away; and yet these, on those little sheets of paper, speak to us, teach us, comfort us, open their hearts to us as brothers. 
~ Charles Kingsley

I love having lines ~ so I can colour outside them.  Today’s suggested Blogathon Theme: The Five Favorite Books on Writing.  A wonderful idea, except that I do not have five favorite books on writing.  I do not think I even have five books on writing at all!  I read a lot of writer-ly blogs and have taken a couple of creative writing courses.  And I do own a couple of books on the craft of writing.

But mostly I just read.

And great readers become good authors.  [Or so I’m told.]

It was a difficult choice, but here is a list of my Five Favorite Books of All Time in no particular order:

Brideshead Revisited [Evelyn Waugh] – A modern classic about faith, friendship and wine that “is heaven with strawberries.”  When I was an undergrad, about four or five of us would sit around in the evening after class, drinking tea and reading everything from England’s Literary Golden Years – both 18th and 20th century.  Oh to have that much free time to read again!  [By the way, Jeremy Irons is Charles Ryder and Anthony Andrews is Sebastian Flyte.  Any other movie version is dross next to their exquisitely acted piece.]

Pride and Prejudice [Jane Austen] – Do I really need to say anything here?  I wish more men would read Austen.  Her works are classic literature, written with style, grace and razor-edged wit.

Lord of the Rings [J.R.R. Tolkein] – The man created his own language. What more can I say?  It is an incredible work, which I read as a child and had no problem understanding or “getting into.”  I have encountered more than a couple of people who “didn’t get it” or thought it was boring.  Poor things.  I do not think they have any imagination at all!

Anne of Green Gables Series [L.M. Montgomery] – I was Anne, although my hair is  brown with auburn highlights.  During my junior high days, those books were a balm and an escape like no other books.  I have not re-read them in awhile ~ maybe it’s time to dust them off!

Room with a View [E.M. Forester] – I confess, I did not read the book until after I had seen the movie.  But I love them both!  And reading about Lucy Honeychurch’s adventures in Italy led me to read Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes [that movie was nothing like that book!] and dream of owning and renovating my own villa someday.  And that is part of what reading is for ~ to dream even bigger than we thought possible. 

Who knows, maybe those dreams will turn into words, and words into actions, and actions into habits and habits into our destiny.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What are your five favorite books of all time and why do you love them? Have they inspired you to dream big and follow your destiny?  Email me or drop a note in the comm box!

03 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 3: Morning Pages

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. 
~ Anaïs Nin

I am not a morning person.  So the idea of Morning Pages: getting up in the morning and filling up three pages with the first things that come to mind in long-hand is daunting.  Not that I mind writing long-hand ~ I have over fifteen pen pals that I write long-hand letters to and most of my blog posts begin in long-hand.

But filling up three pages?!  In the morning?!

I have tried it once.  It was a freeing experience.  But then I forgot about it, didn’t feel well, needed to meet a work deadline, blah, blah, blah.    So I plan to write them tomorrow  morning.  Every writing blog I follow that mentions Morning Pages swears by them: for emptying the mind, getting into the flow of writing [especially writing every day] and for putting on paper all those ideas for characters, poetry, articles, etc. that have been floating around in your head.

Wish me luck!

Oremuc pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

02 May 2011

Word Count Blogathon Day 2: Fighting Fear

I don't do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don't want to do. 
~ St. Paul, Romans 7:19

In this case, the good I want to do and do not do is write.  The evil thing I do not want to do but do anyway is procrastinate.  And yet, if I do not write, I suffer.  All those words, lines of poetry, lyrical sentences, article topics ~ they frolic around in my head, kick up a ruckus and clamour to get out and make a good night's rest practically impossible until I do so!

Writing is as natural as breathing to me. Why then do I continue to suffocate myself?


Fear of being imperfect.
Fear of being rejected.
Fear of being misunderstood.
Fear of being ignored.

As I have mentioned before, fear of being imperfect is a lie that blocks the real from taking root and blossoming.  How can we hope to become better writers, singers, painters, chefs, architects, etc., unless we write, sing, paint, cook, draw, etc.? 

We are such strange creatures.  We would rather stay in a wretched spot that is familiar then move to a Paradise we do not know.  An almost insane desire to stay in our comfort zone.  Don't get me wrong.  I understand change is difficult.  But that is why we have each other ~ for support, for encouragement, and for the unconditional acceptance.  Not just for the changes we are making, but for who we are right now.  And therein lies the secret. 

First I must accept who I am right now ~ a talented but procrastinating writer. And second, I must let go of fear.  It has been a familiar companion, but it is time we parted ways.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Are you still holding on to fear?  In what ways have you overcome your fears?  I love hearing from you!