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Reflections from Face Book Prison

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The Face Book Police

 

jail cell

 

 

I’m doing my time in Face Book prison at the moment, carving my name on the unassailable walls with a
rusty ink pen nib next to the names of all those who have gone before me. I was incarcerated without a fair trial and, though I’ve made some pretty good guesses as to why I’m blocked from many of my groups, I can get no actual response from Face Book. I’m told that the usual sentence is two weeks, so I’m halfway through.

It’s strange, this Face Book Prison. I can comment and share pics and updates on my own page with no problems, but with all of the groups to which I belong, I can only see the posts and press my nose to the window longingly while I offer up only a feeble little ‘Like.’

I suppose it’s a writer thing, working in isolation as we do, but the pull of social media is a powerful one. That’s not too surprising since it’s a way of building and having community that we otherwise wouldn’t get. Plus, best of all, it’s words! We writers can all interact with each other in short little status updates and tweets and have meaningful conversations and share witty banter while safely and comfortably seated at home in our jammies. It’s introvert paradise. It allows us to talk about writing and books with lots of other introverted writers for hours on end. We writers are notorious for considering every word we put on the page precious. Yes we may have to ‘cut’ those precious words in the final draft, BUT we never throw them away! We just cannibalise them for the next work or the one after that. And yet, thousands of words are lost to us every single day, set adrift in status updates and tweets to end up somewhere out there in the cold outer reaches of cyberspace.

Words treated carelessly – that’s one of the side effects of social media, I think. Words are way more Book stacksthrowaway now than they’ve ever been in a history that’s treated words pretty precious because they tell stories, they tell our story! Now stories are nipped and snipped to status updates and 140 character tweets. Oh, the story is still there. It just has to be unpacked and teased out, and tomorrow it’ll be lost and forgotten.

What does that have to do with Face Book Prison? Well as much as anything it means I’ve been forced back into a world where words are creatures of leisure, words are a little bit more precious and treated with a little bit more respect. I’ve been forced back into a world where words line up to in long serpentine queues to tell their story and they take their own sweet time to do it. Anticip-a-a-ation. They’re making me wait, and the wait is bloody well worth it!

The thing is, as much as I enjoy the interaction, and I truly do, I have to admit that I’m really enjoying the enforced time with my own thoughts, time to allow my own enormous collection of words to come out and play. And strangely enough, in the midst of all those wild frolicking words, I’ve taken incredible pleasure in the silence. I had no idea that Face Book was such a loud place, but then it makes sense that
social media, by the very act of being social is psychologically loud. I had nearly forgotten that in the Writing pen and birds 1_xl_20156020midst of all my words there could be such delicious silence.

I miss my friends in the groups. Efforts have been made to send files hidden in cakes, but the Face Book
police are far to savvy for that. Though I do appreciate the efforts. I just want to tell everyone on the outside that it’s not so bad to be temporarily banned for crimes I would have enjoyed a helluva lot more if I’d only know what they were. I miss the connection, but in its absence, I’ve been reminded of other connections, creative connections that don’t come in status updates and tweets and, while I’ll be glad to be welcomed back into the fold, I don’t want to forget the frolic and gambol of words and the way they come in their own time in their own way, and I don’t want to forget the exquisite silence in between that connects them all so seamlessly and gives me a place to rest a bit and regroup.

 

My Life is in My Dropbox!

Writing imageThursday my life flashed before my eyes. It was the first time it had ever happened, and I hope like hell it’s the last. The first thing that struck me was that it was nothing like I’d thought it would be. There were no memories of my childhood, no memories of getting married or moving off on my own to Croatia. There were no memories of falling in love or of my favorite trips, nor the major milestones in my life. It still gives me cold chills thinking about it. It was intimations of my worst nightmare. I never thought it would be like it was. Though now, looking back, I can’t imagine how I would have expected it to be otherwise.

Due to complications installing a new operating system on my computer, which I won’t go into, I ended up having every file in my Dropbox deleted. Now, before you tell me not to worry, there are ways to get it all back, let me just say that I know that now. I knew that even as it was happening. BUT all of those ways of recovering data are only theories until you put them to the test, and then you have to be in a calm logical state of mind in order to be able to do that. I was neither calm nor logical as I prepared to continue with my WIP and opened a completely empty Dropbox. I back up everything – EVERYTHING in the whole universe, I back up! I’m fanatical about back ups. And where do I back it all up? On the f*cking Dropbox!!! AND NOWHERE ELSE!!!!! You see where I’m going with this? Panic sets in when the 135,000 word manuscript you’ve just completed disappears along with every picture you’ve ever taken, Drop box image imagesevery word you’ve ever written of any sort. ANY sort, for the past five years.

To give you a bit of perspective, I wrote The Initiation of Ms Holly in 2010. Since then I’ve written literally millions of words – some of them novels, some of them blog posts that I’m rather fond of, some
of them short stories, poems, novellas, even the odd navel gaze. There are stories and story ideas that have never lived anywhere outside cyberspace, but I hope they will someday. There are pictures of holidays, of veg gardens we’ve planted, of long walks we’d taken on the Downs in every season at every time of day. Words! There are literally millions of words that I’ve written, and suddenly they were all gone!

Recovery happened, as the tiny part of me that wasn’t vacillating somewhere between total panic and growing despair, knew that it would and, at the end of the day, all was well. I’d lost nothing. I was even able to recover the efforts of that morning. The point is that the fear that I might have lost all my words was an eye-opening experience for me. It was a huge insight into how I define myself and how I judge the value of my life.

For good or for ill, I define myself by the words and the pictures in my Dropbox. That’s what it boils Writing pen and birds 1_xl_20156020down to; that’s me stripped to the bare bones. And for a terrifying few minutes I was no one.

No one …

When I think about it now with all my words back safely where they belong, I can’t quite get my head around what I felt. There are words in the Bible meant to describe Christ. Most of you know that I came from a conservative Christian background about a hundred years ago, but these two passages transcend my faith or lack thereof and speak to the heart of the writer on a much deeper level than they might to anyone else.

 

For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to
the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

 

And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

John 1:14

 

Words are more than just a collections of sounds that allow us to communicate. Words have power, like a sword, like a scalpel, to discern thoughts and intents. And words, in the hands of a writer become flesh and dwell among us. For a writer – certainly for me, they become my flesh, and they become the flesh of the characters with which I people my stories. They dwell in me as surely as if they were alive, and they do often discern the thoughts and intents of my heart, without me even realizing that’s what they’re Scribe computer keyboardMG_0777doing. Words are my companions, my guides, my friends; words are the mirror through which I view myself. For my whole life it’s always felt like the more words I write, the more clear the reflection of self in that mirror becomes. Navel gazing much???

Even as I write this, I’m well aware of just how neurotic it sounds to define myself by my words, and a
part of what happened in that short time without my words was an internal battle for points of reference, for other ways to define myself, which at that moment, I couldn’t even imagine existed. The point is the value of words – my words – to me can’t be overstated. I live with them close and personal every day of my life, and most days I bring home a few more to live with me. Losing my words, even for just that short amount of time before logic could kick in, before I could regain enough equilibrium to know that wasn’t going to happen, was like losing myself. How can I define myself without my Dropbox full of words? Who am I without those points of reference? Of course it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, had I lost all my words, but I promise you as sure as I’m sitting here, it would have felt like it.

 

The Shameless Selfie!

Me and the Battle Rope bondingI love taking selfies, don’t you? I’ve taken tons of them during our trip to Scotland and since. I have an iPhone 6 Plus, so my screen is big enough I can take a really good, really shameless, shameless selfie. Though I do find that with group selfies my arm’s not quite long enough, so whoever has the longest arm – usually Hubby, gets the honours. I’m still not up for carrying around that extra piece of kit, the selfie stick – and really, doesn’t that sound just a little bit rude? Come to think of it ‘taking a selfie’ doesn’t sound much better, though I suppose it’s better than asking the person with the longest arms to do a selfie for you.

Let’s face it, we all want to see ourselves and, as cool as photos are, 2015-09-19 15.22.31they’re either a good view of ourselves, in our opinion, or not, and then … well that’s just too damn bad because they’re a done deal and they’re out the for the world to see. But with selfies we’re in control of the view. We can take piccies of ourselves doing interesting things with interesting people in interesting places whenever we want. And if we don’t like the way they make our ears stick out or our teeth look big, we can simply press delete and try again. In writerly terms, we get to edit ourselves!

2015-08-26 15.57.48I’m not even talking about sexy selfies! That’s another matter entirely, although I seriously think my selfie with the battle ropes is pretty sizzlin’. J Did you check out those guns??? Me with the sea, me with an ancient yew tree, me with my sister, me with Hubby, me at Glen Coe with the icy breeze tossing my hair. You get the picture. In fact, if you’re my friend on Facebook or a follower on Twitter, you quite literally get the picture! Everyone gets the picture. That’s the point! Selfies give us all a chance to put our best face forward for the whole social media world to see. It is a bit exhibitionist, sharing selfies with the world, but it’s easier than a trench coat and the iPhone is considerably easier to stuff in my bag when I’m done with it. Plus the self-editing capabilities with a trench coat are pretty much non-existing.

I take most of my pictures – selfies or otherwise – on my iPhone now 2015-06-30 10.33.06because it takes such great shots, and because it’s always handy. I find that being able to take a photo in an instant is a great way to ‘collect’ story inspiration. I just snap the shot that inspires, bring it back home with me and file it away until I need it. But the selfie is the best bit. I now have an amazing tool that always puts me in context wherever I am and no matter what that context may be. Everyone needs to be reminded of their context from time to time and, frankly, I think it’s even more essential to writers, who are so often living in their heads in another context entirely.

There surely has to be some serious psychological implications about
the urge to snap a selfie, especially when you consider that everything a writer writes and shares publically is, at least to some degree, a selfie. As I said, the advent of the smartphone making the selfie possible has Scribe computer keyboardMG_0777allowed us all to nurture that little bit of exhibitionist inside each of us, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think the selfie allows us a more effective navel gaze into ourselves, into the lives we live, what we like, what makes us laughs, what we especially want the rest of the world to know about us. A selfie is a way of telling a story about ourselves in an instant. But even with the exhibitionist factor and the
immediacy of the medium, I still get to choose whether or not to share the shot in which my nose looks like Mount Blanc or whether or not to delete the shot in which the hips look like tug boats or, more importantly, whether or not to share the shot that’s, quite frankly, just too raw, just a little too much context.

How amazing is that? The selfie! We can tell an instant story about ourselves in an instant, but we get a little psycho-analysis in the process in seeing what we choose to share and what we choose to delete. Selfies! Good for the creative process, good for socializing and good for our mental health too!

 

Small Flashlight, Big Darkness

I’m sharing a little something from the Archives with you today, because I’ve been truly In The Zone the past few coming up from the depths
days and when I’m not writing like a mad woman, I’m thinking about characters, about plot, about why what’s happening needs to happen. That all brings me back to the intense, sometimes frightening, position we writers all face  on a regular basis — shining a small flashlight into our big 
darkness. (This post first appeared, with modifications, on the ERWA blog October 2012)

Today’s post is a hard one for me to settle into because it could so easily devolve into navel gazing, and one of the promises I made to myself and to my readers back when I wrote my very first ever blog post was that I would keep the navel gazing to a minimum. There must be a gazillion writer and write-hopefuls blogging, and each one is convinced that their journey to writing success is totally unique and must be shared. Well maybe not each one, maybe I’m only speaking for myself, in which case, I blush heartily and apologise.

My point is that all of the energy, angst, fear, adrenaline, exploration of dark places, exploration of forbidden places that used to go into the pages and pages of that gargantuan navel-gaze that was my journal now go through that strange internal filtering process that takes all my many neuroses and insecurities, all my deep-seated fears, all my misplaced teenage angst and magically transforms them into story.

That was sort of my little secret — that I alone, in all the world, suffered uniquely and exquisitely for my art. I took all the flawed and wounded parts of myself, parts I wasn’t comfortable facing, examined them reflected through the medium of story and found a place where I could view them and not run away screaming.

Where is all this borderline navel-gazing leading? There was a BBC article some time ago asking the question, is creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness?’ I shared it on Facebook and Twitter to find that lots of other writers had shared it as well and the general response was simply that it sounded about right. There were some very moving conversations that came out of those sharings of that article along with the realization — something I’ve long suspected — that I am not all alone out there in my vibrant unique neurotic bubble. And really, it comes as no surprise that one has to be at least a little neurotic to be ballsy enough to try to bring, in one form or another, what lives in our imagination into the real world and to attempt to put it out there for everyone to see. Or secret exhibitionist is alive and well.

As the article was shared around and the responses mounted, I found myself thinking of C.G. Jung’s archetype of the Wounded Healer. The healer can only ever heal in others what she herself is suffering from. The archetype of the storyteller is alive and well. And I believe writers live out the archetype of the wounded healer on a daily basis. Empathy goes much deeper than sympathy. The human capacity for story is as old as we are. Before the written word, story was the community archive. It was our memory of who we are, our history, our continuity, our triumphs, trials, sufferings, joys, all memorised, filed away, and kept safely in the mind of the story teller. That had to do something to your head, knowing that you were the keeper of the story of your people! How could storytellers be anything other than neurotic?

It’s a lot more personal now that we have the written word. No one has to dedicate their lives to memorising the story of their people. It’s just as well because that story has become way too expansive for one person to ever manage in many lifetimes. Now we tell our own story, the story of the internal battles that wound us, the story of those wounds
transformed. We all tell our stories in our own personal code. What may well start out as a navel gaze into the deep dark wilderness of Self can be transformed into powerful, vibrant story, and we’re healed! At least temporarily, or at Writing imageleast we’re comforted. And hopefully so are those with whom we share our stories. When I journalled my navel-gazes, I wasn’t interested in anyone else seeing what was on those pages. It was a one-sided attempt at a neurotic house-cleaning. Sharing the story is a part of the healing; sharing the story is a part of the journey. The Storyteller had no purpose if she didn’t share the story with her people.

Most of the time I write my stories because I can’t NOT do it, and it’s a lot of fun. That’s the truth of it. I seldom consciously dig deep to find those wounded, neurotic places. Really, who would want to do that deliberately? But the wounded places find me, and they end up finding their way into the story. And what surfaces is never quite what I expected, always more somehow, even if started out to be nothing more than a little ménage in a veg patch.

 

Inspiration, Take Me! I’m Yours!

(Parts of this post come from a guest post I wrote for Tina Donahue in 2011)

 

Writing imageIt’s elusive, it’s mysterious, it’s exhilarating, and we erotic writers crave it more than the sex we write about. We chase it shamelessly, we long for it passionately, we would gladly make ourselves slaves to its every whim, and no matter how fickle it is, we always welcome it back with open arms. When it’s with us, it’s at least as good as the best sex. And when it’s not, we mourn its loss like a lover. I’m talking about inspiration, of course. It’s the breath of life for every story ever written and the coveted ethereal presence that every writer yearns for.

The mythological link to inspiration is especially interesting to me in the light of a life-long fascination with mythology. Half of my novels and at least that many of my short stories and novellas find their inspiration in mythology or fairy tales of some sort. I’m writing an online serial, In The Flesh and my present WIP, Buried Pleasures, both have their roots in mythology.

Greek mythology – mythology of any kind, really — is fabulous inspiration for writers. The gods are always dipping their wicks where they don’t belong and finding ever more creative ways to do so. Nine months later, viola! A magical child is born, a child with gifts that will be needed to save the world, or at least a little part of it. But there’s one story that always comes to my mind where the lovely virgin resists, and no wick-dipping occurs. That’s the story of Apollo and Daphne.

The Muses serve Apollo, so of course this myth interests me. Apollo is the god of light and the sun; truth and prophecy; medicine, healing, and plague. He is the god of music, poetry, and the arts; and all intellectual pursuit. If ever there was a wick we writers would like to be dipped by, it surely has to be Apollo. Daphne is a mountain nymph and not interested in giving up her virginity to some randy god. While Apollo is pursuing her, she prays to her father, who is a river god, and he turns her into a laurel tree. Ovid claims it’s not Daphne’s fault that she’s not hot for Apollo right back. He claims that Cupid, who is angry at Apollo shoots Daphne with a leaden arrow, which prevents her from returning Apollo’s feelings. But what matters is that she misses out on Apollo’s inspiration.

My theory is that the whole mythology of gods coming down from Olympus, or wherever else gods come down from, to seduce humans is really nothing more than a metaphor for inspiration.

Consider all the different forms in which Zeus visits his paramours. He takes the form of a swan with Leta, he visits leda Cornelis_Bos_-_Leda_and_the_Swan_-_WGA2486Danae in a shower of gold coins, he approaches Europa as a white bull. Writers understand that inspiration can take absolutely any shape, and often the very shape we least expect.

The gods aren’t always gentle in their seductions. Hades drags Persephone off to the underworld screaming and kicking all the way. Zeus turns Io into a white cow, who is tortured and tormented by Hera. In the form of an eagle, he abducts Ganymede and drags him away to Mount Olympus. Writers know well that inspiration doesn’t always come in a gentle form. In fact one of my creative writing teachers used to advise her students to go to the place inside themselves that most frightened them, most disgusted them, most disturbed them, and that’s the place where they would find inspiration, that’s the place from which their writing would be the most powerful.

I’m quite disturbed by the journey In The Flesh is taking me on. It’s the story of a demonic spirit who is irresistable, and insatiable, and gives everything he promises his lovers and more. But the price of passion beyond imagining is high. Of course he’s just a scary stalker bastard with divine powers, but at the same time, I go right a long with the dangerous, even deadly, seduction of Susan. Would you??? I would. Or at least I think I would. Obsession is a harsh master, and not always the giver of rewards promised. Though at the end of the day, most of us would gladly pay the price for inspiration.

Whether inspiration comes in gentle, beautiful forms or whether it drags us kicking and screaming and tears us from limb to limb, the result will be something greater than what it sprang from. From the seductions of the gods, the children born were always larger than life. They were heroes and monsters and fantastical creatures, but they were all born of that joining of divinity and humanity, they were all the result of what happens when something greater penetrates the blood and the bone and the grey matter of our humanity. What comes from that inspiration may indeed be monstrous or fantastical, but it will always be, in the mythical sense, born of the gods.

Which leads me back to Daphne and Apollo. The cost of inspiration is the loss of innocence. We are seduced, we are penetrated, we are impregnated with something new, something fresh, something possibly even frightening, something that we, as writers must carry to term and give birth to. But none of that can happen without yielding to the seduction. Daphne became a tree, unable to move, unable to think, unable to ever be penetrated or inspired. One can only imagine what may have resulted from the willing union with the god of light and truth and poetry and the arts and all the things we writers crave. I’ll be honest, I fantasize about Apollo. I fantasize about inviting him right on in and saying I’m yoursApolloDaphne Wickipedia450px-ApolloAndDaphne. I’ll take all you can give me, and please, feel free to stay as long as you like. Though, in truth, in my fantasy, I skip the dangerous and scary bits. And encounters with inspiration can often be dangerous and scary. I think it’s probably Apollo who inspired my demon lover – a terrifying version of divine inspiration.

There’s a cost to inspiration. It’s the obsession we all know as writers, the one that won’t allow us to think about anything else in the waking world and sometimes even in the dream world until we get the very last word down, until we make it shine exactly the way we conceived it, exactly the way it penetrated us. My heart is racing just writing this because every writer knows what it feels like, and every writer lives for it to happen again and again and again. So yeah, forget the tree rubbish, laurel or otherwise. Inspiration, take me, I’m yours. Have your way with me. I couldn’t be more willing if I tried.

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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