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Writing it Down

 

Sometimes you just have to improvise, as a writer. My good friend, and fabulous
writer, Kay Jaybee always writes everything long hand before she transfers it on to the computer. I seldom do any more because generally speaking I can’t write fast enough to suit myself.  And more importantly, I can’t read my own hand writing. But sometimes needs must.

 

Last Thursday I found myself waiting for a friend in a coffee shop with a dead battery on my phone, no laptop, and the Muse poking me really hard in the ribs with her big stick. The friend was stuck in traffic, and here I was with time on my hands, a story to write, and not a damn thing to write it on. I couldn’t even find a napkin.

 

The Muse, however, does not take excuses under any circumstances, so I was forced to find another way to get the ideas down. There was a roll of blue paper towels — the kind sometimes used in bathrooms and for cleaning tables — sitting on the edge of the counter. When the barista wasn’t looking, I nabbed a couple of feet of it, dug a pen from the bottom of my day pack, and started to write.

 

An hour later, when it was clear my friend wasn’t going to make it before I had to leave, I had filled a good bit of my “scroll” with tiny, but not too terribly sloppy, chicken scratches. I had to slow down to keep from ripping the paper, and the resulting story, believe it or not has benefited. The claustrophobic, trapped, unable to move feeling I was hoping for comes across well on the medium of blue paper towel.

 

Inspired by the necessity of the situation, I have taken to carrying a small notebook in my day pack now. It’s a lot lighter than my laptop, and the feel of pen to paper does access my creative self differently. So far, I’ve managed to keep my handwriting relatively legible for easy transfer into the computer. I’m pleased, and better still, the Muse is pleased.

 

 

 

 

Falling in Love with Rodin All over again

 

 

Yes, I am a romantic to the core. Yes, you all know this by now. But I had the pleasure of being in “romantic heaven” on Sunday. Well, actually, it was the British Museum. And while any visit to the British Museum is a little slice of paradise, this particular visit was even more so because it was Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece.

 

 

 

 

One of my very favourite sculptures ever is Rodin’s The Kiss. And one of my very favourite exhibitions to visit regularly in the British Museum in the Elgin Marbles.

 

 

 

 

Imagine my delight when this special exhibition is an intermingling of the two with the focus on how the Parthenon and a trip to the British Museum influenced all of Rodin’s work.

 

 

 

 

Seeing the art of both set next to each other was a total delight. But best of all, was the wonderful insights into the heart of a creative genius by another creative genius, Rainer Maria Rilke, who was briefly Rodin’s secretary.

 

 

 

 

I guess you could say I was actually a little closer to romantic hell that I was heaven. I Much of Rodin’s work is an extension of his Gates of Hell, which was to be a representation of Dante’s Inferno. (Sadly other than a projection, only this clay representation of that masterpiece was on display. See the link for a better view)

 

 

 

 

For a better view and more details about Rodin’s Gates of Hell check out the Youtube link.

I was fascinated by the darkness that Rodin never shied away from in his work. As a writer, I feel it’s my duty also not to shy away from the darkness, even, maybe most especially, when I really want to.

 

 

 

 

The sculpture was commissioned in 1880 for a museum that was never built. But Rodin was so pulled into the effort, so inspired by it, that he continue to work on it and off until his death in 1917. Many of his most famous sculptures, including The Kiss and The Thinker (who was originally Dante sitting in the tympanum of the sculpture) were inspired by and taken from the Gates of Hell.

 

 

 

 

I was fascinated by the darkness that Rodin never shied away from in his work. As a writer, I feel it’s my duty also not to shy away from the darkness, even, maybe most especially, when I really want to.

 

 

 

 

That got me thinking that perhaps I am inspired by my own gates of hell. Perhaps we all are.

 

 

 

 

The recurring themes of darkness in my stories are, as was Rodin’s Gates of Hell, less about sin and punishment than they are about the human condition, my own condition, the fragmenting of self and the constant reworking of that self. Which raises a question I have often asked myself. Are we inspired by the darkness to seek out the light, or is it only the presence of the darkness that allows us to see the light at all?

 

 

 

Pole: More than a Physical Challenge

I’ve got a little under two months before the photo shoot that I’ve been blogging about and working toward almost

since this pole journey began. The past few weeks have been a roller coaster ride of confidence and lack thereof. I’m not alone in this. It seems to be common among the group of women I started pole with. All of us are signed up for the photo shoot as a way of gaging our progress. We’ve been training for ten months now – long enough to see major improvements in skill, strength and stamina, but also long enough to see just how far we have to go and to be impatient, sometimes disappointed, with ourselves that we’re not getting there faster. There are good days and there are bad days. There are days when it feels more like regress than progress.

 

Most of the time I don’t think about being twenty to thirty years older than almost everyone else in the studio. I know I’m fit, I know I am holding my own, even doing fairly well. Most of the time I’m just focused on meeting the challenge of the day. But what to wear for the photo shoot has brought my age neurosis back to me with a vengeance. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that skin contact with the pole is necessary to perform some of the more difficult moves. Wearing less and less clothing to compensate for more and more complex moves has been, and still is, one of my biggest challenges. Most of us start beginning pole in our sweats and tee shirts, and if we stick with it, the process becomes a slow, and sometimes, reluctant strip tease. As we learn and improve, we move to leggings, then to shorts, then to racer back tops we can tuck into our sports bras when we need belly for grip. Then finally the day dawns when we graduate to pole shorts and tops, with not much more coverage than a bikini, and we just get on with it. And here’s me in all my vanity wanting to look good and fearing being judged for not looking twenty no matter how good I look.

 

Yes, it’s only my neuroses that have me feeling this way. I’ve never worked with a more encouraging, more non-judgmental group of women. The camaraderie has made the journey nearly as much fun as the challenge of the sport itself. The difficulty of learning pole and the strength it demands has been a great equalizer. We all know what it has costs in terms of bruises, pain, sweat and tears to get to where we are now. So that means as much of the battle to become skilled at pole is dealing with my own repeated crises of confidence as it is learning technique. The truth is, of the two battles, the one that goes on in my head is by far the more difficult. And when you’re the old lady in the group, you’ve had a helluva lot more time to fill your head with neuroses and irrational doubts and fears.

 

Owning my age is one of the wonderful things that has come from my pole training. I’ve made an amazing discovery. There is no downhill slide once you pass the age of fifty and find yourself looking sixty smack dab in the eyeballs. There is, however, a paradigm shift – or can be if we’re willing to open ourselves to the possibilities. I was fearless when I was younger, back before I had been battered about by the world a few times. But the older I get, the more I fear. That seems to be common when you’re our age. God how I hate that phrase! It’s like the excuse to end all excuses, the get out of jail free card, the “let you off the hook” disclaimer for everyone over forty – as if the rules no longer apply. As if it’s now time to coast our way on into the end zone with as little effort as possible.

 

The paradigm shift comes when we’re bold enough to say, fuck it, I’m just going for it! Whatever ‘it’ is. There’s another kind of fearlessness that happens as I approach sixty. I’ve battled my own version of ageism long enough to know that most of what I fear is never going to happen, and it’s going to be a long boring journey to the grave if I let those fears of being our agecontrol me.

 

The push, the challenge, becomes to live in the moment, to live urgently and boldly, to remind myself when doubt rears its ugly head that age is just a number. It is NOT who I am. I’ve been on this fitness journey long enough to realize that the bumps and bruises and aches and pains as well as the challenges met and the triumphs celebrated are an outward manifestation of the deeper journey going on inside me. The slow strip tease, the exposure of skin – bruised and abraded, and not as supple as it once was, goes so much deeper than muscle and bone. It becomes the laying bare, the exposing, of the inner wounds and bruises, the deep seated fears that I’ve kept hidden away. It is a viewing of myself more clearly, a loving of who I am and what I’m becoming more completely. It is perhaps learning to be more gentle with myself even as I push myself harder than I ever have before. Oh, it doesn’t mean that the battles are over, that I am still not filled with doubts, still not afraid of the challenges ahead of me, still don’t want to run away and hide underneath my duvet. But it means I’ve had some success at pushing through the fears, and success breeds more success — something worth reminding myself of every day.

 

The wonderful surprise of it all is that I’m stronger, fitter, more sure of myself now than I ever was in my twenties. And the even bigger surprise is that I keep getting more so. My skill improves with my strength and stamina, and with those my confidence and my view of the world as a place full of possibilities, until I can honestly say, and mean, life is better at fifty-nine than it ever was when I was twenty or thirty. The paradigm shift is a reminder that I get to choose. I get to embrace this journey and move forward in spite of my fears, because overcoming those fears, one step at a time, one challenge at a time is truly what it means to be fearless.

 

In Praise of Reading Shamelessly

From the archives

 

No doubt you’ve all seen the checklists that periodically go around with must-read books, or the hundred best books of all time, or the checklists that test how well read you are. Honestly, who can resist? And who can resist possibly even cheating just a little bit and ticking the boxes of a couple of the ones we’ve not actually read, but maybe we’ve started, then got bogged down and finally just gave up and watched the movie or the mini series instead. Oh come on! Admit it! I’ve done it. Being thought of as erudite, well read and worldly is just so damned appealing.

 

There’s a link on List Challenges that goes around on Facebook periodically to another such list. But this list contains the titles of ‘books you’ll never brag about having read.’Some of them are just mindless guilty pleasures and smutty bonk busters. Some of them are infamous for being poorly written, but making their authors a mint. What writer isn’t a little green around the gills where those books are concerned? Some of them were the trend of the day — all the rage one week, forgotten the next. Some of them were written by people who were once admired, but have now fallen from grace. Some of them are rubber-necking books – you know the type – literary train wrecks and gossip fests just too juicy to resist. Some of them had me scratching my head and wondering why they were even on this list at all – especially when I could think of a few of my own I’d have added if I’d been making up the list.

 

Of course I had to test myself and felt slightly smug that I’d only read six. Yup! That’s me, Social Media folks! I pat myself on the back, I stick my nose in the air! I read only the highest quality literature. As for those six, well everyone lapses a little now and then, right?

 

But the lovely refreshing surprise that really got me thinking about what we read and why, was that most of the people who responded to my sharing this link on Facebook were unabashedly unashamed of reading their share of the books on this list. It’s reading, rights? These very smart people realize that. Whether it’s a bonk bust or a train wreck, the power of the written word is totally awesome! It’s an eye on the world that’s nothing less than magical.

 

The world we experience in the rarified air of what’s considered great literature is no more the real world than the one we get when we read fluff ‘n’ stuff. Reading isn’t now, nor has it ever been a reality check. If anything it’s the ultimate escape, the voyeur’s view into how the other half lives. It’s the opportunity to be entertained, titillated and even occasionally transformed. Being educated and well read is a thing we all treasure, and rightly so. But the experience of the written word is as much about pop culture and gossip and trends and history unfolding in all it’s marred, messed-up glory as it is about being educated. In fact, it seems to me that there is a point of cross-over that we can’t really afford to miss if for no other reason than because it’s a part of our culture, a part of the world we live in — bonk busts, bunny fluff, woo-woo and all. Besides, we need the escape, we need the view from outside ourselves. Guilty pleasures are often the best, and they’re never better than when we feel we should be reading Dickens, but end up reading Dan Brown over a pint of chocolate ice cream consumed straight out of the container.

 

Don’t get me wrong, some of my best, most life-changing reads have been classics, and they were wonderful and
transforming, and I see them as mile-markers in my life. But I have my own list of fluff, woo-woo and mindless pulp novels, my own dirty little secret reading list, and I’m fine with that. Those books make me feel good when nothing else will. The fact that I can read, that I do read, that everything is out there for me to read; the fact that the written-word, no matter how shallow or forgettable is still the written word, well that’s nothing short of wonderful. At the end of the day, reading is an activity worthy of respect in its own right. The fact that we DO read is of far greater value than just how highbrow the reads on our checklist are.

 

Getting Scribal

 

We writers of fiction often play god creating both characters and plot and setting that created world in motion to see what happens, to even control what happens. We actually get to look inside the heads of our characters and see what’s going on there, what motivates, what inspires, what frightens, what excites. In a lot of ways that’s the norm. That’s what the writing life is supposed to be like, that’s supposed to be our experience as we plot the story and shape our characters.

 

But in every good writing experience I’ve ever had, in almost every novel I’ve ever written, there comes a point when I stop being the creator, when I stop telling the characters what’s going to happen and how they’ll react to it. There comes a point, a certain threshold – usually when I’m most deeply into the world I’ve created, when the characters rise up and rebel. They stop being my puppets and they start telling me exactly how it’s going to be. They make it very clear to me that I have been demoted from god, creator of the fictional world and all who live in it to … well … to a glorified secretary and little more. They tell me what to write and I don’t argue. I just write, because at that point, they know what’s best.

 

OK, the position is actually a bit more glamorous than that of a secretary because my characters now drag me along, whether my bag is packed or not, to wherever the plot takes them and through whatever twists and turns unfold in the process. I become the war correspondent reporting the action on the front. I become the Scribe, responsible for recording the facts, responsible for writing the truth as my characters see it. I also become their advocate. It becomes my job to speak for the character to the readers, to make sure the readers ‘get them’ and their plight.

 

The Scribe! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what that means, especially as I work on the Medusa’s Consortium series in which the roll of the scribe becomes a lot more important. I’ve been trying out that position, opening myself to the idea of being prepared for anything. The result has been several stories I’ve shared with you on this blog, as well as some highly imaginative incidents that may or may not have involved strong drink, too little sleep, and a sense of humor that is most active when the imagination is stimulated. The story of the storyteller is another story within itself. The storyteller, the novelist, the war correspondent, the reporter, are all quite often used as plot devices that frame the story. In fact the story within a story, the plot within a plot, the play within a play is as old as Shakespeare and probably older. It’s old because it works. It works because it give more dimension and also allows the Scribe a little bit of
distance, a little bit of space to say, while pointing the finger, ‘Hey, it wasn’t my idea! They told me to say it! It’s their fault, not mine!’ If ever there was license for a writer to misbehave with abandon, I’d say the Scribe is it. So, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. My Medusa novels, Blindsided as well as In The Flesh are both Scribe stories, in which our scribe, Susan Innes takes center stage. Encounter in a Dry Canyon and the encounters with Alonso Darlington as well as the lady in the sunglasses, (and you all now know that this lady will be putting me through my
paces for a long time to come) are all examples of the writer as Scribe, of the writer only there to observe and tell the characters’ stories.

Being a Scribe for the characters and events of an intriguing story means that I, the writer, gets the hell out of the way and let the characters tell the story, let them guide me through the events as they unfold. If I’m not in the way, the story is one step closer to its purest form, colored by the characters views of events and experiences rather than my own, and that has to be the difference between Nescafe and a freshly made, triple espresso with whipped cream on top!

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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