Just Enough Turbulence To Make It Interesting….

I love to fly, although for the life of me I can’t figure out why.  Other than the momentary rush of adrenaline that coincides with the moment that you actually part company with the ground, most of these trips are spent staring vacantly into the back of the seat in front of you, the only excitement being the arrival of the snack cart and hoping you don’t pitch your Diet Coke into the lap of the guy in the business suit snoring away in the next seat.  Beyond that, there isn’t much to get excited about.

The only thing that breaks up the boredom and provides a thrill, however momentary, is the occasional bout of turbulence; you know, where the plane hits a bit of wind or rough air and jostles you about, creating an uncomfortable silence in the unwarranted (but very real) anticipation of screaming downwards to certain, fiery death.  Turbulence has a way of shaking up the mundane.  You never know when it’s coming, it may be mild, or it may cause the craft to take an unearthly plunge that causes you to begin making all kinds of deals with God that you both know will be abandoned the moment things straighten out again.

But you have to admit, the turbulence does make the ride infinitely more interesting.  It’s not something we welcome, and in extreme cases it can make for some rather unfortunate results, but it is unavoidable and serves to stir the puddin’ from time to time.

So it is with life.  Many of us, this author included, tend to get our knickers in a twist when things in life go awry, but the other option is going through life staring at the back of the seat in front of us, which we have already established as ten of the most boring activities you’ll ever know.  Turbulence in our lives, those unforeseen, unpredictable shakeups that turn everything on its ear and make us look at life differently should be looked at healthily, as a welcome diversion from mediocrity.

I’m no Biblical scholar, but Scripture tells us to “count it all joy” when troubles come our way, because the testing produced through such produces character, deepens faith, and strengthens resolve.  For those of us in the arts, it also makes for incredible moments of inspiration….just look at the number of movies, books, and songs based on love lost through heartache, separation, or death.

Life has sometimes been referred to as everything that happens on the way to our goals.  Reaching a goal is nice, to be sure, but often the trip getting there is far more interesting.  The unexpected twists, turns, and drops that we encounter shape us, making us who we are and defining our lives, dreams, personalities, expectations, and even talents.

If you’re reading this, then chances are that you are a writer of some sort, like me.  Unless you have lived life, then you aren’t going to have much to write about.  And spending your days staring at the back of the seat in front of you doesn’t exactly make for much in the way of inspiration.  Every bump in the road deepens us a little more, better defines us as people, and for the writer, provides a font of inspiration to draw from.

Learn to find opportunity in the storms of your life.  That doesn’t mean we wish disaster upon ourselves or anything of the sort, but sometimes just enough turbulence to keep things interesting can make for good things in our lives.  It’s really a simple process……live it, learn from it, and then put it on paper in some form for the rest of us.

Now go therefore and write well…..

The Write Element….

So you’re a writer.  Perhaps you’re a staff writer like me, writing articles and copy to support a given company.  Or perhaps you’re a storyteller, a weaver of tales, stimulating the mind and imagination with wondrous stories of character, drama, romance, and adventure.

No matter what area of writing you work in, there is an element of creativity involved, that inspirational muse that is so often elusive but that we must capture and wrestle with in order to produce really good material.  Capturing that inspiration may prove problematic, and many times it involves finding the creative environment from which we are best able to work.

For me, I was given little choice.  Working for a company means a certain number of hours per day, and being there during a given time.  Trying to produce a good work between 9AM and 5PM when your daily creative peak is typically between 10PM and 2AM often leaves me in somewhat of a literary pickle.

Fortunately, I found a good compromise, as my employer was very flexible on when we worked our hours.  Gradually, I became a morning person, usually arriving at the office very early, 2 or 3 hours before anybody else starts showing up.  I rapidly discovered that I was able to get a lot done during that time.  Once other bodies began inhabiting the premises, it is far easier to be distracted and jolted out of your creative zone.

You may not be confined by an offsite office….you may have the luxury of working from your home, on your own terms.  I did this for over twenty years, and I discovered that it is still important to maintain some level of isolation from various distractions.  My then-wife would often ask me to come help with the kids or laundry or some other household chore during my work hours.  I had to remind her that I was working and request that interruptions cease unless somebody had an artery bleeding out or something generally as urgent.

If I am away from work and working on my own material, I like to find a good, inviting area to work.  I particularly enjoy coffee shops, even though I don’t drink coffee, the atmosphere is usually agreeably subdued, and the surroundings lend themselves to inspiration.

Okay, now you have your space….so what do you do with it?  Fortunately, my co-workers and I agree on one thing….keeping the office dark.  There are no lights except for what comes in through the windows, creating a subdued and relaxed atmosphere that I find very easy to work in.  You on the other hand, may want your space lit up like the midday sun.  It’s whatever trips your creative trigger, my friend.

I know plenty of writers who enjoy listening to music when they write.  I’m a big music lover, heck it’s what I spent twenty years on the road doing, but I cannot listen to music when I’m trying to be creative.  That which I love so much becomes a distraction.  I prefer to work in silence, while I know of others who like the stereo up, the TV in the background, basically as much sensory overload as possible.

On the other hand, I do enjoy music when I am concentrating on the more technical end of things, such as editing a piece or posting links.  That’s when I’m likely to put on the earphones and tune out the world.

Is there a set amount to write every day?  I try to do around 3000 to 4000 words a day, but then I’m on a salary and I have to give the company something for what they are paying me.  You may not be so encumbered with such matters.  I personally suggest trying to write something every day, even if it’s only a story or article idea, a line of dialogue, something.  Many times, just writing a little snippet is enough to get you into a creative groove, which you should ride for as long as it lasts, for you never know when it’s going to come again.

So where are we going with this?  I’m trying to say that there is no set in stone rule as to how you should write, or when, or where.  Writing is not like an assembly line where you can go into a productive trance at 9 and snap out of it at 5 and go home.  No, writing is a strange, wonderful, mystical, inspiring, infuriating, encouraging, frustrating process that requires all of the “write elements” for you to be successful.  Find that magical combination of elements that work for you, that bring out the best you have to offer creatively.  The world is waiting to see what wondrous works will be produced as a result.

Now go therefore and write well….

Creative Writing – A Rant…..

I just got finished editing an article that was sent to me.  The subject?  Getting started in creative writing.  The author of this article believed wholeheartedly that the only way to carve out a genuine career in creative writing was to go to school for it.  After rereading and tweaking the article for editorial purposes several times, I am now faced with the problem of replacing all the office furniture I destroyed in the process.

Call me eccentric (God knows I’ve been called worse), but I have a hard time subscribing to the theory that creativity is something that can be taught from a book.  There has to be something there to build on in the first place.  You can teach somebody to draw a circle, but it is a whole nother concept to transform that circle into a globe, a planet, a world of your own creation, with a reality that you manipulate, characters that you breathe life into, and the orchestration of those lives through the strokes of a pen or keyboard (pick your poison).

I remember a few years ago when our church hosted some musical guests, a husband and wife opera duo from Julliard School Of Music.   I sat and listened to the wife perform….she had a gorgeous, God given soprano gift that she had taken on to the Julliard School and accentuated into something truly remarkable.  It was a joy listening to her.

Then came the husband, who wasted no time in informing all of the great unwashed in the auditorium that night that he was “classically trained” (Warning: any time somebody feels compelled to share the “classically trained” gem with you, it is advisable to run like a river when the snow melts).  He began singing, with proper breath control and technique to go, and with all the tonality and appeal of an out of tune foghorn.  Better still, he did it into a microphone to make sure none of us MISSED IT.

The moral?  The husband had the education down.  I’m sure he was a straight A student.  Unfortunately, he failed to realize that when it comes to talent, you’ve got to meet them halfway.  You’ve got to bring some innate ability to the table with you and work to improve it.  One night with this guy proved that whole ‘silk purse/sow’s ear’ concept beyond all doubt.

Likewise with writing, if you want to write, write.  In the end you’re going to learn much more by actually doing it than you ever will from a school.  Now I’m not discounting the importance of book learnin’, and I have a B.A. in Communications (big fat, hairy deal, right?) but I maintain that you can’t learn how to be creative in some by the numbers, A-Z approach.  The creative spark is already there, within you, in whatever form.  You just have to learn how to channel it, and most of that is going to be learned through simply putting pen to paper.

Yes, you can go to classes, attend seminars, read what others have written on the subject, practice osmosis, whatever, but without the spark, without that creative muse, you will never be anything more than the literary equivalent of the out of tune foghorn mentioned earlier.

So don’t put it off.  You’ve had that idea for a story, a song, a poem, or even a novel percolating around inside your head for some time now.  Go sit down and start it.  See what comes out.  If you like it, you’ll be inspired to plow forward.  If you don’t, well, hey, that’s what Delete buttons, White Out, and erasers were invented for.  Back up and take another run at it.

And spell my name right in the dedication……