Just for Kicks – Up Time / Down Time

I have three sisters. We spent a good part of our childhood in competition with each other as that was encouraged by our parents; not on purpose but the side effect of fickle favoritism and random penalizing. Even so, we often got on harmonious “kicks”which were spurts of obsession with one activity or another and had great fun together. Here’s some of the ‘kicks’ we had:
• Puzzles – kitchen table overtaken by 1000 piece jigsaws.
• Playing “I doubt it” and/or Spoons and/or any card game Nana taught us.
• Paint by number kits– we were all artists for weeks
• Peanut butter no bake cookies – they cropped up each time one of us reached sixth grade and had cooking class.
• Funnel cakes and cinnamon crusted muffins – another cooking class food obsession
• Freeze pops
• Marionette puppets (kits to make them)
• Making rock candy – mysterious cups of colored sugar water with strings hanging in them.
• Giant chocolate bars – thanks to mom who bought them on sale, one for each of us. We became addicted to chocolate and begged her for more promising to do all kinds of extra chores if she would keep them flowing.
• Reading novels. No one moved from their preferred reading chair for days. Any money that was to be had went to buying books. I read a lot of my sisters hand me downs which is how I read books maybe not appropriate for my age. I’ll never forget reading “Alive” about a plane crash in the Andes.
There were the Barbie days, the Fisher -Price Little People days, the ‘make your own’ paper dolls days, the knitting and crocheting and embroidery days. Those were the days!

The things is, we submerged ourselves in these things, and were consumed by them and even more so as a group. But when the ‘kick’ passed, it was gone. We may have a collection of sticky paint by number scenes of mountains down the hall and a velvet tiger half finished under a bed but that was it. Things change. Rainy days end. Summer ends. Life happens and we were in different places. But that didn’t make the enjoyment and the benefits disappear.
I still love to paint, embroider, definitely read, and I’ll never forget those cinnamon crusted muffins my sister cranked out every morning.
I’m sharing this to say don’t be discouraged if you have intense times of creativity and writing and it seems like you are destined for the stars by sheer zeal. But then, there’s a shift in your life, in your mind and there you are like a normal person with not a creative thought in your head. Writing seems tedious and you wonder where you were going in the next chapter that was left half finished.
It’s all good. The battery is charging in those down times. Something is building that will burst out when the time is right. Learn to channel the creative bursts into goals and relax in the low key rests.
Just go with it. Happy writing and waiting to write!

Nailing Description

Margaret Laurence – A Way With Words

I’ve been slowly making my way through books that I bought at a flea market. They were in a dusty, dirty old cardboard box, a treasure trove, if perfect condition is not a requirement for good reading. I talked about one of these books in a previous post (Practice Makes Perfect). I just started reading another, “The Fire-Dwellers” by Margaret Laurence. I didn’t know anything about the author. I just read the first page, found the style (no quotes; stream of consciousness-like dialogue) intriguing.

I tend toward incomplete sentences (anyone notice?) and found it validating to read text that feels right to me even if it’s somewhat cryptic at times. However, that is not what led me to look up who this author is. By the quality of her writing, I knew she must be someone well known if not to me, then to others.

Her writing is rich with voice, with descriptions that nail it perfectly. She describes traffic as “two shoals of great metallic fish, frantic to get back to the spawning grounds…”1 Can’t you just see the vehicles pushing forward, cutting each other off, all on an urgent mission that disregards the next?

Read how she described a beat-up cheap motel: “…the rooms are scantily clad in imitation furniture, the table covered with burn scars and wet beer bottle circles, the floor buckling linoleum…”1

Wow! That’s what I say. I can see this room and feel the atmosphere, even smell it without one word said about odor.

In another place she describes white seagulls circling at a waterfront along the city: “They aren’t prophets, though. They only look it, angelic presences and voices like gravel out of a grave.” 1  

According to Wikipedia, Margaret Laurence was a major figure in Canadian literature. Judging by the little I’ve read, I feel like it should say she is a major figure in literature who happens to be Canadian.

Reading the work of an author of a different style, a different era, challenges me to try harder. Yes, it does take effort. I believe I have it in me to write with as much pointed description as Margaret Laurence has. But I’m not going to see that maturity in my writing if I don’t work at it, don’t stop at good enough but push deeper until I dig out, clean off and reveal the gem.

Who inspires you to go to the next level? If no one has lately, you might want to hunt in a box of old books, see what you find.

Happy Writing!

1 Margaret Laurence “The Fire-Dwellers” Published 1969 by Alfred A. Knopf, New York