My Life in Words
I’m stealing this as my manifesto:
Step One: Wonder about something.
Step Two: Invite others to wonder with me.
Stolen from Auston Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist, 10 things nobody told you about being creative.
That man is brilliant.
I came across his small book, free yesterday on Amazon Prime, and I read it before lunch.
“You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself,” he wrote.
I slapped my head and declared, “Thank you, God,”
(Thank you Auston Kleon. I don’t know if God had anything to do with that statement.)
I know I have bounced all over the place with subjects—metaphysics, the spiritual path, life blog, travel, writing about writing, writing about blogging, chickens, animals, horses, home life, family, story, Hawaii, Oregon, and California, I’ll even throw in sea life if that strikes me. And then I hear the voice of the blogging gurus who say to find your niche and stick with it.
I scream, “WHAT’S MY NICHE!”
Kleon says, ”You can cut off a couple of passions and only focus on one, but after awhile, you’ll start to feel phantom limb pain.”
I love this man.
“Do not leave your longings unattended.”
Yesterday I began the day deciding that I would write something about writing for I saw that I have a few readers on my blog “The Best Damn Writer Blogger on the Block.” (Fair to say, I’m the only one writing one, maybe I should check my city block to see if there are any other bloggers writing about writing.) http://www.thebestdamnwritersblog.com
I don’t know how those readers found me, for nine chances out of ten I can’t find it myself. (Maybe it’s the damn in the title, or my firewall, something.) However, if someone shows up, I am happy to offer them something.
Except that yesterday I had nothing to say.
Blogs are supposed to add something of value. So, where did that leave me?
With Zilch. Nada.
Kleon to the rescue, “If you try to devour the history of your discipline all at once, you’ll choke.”
Okay, back to the beginning of the day. I figured Hemingway was a good place to start. However, Hemingway was reluctant to talk of writing for he felt that saying too much might inhabit his muse.
And although Hemingway was known for his adventurous spirit, first and foremost he was a writer. He might have been reluctant to talk of writing, but over the years at different times, to different people, in varied parts of the world, he commented about it in letters and stories.
Along came Larry W. Phillips who ferreted out Hemingway's comments regarding writing and placed them in a book called Ernest Hemingway on Writing.
“All good books are alike,” wrote Hemingway, “in that they are truer than if they had really happened, and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterward all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.” –By-Line Earnest Hemingway pg 184.
This quote explains why my eyes cross when I hear people say, “I only read non-fiction.” As though fiction is frivolous and they are into “serious” learning.
Quite the opposite is true. Good fiction writers can hit you with a truth when you don’t even know you’ve been hit.
There’s a place for both, hey, for all my touting of fiction, I have a non-fiction book coming out May 19, 2019. Cover.
And lest I get too excited about this opportunity, today I got slapped on the side of the face, for I received three, not one, not two, but THREE rejection letters. I had figured if it takes two years for a book to come out I better get cracking.
Back to the drawing board.
And write whatever’s itching to come out.
Two secrets from Hemingway:
“The secret is that it is poetry written into prose and that is the hardest thing to do.” --From Mary Hemingway
“Then there is the other secret. There isn’t any symbolysm (misspelled). The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy, and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.” Hemingway to Bernard Berenson, 1952
I beg to differ. The Old Man and the Sea says a lot about Hemingway—symbolism or not.
Hemingway left a lot unsaid. He wrote simply, quite against the flowery prose of his day. His style was considered the iceberg effect, that is much was beneath the surface.
Okay, back to Steal Like an Artist:
“We’re talking about practice, not plagiarism. Plagiarism is trying to pass someone’s else’s work off as your own. Copying is about reverse engineering. It’s like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.”
If you steal from one author its plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s reverse engineering, Gary Panter says, If you rip off a hundred people will say, “You’re so original.”
One is copying.
One hundred is research.
I believe the following (from Kleon) applies not only to artists but to anyone starting a business:
You will need:
Barbara Kingsolver in her last tip of five on writing said, “If you are young and a smoker, you should quit.”
I qualify as a writer, I’m neither young nor a smoker.
I once had a rapport with about 100 turkeys.
We lived in Temecula California on three acres of grapefruit orchards. Not many moons before we left to move to back to Oregon, the landlord relocated a pile of almost-full-grown turkeys onto the property.
The turkeys lived out of view from the house, in a plastic enclosure about the size of a small gymnasium, fenced on all four sides.
I had volunteered for the daily job of feeding them, and as I approached their enclosure, I would call out “Hey guys.” They would answer with few 100-fold gobbles.
The owner said they liked me. I don’t know, I was the one with the food, but still our connection was fun. Except I was sorry to carry away dead turkeys. Many died, perhaps this was a culling out process with young turkeys, or they had been weakened from the handling before they arrived. Most survived, though, that was until a coyote discovered them.
I would see white feather evidence outside the cage. I called the owner, and he shored up the fence with cement blocks lining the lower portion.
However, a turkey could, in a moment of curiosity or stupidity, poke his head over the blocks and through the wire, and chomp—off when his head.
Once I dressed out a newly killed turkey, we didn’t eat it. I didn’t feel right about eating the owner’s turkeys, but rather than waste it; I did what I remembered my mother doing. Place a fowl in boiling water to make the feathers easily removed, ha, not easy, turkeys have huge pin feathers, nor was finding a container large enough to dip it in. This wasn’t a little bitty turkey, but one at least 20 pounds.
Next came the cleaning of it, followed by roasting.
An experience I don’t care to repeat.
The dogs loved eating the turkey though.
Yesterday we discovered a basic law of physics, that two animals couldn’t occupy the same space—that was one dog and one cat watching me prepare a turkey for roasting—the other dog was smart enough to stay out of the way.
Until the day before Thanksgiving, all I had for the celebratory dinner was a bottle of wine and a jar of green olives.
I was still wondering if I wanted to cook. I hopped to it, though, and did what a few million others were doing, collected our harvest at the grocery store, and prepared the meal.
When daughter number two, (Daughter number one was already at our house), came home during a window from work, the turkey was still basically raw.
Remember we had wine and olives…we had the trimmings too, and so we had dinner, sans the bird.
The family commented that the stuffing was even better than usual, as the celery still had a crunch--I had removed it from the bird, and besides a giblet broth, and three cups of butter in the stuffing, it had water from boiled sweet potatoes in it.
Our dinner consisted of mashed potatoes and gravy from the drippings, and candied sweet potatoes, and cranberries, daughter’s pickled zucchini, steamed broccoli, raw veggies, you know, all the stuff, plus about five cups of butter that flavored most everything.
Isn’t it great now that butter is good for you?
No butter in the pumpkin pie, but then the whipped cream atop it was a close second.
No one missed the turkey. Nice that it flavored the meal though.
One year when we were building our log house and living in a fifth wheel, I roasted a turkey in an outside grill, the old sort that used briquets. I fired up the grill super-hot, stuffed the turkey, wrapped it thoroughly with aluminum foil, placed it in the grill and closed the lid.
The next morning the turkey was perfect.
One Thanksgiving day in Oregon, oh, maybe 15 years ago, I got up at around four in the morning to make the stuffing and dress the turkey. That morning as the light gradually enlivened the sky, and I chopped celery and cried onion tears, I felt connected to all the women that had done this before, or who was doing it that day.
I was a pioneer.
Later on, husband and I joined the 21 century, and drove to the airport to pick up our daughter who was flying in from California.
It was a perfect Thanksgiving.
I think I am complete with turkeys.
This could be a lesson for us as with old-time trauma that I have spoken about in earlier blogs. That trauma can flavor all that comes after. Think of it this way though:
I once had an exercise where a group of participants at a seminar where we were asked to stand and grip the back of the chair in front of us. Grip it tight.
No one told us to stop.
Finally, most of us did let go. “Why did you stop?” asked the commentator.
“Because we were tired of doing it.”
Some things aren’t that easy.
I keep thinking of my doctor who said that people are evil. That man, who is excellent at what he does, has missed a critical point.
This may sound like a cliché’, but I believe it. “People are spiritual beings here to have a physical experience.”
To label them is to take the heart, soul, and magic out of it.
Think of that sweet baby with eyes that absorb the wonders of the world, and a smile that can knock you over.
We were that once.
We came here to have a wonderful life.
Along the way, tsunamis both real and psychological hit us, and earthquakes—you know I am speaking metaphorically, although sometimes those earthquakes are real, along with insults, injuries, and cruelty. Some of these projectiles stick, some are shaken off.
The ones we keep are the garbage you hear about that we are dragging behind us.
We spend many years accumulating that garbage, hey, it’s important to us. We can drag it out and think about it, mull it over, or talk about it whenever. Or make another decision and let it go,
It obscures the beautiful soul that we really are.
Doctor dear was looking at the garbage.
Changing his focus would be most advantageous.
The most powerful prayer of all is “Thank you.”
Her travels had taken her beyond the shores of her native continent, but she is back where she started, in Oregon.