Little Bo-Peep

Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep and doesn't know where to find them. Leave them alone and they'll come home Wagging their "tales" behind them.

I sit at my desk almost every day waiting for words to come.  I probably should be doing something useful like dusting or cleaning the kitchen.  But, I always promised myself that when my kids were grown I'd take all that energy I thought I had stored away for years and churn out story after wonderful story.

Now, I have not been totally negligent in turning out stories.  I've turned out some that I quite like and others have shared my opinion by publishing them. Sometimes words come to me.  Sometimes I wake up from a dream with an opening line.  Sometimes I am in the middle of doing something useful, like dishes or laundry and I receive a word, a line, a beginning.

But, way too often I try to court words and story ideas and nothing sparks. Maybe I'm scaring them away by searching too hard.

I court words in a few ways:  I play solitaire.  Yep, dopey, minimally engaging solitaire.  Sometimes it works, I think, because it makes my brain turn on just a bit to get the gears working  thus allowing words that are streaming in my mind a chance to get together and form a sentence, a picture, a scene.

Recently I have added nursery rhymes to my method of distracting my "monkey mind" ( thank you Natalie Goldberg) long enough to let the undercurrents gain a little strength.

Bo-Peep was going through my mind this morning and I realized that some of my most ancient memories are of sitting with a book opened on my lap as a small child, reading the classics.  The classics of children's lit, that is. Nursery rhymes are a lot like the Book of Proverbs for the pre-K set.

I think Bo-Peep showed up to tell me to let go, stop searching so anxiously.  Leave them alone, and they'll come home, wagging their "tales" behind them..

Boy, I hope those nursery rhymes have as much wisdom as they're supposed to.

Worth doing

If you say 'worth doing' I venture that most of us will fill in the the missing words for that phrase. 'Worth doing' is shorthand for ' Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well"---- the battle cry of the perfectionists. Some time ago I came across a variation on that phrase----'whatever is worth doing is worth doing poorly'---- a ray of hope for those of us who rarely achieve, or wait for, perfection.  The point, I think, was that if we have something to do, go ahead and do it, even if it means we will most likely miss the mark of perfection, or even of 'well'. After a few decades of stretching, thinking, doing, being and all that other stuff that goes into a life  I'd like to offer another alternative to the phrase: Whatever is worth doing is worth doing.  Leave off the qualifier, it's besides the point.  So would that philosophy leave us all off the hook to put no more than minimum effort into our work, our projects, our life?  Perhaps.  But that's a chance we take every day when we get out of bed.  Very few of us hit the marks of perfection in all or even most of our endeavors.

Today I read in the e-newpaper about a 94 year old Navajo woman who gets up every morning and makes pottery.  Making pottery is the way she made her living which fed her children and continues to be a valuable work-- even if her family thinks she should rest and take some time for herself after all these years.  I gatther from the article that she likes doing this 'work' which she doesn't even consider work-- it is just what she does, so why should she stop? It would be like retiring from brushing her teeth or eating lunch or putting a sweater on when it gets chilly.  It is worth doing.  The fact that this woman's work has been selling quite well for many years is beside the point.  She is doing what is worth while to her.

If we wait to perform "well" all the time, how many of us would ever try anything?  How many meals would not get cooked, or beds made, or children tucked in, or laundry cleaned?  All the good we do, all the little things that make up a life are worth doing.  If it turns out we do things 'well' once in a while, great.  But in the meantime let's keep doing all the things that are worth it.

Since this vehicle (this blog-business) is about writing and the ups and downs of ever getting any words out there---- wherever there is----share with me some of the things you think are 'worth doing' when it comes to writing or music or art or any of the bits of creativity we get to take part in every day.  Anyone want to share?  Drop me a line.  I'm told the comment box is easy to fill out.

So this is what creativity looks like

Sunday morning.  Gene usually gets up earlier than I do and he usually does something useful or educational with that time.  Me, I like to get back to whatever dream I was in the middle of and see where the story is going.  This morning, though, I grew tired of the dream I was having, got up and left our room to get my morning coffee.  First thing I see is a young man that I met yesterday asleep on one of the couches in the family room.  Gene is over at his desk, writing an article or researching something I cannot begin to understand, and there are two more sleeping bodies on the couches in the living room.  Since none of these lanky young men are John, our 19 year old son, we can only assume that upstairs in the bedrooms and game room there is a simliar scene. The thermometer hit 102 yesterday, with who know what heat index.  John and his crew have been filming in the garage, coming in from time to time to cool down, get some water, melt into the couches.  The numbers of the crew keep changing and we are introduced occasionally to someone new, but trying to keep their names straight is a losing proposition.  Our kitchen has leftovers of their movie makeup---- bloodshot wounds in shades of red, plastic ware filled with fake blood, pizza and donut boxes and empty glasses.  I filled the dishwasher with what seemed like all the mugs we own.  Coffee and energy drinks apparently fuel the creative process, especially when the creative process is in action  from 2 in the afternoon til 6 the next morning.

This is what we do.  Gene and I consider ourselves patrons of the arts in our small contribution of encouragement, permission to overrun our house and bowls of spaghetti and meatballs to nourish the hungry artists.  They all seem to be genuinely excited, despite the heat and the long hours, to get this movie made.  There is no money involved, but there certainly is investment.  They have all brought equipment, enthusiasm, artistry and much sweat equity to get this project completed.

Their goal is to get this movie viewed in Film Festivals around the country, with the hope of launching their various careers.  I believe someday I'll be able to say I knew them when: when they were exhausted and sweaty and slept the sleep of the wrung out on our couches.

Creativity is often messy, but there is no doubt that this crew will work just as hard in post-production to make this movie tight and as perfect as their considerable skills can make it.  Ars gratia artis?  Yeah, and hopefully for careers being born.

Present Tense

I've had a house full of film makers for more than a week now.  My youngest son John, who turned 19 yesterday, announced when he was 4 years old that he is  a director.  Not going to be a director someday in the far off future, but that at that moment he is a director.  Returning home from Independence Day he asked for the telephone book.  Why? we asked.  So I can look up Jeff Goldblum and ask him to be in my next movie, was the reply.  Duh. I said a prayer, and I proclaimed to my young son, I hope you always have that confidence, that self-assurance.   He was not waiting for anyone to place a mantle around his neck that declared him movie director, or wait for a school to hand him a piece of paper with such a claim--- no, he knew and knows himself enough and has since he was a little boy.

So this current project, the filming of a script which John wrote, has grown into quite a community effort.  He is the director and an actor in the movie.  He has attracted assistant directors (who came complete with fabulous professional equipment) make-up artists, gaffers, special effect makeup artists and what seems like an endless parade of young people coming in and out of every door in the house with their own talent and excitement for the project.  My little dog Frankie is almost overwhelmed with all the stimuli.

One of my favorite theories is that young children will let you know who they are before they ever enter a classroom.  You just have to pay attention and let them show you.  If you don't pay attention when they are really young  you may miss the revelation.  Too often school wears out the natural talent of a child before they have a chance to develop.  That's something I have noticed with my four kids and I bet I can extrapolate that my kids are not so unique, but that every child has a talent or a mission or a way of being in the world that was whispered in his or her ear before they showed up in this life.

Most of us, I think, spend the rest of our lives trying to remember what that whisper told us.

Supposed To

I'm supposed to be writing a novel.  I say supposed instead of the more definite I am writing a novel because that's too much of what my work looks like.  Supposed to covers an intention, a duty, a job I have accepted, but have not really given enough energy and brain power to.  Supposed to keeps me tethered to the long rope of obligation that at least makes me give thought to my work in progess, even if the progress is hardly discernible. Oh, I give this novel thought.  I sit in front of my keyboard for long stretches of time.  I sit with my puppy Frankie on my lap and my feet up on my desk.  Frankie has become used to this, it's an arrangement that seems to work.  Again, seems to, supposed to---- does not imply that a lot of actual work is getting done around here, does it?  Why am I supposed to be writing a novel in the first place?  Why don't I move on to something more immediate--- like getting the laundry done or the refrigerator cleaned?  Well, those homely tasks come in handy as a distraction.  Sometimes they even come in handy as a device to let my brain float a bit-- just engaged enough to keep me awake and somewhat alert without turning the engine on full blast. My usual form of minimum engagement activity is to play hand after hand of computer solitaire.   The screen behind the game holds my little word gems while I try to sneak up on my thoughts for the next chapter or some character development or maybe some revealing conversation.  Once in a while it even works and I get a paragraph or two down and I can feel I have accomplished something.  Oh, but I am too easily pleased.

I say I am supposed to be writing a novel because for years, since I sat on the basement floor in my parents house, books piled around me, children's books, picture books, classic fairy tales and shelves filled with the works of Shakespeare, Dickens, Hemingway and so many others, the magic of producing and telling stories has been my biggest delight. the black letters on the page were more real to me than toys.  I would caress the words with my fingers and understand, so glad for this gift of reading.  I could not count the number of nights I fell asleep with a book folded across me, or mixed in with the blankets because my eyes gave out before I would willingly set the book down for tomorrow.

Also, I say supposed to write becasue my darling husband set this blog up for me because he knows this about me. He knows that I delight in words and thoughts and sounds and ideas.  So often I dispel this energy through talking and then find I have little left over to put on the page.  So, yes, I am supposed to write because I am supposed to write.  If it sounds okay, great.  If it doesn't, well, that has to be okay too, because if I waited for Shakespeare of Hawthorne to use me as a scribe, nothing would ever be done.