Getting Out of My Head
Last Saturday’s Weekend Edition was slightly abbreviated, but – as I said in my post – for all the right reasons.
The photo I shared was an in-the-moment selfie of me and my daughter just before hopping in the car with my beau and heading five hours north for a few days of hiking in Acadia National Park, one of our favorite places to visit and the perfect place to celebrate the summer solstice. Though there was, as usual, a slew of hurdles to clear before we were actually on the road (including turning around twenty minutes out because I realized the spare key I’d meant to leave for the cat sitter was still in my purse), the effort and last minute scrambling was so worth it. We had a magical trip.
As writers, we live in our heads. We create whole worlds up there, including places, people, and the stories that they inhabit. We spend long hours behind the keyboard, usually in complete or semi isolation. Much of our day is spent in stillness – butt in chair, only our brains and fingers skittering across the otherwise tranquil surface of the moment. We have our routines and our talismans. We willingly embrace a creative grind that non-writers might consider a cruel and unusual punishment.
But sometimes, it’s good to get out. Out of your head. Out of your chair. Out of your routine.
And that’s just what we did. Acadia National Park is a stunning natural treasure. The mountains, though small, hold a wealth of trails that lead through astonishingly diverse landscapes to stunning views of Mount Desert Isle and the surrounding chain of smaller islands. Many of these trails include long stretches of granite stairs that were built into the sides of the mountains back in early twentieth century … without the benefit of modern tools and technology. Once the holiday haven of America’s elite – the Rockefellers, Fords, Morgans, Vanderbilts, and Carnegies – the island now welcomes over two million visitors each year, many of them hikers.
We were among those two million, and we did our fair share of hiking – 10 to 12 miles each day, two peaks on the first (Dorr and Cadillac) and three on the second (Gilmore, Sargent, and Penobscot). It felt so good to get outside, to move, to venture into new territory. Best of all was being able to share the experience with people I love. I am so grateful that my ten year-old daughter has taken to hiking like she was born to it. She’s a trooper and a half, and – even better – she has the fever for it.
The interesting thing about stepping away from my keyboard is that while it does help me clear my mind, it also has a way of filling it back up to overflowing with new ideas, thoughts, and questions. Out there on the trail, without so much as a pen in my pocket, I felt like some long unused lines of communication had suddenly crackled back to life and were transmitting an endless stream of inspiration. The world around me seemed brighter and sharper, each plant and stone and mountain stream seemed to speak to me of their stories.
Though our writing comes from internal sources, it is influenced by everything around us. Our experiences – what we do, see, read, feel – are the raw ingredients for our stories. I imagine my experiences lining the honey-colored shelves of a kitchen witch’s pantry. Here in this sea-green bottle is a day in the mountains collecting photos of wildflowers. See how the light sparkles inside with all the colors of their petals? There, in a small paper box tinged with the bright colors of autumn, is the afternoon spent building a girl-sized birds’ nest with my sister. And inside this seashell is the memory of warm sunshine in November and pink skies rumbling across the soft sea.
Love your words. Cherish your stories. But don’t forget to get out into the world. It’s full of just what you need replenish your stores of creative magic.
What I’m Writing:
I didn’t do any writing while away, and this week has been mostly playing catch up and adjusting to my daughter being out of school for the summer. I did, however, come across an upcoming writing event that might be just the thing to kick my inner fiction writer in the butt. The Flash Fiction Challenge is an annual event. Here’s how the event is described on its website about page:
The Flash Fiction Challenge is an international creative writing competition, now in it’s 6th year, that challenges participants to create original short stories (1,000 words max.) based on genre, location, and object assignments. The event is organized by NYC Midnight Movie Making Madness, an organization that has been holding exciting creative competitions since 2002 and is dedicated to discovering and promoting a new wave of talented storytellers. NYC Midnight aims to provide the prizes and exposure necessary for writers to take their next big step towards writing professionally.
There is an entry fee ($39), but I’m feeling like that’s a completely reasonable cost if registering for the event will get me to push my fiction practice to the top of my To Do list for a few days, instead of letting it languish at the bottom of the pile beneath my marcom projects.
The event includes four writing challenges that take place in three-day sprints in August, October, November, and December. Writers accrue points based on placement in each of the challenges as judged by a panel of writers and publishers.
I might be crazy, but this sounds kind of fun.
What I’m Reading:
When I was a kid, my family watched The Wonderful World of Disney each Sunday night. Our only television was in my parents’ bedroom, so me, my parents, and my younger sister would all pile on the bed together, often with dinner. (If we were really lucky, dinner would be my mom’s homemade pizza.) I don’t remember all of the stories we watched, but I do remember clearly that any sign of an emotional bit always sent me sliding off the bed to sit with my back against the footboard where no one could see me bite my lip to hold back the tears. I never wanted to cry in front of anyone.
As I get older, I’m losing my inhibitions about showing tears. I cry openly at movies, in my own living room and even in public theaters. I also cry at books.
Just this morning I finished The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh, an author who also happens to be the cofounder of one of my favorite writing blogs, Writer Unboxed. The Moon Sisters is a beautifully told and captivating story of grief, redemption, release, and acceptance. The last few pages brought me to tears. I don’t want to give away too much of the story (there is a surprising twist at the end), but here’s the cover blurb:
After their mother’s probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz are figuring out how to move on with their lives. Jazz, logical and forward-thinking, decides to get a new job, but spirited, strong-willed Olivia, who can see sounds, taste words, and smell sights, is determined to travel to the remote setting of their mother’s unfinished novel to say her final goodbyes and lay their mother’s spirit to rest.
Already resentful of Olivia’s foolish quest and her family’s insistence upon her involvement, Jazz is further aggravated when they run into trouble along the way and Olivia latches on to a worldly train-hopper who warns he shouldn’t be trusted. As Jazz and Olivia make their way toward their destination, each hiding something from the other, their journey toward acceptance of their mother’s death becomes as important as their journey to understand each other and themselves.
Like all my favorite books, this one had a touch of magic, but it was the kind of magic that is firmly based in real life. That is, perhaps, the best kind. I enjoyed the story and the characters. The language is, as many reviewers have said, “lush” and has a lyrical quality that is heightened by the poetic perceptions of Olivia who has a condition called synethesia. Another very enjoyable read and one I recommend enthusiastically.
And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- Blank Page? Pillage the Cutting Room Floor by @demianfarnworth
- 9 Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names To Reinvent Themselves
- How Do You Become a Successful Blogger? (4 Answers that Might Surprise You) by @craigmcbreen
- Writers: What Are You Afraid Of? by @DanBlank via @WriterUnboxed
- Get More Stuff Done in 90-Minute Chunks
- The Psychological Benefits of Writing by @GregoryCiotti
- How Too Much Knowledge Can Hurt Your Writing Career by @carlosinho via @thewritelife
Finally, a quote for the week:
I hope each of you found a little magic in this past week, and I hope each of you gets to have a little adventure in the one coming up. Keep those creative larders well stocked!
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.