Valuing the Writing Process

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St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

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Writing is one of the most rewarding, aggravating, amazing endeavors one can undertake.  Because writing anything of significant length and writing it well requires time, it requires physical stamina and mental fortitude that those who don’t write cannot understand.  I’m not belittling anybody who does not write, nor those activities which others do for a living.  I appreciate the variety in life, and writing makes me appreciate more the value of human beings, and helps me to see where change in our world might be a great thing.  I’m trying to make the point that the difficulty, the complexity, the sheer aggravation and joy that comes from writing, because it is a solitary activity, cannot be understood by those who don’t write seriously.  And  I don’t necessarily consider this a gift of the gods, or of one God; in fact, sometimes it feels like a curse.  Writing is generally considered a craft.  We are all endowed with the gift of language and the ability to communicate; however, for most, this doesn’t equate with a desire to write, much less to write well.  I do believe anybody can write well if they learn to respect the language that is innate in humans, as important in many ways as the air we breathe and the water we drink.  The creative process of writing well is a physical and mental nightmare.  I have written, by hand or on one computer or other, for many years, and taken a seed and transformed it into a tree.  Maybe not a tree suitable to withstand a great storm, or even for a small child to play in.  That is where revision comes into play.  Revision is like playing chess with a master with your hands tied behind your back and blinders on; you have to rely on the amazing parts of your brain to guide the process.  The logical part of your brain tempered by the emotional part. You have to be sometimes impartial, sometimes completely engrossed, and sometimes cut throat, to revise. I have started hundreds of writing projects, small and large, from poetry to short (and short short) fiction to novels, and many are sitting on a computer (some in folders or boxes) somewhere waiting for inspiration to strike so that I can return to revise them. I don’t hold out a lot of hope that I will return to them. So I start more projects, and sometimes life happens and I don’t write much for awhile. But I have a real job and I don’t pretend that I will ever write the great American novel. I don’t know that I care if I do. I enjoy the writing process, like a significant other, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. And then I will be published…posthumously.

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Grief as Protection

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Grieving, I suspect, is a much more complex process than we will ever know.  In retrospect, I can comment on one aspect of it or another, and were I to make a note of other aspects experienced by others, I might begin to paint a more complete picture of it in my mind.  One thing I noticed, and recounted to others, after my father died, now more than 15 years ago, is how my perception of things slipped often into surreal moments.  I can recall many things now, but there are many more things that I only have a fuzzy recollection of, as if I were in a cocoon.  I think it is simplistic to just believe that because you are grieving that you will brush aside, or repress, that which is difficult to deal with.  And perhaps in traumatic cases, there is some good measure of this happening.  And I think it is equally simplistic, to believe that the chemistry involved in grieving is the sole protection from the pain involved.  As I continue to move forward in life, I will always respect that as human beings, we believe in a great deal.  It is that acknowledgement which I use to color my writing process, which color my word choice.  That said, I acknowledge that there are many that do not believe in a supreme being.  There are so many things for which science can offer an explanation.  The grieving process included.  But how can something as universal as grief, for which we all experience things outside of the normal physical realm be explained away by simple processes.  There are, I believe, supernatural forces at work protecting us from grief.  I think anybody who has lost a loved one knows, upon examination, that this is so.

All Things in Moderation

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If you realize that not a single “thing” can sustain you by itself, then it is easy to see that having most things in moderation is healthy.  When I hear somebody use the word need in place of want/like/desire, I see this all over again.  I don’t at all take for granted that which I “need.”  That which sustains me: air, water, food, shelter, in that order, as well as relationships, which are for other posts.  Anything beyond that certainly qualifies as somewhat of a luxury or a privilege.  There is nothing wrong with any of it so long as it doesn’t ruin my quality of living.  Even the last two in the needs list can move to the wants list.  That said, one thing I like to do is watch the food network.  I like to be as knowledgeable as possible about what I am putting into my body.  I don’t watch enough to qualify it as an addiction, by any stretch of the imagination.  I understand that feeding the temple doesn’t require intricate, expensive or unsustainable preparation.  Feeding the craving can.  And occasionally I like to indulge.  I probably will put some recipes on my blog in the future.  They won’t be anything that I just copy out of a book, but those that I have changed to suit my taste or its ease of preparation.  Example:  banana bread.  I have never been a huge fan of many banana bread recipes I have tried.  Over the years, I tinkered with the recipe to suit me.  Because I have changed the recipe many times, I may post that recipe first.  Banana bread certainly doesn’t qualify as something which sustains me.  Nor as sustainable.  For many, wheat for the creation of flour is not a local commodity.  Bananas don’t grow in North America.  Sugar, along with the wheat, are highly refined products.  But I like banana bread, and so I make it on occasion.

Twinkies Don’t Grow on Trees

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I have used this expression for years.  It is my way of saying that which has been processed to the extreme isn’t going to sustain you.  I was prompted to write this when I read an article on extreme saving on Yahoo!  The obvious changes one can make when needing to trim a budget is get rid of the car in favor of walking, biking, or taking public transportation; downsizing your home or taking in a border; using coupons.  My problem with using coupons is that many products you purchase with coupons are highly processed.  I do eat some processed food, so I don’t want to come across as trying to preach.  But making the effort to eat less processed food will not only save you more money than using coupons (unless you are related to extreme users of coupons who make money to shop in the grocery store), but your body will thank you for eating healthier, especially if you also avoid eating out too often or eating large portions of meat at every conceivable meal.  A friend of mine likes to call these processed foods “whites,” as in white sugar, white flour.  These foods, when eaten in large quantities, are to me like a sedative.  I have more energy when I eat healthier, and thus more time to do all the things I love, and to show the people I love how much they matter to me.  Twinkies don’t grow on trees, but to quote somebody other than myself, “An apple a day helps keep the doctor away.”  To your health!

The Ocean

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It has been nearly 21 years that I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area.  If I could afford to return, I would do so in a hot second.  But I regress.  The thing I miss most about living there is being so near the ocean.  How can you not feel what I consider an innate connection?  This is true of other things as well:  mountain ranges, secluded areas where star gazing is really possible, and others which I may write about in future posts.  It’s a healthy fear of something that in some way can cause physical or emotional distress that I attach to being near to the ocean.  It can kill you in no time flat without a thought to having ever done so.  If you managed to survive such an encounter, it might scar you in ways that possibly you would never know.  The ocean is mighty, beautiful, life sustaining, inspirational, and practical, with other adjectives used over the years by billions of people.  And whether you are actively praising an almighty being for it and other so-attributed acts of creation, or not, how can one believe that we, human beings, are on this planet at this time, sometimes arguing whether creation is our reality or not, are an accident.  That the ocean, and its myriad wonders of sustainability, is an accident.  Scientists are inevitably correct, in my estimation, in many presumptions about the planet’s past, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility of a creator.