Fall Song by Mary Oliver
Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,
the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back
from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere
except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle
of unobservable mysteries – – -roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This
I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn
flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay – – – how everything lives, shifting
from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.
I’ve been thinking about laughter lately, and not just in regard to my reading and writing. I’ve been noticing how moments of genuine laughter make me feel warm and happy and exhausted in a good way.
So, what is it about laughter?
Here’s a little bit of randomness I discovered:
Laughter is a contagious, involuntary response. Ever had the giggle snorts during an important meeting, and the person sitting next to you begins to do the same thing, even though they don’t have a clue why you’re doing it? Ever watched a newscast when one reporter starts laughing and the others follow? Yep, contagious and involuntary.
Laughter releases endorphins, which can produce all sorts of wacky but beneficial biochemical changes in the body. These include increased blood flow, relieved pain, and an improved immune system.
Laughter can also burns calories.
Most daily laughter occurs during everyday social situations, not as a result of things like jokes or funny movies.
The study of laughter is called gelotology. (Yes, there is such a thing.)
Some experts believe that we laughed more in the past than today – 20 minutes daily back in the 1950s compared to 6 minutes today. (Okay, I don’t know how they got these stats, but it’s still a curious thing to me.)
The first Sunday of May every year is known as World Laughter Day.
This year, I want to pay attention and laugh more. Every day. I think Dr. Seuss said it best:
“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.“
When was the last time you really laughed?
Laughing baby photo by Constance Bannister. Snoopy from socialtimes.com. Smiley face from smscs.com. Smiling Ostrich by Jamie Hanson.
When is the last time you sat at your computer, excited, enthusiastic, and ready to write? The feeling is so strong – it says “write, write, write.” Then you sit down, and…………….you don’t write. You do everything BUT write. You read old notes, play games, sigh, run your fingers through your hair. Your elbows callous over.
You actually want to write – really. But you don’t. You’re frozen inside. Some people call this immobilizing state Writer’s Block.
You could be more specific and call it the “I Can’t Write My Opening Scene Block” or maybe the “Help! I Can’t Come Up With Any More Stuff to Put in My Book Block” or maybe even the “I Will Never Be Able to Write Another Book As Long As I Live Block.” You may even call it “Chronic Procrastination” instead of Writer’s Block. However you choose to label it, the reality is – you aren’t writing. At least not the way you’d hoped, or maybe not at all. Why? I don’t think it has anything to do with the Mysterious Muse grabbing its sacred bag of toys and going home, or the lack of Feng Shui in your writing room. I think it stems from a basic problem we all have – fear. Fear of letting go and digging into that creative spot where no man (or woman) has gone before, fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of success. And speaking of fear, I was actually afraid to write about writer’s block. I didn’t want to discover anything else about it because I was fearful I’d pick up a new variety, a sort of writer’s block hypochondria.
But let’s define the word blocked. If you look up ‘block’ in the dictionary, one definition says “a sudden interruption in speech or thought because of a deep emotional problem.” Block can also mean obstruct, deaden, hinder. I think writer’s block can be all of these things and more, triggered frequently by vast hinterlands of unknowing-ness.
There are lots of tips on dealing with the plague of writer’s block. Here are five strategies I use:
*1 Write with your computer monitor off. Can’t see the words, can’t critique the writing. At least not right away. Click away on that keyboard and let yourself write whatever you want to write – either for the scene you’re working on or whatever pops into your head. You’ll be surprised. Something good and original will come out.
*2 Write longhand, skipping lines, on a yellow legal pad. Yellow energizes the mind and studies have shown it can call forth long-forgotten memories, feelings, and experiences. And by skipping lines, it will look like you’re writing a LOT, which is great positive reinforcement for the brain. Also, writing longhand is less hurried, less immediate. It gives you time to gather your thoughts as words flow onto the page. Hemingway wrote longhand. J. K. Rowling did, too.
*3 Interview your character. It’s a great way to get to know her/him/it and maybe break out of a slump. Also, you might try interviewing yourself. (I know, that sounds a little out there, but it can work.) Here’s a quick example of an interview I did with my main character (I’ve taken out specific details):
Me: I think I’ve figured out why I’m having trouble with this story. I don’t feel very emotionally drawn to you.
MC: What does THAT mean? You don’t like me?
Me: I like you, but I think the story needs more emotion. More of who you are, rather than just incidents that move you through the story. I’m not sure I can figure out how to do this, but it will definitely make the story better.
MC: So I have no gut feelings about anything? Great. I’m a cardboard character.
Me: What do you have strong feelings about?
MC: Everything. My… (fill in the blank). The fact that everyone thinks…And my parents treat me like…A whole bunch of stuff, but not in any particular order.
(More Stuff Here)
Me: Could you take over for a while?
MC: Move over and let me sit down.
*4 Educate yourself about writing. Read Writing on Both Sides of the Brain by Henriette Anne Klauser. It’s an older book, but still a goldmine of information – all about the creative and editorial process of writing. One particular section on writer’s block is titled, “Resistance Always Has Meaning.”
*5 Stay connected. Repeat after me. Critique groups, critique groups, critique groups. Writers often feel isolated. Critique groups can help a writer feel less so, and at the same time, serve as a springboard to improve your writing. Critique groups can act as Teacher, Editor, Psychologist, and most importantly, Friend and Supporter. Be selective when you choose your critique group. Make sure it is a good fit.
And don’t forget the importance of showing up daily for the words:
Meaning to Write from Michelle Cleere; Cow Writer’s Block from tamrika; Umm from Matt Tauber; Universe from news.softpedia; How To Cure Writer’s Block from writersadvice.com
WHY I WAKE EARLY
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety —
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light —
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
I love Mary Oliver’s poetry, especially this poem. To me, the words sing the unfolding of a new day. Beautiful!