Simple Words

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums (1958)dharma bums.jpg

 

From Barnes & Noble page “Published just one year after On the Road, (Dharma Bums) is the story of two men engaged in a passionate search for Dharma or truth.

Their major adventure is the pursuit of the Zen Way, which takes them climbing into the High Sierras to seek the lesson of solitude.” (It’s suggested that one read On the Road first for proper context to this novel which could be considered Part 2 of the first one.)Kerouac.jpg

If you haven’t yet read either of his novels, you may have studied Jack Kerouac’s influence on modern literature, as well as his documented pursuit of spiritual clarity for himself and for others.

For those who wish to glean techniques from other writer’s talents, assessing Kerouac’s rawness and meaning refinement throughKer quote 2 (2) simple-living description is a solid path for a writer’s own self-discovery and inner-world exploration.

It follows the most important writer’s dictum: Keep it simple, clear and concise.

Using Kerouac’s poetic example in The Dharma Bums, his theory on “good writing” is being as artistically precise as a Japanese Haiku.

Because both books were written at the rise of the Beat generation that preceded the Flower Child (Hippy) generation, there are rough attitudes expressed that might appall a sensitive reader.  But Kerouac’s vision and the handling of his subject matter are a study in distilling thought to poetically capture and convey life’s most precious moments.

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple,” he said.

I agree. That statement is my primary creed as well.

Writing is a communication between/among two or more “readers” to share thoughts, concepts, or instructions.

Writing can convey emotions over a distance—where deepest feelings are often captured best in similes and metaphors because those appeal more to the intuitive right brain than the analytical left. That’s the value of Haiku—it bridges the brain hemispheres between word symbols and emotive imagery.basho quote

Haiku is thought essence crystallized.

As Kerouac suggested in The Dharma Bums, if you want to capture the power or beauty of a moment use a Haiku to transcend earthly limitation.

But it also requires artistic discipline to craft the proper phrase, while utilizing a writer’s higher resonance with the subject matter.

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

Yes.

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A Little Sunday Morning RUMI…

rumi.jpg

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

~Rumi

The Creative Writing Process

pro write.pngBackground info dump: Among my many careers, I’ve taught Technical Writing at the community college level. I know the nuts and bolts of teaching students to communicate their thoughts and feelings—specifically like how to package those thoughts within a structured, cohesive report meant to convey a clear message for their intended audience, while doing so within the confines of grammatical expertise.

That last sentence is why I am no longer teaching Technical Writing.

Technical Writing is purposeful but restrictive—structured but confining; and while skilled, technical proficiency is useful at getting your point across, especially in the business environment, it can also be creatively stifling to a writer. That’s why I truly admire and celebrate a gifted writer—I know how hard it is to write effortlessly—it requires tremendous self-awareness on multiple levels.

As both a writing teacher and a writer myself, I also know that how I actually write, you cannot teach. You simply have to DO.

Were I teaching Creative Writing to students I would explain only my own inner process: that when I sit down to write it’s usually because I feel a desire to say something, but I may not consciously know what that something is because the simple desire-to-express is the primary driving force within me.message.jpg

I may not even have a particular message to convey as I am often surprised at what comes out on the page—surprised because I had not realized that on another level of consciousness I had seriously dissected the subject matter.

My here-and-now conscious mind may only be aware that there is some nugget of truth that desires further exposition, so I grab that truth-nugget and run with it.  It might be some tangent of my personal take on life that has burned an escape-hole outward to free itself from my being.

So I give it the freedom to dash and weave, to leap the fallen tree and climb the gnarly hill. gnarly hill.jpgIt can choose the escape path it wishes without restrictions. I cheer it on saying, “Go where you need to go—say what you need to say—I’ll just go along and chart the territory that you cover.”

Then when it appears that the escapee is winded and needing to rest a bit, I review the path covered to straighten out the zig-zags and eliminate the missteps. The message always goes where it needs to go—to feel FREE—to breathe the fresh air of non-confinement, to feel the blood racing through the body.

And when “the message” is free, I actually feel a pressure release within me knowing that some higher aspect of me just communicated its thoughts using me as its medium. I say this because the desire to say something that I once felt has dissipated. What needed to be written, was.

For me there is no judging the message that escaped my being—a message whose path I charted on the page before me. But there is a choice I make in whether I share that message with others. That is MY decision to make—the writer of the words you read.

journal.jpgMy suggestion to other writers who are still developing their skills and voice is to write daily: journal—do free-association rambles—whatever thoughts are scrambling your head, get them out—let them all flow where they need to go; and in the process of logging all that verbal dysentery you will grow more comfortable with yourself.  It will help you understand WHO you truly are and WHAT you really want from your life.

After a few years of doing this you’ll develop quicker methods of getting to the point, you’ll slip into more natural similes and metaphors, and your vision will clear to better see the world in your own unique way.

The last main point I wish to emphasize is that if you really want to write in multilevel prose, you have to strengthen your connection to your Higher Self to transcend your limitations of contextual meaning.

So aspiring writers, if you really want to write, then WRITE.high self.jpg

But if you want to be a writer with a message that resonates, you need to strengthen your higher connections.

When you can simply allow your Higher Self to speak through you without translating its message, your writing will be more powerful, more impactful, and a lot less work.

Only Words

(originally posted 8.3.12 in my previous blog)

As a writer, words are my craft, my mode of expression, my connection to the masses who share these common symbols and meanings, my attempt to explain the unexplainable; and yes, even more,…it’s the only way I can share my subjective experience with others in some mutual form of empathic resonance.

As an energy therapist, I know the importance of light frequency and sound vibration. I know the power of words and their intended (as well as subtle) meanings on others, whether read or spoken.

Words are why you are here today perusing this blog. Words can touch your heart, they can inspire, and they can do far more: words can shift your energy lower or higher.

Long ago on my  Facebook page, the Tao and Zen folks had a great graphic of the Yin/Yang symbol that often represents the Tao. On the dark side were all the “shadow” words that instill fear and sadness in our hearts; and on the white side, were all the “love and light” words that instill joy, contentment, and that “feel good, safe and secure, hugged by a loved-one” inner peace we all strive to find in our lives.yinyangwords.jpg

I don’t think I’ve ever seen another graphic or image that better conveys a sense of what a low-frequency focus (darkness) and a high-frequency focus (light) really look and sound like in our culture—in everything we read, view, and hear around us, 24/7/365.

These “words” can make you feel bad about yourself and each other, or they can make you feel good about yourself and each other, because they represent what a fear-focus (darkness) means to us, and what a love-focus (light) means to us.

Whenever you speak, hear, or experience the darker side of this life, you know one of those fear-focused words all too well. So if your life is tinged or flooded with any of those darker word symbols that represent actual affects and emotions in your life, you are being adversely affected by fear in some form.

Likewise, if you speak, hear, or experience the lighter side of this life, you know the love-based words and make them your focus no matter what others say or do, because to live from those “light” word symbols, you truly have to shift your perspective higher and keep it there, no matter what the world around you implies or projects at you. High-frequency living is very much a choice and a goal for many of us, because it doesn’t necessarily come easily.

To attain that goal means we must reduce and eliminate, if possible, the “darker” words from our lives. We do this with intention and dedication to living in a high-frequency world because that’s the world we choose to live in.

If you choose “love and light” the white words represented here, are for you to shout from the hilltops and to emulate daily in all manner of human expression.

So, perhaps in one graphic image, you can conceive a personal road-map for raising your frequency and recognizing shadow-thoughts and behaviors when they arise or when they attempt to influence you; both in your own thoughts and behaviors, and in those of others around you.

Being aware of what low-frequency and high-frequency looks, sounds, and feels like, can be pivotal to recognizing your own feelings and choosing how you wish to spend your time—in the shadow or the light.

A Short Story Collection of Rick Bass

Rick Bass.jpgShort stories capture little vignettes of life as compared to a novel’s more-lengthy theme exposition and character development.  A good short story is every bit as difficult for a writer to master as is a good novel because you have far fewer pages to make your point and show your world view. It requires great clarity of vision and a high degree of literary skill. In other words, it takes discipline.

Do NOT consider short stories as the Reader’s Digest version of a novel. They are very different genre and as such offer a unique and rewarding reading experience. To me they are like browsing a buffet of favorite foods all stretched out before you to sample a bit of this, and then try a little of that until eventually you’ve sated your appetite. This book is the buffet grazer’s banquet.

And as mentioned previously, I really love a good writer—a word-magician who can string a few random syllables into multi-dimensional prose with such ease and grace that is effortless to read while being transformative in the process.For a LIttle While

This book I’m now exalting is called FOR A LITTLE WHILE: New and Selected Stories of Rick Bass.

As a short-story writer, Rick Bass could be the resultant love-child of Jack London coupled with Ernest Hemingway—birthed and nurtured by a Jungian midwife. His writing style is succinct, precise, sensory stimulating; and often depicts his characters’ intimate, dependent relationship with their environment.

Bass often shows how the environment has shaped each of the characters in his stories because the characters and the land itself often seem interchangeable with and indistinguishable from each other.

As a writer he subtly captures the depth of human interaction/emotions by describing actions (it’s what you DO, not what you SAY that counts). A character’s speech or dialogue might reveal conscious, flowing thought but actions reveal the unconscious motivations at work that drive the plot (and the life).

Overall I think Rick Bass really goes places that most writers never go—into the psychological core of basic human belief that drives their behavior—a spiritual connection to the land, which he often then parallels to animals of the same region.

tree tops.jpgIn fact in this collection of stories, there is an overwhelming oneness of every living thing interacting with their environment. That natural interdependency is often ignored in the prose of other writers—perhaps because of other writers not recognizing it. Bass, however, reveals the basic matrix of life itself—exposing the soft underbelly—with all its species interconnections and dependencies.

But more importantly is that as a really good writer he does it all so simply and elegantly—and that’s what just blows me away.

He doesn’t get salacious with his story line. He doesn’t go all horrific or deranged. He takes a rustic setting with simple born-of-the-earth people and examines each character’s internal machinations that translate into daily doings in such a way that it reveals WHO those characters are as human beings.

He shows the reader that WHAT his characters are swans on lake.jpgdoing in response to life’s challenges and grind are reflective of WHO they are; but it also helps us to see WHY that should matter to any of us. Bass deftly unveils how our simplest daily actions define our lives—it frames how we view each other, discloses how we treat each other, and clarifies what true life-lessons are learned during our journey here, whether separately or together.

rooted humanYou won’t read a Bass line claiming that life is fair or unfair; only that it is LIFE with all its beauty, tumbles, and bruises. He frequently shows how those strongly-rooted-to-the-land individuals derive their very life-essence from the land itself—how those “firmly planted humans” with feet to shuffle rather than burrowing filaments can more easily flow with and/or resist the life challenges that might test us lesser humans to the limit of our strength and stamina.

Anyway, I could go on and on here, but I think the book is a great short-story collection, especially for nature-lovers. The writer, Rick Bass is a phenomenal talent, and I’ll be reading more of his offerings soon.th

It comes as no surprise that he is an environmentalist.  He writes of nature and the land that supports us like an adulating lover extolling his beloved’s attributes.

Tom McCarthy

Tom McCarthy.jpgI don’t just love a good book. I really love a good writer because writing is both a skill and an artform.

In today’s world there are a few masterful wordsmiths who can not only turn a memorable phrase, but who can fully immerse you into their illuminating narrative. Those are the ones I applaud and whose talents I honor when I blog about them.

book.gifAgain while browsing the NEW BOOK section of the library, I ran across Satin Island by Tom McCarthy. Amazing! It’s subtle, distinct, but covertly deep as the Mariana Trench.

Tom McCarthy is definitely a “Writer’s writer”—one who electrifies the mundane with rich philosophical underpinnings masked by dry British understatement.

Without a doubt, LIFE is truly metaphor—and McCarthy’s every word becomes your symbolic stepping stone from banality to profundity, amassed under the guise of simplistic reporting of daily life around him—assessing the journey from here to there and back again.

His main character in this novel is called “U”—no name, just “U”. You got that, right? U is YOU, not directly of course, but by inference and association. He’s very Ericksonian (as in Milton—the great hypnotherapist). And his boss’s name is Peyman (yes, “pay-man”). I laughed when I finally got that.

Here’s a quote from the book cover about the novel’s contents: …”U., a ‘corporate oil slick.jpganthropologist,’ is tasked with writing the Great Report, an all-encompassing ethnographic document that would sum up our era. Yet at every turn he feels himself overwhelmed by the ubiquity of data, lost in buffer zones, wandering through crowds of apparitions, willing them to coalesce into symbols that can be translated into some kind of account that makes sense….In Satin Island, Tom McCarthy captures—as only he can—the way we experience our world, our efforts to find meaning (or just to stay awake) and discern the narratives we think of as our lives.”

It’s not an adventure novel—unless your adventure lies primarily in finding meaning from all aspects of your life. He starts with U sitting in Turin, Italy—or more appropriately in the Torino-Caselle airport waiting for a plane home. First sentence is this: “Turin is where the famous shroud isShroud.jpg from, the one showing Christ’s body supine after crucifixion….”

A few sentences later he tells how the Shroud of Turin myth was debunked by carbon-dating, then says, “But that didn’t trouble the believers. Things like that never do. People need foundation myths, some imprint of year zero, a bolt that secures the scaffolding that in turn holds fast the entire architecture of reality, of time… We see things shroudedly, as through a veil, an over-pixellated screen.”

And that’s the gist of his novel: he works for a corporation that makes its living selling a narrative of what contemporary life means so that other corporations can profit from the data in some way (while obscuring the actual ecological damages being done to the planet).

His boss, Peyman, makes a living selling “narratives”—does that mean the narrative is truth or simply whatever Peyman is selling? U asks himself that question.

Overall, McCarthy’s descriptions are kinetic and animated— by the 3rd page into the book I had grabbed my pencil to tag descriptive sentences. One of my favorites involved snoop“double-bumping over a railroad track.”

Will this novel be the book for everyone? Probably not. But for fellow writers who blushingly marvel at a colleague’s writing skills, there is much to admire about Tom McCarthy.

Shifting Timelines

RCWAgain, been reading lately and have another Robert Charles Wilson book in process. Evidently I enjoy his writing style and skills.

I won’t mention which book it is at this point, but it is one of his earlier ones where he isn’t quite as subtle dipping into his extensive bag of tricks. It’s much easier to see how he’s introducing the characters, settings, and scenarios then interweaving them into the storyline.

Mid-way through this one I realized what an excellent teaching tool his books can be to frog disectcreative writing students—no matter the age. It just takes a little extra time, a few margin notes and a coil notebook to trace all the components as you read through it. Lay the gathered info out like an old-school frog dissection if you want to see what’s inside it—pinning those guts out onto the matrix-cardboard, gore everywhere—all over your desk—all over your shirt—all over the notebook.

Then using a white board to display each chapter (represented by small sheets of paper spaced evenly across and down the board), and using some colored yarn for each significant character, one can track character introductions, interactions, and crescendos across the entire whiteboard—which represents the entirety of the novel. This can be very revealing of an author’s intentions and message.

stephen kingIn novels where the narrator (voice and tone) is the main character, it is easier to follow character timelines—because you basically have one point of reference, but when the perspective is more omniscient or limited omniscient, it is more difficult to effectively regulate the writer’s tone and tempo. Then more obvious time descriptors are often used as headers, such as: “a day later”, “the year after this”, “two years prior,” etc.

Exposing too much information too soon makes for clichéd writing; but offering toodark night little information during early chapters creates reader confusion and lack of interest. So it becomes a balancing act of what and who is introduced when and where.

The big question the writer must always answer is the WHY of what, who, when, and where.

WHY is this character appearing early, middle or late in the story? What makes that character significant to the situation as well as to the integrity of the book itself? There are many ways to tell a story—why is the writer using this method? What’s his rationale?

For instance, right now the Wilson book I’m reading is a story about time-travelers, and as one might imagine, scenes switch all over the proposed timeline represented: present, past, future, past, present,…until you start to wonder aloud: “Wait,….which present am I in? The present in the past or the present in the future, or IS THERE ahere and now PRESENT at all?”

I think that might have been one of his themes for this particular novel: “Is there really a PRESENT?”

It’s interesting to me, because that is the same question that I’m sometimes asked when conducting hypnosis Past-Life Explorations with my own clients.

Mid-journey, the client can be describing to me the events and feelings that she is experiencing during a particular past-life situation in a different time and place—a different body—a different setting—a different country, while I sit in PPFthe chair beside her in the NOW. And to the client who is effectively bi-locating in two places at the same time, she may be asking herself or me, “Which PRESENT am I really in? Am I there? Am I here? …..Where is the present?

Well, as the narrator of this story and my client’s tour-guide through her then-current Past-Life Exploration, I simply tell her: We are right here, right now …wherever that is in your timeline because the PRESENT is a constantly moving target.

It comes. It goes. Yet it still remains…the PRESENT, ….at least as we know it.