Wednesday, January 31, 2018

On Focus, Fire, and Friends' Advice

view from morning walk November 2017
"I write essays to clear my mind. I write fiction to open my heart." --Taiye Selasi

When I came across this quote, I said yes! I do believe the words describe my experience of writing, too. I have often said that writing is a personal journey of discovery, of exploration, of finding out what we think, not what someone else tells us. It's a gift given to those of us who take up the challenge. And along the way, we learn what is in our  hearts.

Finding this quote came on the heels of a couple of things. First, although I don't often write essays, I do write devotions and recently was notified that one of my writings has been accepted for inclusion in an anthology edited by Susan King, associate editor of Upper Room Magazine, tentatively titled Short and Sweet III. What was exceptional about this submission? The entire piece, except for proper names and some contractions, had to be written with one-syllable words. Talk about a challenge! (More on the book as we get closer to the publication date.)

Secondly, the quote came after a recent meeting with my dear friends and writing critique partners, in which we talked about the upcoming year. "I'm having trouble with focus," I told them. "So many projects, so many thoughts. What do I focus on? Where do I go from here?"

Interestingly, the Dictionary of Word Origins, by John Ayto, says this about focus: "Latin focus meant 'fireplace,' and in post-classical times it came to be used for 'fire' itself--hence French feu, Italian fuoco, Spanish fuego, all meaning 'fire,' and hence too the English derivatives fuel and fusillade. The first writer known to have used it in its modern sense 'point of convergence' was the German astronomer Johannes Kepler, in 1604."

Focus is equated with fire? Wow, that puts a whole new spin on the subject. Ayto continues: "It may have been some metaphorical notion of the 'hearth' symbolizing the 'centre of the home.'"

What does this mean for us in this upcoming year? What might our focus--our fire--be? What will be the center of our writing, and will the kind of writing we choose help clear the mind and/or open the heart?

These are good questions. For me it means revisiting my goals for fiction writing, the possibility of self-publishing a haiku chapbook (any and all advice welcome!), and dipping the toes into more social media. Hmmmm...

Focus. Fire! Friends' advice. As writers, we need them all, and 2018 promises to be a great new year for living them out. How about you? Are you having trouble with focus in your writing? Are you on fire for your work? What kind of writing helps clear your mind and/or opens your heart? And what advice do your writer friends give you that helps you along your way?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Knitted Personalities and a Word or Two

December 2017 knitting  projects
"Knitting is very conducive to thought. It is nice to knit a while, put down the needles, 
write a while, then take up the sock again." --Dorothy Day

"...then take up the sock..." or the bear, three colorful mice, a mermaid, lizard or ball depending on the project at hand!

The end of 2017 for us not only saw special holiday opportunities with family and friends but also a couple of grandkid December birthdays. And so the knitting needles were maybe busier than the keyboard, but that was okay. The fun of starting with two pointed sticks and a skein of color and watching a personality unfold brought personal enjoyment coupled with the anticipation of the joy for the receiver. Who has more fun, the knitter or the giftee?

And, just yesterday, almost three weeks into a new year, we learned that two of those personalities finally arrived at their destination. Miss Cranberry Bear and Mr. Stripey Lizard made it all the way to a three-year old and a seven-year old in Spain, after being enroute about ten days. If the toys could talk, what stories might they tell of their adventures crossing the ocean? Just the thought of it--whimsical little companions traveling the world--stirs a storyteller's imagination. "A knitter only appears to be knitting yarn," says Dr. SunWolf. "Also being knitted are winks, mischief, sighs, fragrant possibilities, wild dreams." 

Sounds like a description of a writer, too :-)

Knitting is not for everyone, of course. And thankfully there are multiples of creative activities to choose from. The varieties are endless. What about you? Do you enjoy a craft that encourages possibilities and wild dreams in your writing? Maybe painting or coloring or scrapbooking that helps inspire writing thoughts? Journaling, poetry, or the fun of writing prompts? Anything that loosens the flow of words? Is there something new this year you'd like to try?

Here's to a year of having fun with our writing, no matter the form it takes. Who knows what seas we'll travel!