Burn, Baby, Burn

Enough of these phrases, conceit and metaphors,
I want burning, burning, burning.

Am I writing from my head or from my heart?

From reason or from intuition?

From my rational, need-to-make-a-living mind or from my place of greatest, deepest passion?

Do you ask yourself these questions? If not, you should. Call it checking your creative temperature. If you find your head and reason responding more loudly than your heart and soul, chances are the difference is showing in your writing, too.

Beginning writing students often tell me they can’t find any approach to a particular topic, saying “Nothing about it interests me,” or “I don’t know anything about that.” They allow a temporary lack of inquisitiveness and curiosity threaten to stifle creativity. They let fear of failure and inadequacy build fences between them and their words.

I believe that if you look hard enough and long enough at almost any topic and you’ll find something about it to pique your interest. If you observe, listen, taste, and feel your way around a subject, you WILL find entry into the world of that particular story or song or character.

Life is fascinating. Humans are amazing and frustrating and complex. The world is beautiful, ugly, dark and light. You, dear writer, are gifted with an ability to see, to tell truth, to craft story from air and dust. So get to it. Don’t tell me (or yourself!) that you can’t kindle your words and images from the tiniest spark.

Sure, you may be able to write cogent, precise, and even elegant prose. But I want fire. I want to hear your heart sing and read the music of your words. I want to immerse myself in your story–be it real or fiction. Give me truth either way. Make me burn with you. Ignite my curiosity and stoke my energy. Help me see between, around, and through your words.

Go now. Dig deeply into your place of passion and fire. Take any kernel of reality or fantasy and set yourself on creative fire. Don’t tell me you can’t. Do not rely on your head and your reason; they may only disappoint and stifle you. They will tell you 1,000 reasons you can’t or shouldn’t or won’t. Go now. Create a conflagration. Tell me. Show me. Make fireworks of those words. Burn, baby, burn.

(Photo by matthewvenn used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!)



Warning: Writing can be Hazardous to your Health

It started out as a splendid morning: June 30, the last day of the month, hot and sunny, a Saturday. I got up early enough to see my youngest daughter off to work, make some coffee, and run a couple of errands. All the while, I was writing in my mind. You know, where you’re learning about your characters and listening for clues in their stories while you get to know them. I’ve been pretty deep into a new fiction writing project, so I guess using the word “distracted” to describe my mental state would be an understatement. In fact, I probably should not even attempt to drive during these creative warm-up exercises.

Anyway, I came home and started cooking. My plan was Portobello mushrooms stuffed with sauteed onion, garlic, red pepper, spinach, and herbs, mixed with brown rice and goat cheese. Yum. What I forgot as I merrily chopped and stirred was that my daughters and I had put a large plastic bowl full of popcorn in the cold oven last night to keep it away from Pete-the-ravenous-Springer-Spaniel-and-counter-surfer-extraordinaire. I turned on the oven to pre-heat it for the shrooms and continued my mental visit with my main character and her best friend. Bad decision!

Within minutes smoke was billowing out of the oven vent, filling the kitchen with the smell of burning plastic. About that time I remembered the popcorn. Dumbly, I opened the oven door to see the plastic dripping into a molten, burning mess in the bottom of the oven. Fortunately, I did have the presence of mind to turn off the oven and burner and place the skillet over the vent. Next, I called 911 with a most inarticulate explanation and got the dogs outside on the leash while I looked for the fire extinguisher. Note to self–Why was it NOT under the kitchen sink?

To bring this tawdry tale to a hasty close, within 10 minutes the volunteer fire crew had arrived in force and within 20 minutes they had the smoke cleaned out of the house with the help of their fancy fan. The fire was history. The only casualty is the stove/oven.

Yes, I know better than to use the oven as a storage space for just this reason. Yes, I know to check the oven before turning it on, and yes, I realize that accidents do happen. Nevertheless, I am mortified, embarrassed, and exhausted. So much for happy character development today!

The moral of this story, dear fellow writers, is to be aware of the reverie into which you may sink while your characters come to life and lead you into their world and life stories. Make sure to take the proper precautions so that you don’t find yourself cleaning up toxic chemicals from a kitchen fire, or calling your insurance company after a fender bender. Multitasking and writing can indeed be hazardous to your health. Consider yourselves warned!

Have you ever had anything like this happen while you were immersed in the writing process? If so, do tell. It’ll make me feel better, and confession is good for the soul.

Photo by Chris Corwin used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!