Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Imagination

Everyone Has the Same Destination – The Question Is How Will You Make Your Journey

When I was in the 7th grade, a teacher wrote the following words on the blackboard: “Hitch Your Wagon to a Star.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

That was almost half a century ago, and I was living in a little rural town in the cotton-growing part of the Bootheel of Southeast Missouri. Before that day, I had never heard of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I had not thought much about life outside of my little community. In many ways, that one teacher changed the course of my life. Her name was Miss King, and she challenged me to be more than I might have been had I never met her. God Bless Great Teachers, and God Bless Miss King for opening my eyes to the ever wondrous nuances of living life fully.

Miss King was an outstanding English teacher and after my 7th-grade year under her tutelage, grammar was never too difficult for me. That, in itself, was one of the greatest gifts that I ever received, but because I lived in a very small town, Miss King also taught me again in 10th grade. That year, she taught me English literature. That is when she opened my eyes to William Blake and to his Songs of Innocence and Experience.

I have always been interested in both writing and visual art, and I loved the fact that William Blake both wrote and illustrated his work. I became fascinated by the idea that one day I might write and illustrate my writing, too.  I also became interested in the message in Blake’s writing. Blake challenged mankind to have a depth feelings, and he warned against becoming emotionally old. William Blake was the subject of my first master’s thesis, and his work has fueled my own vision. I owe a great deal to William Blake, but I owe even more to Miss King, who introduced me to William Blake. It was because of Miss King that when I was 12 years old, I Hitched my own Wagon to a Star, and it was because of Miss King that my journey has not been like that of most people.

road-1072823_1920-RobertFrost

Miss King also introduced me to Robert Frost and through Miss King and Robert Frost, I began to realize that there was a path that led out of the cotton patches of my childhood. Thank goodness, that passage goes both ways. Although I have left my childhood home, I return to it daily through my writing. I have not turned my back on who I was, but because of who I once was and because of great teachers like Miss King, I learned to reach for other worlds. I learned to set goals, and I began walking toward those goals.

shoot-for-the-moon900

When I was in the 7th grade, I heard what Miss King was saying. I actually “got” what she was trying to teach my class. She was challenging us to aim for greatness in our lives. She was opening a door for us and encouraging us to begin the journey that would become the courses of our lives.  I will be the first to admit that I have not yet reached the moon of my own goals. In fact, it has taken me quite some time to decide exactly which path that I wanted to follow. But because very early in life, I aimed for the moon, my life has indeed been lighted by the stars. And that has made all the difference to me.

Several months ago, I wrote a simple little poem. Ostensibly, the poem was a recording of the way that I felt when I initially awoke one morning. Within a few hours of having written the verse, however, I realized that through a few, simple words, I had actually captured something about the way that I have decided to journey through my entire life.

silver-sheets

On Silver Sheets, I Sail
by Jacki Kellum

Just before I open my eyes
I float along the misty skies.

I reach, I feel the soft, white hair
and fairy wings that flutter there.

I listen, I hear the slumber song,
The angel band that plays along

My dreams are in my pillow-pail.
On silver sheets, I sail.

©Jacki Kellum  July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day – Let Your Freedom Ring!

Sail

The Artist’s Way and Spirituality – Introduction – Quotes with Page Numbers – Julia Cameron

Thousands of years before Julia Cameron wrote the Artist’s Way,  writers and thinkers had equated one’s spirit or one’s essence with the imagination.

Six hundred years before Christ was born or about 2600 years ago, Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching, which is The Book of the Way:

In Chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching, the following is said:

“There are ways but the Way is uncharted “
“The secret waits for the insight”
“Those who are bound by desire See only the outward container.”
Again to the first line. “There are ways. but the Way…” can only be found from within, from the spirit.

 

The Artist’s Way is also about this ancient Way, and it is about much more than making art objects. It is about a lifestyle. It is about a way of living–a type of spirituality that is manifested through the imagination and a deep connection to one’s own inner self. It is a step beyond superficiality or the external and into what William Blake and other Romantic poets called the Imagination.

William Blake was an English Romantic poet who wrote during the early 1800s. In his early works, The Songs of Innocence and Experience, Blake equated the innocent lamb with the pure essence of the spiritual and childhood.

Here is William Blake’s verse about the Innocent Lamb of Childhood.

Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,”
Making all the vales rejoice?

William Blake’s Tyger was the embodiment of Experience or the External. The Experienced person is characterized as being insensitive and detached. William Blake associated the cynical adult with the Experience or the Tyger state.

The Tyger is described as being fierce and dreadful. Blake asks of the Tyger:

Did He who made the Lamb make Thee?

As Blake continued to write, his theories became more radical. He eventually conceived of a type of heaven and hell, and he created the character Los to be the Christ-like savior of his religion, and Los  was the embodiment of the Imagination. One of Blake’s later books was titled The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. 

My reason for pointing all of this out is again to show that for many years, writers and thinkers have associated spirituality with the imagination.

William Blake was one of the earliest of the Romantic poets, who were a reaction against the Industrial Revolution. The Realists were in favor of Industrialism, Mechanization, Standardization, and Outwardness. The Romanticists advocated the Imagination as the savior from Industrialism and the key to Inwardness, as opposed to the outwardness iof Industrialism.In my opinion, this Romanitic Inwardness is the same a Lao Tsu’s The Way and as Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. 

On the very first page of the introduction to Cameron’s 1992 edition of  the Artist’s Way, she quoted the Romantic poet Coleridge in the right margin. He said:

“The primary imagination I hold to be the living power.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge: 1772-1834

William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were best friends. They were both Romantic poets and wrote after William Blake did. Their writings echo those of William Blake in that they advocate feelings, sensitivity, and child-like innocence].

“Genius is the power of carrying the feelings of childhood into the powers of manhood.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge also wrote about a type of Way or inner or Spiritual direction:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I believe that it is important to lay this framework for Julia Cameron’s book the Artist’s Way and to acknowledge that she is not really writing anything new. Rather, she is repeating what has been said for thousands of years and by many people before her. In fact, some of the greatest features of Cameron’s book are her quotes of other people. In most cases, these quotes run along the side margins of Cameron’s own observations. Cameron collates, organizes and reiterates in digestible chunks the wisdom of many people who preceded her. Now, twenty-five years after the first publication of the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron herself is the person being quoted in other people’s books.

In the introduction to the Artist’ Way, Cameron makes it clear that her books are not merely for artists and writers. They are for:

...artists and nonartists, painters and filmmakers and homemakers and lawyers–anyone interested in living more creatively through practicing an art; even more broadly, anyone interested in practicing the art of creative living.” p. xi the 1992 edition.

In the introduction to the Artist’s Way, Cameron speaks about our need for a God or a Great Creator; yet, she says that even atheists can benefit from her program. When Cameron speaks of God or the Great Creator, I believe that she is talking about an elite lifestyle reserved only for those people who elect to participate in it, and  I  believe that for some people, Cameron’s Great Creator can include the Christian concept of God:

“Many are called but few are chosen.” – the Bible – Matthew 22:

Yet, it can also include the Jewish concept of God:

“Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’ ” – The Talmud

By the same token, I do not believe that everyone who considers themselves to be Christian or Jewish has the kind of spirituality of Great Creator to which Cameron refers. Julia Cameron’s concept of the Great Creator is not limited to any specific doctrine, sect, or religious denomination. It is also rooted in the teachings of the Ancient, non Judeo Christian:

“Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.”  – Lao Tsu – Tao Te Ching

As we begin to study Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way, we must  embrace the power of what Cameron is calling The Great Creator, and I believe that essential to embracing this Creator is understanding it and if necessary in distinguishing it from a purely religious God. Again, I believe that Julia Cameron is partially speaking about what I call the Intuition. Even though he was a great scientist, Albert Einstein endorsed the power of the intuition, as he said:

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.” – Albert Einstein

Many, many times before, I have said that when I am doing my best writing and my best painting, I am not actually doing either. My intuition is doing it for me.

If you will look closely at my painting of the pink tulips, you will see a flush of hot pink within and running through the leaves. I painted these tulips from a life observation of a pot of tulips and something literally directed my hand to the pink paint and nudged me into the act of flooding it through the green leaves. Somehow, I sensed the need of the color pink, and I  sensed exactly where to place the pink.  After I finished the painting, I didn’t name it: Pink Tulips. I named it In the Pink, and it was because of the way that the pink actively engaged with the green.

 

When I painted Janis Joplin, I began thinking of the essence of Janis Joplin’s performances, and something told me to electrify her hair. When I am painting well, I don’t make decisions like these. Something within me directs me, and I call that something my Intuition, which is somehting greater than me.

I am reminded of the scripture from the Christian Bible:

4 “,,,greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”  I John 4:4

If I were writing my parallel view of this scripture, I would say:

“Greater is He who is in me than I who am in my way.” – Jacki Kellum

This power that is within me is my Intuition.

If I were going to reduce the message of Julia Cameron’s book the Artist’s Way into a tiny jingle, I would say that the Artist’s Way is about our need to get out of our own ways and to let that greater power within us do its job. In my opinion, writer’s block, painter’s block, and every other kind of brain freeze happens because we get in our own ways. When we try to take control of what we create, and when we don’t allow our intuitions to work through us, we get in our own ways.

In my opinion, the first step toward the Artist’s Way is to Release.

My name is Jacki Kellum. I essentially have 3 masters degrees in the arts, and I have written and created visual art since I was a very young child. Over the years, I have read Julia Cameron’s books several times, and every time that I do, I discover something new. I am currently leading a writer’s group, and we are taking a few weeks to explore the Artist’s Way together. I plan to share some of my lectures on my blog and on YouTube. I hope that you will join us.

©Jacki Kellum March 30, 2017

Which Do You Want – Money or Happiness? – Quotes about Money and Happiness

virginia_woolf_1927-adjusted

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf opened a can of worms in suggesting that in order to write, the writer must have already attained a reasonable amount of financial security. In addition, the writer must have time to write. Having both time and money simultaneously is not an easy thing to do. I always say that the American Dilemma is that we can work all of the time and have plenty of money but in doing so, we have no time to do what we want; or we can work at formal jobs as little as possible and have time to do what makes us happy, like writing, but we have no money to do what we enjoy. I represent the tail end of that dream, but by the grace of God, I do have a room of my own, and I have enough money to pay for the most basic needs of my life. For me, that has become enough.

I was able to retire early, and each month, I get a few coins from my retirement. In addition, I work a few hours a week as the storyteller for the toddlers at my library. I also get a few coins from that job. A coin here and a coin there, I survive. What’s wrong with that picture? I was the Valedictorian of my class. I probably should be doing better financially than I am. I should be banging my head against the wall and engaging in daily confrontations with co-workers and clients. I should be sitting at a desk. I should be on the conference call from Hell. I should be rich, but I am not. Yet, by the grace of God, I have enough money to get by, and I have found ways to enjoy the time that my lifestyle allows me.

When I was 20-years-old, I almost died in a car accident. That was long before I had begun to flourish, and that accident changed the course of my life. When I was 20-years-old, I became aware of the reality that life does not last terriby long for anyone, and for some people, life is short. I realized that I needed to spend more of my few remaining hours in this world doing things that I liked, and I never liked the business world or working nine to five in someone else’s office. I tried that route for a few years, but I got out of the rat race early, and many years ago, I began following a different path in life

road-1072823_1920-RobertFrost

Being the arty type, some time ago, I elected to march to a cadence that is different than that which regulates the lives of most of the rest of the world. It is commonplace for artists to choose to live their lives a little differently. In doing so, we creatives tend to make choices that would not be esteemed as the popular ones. By the world’s standards, I have not lived up to my potential, but on the other hand, I have lived a life that has allowed me the time to smell life’s roses along the way.

Because of the nature of my open work week, I have enough time that I can allocate many hours toward whatever goal that I choose. I do work–in fact, my work day is at least 18-hours-long, but I don’t work in a formal job and in an office away from my home. From my own room, I write and I research for more writing. From my own studio, I paint. In my own yard, I garden. I stay very busy, but I don’t get paid dollar bills for 99% of what I do. I work to make enough money to survive, and I pay my bills. I spend most of my days writing and painting and gardening. When night time arrives, I rest my head, and I sleep.

Ashes to ashes–dust to dust–the money only helps us for a short portion of what will be our eternities. After that,  the money  is no better for us than the dust of the rest of our lives. I will not pretend that I don’t worry that when I am old, I will be a pauper. I don’t have everything figured out. To do that, I would have to be much smarter than I am. I have simply decided to live one day at a time, and that is about all that I can handle.

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I–I took the one less traveled by.
And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

©Jacki Kellum September 26, 2016

Some other great quotes about the odd relationship between money and happiness:

“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.” ― Groucho Marx

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.” ― Will Rogers

“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.” ― Dorothy Parker

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” ― Oscar Wilde

Dilemma

The More We Give, the More We Receive – Why Blog? – Create to Discover New Ideas & New Creations

Yesterday, in my writing class, we talked about hoarding. I am not sure how the conversation began, but it quickly evolved into a discussion of the clutter that has amassed in all of our homes. Everyone agrees that the stuff that we hoard eventually strangles us and that we need to learn to let go. Many years ago, I read a short parable about the Dead Sea and about the damaging results of its refusal to give.

Two-Seas

The Parable of the Two Seas

“There are two seas in Palestine. One is fresh, and fish are in it. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees spread their branches over it and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters. Along its shores the children play…..

The River Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills. So it laughs in the sunshine. And men build their houses near to it, and birds their nests; and every kind of life is happier because it is there.

The River Jordan flows on south into another sea. Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.

What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas? Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie not the country about.

This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out. The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.

The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.

The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. This other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead.

There are two kinds of people in the world. There are two seas in Palestine.” – Anonymous

The Bible talks about Giving:

“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9

Initially, when I read the above scripture, I assumed that it was simply telling us to give of our money and of our groceries to actually provide those groceries for those around us. But I believe that the hunger and  the feeding in the Bible were about more than something that goes into our mouths. I believe that the Bible also talks about the pervasive hunger of the human spirit and of the needs of the soul.

William Blake was an English poet during the Romantic age of literature. He was a Christian, but he wrote about an emotional hunger that was broader than that described by most traditional Christians. In Blake’s early poems, The Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Experience, he contrasted the child’s spirit with that of the adult, saying that the adult had become hardened and insensitive and that the adult was no longer spiritual. I find it interesting that the Bible also speaks about the child.

“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ ‘ Matthew 18:3

In Blake’s early poems, he was talking about more than childhood. Blake was talking about an emotional youth or spirituality.[I believe that the Bible is also talking about more than childhood]. Ultimately, William Blake described a Heaven and a Hell for people who either connect with their emotional spirituality or innocent imaginations or who choose not to connect with it. Blake said that the Imagination was the path to his Heaven, and he also wrote about a Christ-like figure Los, who was the embodiment of the Imagination. In Blake’s writing, the Imagination [Los] leads one to Heaven.

One may or may not accept that Blake’s teachings were Christian.

But Christianity is not the only religion that raises the issue of the needs of the hunger of the spirit or of the soul.

homesick.jpg

I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists . . . .

Many of us identify with the statement: I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists.  If we substituted the words
“hungry” and “food,” we would probably also acknowledge that we are starving, too.

I am hungry for a food I am not sure even exists.

The Tao draws ideas from Buddhism, and the first of the four noble truths of Buddhism is that mankind lives in a state of yearning. The Buddhists believe that by aligning oneself with the Four Noble Truths, that yearning will cease, or at least, it will be lessened.

“Tao or Dao (/taʊ/, /daʊ/; Chinese: 道; pinyin: About this sound Dào (help·info)) is a Chinese word signifying ‘way’, ‘path’, ‘route’, or sometimes more loosely, ‘doctrine’ or ‘principle’. Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, the Tao is the intuitive knowing of “life” that cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept but is known nonetheless through actual living experience of one’s everyday being.” Wikipedia Here

[The Tao Te Ching–or the Dao–can be found in its entirety by Googling the words: Tao Te Ching. It is a beautiful writing.]

The Hindu religion talks about the soul. “Atman means ‘eternal self’. The atman refers to the real self beyond ego or false self. It is often referred to as ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ and indicates our true self or essence which underlies our existence.” From BBC Religions Here

I realize that I am over-simplifying all of these religious beliefs and schools of thought, but my main objective is to say that the Christians are not the only people who have identified a hunger and a need to be filled. I grew up as a Christian, and because I am slightly more comfortable talking about the Christain perspective, I return to the need to give, as it is discussed in the Bible. In an odd sort of way, I believe that humanity’s hunger has to do with the difficulty he has with giving:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

Again, I admit that this may be an over-simplification, but I believe that as we create, we give. Think about it: When we post to our blogs, we “share.” Creating is a way that we empty ourselves, and as we empty of ourselves, we allow space for another creation to begin.

The act of creating works like a bellows.

 

bellows-define

What Is A Bellows?

A bellows is a device that can be used to fan the flames and to build a larger fire. When the arms of a bellows are pulled apart, air is drawn into a bag. When the arms are squeezed shut, the air is rushed out, and the oxygen fans the flames. This increases the size of the fire.  Once the air has been emptied from the bag, the arms are pulled apart again, and fresh air is drawn back into the bag. When the arms are shut again, another blast of oxygen is expelled, and the flames leap higher. A bellows is sometimes called a blast bag.

Writing Is Like Using A Bellows

When we initially begin to write, our thoughts may be nothing more than a tiny flicker. Our thoughts need oxygen. We must fan our reflections to help them grow. We begin by pushing out the stale air which has been sitting inside our bags or our minds. When the whiff that was initially inside the bagblows out, the flame may flash for a second or two, but it needs more than a draft of stale, oxygenless air. Once the bag is empty, however, we can pull apart the bellows, and fresh ideas, renewed memories, and other invigorating thoughts will fill the bags of our minds. When we push that new bag of fresh air across the flickering light, the flames will begin to leap into the air. But in order to fill our bags with that vital and fresh oxygen, we must expel the insipid air that has been trapped inside.

Relate Using A Bellows and Creating to Emptying in the Teachings of Zen

The Full Teacup is a Zen story that illustrates the need for emptying. A man who was believed to be powerful and wise came to the Zen master to learn something new. Apparently, the student began by reciting to the master some of the things that he already knew. Apparently, he was trying to impress the master with the depth of his knowledge. After the Zen master listened for a moment, he said, “Let’ begin our session with a cup of tea.”

The master filled the student’s cup with tea, but he did not stop pouring. Tea flowed from the cup and ran across the floor. The student said, “Stop, the cup is full.”

The Zen master responded, “Exactly. Your mind is like the full cup of tea. I cannot teach you anything until you empty your mind and open yourself to something new.”

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – chapter 11

Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.

When we sit down to write, we often feel that we have nothing new to say. That is because our minds are filled with stale, lifeless thoughts. Before we can begin to discover what we want to write, we must expel what is inside ourselves and we must create an empty space within our consciousnesses.

Please return to the idea of the Dead Sea, the body of water that does not empty of itself.

The Dead Sea – “Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.”

“What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas? Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie not the country about.

“This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out. The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.

“The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.

“The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. This other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead.

:There are two kinds of people in the world. There are two seas in Palestine.” – Anonymous

Allow me to add to this parable. There are also two kinds of thinkers. One type of thinker explores his thoughts and shares. In doing so, he is continuously emptying his thoughts through writing, through painting, or through producing music. Fresh ideas will continually flow inside the generous thinker’s mind, and the new ideas will replace what had previously been there. The other type of thinker will not empty of himself–he will not give. The thinker who hoards will not allow what is inside his head to flow outward. Therefore, his brain  becomes parched and dried. The grass is no longer green in this thinker’s mind, and the children no longer come to play. Nothing will change until the thinker allows what is inside himself to flow out.

We Must Create to be More Creative:

When we don’t give–when we don’t create–
We allow our inner selves to stagnate;
And stagnation leads to withering,
Which ultimately results in a type of death.
When we don’t create, we become like the Dead Sea. 

I often write about my reasons for blogging. For me, there is no money in blogging. I don’t blog to increase my wealth, but I do blog for other selfish reasons. I blog to empty my mind and to be re-invigorated through that emptying. I blog to control the chaos that results from the stagnation of too much information, and I blog to be blessed with something new to say. I would not say that I am a generous person. A generous person gives for no reason at all, and I do have a reason for giving through my creativity. I create to be more creative.

©Jacki Kellum September 23, 2016

Generous

How to End Your Writer’s Block & Stare Down Your White Pages

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

Do your efforts to create, end with a screeching halt? Does the empty, white page try to stare you down? Don’t allow that to happen! Stand firm and simply begin to write.

First, You Need to Prime Your Writing Pump

1. Ask yourself what you are passionate about. Start there!

Initially, you might not be able to recall any of your passions. Initially, yYou might think that life has sucked all of the passion out of you,  but you are wrong. If that were true, you wouldn’t be here, sitting in front of the computer, trying to decide what to write. You would still be vegetating in front of the television, but you are here.

You are still alive. Dig deeper.

2. Overcome Lethargy

Perhaps you feel that you are sinking in the quicksand of your own lethargy. An anecdote for that problem is to keep a canister of writing prompts handy, and when you are experiencing writer’s block, pull out one of those prompts and write about that.

The New York Times published a list of 500 great writing prompts Here.

Grab hold of one of those prompts and allow it to be your rope. Allow that to pull you out of your pit of lethargy.

WordPress Publishes A Daily WordPress Prompt Every Morning

wpdaily1

I begin almost every day by writing something, and my earliest morning pages are usually my response to the WordPress Daily Prompt. Read how you can also do that Here.

3. Begin with a Quote

Often, when I see the WordPress Daily Prompt, I am stumped for a moment and cannot think of anything to write. When a prompt does not motivate me, I turn to Google, and I do a Google search for quotes that might correlate with a word that I associate with the prompt. For instance, one morning’s WordPress Prompt was “Admire,” and I was not readily drawn to that topic. I performed two Google searches. One time I searched exactly the following words: “Quotes Admire.” The second time, I searched exactly the following words, “Quotes Admiration,” and after my searches, it was not long before I had written my own opinions about the prompt “Admire.” You can see what I wrote Here 

4. Write First – Title Later

I do not title anything until I finish writing the piece entirely. Titling is a Writing-Stopper. A title is like a straight jacket. If you try to title first, you limit yourself because you write trying to confine yourself to the topic of the title. Just write, let the title spring from the writing. Begin to say what you want to say and allow your writing to evolve. Then title.

5. Allow Your Intuition to Do the Heavy Lifting of Your Writing

michelangelo

Michelangelo alluded to the artist’s intuition in saying that his sculptures lay within the stone and in sculpting, he merely followed the path that he sensed within the rock. Michelangelo was talking about the process of allowing his intuition to speak to him and to coach him as he created, thus creating his art for him.

Because I am both a painter and a writer, I understand what Michelangelo was saying. When I am truly painting, something within me grabs my hand and almost literally makes my marks for me. At various times, I have written all of the following about allowing one’s intuition to create:

“Creating any type of art requires that a series of decisions be made by the artist: red here? more grass? less water?, etc. When the intuition is fully functioning, the artist is hardly even aware of the questions–the intuition handles the question and answer dialog. Before this can happen, however, the artist must first allow Intuition to get his foot into the door; and then, the artist must learn to trust the decisions that Intuition makes for him.” – Jacki Kellum

“I cannot overemphasize the importance of the intuition. Countless painters speak of an intuitive force that operates within them when they paint. Everyone is born with intuition, but socializing and educating a child have a way of squeezing the intuition out of him. Although it would be better if none of us ever lost our inner radar, intuitiveness can be reawakened.” – Jacki Kellum

In creating art, something speaks to the artist and that something should be allowed to lead the way. By listening to that something–that inner voice–one is able to distil one’s own vision. – Jacki Kellum

“Intense listening with one’s inner ear–the intuitive ear– is a vital part of sharpening one’s inner eye—and thus, of extracting a piece’s inward significance.” – Jacki Kellum

“Intuition and the Inner Artist are linked. Intuition is the instinctive way that one’s inner artist views and responds to life. When a painter allows intuition to guide him, the painter himself becomes a vessel and the art flows through the vessel.” – Jacki Kellum

Knowing why one does this or that while creating is not important–just doing is the key to becoming. Making art is an intuitive response. – Jacki Kellum

When writers can access the words that lie within themselves, they begin to write more authentically. In fact, I could return to my own words that I quoted above, and I could exchange the word “writer” for the times that I said “artist,” and I would be equally correct. When writers create from within their intuitions, they often call that writing from “The Zone,” but it is actually writing from the intuition, a reservoir of thoughts and emotions that run deeply within each person. The secret is tapping into that reservoir.

mine-memories

Beginning October 1, I am launching the Free Jacki Kellum 36-Day Writing Event that is designed to help writers recharge themselves and to begin writing intuitively again. The Entire Blog to Memoir Program has four segments which will span the next year, but the first segment is devoted to helping writers find what they are passionate about. You can read about that Event Here.

6. Don’t Worry About What Everyone Else Is Thinking about Your Writing

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Other people aren’t focusing on you or on your writing. Quite worrying about what they think of your work.  Just focus on yourself and your own goals and begin to write. Remember that you are writing to express yourself and not to express everyone else. Just talk–in plain language [Shakespearean English is out]–and say why these words are meaningful to you. People are more alike than you might think. Others will identify. Write it, they will read.

7. Write Naturally – Give Up the Idea that You Should Write Like Shakespeare

Please Don’t Thee and Thou Me
by Jacki Kellum

Please don’t Thee and Thou me.
That’s such a stuffy start.
That’s not the way to wow me,
Just say it from your heart.
©Jacki Kellum February 3, 2016

Jacki Kellum Rules for Writing Poetry – Rule Number 1

  1. Don’t try to use stilted, pretentious, poetry-sounding words. Just talk.

©Jacki Kellum February 3, 2016

Just talk–in plain language [Shakespearean English is out]–and say why these words are meaningful to you. People are more alike than you might think. Others will identify. Write it, they will read it.

8. Write first. Let it flow. Just talk. Spell later.

As you begin to write, don’t worry about spell check at first. Getting stumped by spelling is another Writing-Stopper. Write first–then spell check; then correct the spelling. It might even help to do the writing and editing in a Word Document and then paste it into WordPress. Whatever it takes, do it, but don’t let you editing strangle your writing.

9. Consider Recording Yourself Saying What You Want to Write and Then Transcribing It

If you cannot keep your self-editor in check, allow your cell phone‘s voice recorder to help you.  Just pick up your cell phone and download a voice recorder app and talk to the recorder. You can even send yourself lengthy voice messages and transcribe those. A friend of mine had a great idea for this. She said to send your message to yourself via email, and it will already be typed for you. How easy is that?

Do you see how easy it would be for you to stare down your white pages and to end your writer’s block?  Just do it!

©Jacki Kellum September 18, 2016

 

Passionate

Anne Lamott – Bird by Bird – Humorous but Penetratingly Honest Advise for Writers

Before the last year, I have avoided writing, and because of that, I have avoided reading many of the books that everyone was telling me that I should read–books that would encourage me to write. Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird is one of those books. Anne Lamott has a sharp wit, and her book Bird by Bird is an enjoyable read. Her assessment of the challenges and the rewards of writing is penetratingly honest. In the introduction to Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott allows us to see her as a survivor of her own childhood gawkiness, and we begin to understand that writing became Lamott’s tool for survival. No different than the rest of us, however, she had to learn to deal with the reality that writing can be an arduous task.

“… we all ended up just the tiniest bit resentful when we found the one fly in the ointment; that at some point we had to actually sit down and write.” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird p. xiii.

anne-lamott-2013-cropped

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

Lamott continues by describing her gawkiness:

“I went to the first grade, with all these cute little boys and girls playing together like puppies, and all of a sudden I scuttled across the screen like Prufrock’s crab. I was very clearly the one who was going to grow up to be a serial killer, or keep dozens and dozens of cats. Instead, I got funny…..first I got funny and then I started to write, although I did not always write funny things.” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird p. xiii.

Amazon.com Review of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

“Think you’ve got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn’t afraid to help you let it out. She’ll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication. Readers will be reminded of the energizing books of writer Natalie Goldberg and will be seduced by Lamott’s witty take on the reality of a writer’s life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer’s block and going for broke with each paragraph. Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading.”
 From Publishers Weekly Review of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird
“Lamott’s ( Operating Instructions ) miscellany of guidance and reflection should appeal to writers struggling with demons large and slight. Among the pearls she offers is to start small, as their father once advised her 10-year-old brother, who was agonizing over a book report on birds: “Just take it bird by bird.” Lamott’s suggestion on the craft of fiction is down-to-earth: worry about the characters, not the plot. But she’s even better on psychological questions. She has learned that writing is more rewarding than publication, but that even writing’s rewards may not lead to contentment. As a former “Leona Helmsley of jealousy,” she’s come to will herself past pettiness and to fight writer’s block by living “as if I am dying.” She counsels writers to form support groups and wisely observes that, even if your audience is small, ‘to have written your version is an honorable thing’ “
“But I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do–the actual writing–turns out to be the best part. …The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird p. xxvi.
 Lamott describes the sensation that she had, as a child, when she first saw her poem in print:
“I understood immediately the thrill of seeing oneself in print. It provides some sort of primal verification: you are in print; therefore ou exist. Who knows what this urge is all about, to appear somewhere outside yourself, instead of feeling stuck inside your muddled but stroboscopic mind, peering out like a little undersea animal–a spiny blenny, for instance–from inside your cave.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird p. xiii.

Other Quotes from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” 

“I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

“Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?”

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.”

“If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days–listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. You take home all you’ve taken in, all that you’ve overheard, and you turn it into gold. (Or at least you try.)”

Lamott shares what she tells her students about what they might expect from the act of writing:

“I tell them they’ll want to be really good right off, and they may not be, but they might be good someday if they just keep the faith and keep practicing. And they may even go from wanting to have written something to just wanting to be writing, wanting to be working on something…because writing brings with it so much joy, so much challenge. It is work and play together. When they are working on their books or stories, their heads will spin with ideas and invention. They’ll see the world through new eyes. Everything they see and hear and learn will become grist for the mill….They will have days at the desk of frantic boredom, of angry hopelessness, of wanting to quit forever, and there will be days when it feels like they have caught and are riding a wave.

“And then I tell my students that the odds of their getting [p. xxix] published and of it bringing them financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, ugly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe, but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway. But I try to make sure they understand that writing, and even getting good at it, and having books and stories and articles published, will not open the doors that most of them hope for. It will not make them well. It will not give the feeling that the world has finally validated their parking tickets, that they have in fact finally arrived. My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird pgs. xxix-xxx.

“But I also tell them that sometimes when my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other times. And sometimes when they are writing well, they feel that tthey are living up to something. It is as if the right words, the true words, are already inside them, and they just want to help them get out. ” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird p. xxxi.

Chapter One: Getting Started

“…writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird p. 3.

“Start with your childhood….Plug your nose and jump in, and write down all your memories as truthfully as you can.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird p. 4.

“Do you remember how when you’d be floating around in an inner tube on a river, your own family would have lost the little cap that screws over the airflow valve, so every time you got in and out of the inner tube, you’d scratch new welts in your thighs? And how other families never lost the caps?…

“Scratch around for details…those terrible petaled swim caps, the mean’s awful trunks….Write about the somen’s curlers with the bristles inside….Brownie uniforms….Christmas when you were ten, and how it made you feel inside.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird p. 5.

“Remember that  you own what happened to you. If your childhood was less than ideal, you may have been raised thinking that if you told the truth about what really went on in your family, a long bony white finger would emerge from a cloud and point at you, while a chilling voice thundered, ‘We told you not to tell.’ But that was then. Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on.”

“But how?” my students ask. “How do you actually do it?”

“You sit down, I say. You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively. So you sit down at, say, nine every morning, or ten every night. You put a piece of paper in the typewriter, or you turn on the computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child. You look at the ceiling, and over at the clock, yawn, and stare at the paper again. Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind — a scene, a locale, a character, whatever — and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind.The other voices are banshees and drunken monkeys. They are the voices of anxiety, judgment, doom, guilt. Also, severe hypochondria.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird pgs. 6-7.

“And so if one of your hear’s deepest longings is to write, there are ways to get your work done, and a number of reasons why it is important to do so.

“And what are those reasons again? my students ask.

“Because for some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of all the things that you don’t get in real life–wonderful, lyrical language….And quality of attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird pgs. 14-15.

 Chapter Two: Short Assignments

“Often when you sit down to write, what you have in mind is an autobiographical novel about your childhood, or a play about the immigrant experience, or a history….But this is like trying to scale a glacier. It’s hard to get your footing, and your fingertips get all red and frozen and torn up. Then your mental illnesses arrive at the desk….And they pull up chairs in a semicircle around the computer, and they try to be quiet but you know they are there with their weird coppery breath, leering at you behind your back.

“What I do at this point, as the panic mounts and the jungle drums begin beating and I realize that the well has run dry and that my future is behind me and I;m going to have to get a job only I’m completely unemployable, it to stop. First I try to breathe, because I’m either sitting there panting like a lap dog or I’m unintentionally making slow asthmatic death rattles. So I just sit there for a minute, breathing slowly, quietly. …and I finally notice the one-inch picture frame that I put on my desk to remind me of short assignments.

“It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. …

“E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 16-18.
“Say to yourself in the kindest possible way, Look, honey, all we’re going to do for now is to write a description of the river at sunrise….We are just going to take this bird by bird.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird p. 20.

Chapter Three: Shitty First Drafts

“I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her.” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 21-22.

Chapter Four: Perfectionism

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

“Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force….But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground–you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation… Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 28-29.

“They [our psychic muscles]cramp around our wounds–the pain from our childhood, the losses and disappointments of adulthood, the humiliations suffered in both–to keep us from getting hurt in the same place again,….Perfectionism is one way our muscles cramp. …They keep us moving and writing in tight , worried ways. They keep us standing back or backing away from    life, keep us from experiencing life in a naked and immediate way.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 29-30.
“Perfectionism…will only drive you mad. …
“Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 30-31.

Chapter Seven: Character

 “You are going to love some of your characters, because they are you or some facet of you, and you are going to hate some of your characters for the same reason. But no matter what, you are probably going to have to let bad things happen to some of the characters you love or you won’t have much of a story. Bad tings happen to good characters, because our actions have consequences, and we do not behave perfectly all the time. As soon as you start protecting your characters from the ramifications of their less-than-lofty behavior, your story will start to feel flat and pointless, just like in real life.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, p. 45.

 Set Design

“You want to know its feel, its temperature, its colors….Every room is about memory. Every room gives us layers of information about our past and present and who we are, our shrines and quirks and hopes and sorrows, our attempts to prove that we exist and are more or less Okay. You can see, in your rooms, how much light we need–how many light bulbs, candles, skylights we have–and in how we keep things lit your can see how we try to comfort ourselves….
” ‘For instance, let’s start with the living room. Can you describe a really lovely living room in as much detail as possible?’ And then you can ask what smells your friend remembers, in the living room and kitchen, and what the light was like, and what various rooms sounded like or what their silences felt like. Or, by the same token, you can ask someone who grew up in poverty to give you an exact description of his or her house, the kitchen, the bedrooms, the couch in the backyard.
“Years ago, I was working on a novel that involved a woman who gardened, who in fact loved to garden….

“I love to see people in gardens, I love the meditation of sitting alone in gardens, I love all the metaphors that garden are.“The garden is one of the two great metaphors for humanity. The other, of course, is the river. Metaphors are a great language tool, because they explain the unknown in terms of the known. But they only work if they resonate in the heart of the writer. Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 74-79.

Plot Treatment

“My students assume that when well-respected writers sit down to write their books, they know pretty much what is going to happen because they’ve outlined most of the plot, and this is why their books turn out so beautifully and why their lives are so easy and joyful, their self-esteem so great, their childlike senses of trust and wonder so intact. Well. I do not know anyone fitting this description at all. Everyone I know flails around, kvetching and growing despondent, on the way to finding a plot and structure that work. You are welcome to join the club.” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, p. 85.

Looking Around

“Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on….Otherwise we’d all just be barking away like Pekingese…Writing involves seeing people suffer and, as Robert Stone once put it, finding some meaning therein….

“The writer is a person who is standing apart, like the cheese in ‘The Farmer in the Dell’ standing there alone but deciding to take a few notes. You’re outside, but you can see things up close through your binoculars. Your job is to present clearly your viewpoint, your line of vision. Your job is to see people as they really are, and to do this, you have to know who you are in the most compassionate possible sense.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 97-98.

“Obviously, it’s harder by far to look at yourself this same sense of compassionate detachment. Practice helps….Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don’t drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor’s yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper. So I keep trying gently to bring my mind to what is really there to be seen, maybe to be seen and noted with a kind of reverence. Because if I don’t learn to do this, I think I’ll keep getting things wrong.” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, p. 99.

Broccoli

“You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself…Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.

“You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.

“Sometimes intuition needs coaxing, because intuition is a little shy. But if you try to crowd it, intuition often wafts up from the soul or subconscious, and then becomes a tiny fitful little flame. It will be blown out by too much compulsion and manic attention, but will burn quietly when watched with gentle concentration.

“So try to calm down, get quiet, breathe, and listen. Squint at the screen in your head, and if you look, you will see what you are searching for….If you stop trying to control your mind so much, you’ll have intuitive hunches about what this or that character is all about. ”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 110-113.

Jealousy

“…if you want to know how God feels about money, look at whom she gives it to.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, p. 128.

Index Cards

“One of the things that happens when you give yourself permission to start writing is that you start thinking like a writer. You start seeing everything as material. Sometimes you’ll sit down or go walking and your thoughts will be on one aspect of your work, or one idea you have for a small scene…or you’ll just be completely blocked and hopeless and wondering why you shouldn’t just go into the kitchen and have a nice glass of warm gin straight ou of the cat dish. And then, unbidden, seemingly out of nowhere, a thought or image arrives. Some will float into your head like goldfish, lovely, bright orange, and weightless, and you follow them like a child looking at an aquarium that was thought to be without fish. Others will step out of the shadows like Boo Radley and make you catch your breath or step backward. They’re often so rich, these unbidden thoughts , and so clear they feel indelible. But I say write them all down anyway. ”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, p. 136.

Writing Groups

“When you’re feeling low, you don’t want anyone even to joke that you may be in some kind of astrological strike zone where you’ll be for the next seven years. On a bad day you also don’t need a lot of advice. You just need a little empathy and affirmation. You need to feel once again that other people have confidence in you. The members of your writing group can often  offer just that.  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, p. 157.

“There are four people…who have now been meeting as a group for four years. …

“They’ve  gone from being four tense, slightly conceited, lonely people who wanted to write to one of those weird little families we fashion out of whoever’s around us. They’re very tender with one another. They all look a lot less slick and cool than they did when they were in my class, because helping each other has made their hearts get bigger. A big heart is both a clunky and a delicate thing; it doesn’t protect itself and it doesn’t hide. It stands out, like a baby’s fontanel, where you can see the soul pulse through. You can see this pulse in them now.”   Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 158-59.

Finding Your Voice

“…all of the interesting characters I’ve ever worked with–including myself–have had at their center a feeling of otherness, of homesickness….It turns out that the truth, or reality, is our home. …

“But you can’t get to any of these truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to go in to. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in–then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home.” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 200-01.

Giving

“…it is only when I go ahead and decide to shoot my literary, creative wad on a daily basis that I get any sense of full presence, of being Zorba the Greek at the keyboard. Others=wise I am a wired little rodent squirreling things away, hoarding and worrying about supply. …

“You are going to have to give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing.” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 202-03.

The Last Class

“Write about your childhoods….Write about that time in your life when you were so intensely interested in the world, when your powers of observation were at their most acute, when you felt things so deeply. Exploring and understanding your childhood will give you the ability to empathize, and that understanding and empathy will teach you to write with intelligence and insight and compassion.

“Becoming a writer i about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.

“Try to write in a directly emotional way, instead of being too subtle or oblique. Don’t be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done.”

“If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 225-26.

“You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, p. 231.

“The society to which we belong seems to be dying or is already dead….But the tradition of artists will continue no matter what form the society takes…

“In this dark and wounded society, writing can give you the pleasures of the woodpecker, of hollowing out a hole in a tree where you can build your nest and say, ‘This is my niche, this is where I live now, this is where I belong.’ And the niche may be small and dark, but at least you will finally know what you are doing….you will be dealing with the one thing you’ve been avoiding all along–your wounds. This is very painful. It stops a lot of people early on who didn’t get into this for the pain. They got into it for the money and the fame. So they either quit, or they resort to a type of writing that is sort of like candy making.” Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, pgs. 234-35.

” ‘So why does our writing matter, again?’ they ask.

“Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the herart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird, p. 237.

Romanticism – William Blake – Songs of Innocence: the Concept of the Child & Anaïs Nin On An Extraordinary Life

William Blake was a champion of Romanticism, and his work was dedicated to elevating the lifestyles of the people that he believed had been ruined by the Industrial Revolution. He was especially moved to help the children. His poem The Chimney Sweeper, published in 1789, was a reaction against the practice of forcing young children to be chimney sweepers, a practice that caused the children to become deformed and to die young.

Image result for blake chimney sweeper

The Chimney Sweeper:
BY WILLIAM BLAKE

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ” ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.

There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved, so I said,
“Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head’s bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.”

And so he was quiet, & that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight!
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black;

And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins & set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run,
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.

Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind.
And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.

And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark
And got with our bags & our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm;
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

William Blake is considered to be one of the earliest voices of the Romantic period, and his Songs of Innocence and Experience are characteristic of the Romantic thought that the child was of value and that he deserved to be protected from the greedy of designs of mankind.

Many years ago, I carefully examined the writings and the images created by William Blake, who wrote in the late 1700’s. In a manner of speaking, Blake was one of the earliest people to become preoccupied with aging, but his concern was not that of outward appearances. He was interested in the aging of the spirit. Generally speaking, I would say that the interests of people in the 21st Century are exactly the opposite of those of William Blake. William Blake was a Romanticist. Most people today are Realists. Today, most people are concerned about their outward signs of aging, and they allow their spirits to wither and die.

During the late 1700’s,  the Realists were the people who liked the changes that had been brought about by the Industrial Revolution. The Realists liked mechanization, standardization, and outwardness. The Romanticists were a reaction against the Industrial Revolution, clutching to the Imagination as the key to Inwardness. and the key to inner peace and happiness.

The Romantic viewpoint echoes Taoism, which urges a return to the Way. In his 1955 translation of the Tao Te Ching, Raymond Blakney provided the following definition of the Tao:

“Tao – A road, a path, the way by which people travel, the way of nature, and finally, the Way of reality.”

The Romantics would view the Realists as superficial. The Romantics believe that the Realists limit their life-views to the external or the obvious, like that of reading the Wall Street Journal, the newspaper, People magazine, etc., rather than that of seeking inner wisdom or growth. Linear in viewpoint, the Realists establish a goal early in life, and they spend the remainder of their lives marching or plodding toward that goal. The Realist essentially wears blinders to anything but the outer, and the Realist wants no distractions or changes along the way. He merely wants to move from point A to point B.

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.” – James Oppenheim

On the other hand, the Romantic is focused inwardly; and he embarks upon a path toward the inward. The Tao said that this was a seeking of the Way.

In Chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching, the following is said:

“There are ways but the Way is uncharted “[in other words, there is no direct line point A to point B–there is not even a map].
“The secret waits for the insight” [What is essential is within]
“Those who are bound by desire See only the outward container.” [If you are moving only from point A to some pre-established point B, you are only looking at the surface–at what can readily be viewed and charted–like statistics].
Again to the first line. “There are ways. . .”

In his later work, William Blake described a type of Heaven and a Hell that he perceived as the lifestyles of the Romanticist versus the Realist. He said that the people who are led by their spirits or their imaginations are in Heaven and that the people who only see the obvious are in Hell. TS Eliot wrote The Waste Land, and it is a similar description of the results of limiting one’s life- view as outwardly and thus, limiting the nourishment of the spirit. William Blake created the Christ-like figure Los, who was the embodiment of the Imagination. The Imagination [Los] leads one to Heaven and away from the Waste  Land experiences of Hell.

So what does this all have to do with the aging crisis?

William Blake’s earlier writings were the Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Experience. In the Songs of Innocence, Blake described an idyllic place where people who are always young reside. They are the people who have not been hardened by life. In the Songs of Experience, he described the hellish place where people who have been hardened by life are trapped. These are the people who, regardless of their physical age, are old. The people who have not been hardened by life’s experiences are  the forever young. [Peter Pan?]

I am definitely a Romanticist, and I know many people who have not reached the age of thirty yet, who are old. Even though they have no wrinkles and even though their hair has not turned gray, they have begun to wither from inside. They no longer feel. They no longer imagine. They no longer see any magic life. In my opinion, that is the true aging crisis. The true crisis is that too many people have allowed themselves to become emotionally old.

Anaïs Nin also wrote about the people who live in Blake’s Experienced World or T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land:

“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

“I disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. To enter ordinary relationships. I want ecstasy. I am a neurotic — in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

“Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous. I want to be a writer who reminds others that these moments exist; I want to prove that there is infinite space, infinite meaning, infinite dimension. But I am not always in what I call a state of grace. I have days of illuminations and fevers. I have days when the music in my head stops. Then I mend socks, prune trees, can fruits, polish furniture. But while I am doing this I feel I am not living.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

© 2017 Jacki Kellum

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: