Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Why Blog?

It Is Better to Light A Candle Than Curse the Darkness – A Prayer for Empathy

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Our world has become a dangerous and confusing place to live. Innocent people–even those who have dedicated their lives to keeping peace and to helping the community–are senselessly murdered, and they are often killed by another person who doesn’t even know them or who doesn’t have a personal quarrel with them. The murderers are simply others who have completely lost empathy or the ability to care.

Empathy is “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings. It is an identification with and an understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.”

If a mass murderer stopped to think about all of the children that he was leaving fatherless or motherless before he began randomly pulling a trigger, he might reconsider his senseless taking of lives,  but mass murderers seem to have lost the capacity to think empathetically. And mass murderers are not the only people who lack empathy. Lack of empathy is global and it is poisonous. It is at the root of greed and wickedness. It also enables simple misdeeds, like the abandonment of children so that a parent can pursue another romance or whim. Lack of empathy also allows the selfish social climber or the power-hungry to run over everyone that they feel is blocking them from reaching their goals. Lack of empathy is destructive on many levels.

I write about the problems associated with lack of empathy quite often. People from every country in the world have read one of my blogs, which, at the time of this writing, has  been viewed about 64,000 times and by people in every country of the world. Yet, I doubt if my writing has actually changed anyone else’s behavior. Perhaps it has helped other people to begin to think and to begin to look introspectively, and that is good, but In reality, my primary goal in  writing is not that of saving the world. My primary goal in writing is that of saving myself.

Writing is the way that I refresh my own awareness of every aspect of my life, and it is the way that I organize my thoughts. It is also the way that I seek to understand why people do the thoughtless things that they do, but above all else, my writing is the way that I monitor myself and shine a light on my own motives. I continuously assess myself for signs of lack of empathy.

There are people who have offended me, and I realize that I have also offended others. The dynamics of the offenses take on lives of their own. The simple and thoughtless reaction to an offense is to form a grudge or to become vindictive, but the healtheir stance stems from empathy. When people hurt me–even when they anger me–I can always discern the reasons for their behaviors–the things that have not been ideal in their lives that may have caused them to act in the ways that they do. I have discovered, however, that most people do not have the ability to see situations through the eyes of others. While mutual empathy may have allowed a situation to be resolved. lack of mutual empathy creates impenetrable walls.

It is unrealistic to believe that everyone in the world will be perfect and that all of us will cease from doing things that hurt and anger others. While I would like for that to happen, I know that it will not. But I do wish that everyone in the world would become more empathetic. I often write about denial, and lack of empathy and denial are closely connected. As long as our own states of denial enshroud us and prevent us from seeing our own behaviors, we will persist with lack of empathy. I pray that all of us could remove the gauze that prevents us from seeing ourselves. I pray for enlightenment–that all of us could become aware of our own misdeeds and the ways that we continue to offend. I also pray that we could all learn to understand the reasons that other people behave as they do–to be more empathetic.

Eleanor Roosevelt said that it is better to light a  candle than to curse the darkness, and I pray for Eleanor Roosevelt’s candle in my life, so that I can continue to examine my own behaviors, and my greatest wish for the world is that everyone else would light their own candles, too.

Think about it: If every person in the world would scrutinize himself and light a candle in his own heart, there would be no darkness at all.

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Eleanor Roosevelt

©Jacki Kellum May 6, 2017

Better

It’s Better to Light A Candle Than Curse the Darkness – A Reason That I Write

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Our world has become a dangerous and confusing place to live. Innocent people–even those who have dedicated their lives to keeping peace and to helping the community–are senselessly murdered, and they are often killed by another person who doesn’t even know them or who doesn’t have a personal quarrel with them. The murderers are simply others who have completely lost empathy or the ability to care.

Empathy is “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings. It is an identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.”

If a mass murderer stopped to think about all of the children that he was leaving fatherless or motherless before he began randomly pulling a trigger, he might reconsider his senseless taking of lives,  but mass murderers seem to have lost the capacity to think empathetically. And mass murderers are not the only people who lack empathy. Lack of empathy is global and it is poisonous. It is at the root of greed and anger, and it enables parents to abandon their children to pursue another romance or whim. Lack of empathy also allows the selfish social climber or the power hungry to run over everyone that they feel is blocking them from reaching their goals. Lack of empathy is destructive on many levels.

I write about the problem with lack of empathy quite often. People from every country in the world have read one of my blogs, which, at the time of this writing, has  been viewed 50, 877 times and by people in every country of the world. Yet, I doubt if my writing has actually changed anyone else’s behavior. Perhaps it has helped other people to begin to think and to begin to look introspectively, and that is good, but In reality, my primary goal in  writing is not that of saving the world. My primary goal in writing is that of saving myself.

Writing is the way that I refresh my own awareness of every aspect of my life, and it is the way that I organize my thoughts. It is also the way that I seek to understand why people do the thoughtless things that they do, but above all else, my writing is the way that I monitor myself and shine a light on my own motives.

Eleanor Roosevelt said that it is better to light a  candle than to curse the darkness, and while I would love to believe that through my blog, I enlighten the world, I realize that I do not. The more important thing, however, is that through my writing, I shine a light on my own darkness, and hopefully, that has become a torch that leads my way.

Think about it: If every person in the world would scrutinize himself and light a candle in his own heart, there would be no darkness at all.

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Eleanor Roosevelt

©Jacki Kellum October 14, 2016

Candle

Jacki Kellum Free Writing Class – Blog to Memoir Find Your Path – Day 1

Buckle your seatbelt. You are about to begin one of the most powerful journeys of your life. As you may or may not know, this is phase 1 of 4 events that will not only change the way that you look at life but will also enlighten you about the way that you write–about the way that you write everything and not just about the way that you write Memoir.

blog_to_book

Blog to Memoir: Find Your Path is Phase 1 of the entire Blog to Memoir Program,which will arrive in intervals over the next year.  Find Your Path is the simplest of the four phases. In fact, as you complete the first half of the daily writings for Find Your Path, you will probably begin to balk, feeling that you have not been challenged and that you are possibly wasting your time. Mark this spot and highlight these words: Do ALL of the writing exercises–even the ones that seem ridiculously simple. There is a method to my madness. The initially very simple and non-threatening writing exercises are designed to overcome problems that writers may have formed

  1. Writer’s Block – Most of us are plagued by writer’s block to one extent or another. Most of us have been bullied by our Self-Editors, and most of us are a little bit leery of writing because of our Self-Editors.
  2.  Writing with Pretty but Meaningless Words – Others of us may have formed some bad writing habits, such as  cloaking our passages with pretty, but meaningless images.
  3. Writing What You Believe that People Want or Expect You to Write – Another problem occurs when we write what people expect us to write and we fail to write what is truly on our minds.
  4. Writing that is Safe –  One of the worst mistakes that a writer can make is that of failing to take a stand.
  5. Writing that is Superficial – Many of us are slightly afraid to peer into some of our darker corners, and we may have developed a tendency to write about abstractions and about things that aren’t terribly personal.

Great writing is deliberate and specific, and poor writing is generalized. One of the biggest mistakes that a writer can make is to write about things that seem to interest everyone else but that only vaguely interests himself. That is like being the person who always tries to please everyone and who continuously straddles the fence, trying to do so. Invariably, the fence straddlers are those people who want to please everyone and in doing so, they please no one at all.

“You can please some of the people some of the time all of the people some of the time some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.” – Abraham Lincoln

In the current realm of Social Media, where being “liked” becomes the raison d’etre, it becomes tempting to simply chit chat when we write. In other words, it becomes tempting to use meaningless words that won’t offend anyone at all. Being liked is important to most people. It has certainly always been important for me, and at times, I have stayed in the middle of the road–striving to please everyone, but I didn’t even like myself when I was doing that.

As we move through the course, I’ll be saying more about all of the above. For now,  I simply want us to jump right into the writing. I do want to assure you that by writing all of the responses to the very simple and almost safe prompts in Phase 1 of the Blog to Memoir Course, you will gradually break out of some of the behaviors that I have outlined above. After about a week of writing, I’ll begin to explain things that you need to know about these behaviors and about why you need to write more authentically. To begin, however, simply write. Your initial writings will be short and sweet, but I have plans for your extra time.

What The Free Jacki Kellum Writing Course Is Not

  1. This course will not be your confessional. It will not challenge you to write a series of tell-all’s, and it will not dare you to slice open your veins and bleed.
  2. This course is not about some radical therapy, and it will not be a substitute for Alcoholics Anonymous, for joining Codependency Groups and for seeing your mental health professional. When I suggest that you look into your past, I am not prodding you to exorcise all of the demons that might be there. That is someone else’s job.
  3. This course is not for people who want to continue to wallow in the pain of their pasts,

What The Free Jacki Kellum Writing Course Is

  1. This course is a logical next step for many people who have already identified that things were not perfect for them when they were children. This course is for people who are ready  to move on.
  2. This course  is for people who want to alchemize the experiences of their childhood and to allow them to transform into gold.

Jacki Kellum Free Writing Course Exercise 1: Write about a County

The first Blog to Memoir writing assignment might seem easy, but don’t over-analyze the assignment or your response. Simply think about all of the County or a Region where you have lived and describe it. Grab a breath of fresh air and begin writing.

  1. Don’t stop writing for about ten minutes.
  2. Don’t hesitate,
  3. Don’t erase.
  4. Don’t correct your spelling.
  5. Don’t try to edit as you write.

In a matter-of-fact way that as near to your own speaking voice as possible, simply write what you know about a county or region where you have lived. You may want to describe the natural setting of the county. You may want to share a legend that you have heard about the county. You may want to say what you liked about the county and you may want to say what you disliked. As long as you are honest, it really does not matter what you write. Just write.

When I write a description, I close my eyes and look with my mind’s eyes at what I am describing. When I see the place or the object clearly, I simply write the words that describe it.

Later, we’ll do more with your writing for this first assignment. Don’t throw it away. It is not necessary for you to share what you write. It is not necessary that you blog your response. Simply write and save your writing.

Learning to write about setting and places essential for every writer in every genre. When we are able to zoom in on an area that we truly know, we create better settings and we are better able to bring those settings to life.

faulkner-Portable map

William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County

  1. William Faulkner’s writing focused on what appears to be the fictional county of Yoknapatawpha, but Yoknapatawpha County is actually Lafayette County in Mississippi. It is the county where Oxford, Mississippi is located, and Oxford is where William Faulkner lived. 
  2. William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County evolved over time, and in the beginning, no one is expected to recreate a county of that portion. But everyone, even William Faulkner, began somewhere, and our actual memories are the best place to start.  
  3. As I said before, we’ll continue to explore our writing about our counties. What you write today is only your first step,

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

Most of us would like to forget or bury some of the chapters of our pasts, but that is not actually possible. In trying to forget who we are and where we have been, we only succeed in numbing ourselves and killing our authentic writing voices.  The secret to becoming a better writer is to tap into your past and harness it and allow it to sail you forward.

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens – by Arthur Rackham

“You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.” – James M. Barrie [ Author of Peter Pan]

Why Blog to Memoir?

  1. When we write about the actual experiences of our lives, our writing is fresher, more alive, and more authentic. For that reason, excavating your memories is an invaluable exercise–a way to create vivid writing samples for any of your other writing.
  2. It is not necessary for you to actually blog your writing. You may simply check out the daily writing exercises and explore them on your own. Throughout the course, however, I’ll share several ways that blogging daily has improved both my writing and my outlook on life. I heartily recommend writing daily, and for several reasons, I am convinced that blogging is the best way to store your writing. Blogging regularly is also a good way to build your brand and to share your writing with others. Note: You do not have to make your blog public.
  3. Several people have successfully completed books by blogging the parts of their books one by one and then, by assembling the parts of the book at the end. This practice has been labeled Blog to Book. For the past year, I have been blogging my memoir [and several other books] one step at a time. Soon, I plan to assemble my memoir pieces together and to submit my own memoir book for publication. Hence: I Am Blogging to Memoir  Book, and you can, too.

“We’ve forgotten how to remember, and just as importantly, we’ve forgotten how to pay attention. So, instead of using your smartphone to jot down crucial notes, or Googling an elusive fact, use every opportunity to practice your memory skills. Memory is a muscle, to be exercised and improved.” – Joshua Foer

I’ll run the free writing class through my blog site jackikellum.com Here
& through the site that I specifically created for the class: blogtomemoir.com. Here

Each day,  I’ll post the daily assignment by 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time USA. I believe that early morning is the best time to write and for that reason, your writing assignment will be ready for you first thing each day.

©Jacki Kellum October 1, 2016

It’s Time for the Test – Submitting Work for Publication

blog_memoir_find_your_past_jacki_kellum

 Tomorrow Is October 1 – The Day that I Launch the Free Jacki Kellum Writing Class

It is also the day that I am submitting my first writing for publication.

About the Free Jacki Kellum Writing Class Blog to Memoir:

For several weeks, I have been saying that because I began seriously writing  on October 1, 2015, I decided to celebrate that anniversary by offering a free writing class for anyone who wants to participate.

I’ll run the free writing class through my blog site jackikellum.com Here
& through the site that I specifically created for the class: blogtomemoir.com. Here

Each day,  I’ll post the daily assignment by 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time USA. I believe that early morning is the best time to write and for that reason, your writing assignment will be ready for you first thing each day.

Why Blog to Memoir?

  1. When we write about the actual experiences of our lives, our writing is fresher, more alive, and more authentic. For that reason, excavating your memories is an invaluable exercise–a way to create vivid writing samples for any of your other writing.
  2. It is not necessary for you to actually blog your writing. You may simply check out the daily writing exercises and explore them on your own. Throughout the course, however, I’ll share several ways that blogging daily has improved both my writing and my outlook on life. I heartily recommend writing daily, and for several reasons, I am convinced that blogging is the best way to store your writing. Blogging regularly is also a good way to build your brand and to share your writing with others. Note: You do not have to make your blog public.
  3. Several people have successfully completed books by blogging the parts of their books one by one and then, by assembling the parts of the book at the end. This practice has been labeled Blog to Book. For the past year, I have been blogging my memoir [and several other books] one step at a time. Soon, I plan to assemble my memoir pieces together and to submit my own memoir book for publication. Hence: I Am Blogging to Memoir  Book

For the past year, I have blogged something almost daily. I have written several first drafts, and now, it is time to take my first test. Tomorrow, on October 1, I am submitting a section of my own memoir for publication. As I said before, October 1, 2016, is a very big day. It is the day that I am launching my free writing class through which I’ll share what I have learned about writing. It is also the day that I’ll test myself by daring to submit something for publication.

fragile-seld-esteem-1000

Writing is simple for me. I love to talk, and when I write, I simply talk. Submitting my writing for publication is something different. When I submit what I have written to a panel of official judges, I am giving those judges the permission to say that what I have written is not good enough. I am allowing this band of impartial readers to say, “You are not a writer. You are simply playing at writing.” I am giving other people the opportunity to either approve me or to reject me. For me, this is scary business, but I have passed all of the steps leading up to the next one. It is time.

barnes-noble

It is time for me to step out of the pool of pretenders and to begin swimming toward the shore.

Tomorrow, I am submitting my first piece for publication. I am daring to take the test. This time next year, I’ll whistle for everyone else to joing me, “Come on out. The water is fine.”

©Jacki Kellum September 30, 2016

Test

Is Lying in Memoirs Cheating? On Denial, Lying, and Wearing Facades

The very popular book A Million Little Pieces was published as a Memoir, but later, it was exposed as a lie.  The same thing happened with the book Primates of Park Avenue. In fact, several books that have been published as Memoirs have been exposed as fabrications. Your first question might be Why?

Question: Why Would Anyone Publish A Book of Lies and Call It A Memoir?

Answer: Memoirs are popular and they fare well on the market

In her book The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr suggests that because of the rising popularity of memoirs, some have jumped on the bandwagon of memoir writing, simply to ride it for a better chance at sales. That is sleazy, but I feel better for those memoir-writing liars than I do for the people whose lies in memoirs are simply extensions of their facades.

Mary Karr Challenges the Memoirist to be Truthful

Although Karr defends a writer’s freedom, she says that she is irritated by writers who sell their lies as truth. She challenges Vivian Gornick’s opinion that whether or not she embellishes her stories is nobody’s business:

“It niggles the hell out of me never to know exactly what parts the fabricators have fudged….

“Well, if I forked over a cover price for nonfiction, I consider it my business. While it’s great she owned up to her deceits, it’s hard to lend credence to any after-the-fact confession….”

“So here I stand with my little stick, attempting to draw a line in the dirt for the sake of memoir’s authenticity. Truth may have become a foggy, fuzzy nether area. But untruth is simple: making up events with the intention to deceive…..You know the difference between a vague memory and a clear one, and the vague ones either get left out or labeled dubious. It’s the clear ones that matter most anyway, because they’re the ones you’ve nursed and worried over and talked through and wondered about your whole life. And you’re  seeking the truth of memory–your memory and character–not of unbiased history. ” Karr, Mary  The Art of Memoir, pgs.10-11.

Our Denials Impact Our Memoir Writing

To a certain extent, all of us delude ourselves. We do that every day, and we call that phenomenon Denial.  I write about Denial quite often. When we begin to write our memoirs, our writings might reflect some of the partial truths that have been tainted by our own delusions, but that is not the same thing as blatantly lying in one’s memoir.

I am well into the process of writing my memoir, and I am painfully aware that I wasted several years of my life, wearing a facade and because of that, there has always been an enormous duality about my existence. Even as a young child, I was aware that there was something different about me. Probably before I even went to school, I realized that I was thinking about and noticing things that other people did not seem to note. By the time that I was in school, I was becoming quite sure that the other kids and I were living in 2 different worlds. Yet, I was a very social child. I wanted people to like me. I wanted to fit in; and because of that, I became 2 different people.

I well remember 6th grade. The science teacher was talking about taste buds; and on that day, I dared to actually try to express what was on my mind. I said, “I wonder if everyone’s taste buds taste the same way. I wonder if a carrot tastes the same way to me as it does to you.”

Everyone else in the room snickered, and the teacher’s face glazed over.

I didn’t get an answer, but I became convinced of what I had always suspected. People just didn’t get me.

For the world, I became Miss Congeniality, but deep inside, I was someone else. It took many years for me to accept that other-else, but over time, she became my best friend-a friend that other people might only imagine was there. The best thing about growing older is that all of the me’s have shifted around. Now, the creative-me–who was formerly the closet-me and only a whisper within my own mind–has become the REAL me; and the other-me–the social-butterfly-me–has been laid to rest. Don’t get me wrong. I still do fun things, but now, I do the things that I truly enjoy and that are meaningful to me. Writing has helped me to distinguish who I really am and what I honestly enjoy.

Hiding in Plain Sight
by Jacki Kellum

Smiling, Joking, Dancing, Free
That’s the Social Side of Me.

Tossing kisses from my car,
Scared, Confused Alone We Are.

If you look, you will see
The Scared, Confused and Social Three.

People Who Lie In Memoirs Deny Themselves of the Therapeutic Benefit of Writing

The memoir writer who lies in his writing is missing the greatest advantage of writing memoir–the therapeutic advantage of writing, but that therapeutic advantage comes with a cost.

In her book The Art of Memoir, Karr also discusses the toll that memoir writing takes on the writer:

“But nobody I know who’s written a great one described it as anything less than a major-league shit-eating contest. Any time you try to collapse the distance between your delusions about the past and what really happened, there’s suffering involved. When I’m trying to edit or coach somebody through one, I usually wind up feeling like the mean sergeant played by Tom Berenger in Platoon. He’s leaning over a screaming soldier whose guts are extruding, and in a husky whisper, Berenger says through gritted teeth, ‘Take the pain,’ till the guy shuts up and mechanically starts stuffing his guts back in.

“No matter how self-aware you are, memoir wrenches at your insides precisely because it makes you battle with your very self–your neat analyses and tidy excuses….

“In terms of cathartic affect memoir is like therapy, the difference being that in therapy, you pay them. The therapist is the mommy, and you’re the baby, In memoir, you’re the mommy, and the reader’s the baby. And–hopefully–they pay you. (‘No man but a blockhead ever wrote for any cause but money,’ Samuel Johnson said). ” Karr, Mary  The Art of Memoir, pgs. xx-xi.

If We Write Memoir for Therapeutic Reasons, We Cheat Ourselves of Therapy When We Lie

Mary Karr adds the following about the writer’s need to be truthful in writing memoir:

“Forget how inventing stuff breaks a contract with the reader, it fences the memoirist off from the deeper truths that only surface five or ten or twenty. Yoes, you can misinterpret–happens all the time…But unless you’re looking at actual lived experience, the more profound meanings will remain forever shrouded. You’ll never unearth the more complex truths, the ones that counter that convenient first take on the past. A memoirist forging false tales to support his more comfortable notions–or to pump himself up for the audience–never learns who he is. He’s missing the personal liberation that comes from the examined life. …

“But whether you’re a memoirist or not, there’s a psychic cost for lopping yourself off from the past: it may continue to tug on you without your being aware of it. And lying about it can–for all but the most hardened sociopath–carve a lonely gap between your disguise and who you really are. The practiced liar also projects her own manipulative, double-dealing facade onto everyone she meets, which makes moving through the world a wary, anxious enterprise. It’s hard enough to see what’s going on without forcing yourself to look through the wool you’ve pulled over your own eyes.”  Karr, Mary  The Art of Memoir, pgs. 11-12.

In summary, I toss my hat into the ring with the people who believe that lying in memoir writing is cheating. I believe that the lying memoirist cheats his reader, but more importantly than that, I believe that the lying memoirist cheats himself.

©Jacki Kellum September 29, 2016

Facade

Gladstone Said that Time Is On Our Side But I Disagree

William E. Gladstone said Time Is On Our Side, but I Disagree.

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones sang the same song–that Time Is On Our Side–but I still disagree. It is almost October, and in New Jersey, the days and nights are getting cooler. Chily raindrops are beginning to fall, and I am peering into the 66th winter of my own life. As I begin to watch the leaves drifting  to the ground, I know that  the trees’ skeletal fingers will soon scratch into the sky, and I understand that the leaves of my own life are also falling and I too am moving toward winter. Yet, there is much that I still want to do, and I do not feel that time is on my side.

I was 15-years-old when The Rolling Stones released the song Time Is On My Side. That year was 1965. When I was 15-years-od, I believed that Time WAS on My Side, but I don’t feel that way now. Now, I feel as though Time is a luxury, and the tragedy is that I wasted an enormous amount of time in the process of discovering that truth. As Joni Mitchell says, “So Many Things I Would Have Done, but Clouds Got In My Way….[but] I’ve Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now.”

Both Sids Now
by Joni Mitchell
Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
When I consider that Joni Mitchell was only 24-years-old when Judy Collins first released her song Both Sides Now, the lyrics amaze me. By the time I was 24-years-old, I had already almost died in a car accident that left me with several permanent scars, and in that regard, I had experienced more of life’s bitter truths than most 24-year-olds had discovered, but I still didn’t have a clue about all of the illusions and the delusions that I would eventually unveil. When I was 24-years-old, I still had not seen life from both sides now, and neither had Joni Mitchell.
In another of Joni Mitchell’s brilliant songs, she called life a game–The Circle Game.
The Circle Game
by Joni Mitchell
Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Joni Mitchell’ song The Circle Game is a masterpiece, but it doesn’t tell the entire story. As soon as the boy reaches the age of twenty, the song ends:
So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty…
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.
When I first heard The Circle Game, I was also turning twenty, and frankly, I am glad that I didn’t realize then how much my understanding of that tune would change over the next several years. The greatest of life’s games is that when we are young, we don’t realize how precious the moments and the opportunities of youth actually are. When we are young, we believe that we will be young forever. Unfortunately, that is not true.
One of life’s greatest disappointments lies within discovering that Time itself is an illusion and that living is like chasing after a mirage. We waste too much of our lives looking too far ahead at something that seems to be golden and grand. We believe that the treasure is always just ahead. When we reach the time and place where we believed the treasure had lain, its golden somethingness isn’t there at all. What we had chased was merely a shiny reflection in the sand.
“What was any art but a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself – life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.” – Willa Cather
I don’t want to pretend that art and writing are more than they actually are, but in the almost final analysis, I can honestly say that my ability to create is the way that I begin to make sense of life’s Circle Game, and it is the way that I have managed to slow my own aging process. My writing has been particularly helpful in that regard. I won’t remind everyone of the very true words that youth is wasted on the young. That has been said so very many times and by so very many people that I am not sure who said it first. I’ll merely conclude by saying that Time is a Luxury, and it is a luxury that will eventually run out. Ultimately, everyone stands  in the October of their own lives singing another song: Winter Comes Too Soon.

©Jacki Kellum September 28, 2016

Disagree

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

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