Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Keepin it real"

More than just a few times I have reached the end of a fluent and powerful writing session only to find as I reviewed my material, that it just didn't fit.  I've gone on in other posts about the importance of finding that pure place from which to pull creative expression, and about how if it is real, then it will have the power to affect the desired audience.  The question I would like to address in this post, is as a fiction writer, why am I not obligated, in the name of "keeping it real", to include every such powerful product of my creativity in the manuscripts I hope to make public?
     Three closely related considerations have helped me in my filtering process.  First; where are the ideas coming from?  If my story is generally inspirational, uplifting and positive, does what I have just written resonate those feelings?  Second; am I writing for my target audience, or could the instance in question be the result of my momentary need to exercise a personal demon or two.  Sometimes when writing fiction, I find my subconscious has taken over, spitting out imagery that though therapeutic for me, even though it may turn out as really good writing, would more than likely turn the stomach of most of my readers.  Lastly, in the end, what is my desired affect?  What do I want people to gain by reading what I have to say?
     Have you ever been to an art show, or in a concert, or poetry reading where the artist clearly has no concern for providing you, his or her viewer/listener, with an enjoyable experience?  Instead, you feel like you're being dragged through a swirling current of their private and very indulgent passions, good or bad, with little if anything in substance worth holding on to.  Some forms of art rightly slide more in this direction, where passions, feelings, prejudices and the like are the stuff of which it is made, and its intended audience is comprised of individuals or groups sympathetic to those things.  When the reading audience, however, seeks their escape in a book, whether it be to the light and happy or dark and mysterious, they have the right to expect that what they read will not only take them there, but reward them there as well.  While writing "Trail Of The Damned", my follow up book to "Search For Yesterday", I introduced readers to "pre Kid" little Cole Lambert, and as I progressed into the story, I became so deeply entrenched in making real the tragic event leading up to the destruction of Kid's home and family that in re-reading it, it literally made me physically ill.  Later, I allowed the story to lead itself a little too far as I neared the climax, and found myself heart broken over the death of a character I had no intention of losing.  It felt so real though, evoking emotion from me so painful and dramatic that I was compelled to change my intended story just to include it.
     Thank goodness for the long process of proof reading, editing and publishing, because had I not had time to let it marinate I may have published "Trail Of The Damned" as it was, thus treating hopeful and happy readers to a horrific tragedy at its end.  Sometimes the words come so fast when we're in a groove, that our fingers can scarcely keep up.  The emotion in such creative sessions is powerful, sometimes so much so that we feel bound, committed, and controlled by our craft, rather than the other way around.  "Keepin it real", as many artists with a cause or message say in order to justify their offensive material, is not at all what we should be about.
     We must never forget that we are the artists, the masters of our craft, and our art only gains its expression based on our ability and good pleasure to arrange and display it.  It's not alive, has no independant thought or feelings, but lives only so far as we give it life.  I don't suggest giving up those rare and passionate experiences in creating, only just calling them what they are, because for an artist they are surreal and beautiful.  I do suggest, however, for the benefit of loyal readers, that they be laid aside, in lu of subject mater which most often they are counting on being anything but "Real".
     How do we know?  It is a fine line in descriptive writing that separates tragedy and detailed gore, happiness and sickening bliss, romantic passion and literary porn, darkness and degrading filth.  For a writer, "Keeping it real" often leads to writing too much and going too far, neither of which gets our desired result which should be rewarding our readers for their investment of cash, time and emotion.
     I go by this rule, ...say it out loud to yourself before making it public.  With respect to writing, I ask after re-reading it, if what I've written seems like first and last it is intended for me, ...if yes, then I keep it to myself.  In order to share my creative voice with others, my purpose must be unmistakably aimed at providing a worthwhile reading experience for them, leaving the creative process for me, ...as my reward.
     For those of you who don't consider yourselves writers, or artists of any kind, keeping another's  idea of "Real" isn't always right for you either.  Be true to what you think is best and you'll usually do the right thing.

Have a terrific week

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Goodbye Sweet JoLyn

My heart is broken, and spirit tender this Sabbath morning, Marianne has soft music playing nearby and the sun is just beginning to cast sprays of light into our front room, ...a perfect setting for reflection.  Yesterday we laid JoLyn's body to rest in Logan Utah, in a grave overlooking the beautiful Cache Valley.  The services held in her honor were as nearly perfect as one could dare hope for, with friends and loved ones filling the church to overflowing.  Her white casket suited her perfectly as did the brightly colorful hand sewn hugs and kisses quilt draping it.  Feelings of love and gratitude from the spirit that permeated every space, person, and utterance of the sacred moment, still fill me nearly a day later, bringing tender emotions to balance tenuously at the edges of my aching soul.  Unable to  maintain constant control of them, I find myself frequently in tears, flooded with familiar sensations common to memories involving my kid sister.  I'll miss her smile, the soft, sort of low tone of her voice and chuckle.  I'll miss her always worrying over me, her sensibility, and the enjoyment she always brought to our family gatherings.

    I've had a lot of time to reflect over the past few months preparing for this day, on my own life, on the recent passing of my brother Van, and on the value I attach to personal relationships with my children, wife, parents and surviving siblings.  Friends have also been heavy on my mind and will always hold a special place in my heart, and I have contemplated all of it over and over as on a daily and often times even more frequent basis I have been reminded of my own mortality.  A lot is said about the evils of Cancer, but after yesterday, I am finding my heart changing, ...taking on a slightly softer tone when it comes to judging the disease that has now taken two of my siblings.  I have no doubt that had it been the will of God that Van and JoLyn continue in life, they would have both been given the where with all to win their battles, but it was his will that they come home to him and I struggle to excuse questioning his reasons.  That being said, I had to ask myself; would I rather Him take them suddenly in an accident or some other tragic event? ...or is not His allowing me six months of grace period to prepare for each separation, a much more tender, and merciful way.

     Having experienced the loss of two siblings in just over a year, I can say without hesitance, knowing how having that precious time to focus before saying goodbye to Van and now JoLyn has helped me and others to grow, serve and love, that I'll take cancer or another terminal illness every time if given the choice, even for my own parting.  I love my family more than words can express, I love the message of salvation, and plan of happiness offered in the gospel of Jesus Christ, allowing me to hope for a happy reunion and I pray for the day when all people of the earth can love each other with pure knowledge that we are the family of God, and as such, literal brothers and sisters.  Rarely in our world do we feel that, but yesterday, mid thoughts of 9/11 and my own loss, I did, as surrounded by so many motivated only by love, gratitude, and concern, I was allowed to bask in a small slice of heaven.
     Thank you all, whether there in person, thought, or spirit, ...it was a beautiful day

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stuff

"Hey Daddy," our four year old Danielle just called from the top of the stairs, "...I think I look hungry!"
"Hungry?" I asked, as she peered down at me from between the spindles on the banister.
"Yes, I look very hungry for sugar toast, ...Yup, sugar toast is what I look hungry for, ...I Love Sugar!"
     Giving sugar to Danny is exactly the wrong thing for me as her father to do, but I did it anyway, full blown sugar and cinnamon toast with white sugar glaze to boot!  Nobody else is up to catch me in the act, so if she doesn't tell, they'll all just think she's just having a bad day when the havoc begins.
     This morning I'm up early, I visited my email account, and then, as is my morning custom these days, clicked on jolynsjourney.blogspot.com to see if there was any new word on my sister's condition.  I think of her nearly constantly these days, but with work having piled up on me so much because of my frequent absences over the past couple of months I am forced to work longer hours than I seem to have strength.  Last Sunday was my most recent visit to JoLyn, ...not nearly recent enough for my liking, so thinking of, and praying for her is what I do.  (Sorry for the delayed post, a lot happened between Sunday Morning draft time and the Evening when I normally clean things up and publish. It's almost 7pm on Tuesday and I just though I'd better get this post up.  JoLyn has taken a bad turn, and all the big cancer guns have been turned in for strong meds. It looks like...  Marianne just handed me the phone, it was my brother Lane informing me that only minutes ago she passed away.  Funny how spiritual things work in us, respecting Chad's request for peace and quiet in their home until the moment arrived, I've reluctantly refrained from visiting, and as I sat down  to do this, I had strong feelings about her and felt the need to amend this post.  I hesitate to continue writing for fear of seeming sensationalistic, however, I think I will finish my thoughts, and perhaps add a few more.  I was about to say that it looked like seeing her a week ago might have to be enough, and I guess I just got my answer.  My heart is full, yet conflicted, so sad, yet thrilled for her as she is about to be reunited with God.  What could be better? ...even if we that are left behind struggle to find the joy in it.  JoLyn's fought like crazy the last few weeks, surviving three weeks longer than the three days the cancer doctors said she could hope for.  I didn't realize how tough she was, never really gave her credit for that, but I do now. 

     After watching my brother Van suffer horribly with his own battle a year ago, I've been observing with worry as JoLyn chose to continue her fight beyond traditional medical thinking, knowing that it would mean similar suffering to his.  She did though, sensative to the fact that some of her children needed  a little more time to come to grips, ...find personal closure if you will, even though the cost for her would be torturous at best.  Knowing her like I do, I get it.  She's always been selfless.  I'm blessed just being her brother, ...have been all my life.  Our relationship was always solid, so there are no regrets, ...sadness, heavy heart pain and lots of tears, but deffinitely not regret.  I love you my sweet sister, with all the tenderness in my heart I wish you the very best Heaven has to offer.  Say hello to Van for me )




(Pardon the interruption, here is the rest of Sunday's Post. It seems even less trivial than when I wrote it, but there doesn't seem to be any reason to send it back where it came from, so enjoy, and have a terrific week, Quinn)

     A reader contacted me this past week, he manages properties for The Boyer Co. and one in particular that my company maintains, and before getting to his business concern, he blurted out, "I read your book! Man! ...you made me cry, ...twice!"  I had to chuckle to myself, enjoying thoroughly his every word as he continued on for another five minutes about his reading experience.  I love that my readers are getting me, and that Search For Yesterday is more than just a "fun" read for most.  When I first realized that I really could write a whole book, I placed my aim to a point higher than the majority of books I've read through the years, hoping more than anything else to find a way to transfer real feelings in attempting to tell a story.  I knew immediately just the places that had touched him, but was encouraged as he recounted other parts where his emotions were touched in other ways prompting him to want to tell me about it.  I know the places of which he spoke, because while writing them, I found myself choking back tears, I felt the stinging ache in my throat and chest as my heart broke reliving with my characters the hurt of a sometimes insensitive world.
     A couple of weeks ago, a close friend called me to tell me of the passing of his friend and room mate.  Having lost his wife and child because of personal mistakes, he finally arrived at a point where despair became his motivate and once alone in the house, took his own life.  I've thought a lot on the whys, and conditions that might together add up to something so seemingly hopeless as to make one feel life wasn't worth living anymore.  Several of my close friends have found themselves in a similar spot and lost their battle with reason, and all I can think is how I wish I'd have done more, been more, tried harder to lighten their burden.  In each instance, however, as I've wallowed in my own sense of guilt for not being enough of a friend to recognize and help, I've always come to the eventual realization that God is over all and his love is sufficient to heal even the most broken heart.
     I'm not sure why I'm writing about this, I guess it's just one of the random things on my mind this morning, but I do think that people need constant avenues of escape from harsh reality, which often becomes unbearable.  Perhaps through my, and other's writings, such despairing people may find relief from their sufferings long enough to gain enough perspective to fight another day.
     I read an article yesterday written about making a living writing fictional novels.  I wish I hadn't read it, because it as all about methodology of writing in such a way to take advantage of a particular audience's emotional need in order to become a best seller.  I feel almost dirty after learning how reading for many is addictive and indulgent, and that like a drug, if crafted and contrived correctly, my books could become their fix.  I'd be lying by saying I don't want to sell millions of books, but the grayed moral area of which I am referring isn't a place I ever want to be.  God help me if my motives change with success or because of my seeking it.
     In saying that, I in no way mean to condemn other writers who might follow this or another formula for success,  I'm just saying that my personal objective in writing is to provide a reading experience that compels by virtue of pure motive rather than stratagem alone.
     Wow! Now I'm having a personal dilemma as to whether or not I should hit the backspace button and take that back so as not to unintentionally offend, but I think I won't. To say that all writing must come to be without thought, form, methodology, strategy, or enticing, flattering and captivating words and structure, would be ridiculous.  I along with countless others toil over not just pages and paragraphs, but sentences and words, to find just the right touch, to create just enough magic to awaken the senses of our readers, enticing them to leave their own world and join ours.  I have read authors though, who seem after realizing their success, to get tired and begin losing interest in their craft in order to pump out their next money maker, and I personally hope to never be thought guilty of that.

   I met a nice guy this week, a fellow author Terron James, who traded me his book "Insight" for one of mine.  I don't usually read fantasy, but my curiosity drove me to sit down for a while and give it a try.  So far, I'm intrigued by Terron's story, and find his writing style easy to follow and fun to read.  Terron, in his own words, told me he wrote this book purely as an attempt to provide readers with an entertaining experience, and so far at least, he's done that for me.  I love creative people, who aren't just expressive for the sake of being heard, but who artistically express themselves with the intent of producing something beneficial, either for themselves, or the mutual appreciation of others.It's a beautiful Sunday morning, and I know this post may seem somewhat random, but I didn't have just one thing on my mind and thought an "as I go" view into what's going on in my head today might be fun, ...or not.  Have a nice week any way.  ... Oh crap, I'm busted, ...Marianne just asked Danny what she could fix her for breakfast...