Writing, a Delicate Dance

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Blurred Reality is a short story that demanded more than usual. So, please allow me a moment of reflection before I send it out.

Short stories are like that. Different from novels — works that require personal bits but can spin into something else fifty or a hundred pages later — short stories demand more. To me, they demand more personal experiences, more understanding, more emotion.  

They demand putting oneself out there. And that can be difficult because it’s counter intuitive. We’re programmed not to expose our own experiences or those of our family members. Our psychological defense mechanisms are in place to keep us from doing exactly that.

But as an avid reader, I know full engagement is demanded. As a reader, I don’t want to be protected. I want to be transported, and the author doesn’t get to choose if I like where I’m going or not. Or at least that’s the illusion.

Emotional writing that doesn’t go there comes out as unnatural. Fake. And readers pick up on it, don’t they? They also pick up on over sharing, too much drama, so it’s all a delicate dance where every step looks easy, but it was meticulously studied and planned and hopefully understood.

Donald Maass advises that we mine our own experiences as writers. So, in the end, style or voice, those celebrated terms we hear so much about, boil down to psychology. Crazy, I know.

What do you think, dear blogging friend? Have you ever taken a big breath and jumped?

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Image: thefivepointstar.com

#SandFire, Los Angeles

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The ongoing L.A. fire (or Sand Fire, given its starting location on Sand Canyon Rd., one hour north of downtown), has scorched over 33,000 acres of mostly foothill. And three days later, it keeps raging. Several homes have been destroyed, and thousands of people are under mandatory evacuation orders. As of now, there is one fatality.

Wildfires aren’t a unique feature on the Southern California landscape, given our high temperatures, low humidity, and wild winds. Still, this fire is about as massive and scary as I remember. 

While not close enough to be dangerous to us, there is smoke and ash everywhere. It’s been a somber time around here, watching the erratic flames destroy farms, houses, come close to a wildlife refuge.

It’s also been reassuring watching communities come together, people taking in friends and strangers. When the call went out, Southern Californians lined up with their trailers to help evacuate exotic animals from the Waystation center — chimps, tigers and other such animals. People continue to do the best they can under the circumstances, and leave the rest to the firefighters, who’ve been at it for days with hardly a break.

Watching the fire from afar leaves one mostly speechless. Here are two photos from our front yard, a friend’s balcony — and above, from the local media.

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Image credit: abc7.com

Occasional Silence

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The occasional silence … why do we need it?

To read, to hear ourselves think, to create. Silence nourishes our minds and souls. It connects us to the outer cosmos. But the truth is we don’t get enough. And we suffer as a result.

As multi-tasking and demanding quick thinkers, we are drowning in the noise of our thoughts, desires, and emotions. Drowning in the constant breaking news and trending subjects.

Noise is a pollutant to everyday life, but it’s deadly, I think, for creativity.

At the center of all of us there is a reservoir of stillness. Meditation likely offers passage to that sea of calm that lies beyond the noise of our mind. Reading is another way. Long walks, and so on.

And here’s the thing. We need regular contact with that part of ourselves.

I know I do. Badly. It keeps me sane and centered, I think. It’s where I reconnect with a source of calm.

The good news is that part of ourselves in never far away. Once the decision is made to go there. Or, in my recent case, once the creative bug bites.

So, this is a long way around the subject of my absence, dear blogging friend. I’ve been working on the next Zoe Sinclair novel while putting the finishing touches on a short story titled A Blurred Reality. No way around this but to disappear for a while.

As it is often the case in a community, the fear of missing out is never far from my mind. So, I thought I pour myself a cup of coffee and check in this morning.

Visit you, and, in the meantime, ask … how are you doing?

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Image: 365daystobethankful.blogsp

A Lesson from Childhood

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When I was 13 years old and lived in Romania, my mother decided we would take a vacation over the summer with friends. To the sea, in a tent. Camping. All summer long, she said, so bring lots of books.

We would not be leaving the campgrounds much, and will depend on what we bring and the bare necessities within the facility. The parents would be resting, talking. Fishing. There would be storytelling, campfires, but mostly lights out early every evening. When not playing, we, the kids, would be reading.

You can imagine my confusion. I loved books, but why go all the way to the sea, five hours by train, for the whole summer to read?

“We spend too much time watching TV, talking on the phone,” Mom said. “We live in a world of sensory abundance and bonding poverty. This vacation will make up for that.”

Three weeks later, I found myself on the fly-infested rocky beach along the Black Sea coast in a place so quiet I could hear the earth’s pulse. The moaning of the sea.

Sitting cross-legged in a tent no larger than a closet, I read every evening. I met kids from Bulgaria and Poland. Told stories in quickly improvised sign language. Taught them Romanian words, and learned how to say sea and wind — among other things — in their languages. When nothing worked, we found common ground in our English-speaking skills.

What started as sensory and stimulation withdrawal turned into a heightened awareness of the elements. We listened to sounds the wind picked up from afar — broken sounds, but easily heard.

We listened to the lapping of the waves, the sea whispering its own language or that of creatures inhabiting its depths. Sitting on the beach for hours, we tried to decide if the whistling sounds came from a dolphin or some other fish. We laughed so much.

Since then, I’ve returned for more camping, but it was never like that summer, when I learned to go from crippling fear of boredom to hilarious fun and peace.

This post is part of the WordPress DailyWrite, where the prompt is to share a story about learning something new.

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Image:destopnexus.com/BlackSea