Tired after a long day’s work, I sought a quick distraction before shutting down. Emily Dickinson came to the rescue. Here is her short, yet powerful untitled poem 1350
Luck is not chance —
It’s Toil —
Fortune’s expensive smile
Is earned —
The Father of the Mine
Is that old-fashioned Coin
We spurned —
I find it extremely interesting that someone who lived in such extreme isolation can speak so perfectly of hard work and ambition. Thank you Emily. I will make my own fortune, my own luck.
In today’s world where we are bombarded by mind-numbing reality shows, more online interactions than real-world, and an overall increase in social awkwardness, it is becoming more and more obvious that we’re too concerned with the lives of others instead of our own. I’m going to assume that anyone reading this may at least be a little more introspective than the general population, so it will be interesting to hear your thoughts.
I grew up in a somewhat sheltered world – class of 151, same group of friends throughout high school, captain of this, involved in that… yada yada yada. I never really paid attention to current events. I definitely didn’t know what was going on outside of my town and most times not what was going on within. Thank goodness it was before the Facebook phenomenon or who knows how I would have turned out.
Several life events, marked by some emotional scarring, were monumental in changing my view of the world. However, outside of that, I fully think there’s one element that helped me the most and tends to separate people; I took more than just an entry-level English Lit class.
What other classes involve such in-depth character analysis and require a person to ask the ultimate question – Why? You don’t see many business classes reviewing the lifestyle of or reasons why Rod Blagojevich thought he could get away with selling a Senate seat. Analysis into a character’s motivations can become habitual is easily transferred into real life situations.
During my two years of various Literature classes, all elective and not even enough to qualify as a minor, I learned to ask myself ‘why’ which in turn allowed me to have a better understanding, not only why others may do what they do, but eventually to turn it internal and ask why I do some of the things I do. Getting to know myself has been more enlightening than you can imagine.
To be fair, it hasn’t been easy. I found myself making excuses, both for myself and for those who influenced me early in life. And many of the truths were hard to absorb. But I’m very happy to have started down that path of discovery, a path that will likely take me on a lifelong journey.
I challenge you to do the same
An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope (a snippet)
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself, abus’d or disabus’d;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.
Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th’ empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As Eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule—
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!
I did a little free-write last night and here’s the result. I won’t tell you my motivation but would be very interested in hearing your thoughts. It’s been years since I’ve attempted something like this.
Dark is the beast of man elect,
Common in all but chance.
The pale of heart bend weakened knee,
Heads the floor of the dance.
With vigor and prowess in youthful despair
Draped in comforting trink
A gift borrowed from heredity
Swift to razor’s brink.
A man, no man, inside a man,
Found himself a fool
Used by those on bended knee
The brute no less a mule.
~ Nick Andrews
I spent the majority of this past week thinking of what I hope to accomplish in 2012, both with my writing and life in general. Some people make one resolution and try to stick with it throughout the year, but I’m more of a list person so I’ve made a list. Yes, I included everything from my list.
So far, I’ve already made changes to Mad Hatter Miscellany which should help me be a more consistent blogger. It had gotten to the point where I was putting in a ton of time researching what I wanted to write about. I wanted it to have a definite focus and eventually found myself with tunnel vision. Going forward, it will continue to have a creative-writing focus, but I will also allow myself to go off on tangents. You may see a post about a great short story followed by comments on investing.
I am about halfway through a new short story that I’ll be submitting to publishers as soon as all my revisions are done. Wish me luck!
Lastly, thank you to anyone and everyone out there who take the time to support the writing community. Most writers hold day jobs and hone their craft in their spare time, so taking the time to comment on a post or leave feedback in Amazon on one of their short stories or novels goes a long way.
Happy New Year and here’s to a great 2012!
It seems as though everyone I know has been sick recently and I woke up a little under the weather myself. Sinus headaches are the worst, especially when you wake up with one. Here’s a poem from Thomas Hardy dedicated to all those who have struggled with something similar.
A Wasted Illness
Through vaults of pain,
Enribbed and wrought with groins of ghastliness,
I passed, and garish spectres moved my brain
To dire distress.
And quakes, and shoots, and stifling hotness, blent
With webby waxing things and waning things
As on I went.
“Where lies the end
To this foul way?” I asked with weakening breath.
Thereon ahead I saw a door extend –
The door to death.
It loomed more clear:
“At last!” I cried. “The all-delivering door!”
And then, I knew not how, it grew less near
And back slid I
Along the galleries by which I came,
And tediously the day returned, and sky,
And life–the same.
And all was well:
Old circumstance resumed its former show,
And on my head the dews of comfort fell
As ere my woe.
I roam anew,
Scarce conscious of my late distress … And yet
Those backward steps through pain I cannot view
For that dire train
Of waxing shapes and waning, passed before,
And those grim aisles, must be traversed again
To reach that door.
While perusing the Writers Digest website, I came across their poetry blog, Poetic Asides by Robert Lee Brewer. The blog regularly has guest posts with great advice and information, and Brewer does a decent job of leading writers with weekly writing prompts. You’ll see your typical amount of Writers Digest product placement for their magazines or books, but not in a way that distracts from the real intent of the blog.
The main reason I’m sharing this is Brewer’s March 1st post. Poetic Asides holds a Poem-a-Day (PAD) Challenge in April that is open to anyone. The guidelines can be found here but in short, here are some details:
While I have no illusions of making the top 50, submitting 5 new poems by May 5th based on the prompts should be do-able. I will do my best to remember to post my submissions on here as well to get your feedback.
Let me know if anyone else out there will be taking part in the contest. I’m interested in seeing how much interest this contest creates and would love to read other writers’ submissions.
Cheers and Happy Writing!
~ The Hatter
If any of you have had an injury that kept you relatively immobile and generally stuck indoors, you’ll easily understand the following. I’m two and a half weeks into what will likely be a six-week hiatus from normal life. Not that it’s all been bad, but there’s definitely a pressure building, a need to escape… back to the real world beyond this house.
For today’s post, I’ve included a poem by Emily Dickinson which speaks of the scientifically unexplainable contentment that comes with Spring. As the days grow longer and the daily temperatures rise, I’m struck by how creatively perfect this poem is. One of the most pleasant aspects of my job is my morning drive in the Spring. The wisps of fog rising across the open fields, a hint of daybreak shining across the horizon, it all provides for a flawless morning of reflection and gratitude for the gifts in my life.
Also, notice that she capitalizes the word ‘Light’ in the first line, giving it an almost god-like quality. In doing so, she helps to increase the reverence justifiably felt for this most natural occurrence.
I truly can’t wait for Spring…
A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here
A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.
It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.
Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —
A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.
~ Emily Dickinson
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did and I look forward to your comments.
This morning, I caught myself going through one of my most enjoyable weekend routines and thought I’d pass it along. I absolutely love to sit comfortably in our den with a nice mug of coffee and spend some time on Writing.com.
This morning I realized that many people out there may not even be aware that Writing.com exists or what it is. Writing.com is an online community for writers and readers, where people can share their work. Members are able to review the writers’ works, take part in contests or writing prompts, and support each other in many, many ways. I treat it more as a quick hit for reading and reviewing, but have taken part in some of the small writing events. There are also support topics and advice forums for aspiring writers as well. The beauty of it is that it can be a different experience depending on what you’re looking for.
The posted works are also in several stages of completion. Some writers have written and posted full novels and been through the editing process several times whereas others will post a chapter at a time as soon as they have the final word in place. It can be very interesting to watch a work evolve over time. Other members, like myself, take more of a reader/reviewer role giving support and advice where we can. And of course, I’m sure some people purely read various postings without getting involved, which is definitely okay too.
It can become an absorbing website though. Several times I’ve found myself with 3 or 4 hours less in my day because I’ve gotten overly involved in reviewing an entry or writing an entry for one of the contests. Normally, at least one time each weekend I’ll sit down and log into Writing.com to take a look at a new author or to see if some of the authors I’m following have posted anything new.
I highly advise, if this sounds at all interesting please take a look at Writing.com. If any readers do join or are already members, don’t forget to say hello. My handle is The Hatter.
It’s amazing how much a broken ankle is a perspective changing event. Suddenly, I can’t go outside by myself for fear of slipping on the ice. All the small things are now so much more time-consuming and difficult. I now understand why elderly people will fight tooth and nail to keep their right to drive. Mobility means so much in this world.
Since I have so much free time and the lack of mobility to do much with it, today I’m going to bring back a past-time from my creative-writing days. People-watching. Not in the sense of making fun of people but in a more constructive way.
Here’s the process. Go to a comfortable place with a fair amount of public present – i.e. a coffee shop, mall, etc. You’ll need a notepad and a pen or a laptop. Coffee shops are generally my favorite because the clientele tend to stay longer than what you might get in other public places. Find somewhere comfortable to sit and then just look around.
Take in your surroundings. Make notes on the background sounds, smells, overall atmosphere. Then take a look at some of the people around you. Find someone who catches you as interesting. This will be your character. They could be very similar to you or you could be complete opposites. You’ll find that the type of person you focus on will change every time you do this.
Once you’ve found your character, you have two main options on how to write. You can try to put yourself in their shoes, making their story as realistic as possible for this person. Or you can just write, using the real person as a starting point but not worrying where their story takes you. Now write. Write their background, their life, why they’re in the coffee shop, anything that helps explain who they are. Spend at least 15 minutes continuously writing, with no pauses. Don’t stop short though, if 15 minutes isn’t enough just keep going.
Once you’re done, relax and give your character a name. Then put your pages away and don’t look at them for at least a day. This will give you some separation before you do any revising.
If any of you should happen to do this, let me know how it goes. I’ve always been a huge fan of people watching and really enjoy taking it this extra step.
As I sit at home, handicapped by my broken ankle, it’s becoming easy to think of things that I wish I could do. Reading stories of travel and adventure help a little.
In one of my old books of poetry I came across this one from Rudyard Kipling. I found it intriguing even though it’s not the first time I’ve come across the concept. When we allow ourselves to enjoy the moment, to get lost in the moment, there are no differences between us. We’re only held back by how we define ourselves.
As always, I appreciate your comments.
Or ever the battered liners sank
With their passengers to the dark,
I was head of a Walworth Bank,
And you were a grocer’s clerk.
I was a dealer in stocks and shares,
And you in butters and teas;
And we both abandoned our own affairs
And took to the dreadful seas.
Wet and worry about our ways–
Panic, onset and flight–
Had us in charge for a thousand days
And thousand-year-long night.
We saw more than the nights could hide–
More than the waves could keep–
And–certain faces over the side
Which do not go from our sleep.
We were more tired than words can tell
While the pied craft fled by,
And the swinging mounds of the Western swell
Hoisted us Heavens-high…
Now there is nothing — not even our rank–
To witness what we have been;
And I am returned to my Walworth Bank,
And you to your margarine!