Above All Shadows

Today, as I thought of how to begin, much like Bilbo when tasked with completing the story of his travels, one quote rang in my ears. Even lost and alone at the tower of Cirith Ungol, Samwise Gamgee still found his courage at the very darkest of times. I think we could all take a lesson from Samwise the Brave.

In western lands beneath the Sun 
        the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run, 
        the merry finches sing.
Or there maybe ‘tis cloudless night 
	and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
	amid their branching hair.

Though here at journey’s end I lie
	in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
	beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
	and stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
	nor bid the stars farewell.
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Technical Difficulties

Of course, the day that I’m finally struck with a creative brainwave for a short story that I’d love to write, my computer decides to fail me. New characters are clamoring around in my mind, playing tug-of-war with my emotions and using my mouth to speak their emphatic heartache, begging me to write their story, and I can’t seem to get a good wifi connection. I sincerely hope the trail of creative breadcrumbs I’ve left for myself will be enough to find my way back at a later date when I can log into Google Docs and get to work. It’s always a danger with writing. I can’t wait to get to know those characters, interview them over a cup of coffee. I want to learn their names, who their friends are, where they grew up and why they made the choices that they did. But for now, it’s enough that they’ve stopped shouting and we can all get a good night’s sleep. 

Ballerina

This short freewrite was the product of a quiet afternoon shortly after relocating to Indiana. It’s a welcome reminder. Whoever you are, don’t ever forget to practice your pirouettes. Happy Friday.

She was so giddy she felt lightheaded. Her toes barely brushed the floor as she bounded from kitchen to living room to bedroom with her arms splayed in what she imagined was a graceful arc above her head, like a professional ballerina. She’d never wanted to be a ballerina but in that moment she was so happy that she could have pirouetted with the best of them. Anything was possible. The sky was the limit and she had such grand plans. The last time she could remember being so intensely full of yellow joy, she’d been eleven and had just discovered the truth about Santa Clause. It had been the best Christmas she’d ever had and she was too happy to care that it had been her parents leaving those gifts under the tree all along. Mom and Dad were Santa but it didn’t matter because they’d just given her the most perfect, most magical Christmas she could think of. 

The Way of Kings: Not Just a Fantasy Novel

It seems like a theme has developed on this blog over the last week revolving around my completion of Book One in the Stormlight Archive series. My intrigue for Brandon Sanderson’s work has blossomed into a full blown obsession and I simply must talk about it. As I’m well into Book Two, Words of Radiance, it felt like a good time to share some of my favorite bits from The Way of Kings, real life inspiration from fantasy people. 

“You can’t go someplace a second time until you been there a first time, I reckon. Everyone has to stand out sometime…”  – Yalb to Shallan on the docks at Kharbranth

It’s so easy to get ahead of ourselves. Too often I catch myself dwelling in the useless realm of someday, dreaming up perfect conversations with perfect people who I still have yet to meet. Life just doesn’t play out that way. Things never go the way you expect them to but that’s what makes it interesting. We like to pretend that we know where we’re going when in reality, we’re all just wandering through life waiting for the day that our prayers are answered and we bump into the right people. 

“A blank page was nothing but potential, pointless until it was used.” – Shallan thinking on drawing and art. 

Whether you’re a painter, writer, composer or musician, I think every artist on the planet can identify with this. That blank page is always there, begging to be filled even if only with the seemingly infinite mental clutter which obscures the true artistic gems of your consciousness.

“The hallmark of insecurity is bravado.” – Dalinar Kholin to his son, Adolin at the Shattered Plains

Have you ever noticed how the most uptight people are the only ones going out of their way to show the world how incredibly easy going they can be? This goes for all sorts of things. In my experience if you strut around like you’ve got something to prove, chances are, you do. No one is perfect. We’re all only human after all. How much simpler life would be if we all stopped trying to appear as we think we ought to and instead embraced the fabulous, singular individuals that we already are.  

Once They All Believed in Dragons

What a magical world it would be if we all believed a little more. Wise words and one of my favorites by Jack Prelutsky. Have you seen any dragons lately? 

Once they all believed in dragons
 When the world was fresh and young,
 We were woven into legends,
 Tales were told and songs were sung,
 We were treated with obeisance,
 We were honored, we were feared,
 Then one day they stopped believing - 
 On that day, we disappeared.

 Now they say our time is over,
 Now they say we’ve lived our last,
 Now we’re treated with derision
 Where we once ruled unsurpassed.
 We must make them remember,
 In some way we must reveal
 That our spirit lives forever - 
 We are dragons! We are real!

Great Art

A lot of people seem to think that the most tortured souls are the most beautiful, that from great tragedy springs great art. By that definition, I wonder if I’ll ever be a great artist. I hope not. 

Maybe the reason this theory gets passed around is because sadness is one of the easiest emotions to evoke. Everyone has felt pain even if it wasn’t the emotional kind. To be human is to hurt and people are used to trudging through the trenches of life. There are plenty of occasions for grief but that’s not the kind of story I want to tell. Someday, I want people to be smiling when they put down a book with my name on the cover. I want them to have a taste of this immense joy that I feel. 

What do you think? Is it possible to make something beautiful without making something sad? I think so. The world shines so much brighter when seeing it through happy eyes. Tears of joy are considerably better for the skin and the soul. 

Nothing To Say

What to write when you have nothing to say? Anyone who has ever attempted to commit to a writing goal can attest to grappling with this dilemma. Despite meticulously laid plans and the best of intentions, some days you just come up blank. It feels as if you can do nothing but stare at that blinking cursor in the upper right corner of the screen. A frustratingly large amount of the time, you wish it would simply move on its own. 

However, every writing guru also knows that the tiny, winking black line at the top of the page is propelled by one thing, your voice. It is the most obedient worker, tap dancing across the white stage only when expressly commanded by your vigorous typing. It’s the perfect dancer but you must provide the choreography. 

Strangled By Inspiration

Being inspired and being productive often do not go hand in hand. Unfocused inspiration can be just as maddening as writer’s brain (Writer’s block is a myth. See my reasoning here). I have dozens of ideas orbiting my consciousness but they flash by before I can catch one and mold it into words on paper. 

A seasoned master of the written word will weave a great net of routine and strategy to corral all those random lightbulbs of inspiration. Such individuals know from years of experience that casting a single line into that pool is a hopeless endeavor. What are some of your strategies for capturing ideas as they come to you? Please share in the comments and help me perfect my process.  

Autumn

This freewrite was born in creative writing club in college. The character clicked her way into my consciousness and is loosely based on a few of my own Halloweens growing up. I still remember my sister and I spreading our treats across the dining room table and dividing them into piles for us and for the candy fairy who only came once a year while we were asleep on Halloween night. We were a little disgruntled to give up a portion of our sugary treasure but looking back, we always seemed to get the better end of the deal. 

Her tall high heeled black boots clicked rhythmically on the cold concrete as she walked, a steady metronome  for her thoughts. The red and gold leaves strewn on the path in front of her seemed to leap aside as she passed as if afraid of being trodden on by her heels. It was nearly 7:00pm. The sun hadn’t yet dipped behind the mountains but already, little toddlers in Walmart Elsa costumes and Spiderman masks were scattering over the trimmed lawns that hadn’t yet lost their color. 

She watched them as she walked. They were so excited. She remembered being that small and being just as full of anticipation for the mountains of sweets still to come. She was never allowed to keep all her sugary treasure from the evening’s dance from house to house. Her parents always made her pick her favorite ten pieces. The rest, they said, was for the Candy Fairy, who always came in the night. Every year when she woke the next morning, her extra candy would be gone but in its place would be a present. One year, the candy fairy brought a beautiful leather bound copy of her favorite story, the Lord of the Rings. She still remembered when she first felt those velvety smooth pages, smelled that alluring scent of a new book, sweeter than any candy to her. 

It was just another Santa Claus, another Easter Bunny, another Tooth Fairy. She knew the truth now about where those wonderful gifts came from just like she knew the truth about who set the presents out under the tree every Christmas. She had long since stopped going Trick-or-Treating although she still got dressed up and went out with friends. It was odd. There was a deep sense of nostalgia which ached in her stomach. She missed the days when the Candy Fairy had been real and yet, in some ways, it still was. She had seen behind that curtain around the same time she’d discovered the truth about Santa but she could still feel the magic that had fueled the happy glow in her six-year-old eyes.

Now, she watched it bloom in the wake of dozens of costume clad kids all with orange plastic Jack-o-Lantern buckets swinging from their arms or bouncing behind them as they skipped from house to house. They were all so intent on their treasure hunt. Their parents and younger siblings in strollers trailed behind them, keeping their distance while still close enough to be considered a watchful eye. 

None stopped to wave to her or catch her eye. She didn’t expect them to. Even when it wasn’t Halloween people rarely grew so friendly as to be called neighborly. Not to her. She had long ago been branded as odd. People kept their distance. By now, she barely noticed except around children. All the adults in town knew to stay away but there was still the rare occasion when some little person hadn’t yet been taught to keep away from the weird witch girl who lived on Luna Way up on the hill.

It was hardly her fault. She wasn’t a powerful evil enchantress. Strange things simply happened when she was around, not all of them good.   

Angels

This was a freewrite I wrote one quiet evening while sitting on a park bench watching the Sun retreat from the treetops. However, there were plenty of other lights that came out in the twilight. This was the product of some happy, random dabbling with words. Enjoy!

Photo by Rel Ohara
Fireflies!
The silence of the smallest fireworks
pirouetting in the air
on soft summer nights.
That sparkle in my peripheral
letting me know that I’m not alone.
Twinkling to life,
startled by my footsteps
and always travelling up.
Their journey begins
on the tip of a blade of grass.
They flare to life around my knees
before flickering out of existence
on their quest for the stars
like angels pointing the way.