Friday, April 15, 2011

When It Rains It Pours

"I wrote that? I don't believe it."

The great thing about re-reading your past works is that you come to know yourself. However, knowing yourself is not the same thing as being proud of yourself. Example: I just re-read a short story of mine that was published just over a year ago. Reaction: I am blushing. Blushing!
The short story in question (that will remain untitled to forgo and further embarrassment, you can die from that I hear), was something I slaved over. I believe I even took a low grade on a midterm assignment to get it polished for that “I’m a good writer” shine. Wrong. I must have been using the wrong polish, because all I succeeded to get was a dull gleam, and that is debatable. Honestly, I was convinced, by the power of Thoth, Egyptian god of writing, I had been blessed to write this piece of literature. The evidence of any sort of blessed authorship is absent here, in fact there are very clear signs that point to cursed and damned. My muse, I am convinced hates me. At the moment of my slavery over this I’m sure she was off with the other eight girls cavorting in some pool of mysterious delight. See? More evidence that this was not my best work, or even something close to acceptable writing. The truly sad thing is I received an A in the class because of this piece of drivel. 

Thoth, Egyptian God of Writing

There’s a timeline involved in this. A year ago I loved what I wrote; today I’m appalled and disappointed. There is a reason. As a striving author I can’t believe some publisher/editor anywhere thought that had merit. This past week another short story of mine got published. On this one, I spent a handful of hours on the project and there was absolutely no slaving, more like skipping. I know this is not my best work, I came up with the idea the day I wrote it, which coincidentally is the day submissions were due. See the issue here? Well, that got published. I went back and re-read it, a day before the book came out, and I impressed myself.
It didn’t matter that I wrote that in seven hours and never re-read it. It mattered because somehow between last year’s piece of no nothing authorship and now I can recognize how much I’ve grown. This writing thing obviously has started to make sense. The tricks and tools that I struggle with and slaved over are now ingrained and automatic. It makes me feel as if my toiling in front of my computer night after night is not for the amusement of my muse, but is actually doing some good.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How the Weather Changed the Spiral Jetty

It is April, and the weather has moved in. As a writer it is difficult to capture the image of nature in all her splendor, let alone her emotion, but at five this morning when giant flakes of snow were tickling my cheeks with cold kisses it was hard not to try. Mornings are beastly and anything before seven a nightmare still, but with the weather following Marie and I to the northern edge of the salt lake the threat of dangerous weather gave the predawn a little thrill.
My adventure at the Spiral Jetty turned out to be cold, hovering somewhere around thirty degrees. Something about the frigid morning and the steady drizzle, created a world of sharp grey shadows and lights. These colors sometimes evoke a dreary feeling, but here this was not the case.
Inspiration bloomed all over the hillside erupting from the lake edge. Marie, still recovering from a broken foot, hiked with me to get a better view of the art piece. We hefted her film equipment through the volcanic rock decorated by pastel green lichen. The wet grasses, already sprouting to about mid-calf, soaked my shoes within minutes. Finally, we reached the spot and turned to face the sight. The lake had become a reflection of hues somehow contained within this grey spectrum. Purple, blue, green, and even yellow all mixed together fading and moving slow like the storm threatening above the glassy lake with a quiet watchfulness over the Jetty. The jetty itself, a mass of those same volcanic rocks and white sand, stretched like a lazy appendage of the land into the water, almost as if it had frozen in the process of straightening out. Beyond all this, the threat of an April snow storm lingered in the air, dangling in front of us like a countdown. The seagulls began to cry, and the scent of briny water rose off the lakeshore with the breeze.  Nature was kind enough to give Marie some perfect photos to capture by the pose of this morning. Then less kindly, she ushered us off the shoreline with winter’s chill and more of her wet feathery snow kisses.
Other photos of the Spiral Jetty I have seen do not do this day at the Jetty any compliment. Some are taken from aerial views and others in the middle of summer when the water table has raised enough to submerge the Jetty altogether. Although the image, the art, is bursting with emotion, from the positions of the jagged volcano rocks to the spiral rings, this Jetty had danger. The grey morning foreshadowed the storm to come, an obvious warning to Marie and me as we scuttled about the shore. In writing, this dangerous hint tainting the work creates an undeniable tension. The threat of dangerous weather can take a scene where you might not have expected it to go.
If you would like to see the pictures taken by Marie Teemant of the Sprial Jetty, please visit her blog and take a look. Rie Around the World: Stay-cation