Sunday, March 27, 2011

Writer’s Block Blues

Fellow bloggers, I’ve got the blues, the writer’s block blues!
B: bored
L: languid
U: unmotivated
E: exhausted
S: somber

Ironically, I’ve written about how to beat writer’s block in previous posts. Some tips such as:
• Get together with other writers and use prompts to get you writing on the spot.
• Listen to classical music or any of your favorite CDs.
• Edit a fellow writer’s story to get your pen moving.
• If everything else fails, go for a walk.

Well, what happens when you can’t shake the blues? Any clues?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Let's Celebrate, Spring is Finally Here!!!

(This photo was taken by my hubby two springs ago)
A Light Exists in Spring
by Emily Dickinson

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.
Does spring renew the muse in you? Do you have a favorite spring poem? Is spring your favorite season?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

When your inspiration becomes illegal

Last year I met authoress Kathryn Stockett at the Book Expo in New York City. Ms. Stockett was signing copies of her best-selling novel, The Help. I absolutely enjoyed this book, so much so that, I gave a copy to a good friend of mine. For those of you who haven’t read it, the story takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962. The chapters are narrated through the eyes of three women: two black maids and a white college graduate.

The author does a great job at depicting the city, the characters, and the setting of the time, not to mention diction. This story is poignant funny, sad, and realistic without overdoing it. It has just the right amount of each element.

According to the author, her inspiration came from her real-life maid, Demetrie, who died when Stockett was only sixteen. Now a woman in Jackson, Mississippi claims she’s the maid depicted in the book. She says the alliteration of her name and physical attributes are similar. This woman has filed a lawsuit against Ms. Stockett and is seeking damages of $75,000 for emotional distress. This inspiration is being called unpermitted appropriation, which is the unwanted and unpermitted use of the name or likeness of an ordinary, uncelebrated person for advertising or other such commercial purposes.

Give me a break! This is outrageous! Writers find inspiration in almost anything, living or not, past or present, and the writer’s imagination is limitless. Should writers stifle their creativity in order to avoid a potential lawsuit? Stop worrying about typos, bad editing, or even getting published. Writers, meet your new problem: blackmail!

Do you think it’s fair to limit your creativity in order to avoid unpermitted appropriation?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Beautiful Process of Writing from Pain

While having my hair done at my hairdresser’s this weekend, I flipped through the pages of  the February issue of Vanity Fair. No articles had really caught my attention until I saw a black-and-white photo of J.D. Salinger. I read the piece intently. I got goose bumps reading about how real life events –tragic and gruesome- deeply affected Salinger’s life and his writing for ever. Even under a rain of bullets, he furiously typed stories, as one of his soldier friends described. I don’t know if that was true commitment or sheer madness. As I continued reading, I learned the parallels between Holden Caulfield and Salinger himself. Kenneth Slawenski explains in his latest book, J.D. Salinger: A Life, that World War II “shaped the author as well as his most famous character.”

Salinger was a short story writer and was not sure that he wanted to write a novel. On the good advice of his mentor, Whit Burnett, a professor at Columbia and editor at Story magazine, he continued to write about Holden Caulfield. He ended up writing nine stories about his main character and then wove these stories together to produce his masterpiece, The Catcher in the Rye. Slawenski goes on to say that “The achievement was a catharsis. It was confession, purging, prayer, and enlightenment, in a voice so distinct that it would alter American culture.”

To me this was an epiphany. Who would have thought of pain as a source of inspiration? A former mentor once told our class to write about what we know. Salinger wrote about war and pain because that’s what he knew. This hit close to home as a dear friend and writer shared with me her latest story. She even admitted it was cathartic. The result: a beautifully well-written edgy piece.

Reading about Salinger’s painful ordeal inspired me to go home and write. This article taught me that even a difficult experience can be indeed a source of inspiration.

Are your stories a catharsis, an epiphany, or a combination of both?