Midnight Musings

This thing I'm writing - This "book".... The beginning is, naturally, important. I've struggled with where exactly and how exactly to begin. I had the gist of a beginning but I did not have anything precise. I've struggled with the tone. 

Two nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night and emailed this to myself from the iPad I keep on my nightstand. (I've gotten adept at typing on that blasted touch screen. Nimble fingers, I haz them.)

This is UNEDITED so please be aware of that.  

It needs polish that's for sure. But so far, I feel it's a good start at the mood I'm trying to establish and the voice which as a writer I've been waiting to kick in. Yeah, progress is a good thing.


 There was a raven staring at him from the rafters of the theater, it wore a waistcoat. A green waistcoat with shiny brass buttons. He couldn't, at this distance, see for a fact that the buttons were shiny and brass, but he knew the light that had caught him in the eye had been reflected from that bird, and he knew the bird well enough to know that if the waistcoat was green, only brass buttons would do. The bird was vain.

Daniel Finley abhorred vanity. Three things were learned of him when he was introduced to someone new. Beauty, title and talent. Those were his commodities, the quantifiable limits of his value. None of these things had been accomplished by his actions or earned thru his merit, they were accidents of birth, and they utterly ruled his life. To take undue pride in any of them would be a conceit beyond tolerance, and so he took pride in nothing.

Unlike that raven. The vain raven in the green waistcoat with shiny brass buttons was now strutting across the the rafters behind the proscenium as if it were directing the production currently in rehearsal below. The raven stopped when it saw Daniel looking up again. It fluttered it's wings impatiently at him, and Daniel inclined his head slightly in a soft nod. "I see you found me first." he thought. "After this is over we will meet...wait outside" He projected his answer to the creature mentally, hoping that little trick still worked and the bird would understand. It did. The raven nodded its head with the spastic grace particular to his kind, turned, and flew thru the brick wall at the back of the stage. His  form disappeared with an implosion of color as it met the brick. Daniel had always imagined this disappearing display should be accompanied by a popping noise, or some other sound effect to give the gesture more drama. But in his experience it never made any sound at all.

Which was good because the the dramatic popping sound made by a disappearing raven in a waistcoat in a theater full of quietly waiting dancers was not something likely to have gone unobserved. There was a lot of quiet. Daniel turned his head and saw the entire company staring at him. He had ceased his playing of the piano when he'd spotted the bird, and from the quizzical expressions turned on him now he concluded he'd ceased playing rather abruptly. He hadn't noticed. The choreographer cleared her throat, her annoyance plain in the tone and Daniel saw his manager and best friend Charles walking towards him with a familiar look of exasperation.


Artistic Serendipity or Clearing the Path

Energy, science tells us, follows the path of least resistance. All things moving through a system choose the path of fewest obstacles.* Water flowing down a hillside. Sand through your fingers.  A landslide.

In my artistic life, I've found that I'm happiest when I not only remember this principle, but when I apply it resolutely.

The most magical projects, the endeavors that set my soul alight are the ones where every moment visiting with my Muse is one of revelation, utter joy, or transformation. Threads of inspiration connect and a tapestry of intention is woven with seemingly little effort. Suddenly the world is full of signs, all in support of my quest. Friends share links that are shockingly connected to my current work. Books are published that support a hypothesis, or are the perfect research tool for a character I'm creating. I discover new music that is the restorative for my creative psyche. These are moments when I feel like the universe is holding my hand, leading me down an ancient path, showing me the footprints of all the others that walked this way before me.

You don't have to be mystical to experience this. It's nothing supernatural. It's only magic. Whether the universe has truly risen in support of your work or whether you simply feel that way because you have risen in support of yourself - whether these are signs from your Muse or whether you are only recognizing them as such because you are in the throes of neurochemical love with your own art; it doesn't matter.

It's beautiful.

But when we are resisting, it's all a bit different.

My foray into writing has been a completely new path for me. This strange environment is humbling. I've sat in the dark with a tangle of words and a chord of a story thrumming in my chest, with no clue how to string it into song.

Creating this way is agony. Nothing goes right, the work is joyless and insecurity rampant. This is not to say that just because something is hard that it isn't worth doing. Not at all. But in my case, when something is too hard, when a project I've been in love with turns to maggots in my hands, I have to examine why. More often than not it's because I'm just not listening to the Muse.

The agony only stopped for me when I finally remembered to stop resisting. The truth is that I don't have to have a clue how to do this. That's the Muse's job. My job is to clear the path. I'm not the energy. I am not the inspiration. I'm the system. And it's my job to not throw up obstacles.

The energy, the spark of inspiration, all of it will flow through when it's ready, when the path is clear.

Clearing the path is the challenge.

For years I've been writing a big story, what I refer to as THE STORY, in my mind. It's huge, there are parenthetical tales inside of parenthetical tales. It's a ridiculous project for a first book.

Which is why it won't be my first. <<--- a fact that came as something of a surprise to me.

See the idea that THE STORY had to be written first, that was the first obstacle I threw up for my Muse. I'm a web weaver when it comes to inspiration, but I'm very linear and full of self imposed rules when it comes to production. "This was the story I'd been working on longest" I thought "It gets written first and that's all there is to it. All other inspiration gets it's mouth duct taped shut and stuffed in a box."

Yeah right. While I was littering our path with boxes stuffed with muffled inspiration, my Muse was behind me, releasing the contents and laughing at me.

I was blind sided with a new story months ago. It was partly inspired by my life long obsession with all things Jane Austen and the recent 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride & Prejudice. I didn't see what the heck this new story had to do with anything I was already writing. I didn't want to move outside of the world I was building. I told my Muse that parts of this story were sort of well, embarrassingly hokey. WTF a magic pen? I wasn't sure where she was going with all this.

She rolled her eyes at me and told me the rest of the story.

I was hooked.

I stopped resisting. I stopped throwing obstacles into the path.

The world opened up. The heavens parted, the angels wept. Serendipity.  

Suddenly its seems like almost everything new I encounter is shown to me by the Muse in support of my work. Whether it's magic, or just my subconscious rallying in support of myself, it doesn't matter. This is how I know that I'm clearing the path, that I'm on the right track.

*Well except for those Parkour folks

On Writing...

Alright so you might remember my sordid confession a few weeks back. The little project that is labeled "the book thing" in the file cabinet in my head. There has been much procrastination surrounding this task for about two years now. So much so that I finally sat myself down and laid out a rule. I demanded of myself that I had to begin writing, actually WRITING before the end of this month. Today at about 6:00 pm I'm proud to say I had a lovely little smattering of about 4,500 words. Not too shabby.


At this point there is hardly any eloquence present anywhere. I've given myself permission to just tell myself the story now, just to get it down. So far this results in lots of pages that sound like me, talking to myself. Rather clinical really. I wouldn't say that anything really sings off the page yet. Although in a fit of self indulgence I did manage to shed a tear while channeling a little dialogue from one of the more beloved characters. So that was nice.

Here's that bit. Which probably won't make you cry. Not even a little. ;)

"I’m not a painter, I don’t have an economy of fluid brushstrokes with which to paint for you a portrait of the events of this evening. I cannot give you a framed synopsis of what’s transpired. I only have a thousand words - a thousand clumsy, imperfect, woefully unsatisfying words. Words that hang about my head like boulders. There is so much to tell you. There is so much that is important. So much that you MUST know, and all of it at once."


Borne Back Into The Past - Beat On

From the ages of seven to thirteen I went to a private Catholic school. I can't say I particularly cared for it. Catechism, conformity and navy plaid don't tend to agree with my disposition.

The grounds of the school are shared by an old church, built in 1817. It's a beautiful church, gilded and charming and musty with history. The church's graveyard is the final resting place of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his beloved muse Zelda. It's says something, I think, of the atmosphere of the school and the myopic education I received there, that this fact was never once a topic of trivia, let alone discussion.

I didn't find out about the cemetery's famous resident until I went to high school and read Fitzgerald's most famous work, The Great Gatsby, for the first time. This being a public school they weren't as concerned with nitpicky details like Fitzgerald's non-practicing Catholic status when he died, and thus must have determined it less risky to our immortal souls to know that he'd been buried in Catholic ground after all.

From the ages of 17 to 24 myself and a few friends became unofficial grave side fanbois of F & Z's graves. Hey, Baltimore has Poe, Rockville has the Fitzgeralds.

We thought ourselves rebel poets, full of courage won of wine coolers and Funyuns, we'd boldly trespass amongst the dead, bearing roses from 7-11 as homage to our heroes. One of my friends liked to play music for the couple as we sat at gravesend. He'd engage us in debate over which bands the Fitzgerald's might have liked best were they our peers in the 90s. He seemed convinced that Fitzy (as we called him), would have loved Grunge. This was an assertion that despite his claims to the contrary, confirmed my suspicion that he'd never read any of Fitzgerald's books. Personally I've always thought Bryan Ferry and Ziggy Stardust might have been more up F's alley. But what do I know?

The epitaph on F. Scott Fitzgerald's grave is the last line from Gatsby. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

It's part of a larger passage: 

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

It means that we are ever moving forward, yearning for and fighting towards our goals. Yet our pasts are in our way, simultaneously informing our dream, and obstructing it.

I can relate to this sentiment. I've been a little nostalgic of late. It's been nostalgia born of duress really. See, I've been saddled with a new endeavor this year. I'm writing a novel. I don't know if it will be published. I don't know if I'll even pursue that outcome. That's not the point. What I do know is that after two years of trying to smoke out the muse of writing where she hides in ratholes in my studio walls, I've failed to locate or kill her. She's won, and so I'm writing this blasted thing. Against all my protestations she's made it clear I have no choice.

She's a brutal mistress this wordy bitch. In the two years she's been pursuing my soul she's repeatedly accosted me with writing assignments just to drive her point home. Again and again I've protested, insisting I'm an artist not a writer. "I've never written!  I've never even had ambition to write!" has come out of my mouth more then once.

As it turns out I'm a dirty liar. Moving across the country tends to cause the carefully stacked debris of a creative life to come tumbling down from shelves. Actual documents obtained from the archives of Ghost-Of-Brigid-Past confirm that in fact, I have indeed always written. There's boxes full of evidence. A lot of what's in those boxes sucks eggs. But there's also a reminder from a teacher that I won a national writing award in High School. Apparently I also blogged for a couple of websites back in the day (97 & 2000 respectively, before it was called blogging), and even had some poetry published.

Huh, who knew?

The muse has won. I've got Scrivener installed on my Mac.....

So...from the ages of 38 to ?  I'll be writing a book. I'm terrified.  Scared and sniffly, I'm slowly getting type on the pages. I don't promise that it's good, I don't know if it's interesting, I guarantee it's a grammatical nightmare. But there it is, emerging from the blank white of the page, not unlike a painting.

Can I paint with words? We'll see....