La belle fleur sauvage

La Belle Fleur Sauvage is one of my favorite Lord Huron songs. The title means “the beautiful wildflower.” It has the pathos of an anti-love song; the flower does not deign to be partnered with a man.

What you're looking for won't be found easily
It grows upon the mountain in a sacred place
Up beyond the clouds, in ancient ground, so they say
And many men have died trekking up that away

What motif has been more captivating to the male mind than a beautiful, dangerous woman?

The song, though a favorite, can be read as problematic. It is about a man who would be the one to pluck this women-flower, and, when he dies, he wants her lying by his side in his grave.

Once he's gazed upon her, a man is forever changed
The bravest men return with darkened hearts and phantom pain
Ages come and go but her life goes on the same
She lives to see the sun and feel the wind and drink the rain

I prefer to focus on the eery imagery describing the woman.

She reminds me of the Loreley/Lorelei, a siren legend born on the shores of Germany’s Rhein River. The myth was derived from a particularly perilous curve of the river. Dangerous not only because of strong currents, but also because of the echoing effect of one bank’s steep rock face, which was named “Loreley” in part from the German verbs lureln (to murmur) and lauern (to lurk, lie in wait). There are many forms of this myth, but Heinrich Heine’s poem “Die Lorelei” immortalized her. A statue was erected to commemorate her spirit.

The fairest maiden is sitting
In wondrous beauty up there,
Her golden jewels are sparkling,
She combs her golden hair.

She combs it with a golden comb
And sings a song the while;
It has an awe-inspiring,
Powerful melody.

It seizes the boatman in his skiff
With wildly aching pain;
He does not see the rocky reefs,
He only looks up to the heights.

I think at last the waves swallow
The boatman and his boat;
And that, with her singing,
The Loreley has done.

The Lorelei lurks there, even still: the last major wreck was in 2011.

A beautiful wildflower, indeed.

Why I Stopped “Morning Pages”

Have you ever heard of morning pages? They are one of the basic tools laid out in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I recently had a writing instructor recommend her students read the book and begin the practice.

The morning pages practice is simple: rise early each day to write three pages “of longhand writing, strictly stream of consciousness” (10). One should use the space/time to get the gunk of life out of one’s head, down on the page, and move on from there. The book has many examples of the miracle of morning pages, about students who had started the practice and found success in their professional field, crediting morning pages for the breakthrough.

I was completely enamored with the idea. It was presented that if I could just journal for three pages every morning, well, then I’d start writing in a meaningful way and actually become a writer. Though I already had a pretty consistent journaling practice, this was a more structured take on it.

Since last fall until about two weeks ago, I was very dedicated to the morning pages. I would wake up at four AM before my twelve hour shifts to journal. I would journal on my days off my day job. I would sometimes write more than three pages. I would pull a tarot card and use that as a prompt. I felt very productive.

Can you guess what I wasn’t doing? I wasn’t writing anything creatively. No inspiration appeared “seemingly out of nowhere” (17). In fact, my morning pages turned into me writing that I was anxious about not writing. I was talking myself through it being ok that I wasn’t writing creatively. I was making excuses, writing, ‘well, at least I’m reading a lot right now.’ I would journal and then think ‘ok well there’s that writing done for today…now to go do my work/errands/chores/exercise/etc’ with no space left for the writing that I actually wanted to produce!

I talked this through with a writerly friend. About how journaling/morning pages was actually holding me back from writing. About just doing the damn thing and actually writing. I decided to say fuck it to morning pages and put my journal aside.

That was a week and a half ago.

Since opening up that time in my life — and giving my headspace a break of the ‘checked box’ that was morning pages — my creativity and desire to write creatively has grown. I still get up at four AM on a work day, but now I produce story. I read more short stories. I’ve nearly finished my own short story. I am doing. And that’s the real miracle.

…but I called it.

I’m taking an online writing course which includes bi-weekly assignments, which, since this is only the second week, I believe, includes regular prompts for free writing.  Here was the assignment for last week:

“Write a story using that phrase as your first line and include a twist at the end. Keep your story to 300 words or less. Write as tight as possible, that is, really select words with care. Trim out the extras. Add dialogue.”

Admittedly, I didn’t add much dialogue, but I like how my little story turned out.  I love to read character driven apocalyptic/dystopian sci-fi but rarely get a decent idea in that genre, so I was pleased that this idea showed up.  Who knows, maybe there is more here!

I’ll be sharing my assignments here as we go along. Continue reading “…but I called it.”

The Muse Works When You Do

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Hilma af Klint

I just spent the weekend in New York City.  Kara, one of my best friends/travel buddies, and I explored the shit outta that town.  We traipsed and Lyfted our way from Spanish-Italian cafe to French bistro to Korean small plates through Central Park, to the MoMa and Guggenheim, in search of great food, beer, coffee, art, ice cream, and pizza.

What always blows my mind about travel, beyond the obvious benefit of ‘seeing the world,’ is the doors it breaks down surrounding my creativity.  Which is an easier sentiment to have while listening to the Dark Side of the Moon and contemplating Hilma af Klint than sitting in my robe in my bed back home.  It’s a fleeting feeling I’m constantly yearning for, yet what I learned on this trip is creativity is not actually one fleeting moment.

Continue reading “The Muse Works When You Do”

Thinking Writing

…in which the writer thinks about writing more than the writer actually writes…

I do this all the time.  Thinking about writing is probably more pleasurable to me than actual writing because it doesn’t involve any of the work.  It’s like, when you’re planning a trip and the whole lead up to and planning of the trip gives you more satisfaction than the actual trip.  Same thing, to me at least.  I think about writing before I go to bed, while I’m in the car, on a walk, when distracting myself at work… Thinking about writing is my daydreaming.

When I think about writing, I’m not just thinking about sitting down with a pen and paper and how and when, but I’m thinking about characters and stories and traits and worlds.  I create protagonists and villains, dystopian worlds, problems and actions, that all live in my head.  I write whole novels in my head that will never see paper.

This isn’t a “problem” in the grand scheme of things; like I said, this is how I daydream, pass the time, let my mind wander.  It keeps me from running actual real life problems over and over in my head.  But it doesn’t get me anywhere closer to being a writer.  It doesn’t give my stories life.  My creative energy is wasted on a loop with no exit.

It’s easy enough to say, I’m going to sit down and write.  It’s like going to the gym or eating healthier, where there is a lot of thinking about it, and not a lot of actual doing.  I’ve written about this conundrum before.  Sitting down and writing is not always fun, it’s work goddammit, work that I’m, for some reason, totally enamored with and work that I find myself not actually working on.

But I’ve been doing a lot of that thinking writing lately, so that means I need to re-examine my time and hunker down for some good writing.  It reminds me of a Mary Oliver quotation that haunts me.

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative
work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to
it neither power nor time.”

Most days, I try and push this quotation to the back of my mind, forget about it, unread it, because who, with a 40 hour a week day job, and a new home to finish, has the time to push aside “real life” for the solitude of creative work?  Most days, pushing the creative side away works.  Most days, I can get by in this way.  But then, a particular drive in the car gives me a particular thought and my mind spins and whirs again with story.

Is it ever really possible to forget our creative sides?  It may not be fulfilled by an art per se, maybe you do get that fire filled by your day job or you do have an outlet for it, and maybe it’s possible that there is no creative yearning…  But those who feel it, you know what I mean.

And so I find myself with only one solution: to write.

There is time, it is possible.  It has to be.