The Loom of Dreams
I broider the world upon a loom,
I broider with dreams my tapestry;
Here in a little lonely room I am master of earth and sea,
And the planets come to me.
I broider my life into the frame,
I broider my love, thread upon thread;
The world goes by with its glory and shame,
 Crowns are bartered and blood is shed;
I sit and broider my dreams instead.
And the only world is the world of my dreams,
And my weaving the only happiness;
For what is the world but what it seems?
And who knows but that God, beyond our guess,
Sits weaving worlds out of loneliness?
– Arthur Symons
Why all the mystical dream references?
That’s where I get some of my best ideas for stories or scenes for my writing.
I have a theory about my writing. I am an only child. I had myself for companionship growing up and I role-plyed while catching minnows in the ditch. I put sawhorses together and they became real horses. The yard and surrounding dirt road were anything from African savannah to South American jungle. I swung from the trees like Tarzan (and dang near hanged myself), I ran through the pastures and woods and I was never alone, not really. I had friends in the characters from TV shows that I loved and insinuated myself into the plots lines as I played. Only one imaginary friend? I had/still have hordes, of every race and species.
The time between going to bed and going to sleep are prime creative time for me. I run dialogue through my head, think about whatever scenes that are harassing me at the time and doze off hoping to have that dream. You know what I’m talking about, the dream that’s like watching a movie, that takes an idea you’ve had, turns it over and hands it back to you, giving you a different perspective. Or, better still, a dream that conjures a whole new idea to run with.
The danger in those kinds of dreams for me is my inherent laziness. Once I’m in bed I am not inclined to get up unless, say, the house is on fire. My side of the bed is against the wall, so I have no bedside table to place a pen and paper on. So when a dream really gets my attention, I tend to lie awake and try to commit it to memory, when, it would be much more efficient if I would just get my lazy ass up and write it down. I hate waking up all the way and losing that tenuous grasp on the dream itself. It’s just not the same once you’re fully awake, no matter how much it captures your imagination. But, if you do write it down, maybe you can conjure a little of the sense that you got while in the dream. With luck it can be the spark that leads to a whole universe of ideas.
No wonder I don’t sleep half the time.
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Ain’t that a kick in the pants?

So, another semester has begun. I’ve fallen into a pattern of one live and one online class. Online is the History of Jazz. I’ve never been a fan, mostly because the smooth jazz that such radio stations play sets my teeth on edge. However, a lot of classic jazz I love, and I’m quite surprised just how many sounds jazz encompasses. Still, my opinion of the style is summed up by Jimmy Rabbitte, band manager, in the movie The Commitments. Speaking to Dean, the saxophone player as they stand in front of the urinals in the bar where the band is playing, Jimmy tells him “Jazz is musical wanking. If you want to wank, use what you’ve got in your hand, not your sax.”

What the hell does that have to do with writing? Well, my in-person class is the creative writing seminar class I took this time last year, with the same fabulous instructor, Jill Ciment. She’s running it a bit differently this time around. There are more people in this class so we’re scheduled to present our stories.

In our last class she played us two versions of the same song to illustrate the difference between a first draft and the subsequent rewrites. While the songs, as much as I love music, didn’t do much for me, they definitely shine some light on the concept of how a writer’s work should evolve from first draft to something to be shared with the world.

The song was “My Favorite Things“, first, as sung by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. There it was, all the schmaltz and none of the feeling, bright and cute. There was no depth, no significant emotion in this Little Mary Sunshine rendition. You half expect little bluebirds to fly out of the speakers, with rainbows draped between them and rose petals falling out of the sky.

By contrast, the second version was by John Coltrane. Again, interpretive jazz isn’t my thing, but I can’t deny the amazing virtuosity of the music. Each musician takes it in turns to simultaneously compose and perform, a process that fascinates me. On a musical level, the piece went on a bit, but it illustrated the point Jill was trying to make. The first draft can be banal crap, but it gets your idea out of your brain and onto the page. Subsequent rewrites and editing are like another artist covering the original tune, adding their own spin to the basic melody. Each character is like the performers in that jazz band, taking their turn in the spotlight, the others accompanying them in support, adding layers of complexity and meaning to the story.

Maybe there’s something more than random chance guiding my class choices. It seems to work out that whatever two random classes I manage to get are doing more than fulfilling the basic requirements of the (mostly useless) degree I’m seeking. They somehow seem to complement each other in ways I wasn’t expecting. Last semester it was the combination of Psychological Approaches to Literature and Abnormal Psychology. This time, who knew that the History of Jazz would have a damn thing to do with a creative writing workshop?

And honestly, if jazz is musical wanking, fiction writing in its own way is very self-serving too. When Jill asked me with a big grin on the first night of class “What’s your story, why are you back?”, I gave her the only reply I could. I suspect Jill already knew the answer to my question before I said it aloud.

“There are these people in my head that won’t shut up. And even if I never get published and become an author, I will always be a writer.” There is nothing altruistic whatsoever in that statement. My writing isn’t meant to change people’s lives or impart some great wisdom, it simply is.

And I will always be a writer. It’s what I am.

This particular post is part of the Writer’s Gauntlet Challenge among my crit group, an exercise to keep us writing, thinking and being creative. Other Gauntlet entries can be found at S.A. Hussey and Pages.

Writing Prompt of the day/week/moment…

 

cash

You’re cleaning out your garage and, hidden away in a back corner, you find an old shoebox. The box is heavier than it should be. When you open it up, you find cash—$40,000, to be exact. Where did the cash come from, who hid it there and why?

 

This one came from Writer’s Digest. I’m considering writing this one up from the view of Valerie. She’s in the perfect position to have something like this happen, inheriting the old family house and having to clea out a lot of old stuff. The money would remove some of the angst of her being short on cash, starting over again, but it might prove interesting….

Characters and perceptions of appearance

running1

I wonder if anyone else does what I do. I often have a character spring, fully formed, like Athena from Zeus’s brow, into my story. But I am a very visual person and it helps me to have a pic that represents that person. My userpic on this post is a picture of Rayne, my FMC in my fantasy story (that is probably going to be multiple volumes if I can ever get anything done.) It actually came from a fanfic I wrote long ago and had posted on the Seven Pillars website. They thoughtfully provided an image to go with the  story and she became Rayne. Often I have an actor or such in mind to fit the physical description and then I find an appropriate picture to go with it. But sometimes I have to hunt. I’ve found a couple of places that have pics of somewhat unknown actors looking for work and I peruse them and that’s how I find the faces of my characters. The first couple of pages of my documents are usually pictures of the characters I’m writing about, including the animals if there are any, because they’re important to the story as well.

Am I weird or does anyone do anything similar?

The Wish Jar blog

This is new to me. I wish I had found it sooner. Just a whisical, thought-provoking way to look at everything around you and find something new about it. Keri Smith is a self-proclaimed ‘guerilla artist’ and I love how she thinks. It’s inspirational to look at the same old world around you that you experience every day and really, you stop seeing. Keri has suggestions and prompts that get you really engaged and restores and enhances your creative sight. For a writer, what could be better? Go have a peek…