“You know that part of your writing that you question – that’s weird and doesn’t fit neatly into a genre or a mold? Write more of that. Please.” Richard Thomas
I needed to see this advice, or permission, today. I wouldn’t say I have writer’s block, more like writer’s ennui, boredom. Fear of starting or moving the story or poem further. Fear of critics?! Eeeee gads! My local writers group convenes monthly to share our writing and “give and get support, constructive feedback”. I’ve decided to take a break from the group precisely because I am exploring writing that is weird, that doesn’t fit the mold, and – they don’t get it. They coach me to stay in the mold, don’t stray outside the familiar. To me, when I am exploring, I don’t want “moldy” writing. I’m not submitting my exploratory drafts to a publisher, for Pete’s sake. I’m just “messing around” with ideas, words, voice, style, and yes – bending genres and molds. My local writing group doesn’t advise me or permit me to explore. Today I use Richard Thomas’ words to give myself permission to explore. Advice to explore, even.
I’m bored with most of the structured traditional forms and content in the writers group, maintaining tight formula beginning, middle, and end, explaining everything for the reader so he or she doesn’t have to, or doesn’t GET to, imagine any details. Teaching literature and structured writing forms perhaps has shown me too much formula in basal readers that students can analyze and use as models for their compostions. Creative writing classes have diminished dramatically in American schools in the last five years.
That local group of writers may be right when they remind me that most people don’t want to think very much about their reading, they don’t want to reread a paragraph or section, even a sentence, to get the meaning, or deepen the meaning. Readers, they say, don’t want to imagine what Harv looked like or how he dressed. They want the writer to tell, or show, them details, details, details. I believe it. ELABORATION is the key to getting higher scores in state standardized writing assessments. And layering ideas is a bonus, too. I am happy to see the Common Core state standards across the nation demanding that students read literature with more complexity and stretch themselves with their writing. Sure, we still use models to teach reading and writing, but now we encourage readers and writers again to try writing “that’s weird, that doesn’t fit neatly into a genre or mold”, to find their voice. I taught verbally gifted or talented kids and I thought all kids should be taught to think about their reading and writing in more depth. To try out new ways of showing their ideas. All kids, all of them. All of us.
The local writing group has no tolerance for my writing where I ask the reader, or listener in storytelling, to use his or her own imagination, where characters and settings, like in Harv, are not always elaborated with details. Another reader, not in the group, said everyone knows a Harv. Don’t describe him, let us imagine the one we know. That’s storytelling, the oral tradition genre, using stock characters liked Raven, Coyote, Hercules, and Harv. Everyone has their own image for stock characters, whatever their names. My local group is uncomfortable with my writing where forms are not fully formed like the spirits emerging through the portal, through the veil from their mystical world into our mortal material realm in the beginning of my LaWrynn Stories.
Today is as good a time as any to write without questioning what’s weird and doesn’t fit a genre or mold. Edgar Allen Poe is known as the “Father of the Short Story” and Walt Whitman is known as the “Father of Free Verse or Blank Verse” poetry because they invented new literary forms, unfamiliar to their contemporary readers. Bram Stoker introduced the setting and mood in “Dracula” by showing the reader unformed forms in his beginning pages. It takes courage to read unfamiliar literary forms and more courage to draft it. tff
Look for stories with LaWryn on Sky Blue Daze’ blog, right here, emerging soon.
I started writing stories about a tiny fantasy spirit inspired by Lorie Davison’s fantastic image. Today LaWrynn answers the Proust Questionnaire. You can get a link to the questions and interview yourself of anyone you know or create. It’s at the bottom of today’s post. Enjoy!
LaWrynn answers the Proust Questionnaire
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What a perfectly stupid question. There is never true perfection in anything. I feel happy when things are in harmony, in balance. No, wait, is that more like content than happy? There’s a difference.
What is your greatest fear?
I fear getting stepped on by a non-mindful range cow. I’m afraid The Great Horned Owl will swoop me up, too, when I am not being mindful. I’m afraid I won’t ever find the portal back to the other side and I’ll be stuck in this material world forever. Yuck! That’s my greatest fear.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Letting things happen. I can’t control everything, but I might try harder.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?
Well, I don’t know very many living people so I can’t answer this, having only lived on this side for a little while. I admire a lot of people, spirits, really, on the other side. There are so many living people in the world to admire, so I’ve heard. What is the world population now anyhow?
What is your greatest extravagance?
How can I be extravagant? I don’t own anything. I did decorate the mouth of the mound I live in, so that might be extravagant. But I have to keep it camouflaged for protection, so even that is not really what I call extravagant. Perhaps the pile of leaves I sleep on is extravagant with the colorful fleece cover. I borrowed some hand dyed wool from the lady of the farm’s knitting basket. Really warm and pretty.
What is your current state of mind?
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Cleanliness. Let’s face it, when you live in a badger hole how can you really be expected to keep your clothes and hair dirt free all the time? That would just take way too much time. So inconvenient.
On what occasion do you lie?
If I tell you, everyone will know when I am lying. Duh! (giggles till she snorts)
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My size. Being small enough to fit in a cow’s ear is a pain. People don’t take me seriously. And my feet are too big.
Which living person do you most despise?
There’s this deranged man that lives up the road from the farm where I nest. He’s just mean for no good reason.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Non-competitive loving sisterhood. Period.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Oh, man! Really? What’s that about? Right?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
You mean this life or a past life or the next one in line? I love roasting marshmallows. Right? (sniggers or snickers?)
When and where were you happiest?
I was happiest on the other side, always. Living has so much drama, annoying drama. On the other side, it’s all cool. We don’t have emotions there, we just exist, let it be.
Which talent would you most like to have?
It’s not really a talent, but if I could fly it would sure help. And I wish I could know things like how to get back to the portal I used to enter this side.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My size. Whose idea was it to put my spirit into such a small body? It’s just not working. Sheesh!
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
In this life, I haven’t achieved it yet. I think it will be when I can find the portal to the other side again and get outta here.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Which time? I’ve been a fish, a dragon, a sunflower, a spider, an amoeba, and many more mortal life forms. I’ve been a human, and I never want that curse again. I’d be anything but that. So much drama. If I come back again, could I just be a cloud?
Where would you most like to live?
On the other side again, but if I have to live in the material world, I liked living in the ocean once. I like living on the farm at the edge of the woods. I don’t like living in the badger hole but it’s pretty safe.
What is your most treasured possession?
My smarts. If I didn’t have intelligence, I’d be dumbfounded living on this side. But for real things, like things, you know, you’ll find out when you read my stories. OK, a hint…I need a key and I need to find out what it unlocks. I need clues. There. Don’t tell anybody. Don’t ruin the stories.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Loss and extreme loneliness. Like you lost a relationship that was feeling good, and then it’s gone. You’ll never get it back the way it was. It’s like smashing a wine glass in a trillion jillion pieces, you can’t ever put it back as good as it was. Or someone you love, or a place you love, it leaves or you leave, or even someone or a pet dies and you are left here, in the finite material world to go on without it all your days and nights. That’s loss. That’s loneliness. That’s misery.
What is your favorite occupation?
What I like to do, to occupy myself, is go to a river bank and just be there. Look at what’s around me, even if I’m not at a river. Notice and pay attention to where I am in the present moment. That occupies me. If you mean occupation like a job, that pays people, I think I’d like to be a waitress at a ski resort.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’d say my size, so minute. Others remark about my wild hair or my long pointed ears. I wish they didn’t stick out so far. If I could fly with them….And I have a nice smile. It just happens.
What do you most value in your friends?
Fun and loyalty. They have to be loyal, and they have to like to have fun.
Who are your favorite writers?
I like Kay Addington MacDonald. She’s the one writing this interview and my stories. I also favor A. A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh) and Lewis Carroll (The Walrus and the Carpenter) and Kurt Vonnegut.
Who is your hero of fiction?
Tarzan, for today. But he’s be nothing without Jane. Or Lemuel Gulliver (Gulliver’s Travels). He’s dorky.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Bridgette, my badger friend, and Mayhem, my Stellar Jay friend. You’ll find out why when you read my stories. Oh. Do you mean this life or those in my past and future?
What are your favorite names?
The names of emotions and good things to have like Hope, Faith, Happy, Penny, Treasure, Jewel, Summer, Autumn, Dawn, Wag, Mayhem. Like that. And Max. If I had a brother, I’d name him Max. But would that be up to me?
What is it that you most dislike?
Right now I most dislike how long this interview is taking. How many more questions are you going to ask me? And I dislike confrontation. I bet you couldn’t guess that.
What is your greatest regret?
Once, a long time ago, I lived in the material world, one of my lives. I had a swell beau and I let him go. Another girl snatched him away and I didn’t try to get him back. See what I mean about how I sometimes let things happen when I could take more control? I just hate the drama of life on this side.
How would you like to die?
Are you kidding? Really? Oh, man! What’s that about? Right? Who likes to die? I’m seeking a way to get back to the other side without the pain of death again. So, if I have to die again, make it not painful this time. And let me feel that the people I love know I love them. I just want to feel that it’s all good next time I die, whether it is or not. That’s a good way to die.
What is your motto?
Oh! Crap! I don’t have one. You mean like, “to infinity and beyond”? Ask me again after I’ve experienced a few stories about me. Maybe I’ll have one by then. You are going to read my stories aren’t you?