What I've Written About

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Keeping up “The Love”

Let me begin with a passage by Mark Twain from his book Life on the Mississippi. I was going to take a small portion of this, but it is so well written, the language must be enjoyed by all…

     Now when I had mastered the language of this water and had come to know every trifling feature that bordered the great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet, I had made a valuable acquisition. But I had lost something, too. I had lost something which could never be restored to me while I lived. All the grace, the beauty, the poetry had gone out of the majestic river! I still keep in mind a certain wonderful sunset which I witnessed when steamboating was new to me. A broad expanse of the river was turned to blood; in the middle distance the red hue brightened into gold, through which a solitary log came floating, black and conspicuous; in one place a long, slanting mark lay sparkling upon the water; in another the surface was broken by boiling, tumbling rings, that were as many-tinted as an opal; where the ruddy flush was faintest, was a smooth spot that was covered with graceful circles and radiating lines, ever so delicately traced; the shore on our left was densely wooded, and the sombre shadow that fell from this forest was broken in one place by a long, ruffled trail that shone like silver; and high above the forest wall a clean-stemmed dead tree waved a single leafy bough that glowed like a flame in the unobstructed splendor that was flowing from the sun. There were graceful curves, reflected images, woody heights, soft distances; and over the whole scene, far and near, the dissolving lights drifted steadily, enriching it, every passing moment, with new marvels of coloring.
     I stood like one bewitched. I drank it in, in a speechless rapture. The world was new to me, and I had never seen anything like this at home. But as I have said, a day came when I began to cease from noting the glories and the charms which the moon and the sun and the twilight wrought upon the river's face; another day came when I ceased altogether to note them. Then, if that sunset scene had been repeated, I should have looked upon it without rapture, and should have commented upon it, inwardly, after this fashion: This sun means that we are going to have wind to-morrow; that floating log means that the river is rising, small thanks to it; that slanting mark on the water refers to a bluff reef which is going to kill somebody's steamboat one of these nights, if it keeps on stretching out like that; those tumbling ``boils'' show a dissolving bar and a changing channel there; the lines and circles in the slick water over yonder are a warning that that troublesome place is shoaling up dangerously; that silver streak in the shadow of the forest is the ``break'' from a new snag, and he has located himself in the very best place he could have found to fish for steamboats; that tall dead tree, with a single living branch, is not going to last long, and then how is a body ever going to get through this blind place at night without the friendly old landmark?
     No, the romance and the beauty were all gone from the river. All the value any feature of it had for me now was the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing the safe piloting of a steamboat. Since those days, I have pitied doctors from my heart. What does the lovely flush in a beauty's cheek mean to a doctor but a ``break'' that ripples above some deadly disease? Are not all her visible charms sown thick with what are to him the signs and symbols of hidden decay? Does he ever see her beauty at all, or doesn't he simply view her professionally, and comment upon her unwholesome condition all to himself? And doesn't he sometimes wonder whether he has gained most or lost most by learning his trade?

Impressive, huh?

And this is what my blog post is all about.

I have always loved writing. I wrote poetry and short stories and picture books. And I loved them all. Then I decided to write a novel. And then another novel. And I decided to take some classes to learn more about how to improve this writing, and how to make it the best it could be. And I worked at it and I loved it.


I decided to try to get it published.

And I went over it sentence by excruciating sentence. And I thought about whether these characters were actually believable. And I worried that the plot wasn't right, or that the idea itself wasn't sellable. And I stressed and fretted and re-wrote and revised some more.

And I learned something.

These stories I had loved so much were becoming Mark Twain's river. I knew the nuances, avoiding the clichés, creating the characters, nursing the plot points.
BUT I lost the love of the river at sunset, or I should say…I lost the love of just creating a story "for the fun of it."

Now I'm trying to get it back.

It's hard.

But yesterday…I created something I felt was beautiful in my eyes. It was phrased wonderfully and moved the plot forward AND built the character ALL IN ONE SENTENCE. And I thought…


I am so glad I learned what I did, or I never would have been able to write this. Just like this. Perfect in my eyes.

So bring on the occasional missed sunset. If learning about the currents can help me write like that…well…I just think it's worth it.

Tell me. What point you are at in your life? Are you still enjoying the gorgeous sunsets and the water rippling in golden hues? Or are you only noticing the log jams and hidden dangers?
Whatever point you're at, I hope you remember to KEEP UP THE LOVE.


Elana Johnson said...

Excellent post! Sometimes it's so easy to get bogged down by the "work" of writing. It's fun to have a pet project or something that you can work on simply for the LOVE of it.

Lois D. Brown said...

Great thoughts. Have I ever told you that I think your blog looks so cool?

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

Your post has found me at a point in my life where I am attempting to improve my writing. I did the November novel writing challenge and didn't finish, but found out a lot about myself and my writing.

I decided a long time ago not to worry about publishing. It seemed like such a long shot and I work at a pretty intense job with long hours, so my writing time is rather sparse. I want to spend every minute of it just writing for the joy of it!

One thing I love about blogging is that it gives me an outlet for those creative urges....

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We think a lot alike!



Amie Kaufman said...

What a gorgeous post! Thank you for sharing this.

Right now I'm loving writing, but there are other times when I need to remember that I'll love it again. All good things are hard work, sometimes.

(Also, I was reading this entry this morning, then couldn't work out why I was singing 'you spin me right round' all day.)

NatureGirl said...

Eh...depends on the day. I try to focus on the positive and live in the moment. Sometimes I fail, but I succeed more often then not. Good luck with the writing. Keep it up!

Jenny said...

I'm glad you found it again. I think we get lost in trying to be all things to all people too often. It is only when we listen to what means something to us that we find our way through this meandering confusing of writing.

This was a lovely post.

Thank you.

Judie said...

Lovely and meaningful post! Thank you for sharing the words of Mark Twain.

Judie said...

Lovely and meaningful post! Thank you for sharing the words of Mark Twain.

Kelly Bryson said...

Hi- I saw your cmment on Elana Johnson's blog and wandered over here. Beautiful thoughts. Reading a book just isn't the escape that it used to be:) Unless I read outside of my usual genre. You know, visit another river? Nice to meet you! -Kelly