Sparked by Words

Light My Fire

It would be nice to know that creative people, whether working in the fields of art, film, dance, or even medical or technical research, wake each morning with a new inspiration bursting from their core, propelling them to their métier. I’d like to believe that. A good night’s sleep, a hearty breakfast, and off to paint, direct, twirl, or find the wonder cure to ills and ailments.

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No one past the age of six believes that absurdity. Even little kids know how tough it is to come up with a marketable, er, gradable project. After all the skills-building lessons struggled with in first grade, by the time that six-year-old is promoted to second grade, he understands it’s going to be another long year of practicing the same exercises over and over, trying to get it right. Whatever was mastered in first grade is just not good enough for second, and the kid knows it when the first homework assignment in early September is posted on the board. Practice addition facts. Practice for the spelling test. Read for 15 minutes. Bring lunch money. In other words, the lesson we all learned: it don’t come easy – pay your dues.

When I tell people I write, a few standard comments follow. “What have you written?” Nothing you would have read because I’m not yet published. “I always wanted to write a book.” So did I and then I did – three of them completed so far. “Where do you get your ideas?” From the supermarket, just like you. Maybe my internal thoughts are a bit smart-alecky, but my verbal remarks are polite because I love to talk about my books as much as I love to write them. On lucky days my fan club becomes a friend with common interests, and questions become a conversation.

I write because I always thought I would. It seemed a part of my personal constellation by the time I was six, a splatter of stars cast into my imagination, emerging as new worlds (for a six-year-old,) earning me endless reproval from my teachers. “Sharon, stop daydreaming.” I wasn’t daydreaming – I was writing in my head. I could read better than most of the other kids, and my childhood stories were rich with adjectives and heroic characters. The little girls were prettier than I and bore envious names  – Tammy, Edwina. The little boys behaved more politely than the ones on our playground, even if they didn’t have as much fun. Their antics were resolved in a few paragraphs without adult intervention. (Who needed grownups? I always loved an unsupervised scenario.) Boring and pedantic as my early stories were, the books I read transported me to wild places and dangerous adventures – Heidi, Swiss Family Robinson, Black Beauty. Eventually it registered that risk, temptation, suspense, and dicey events made for much more exciting escapades and were more likely to compel a reader to finish a story – or for my teacher to give me a better grade. Add a main character who didn’t act like an everyday super hero and a bad guy who did – even better.

That was good strategy for elementary through high school, but college courses proved I didn’t quite have what it took to be a real writer. The spark flickered more than burned, and I realized some writers had great story to tell but no gift for putting it to pen. Others made words flow like the Mississippi all the way to the delta but nothing happened along the way. Only a few had the chops to write a damn good story in a damn impressive style. I just wasn’t one of them – yet.

The little spark that keeps me up at night (and sleepy during the day) – where do I find that tinder? Lots of events trigger my creative impulses but the ones that incite my writing are problems that irritate me for months. They are “what if” questions that bug the hell out of me until I finally begin to think about how I might resolve their suggested conundrums. Other activities (revealing the perfect word, rewriting till my hands swell) advance my efforts at continuing the writing process, but the initial work springs from something that niggles me to death.

I’d chewed cud for many years on the idea of writing about a family during subsequent Passover seders. Every four or eight or sixteen years, (four is a significant number at Passover) I would check in on them, see how the kids grew up, follow the old folks as they coped with dimming dreams, note how the new world affected everyone’s pursuits and beliefs. I also studied the Holocaust, a subject that harrowed me.

Eventually I faced a devastating employment situation that forced a major change in my life. Deeply distraught over circumstances I couldn’t have foreseen nor changed had I known, I realized the only way out of my personal morass was to create something. My usual go to creative process was to paint, but I’d been an artist and art teacher more than 25 years by then. It wasn’t going to bring me the relief or new direction I needed. So I turned to my childhood dream of writing Something Important. I combined a woman with everything and nothing, Passover, and the Holocaust into a book. Over two weeks I wrote 60 pages, most of which have remained intact. The result is a novel called The Inlaid Table, and it worked its way to the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest and made the General Fiction Quarter-finalist level. I was thrilled, and I had a new enterprise to give my life purpose.

The book is not published though I haven’t given up. I’ve written two other books since, also not yet published, and at least three more ideas are scribbled on computer queue. I slow sometimes, stumble often, but the spark remains. I pay my dues. I keep writing.

What lights your writing muse?

 

Match Photo courtesy Clip Art

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Comments on: "Light My Fire" (22)

  1. You really need to get publishing, Shari. Even if it’s digital only. That, you can do with just a few bucks and a ton of legwork.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure if any one thing lights my writer’s muse. It’s more a matter of me opening up my writing file and getting to work. Some days it comes easy; other days it’s a chore. One thing that does make me eager to get back to my work though is reading books on the craft of writing. I mentally apply what I learn to my own manuscript while I’m reading, and then I itch at the bit to try it out.

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    • I’ve read many books about the craft of writing, those in my personal library are studded with Sticky Notes, and I’ve attended writing classes and conferences. I haven’t neglected the academic background I also believe is essential to good writing. I refer to academic resources while writing and during the editing phase. It’s always interesting to read how other writers get into the craft. Thank you for your contribution here, Carrie. I bet another reader will connect with your approach.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. samjsanderson said:

    Keep doing what you do and working on your craft and you are bound to be successful 🙂 there are people out there who are rooting for you!

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  4. Keep on truckin’. Sorry about your near miss in 2012. Always remember that as your confirmation that you have the talent and that one day you will get it done. Enjoyed your paragraph about the conversation after someone learns that we are writers. I guess that conversation is universal.

    As for the writing muse. For the past three years I’ve been trained myself to find inspiration everywhere. Since I ride buses and trains here in NYC, I get a chance to observe people and my surroundings. I play that what if game with everything I see. Some of my recent poetry originated from these exercises. Pigeons sparked one poem. Passing a cemetery sparked a short story.

    Best of luck in your writing journey. One day we will look back on our blogging days and laugh.

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    • Andrew, thanks for sharing what it is that inspires you. NYC is a wonderful city – I’ve loved the few visits I’ve made – and I know there are as many stories as there are people. It takes a person like you, observant and curious, to see the potential and then turn it into art, in your case, into story and poetry. I like the way you take a little game and turn it into a creative response. Always fun to talk with you about writing, always learn something from you.

      One day we will write our names in each other’s books and laugh with joy.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My muse has gone missing. She was last seen cruise’n the caspian sea. Your muse however, seems to be hovering over your head and smiling. It’s pretty incredible the honors you received on your very first book. If that isn’t affirmation you should publish I don’t know what is.

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    • I thought so too, at first, like why didn’t anyone else see my brilliance. But I reread the book and was grateful for the reviewers’ comments that made me change it to be better. But I thank you, Judy, for being in the cheering gallery. I will publish one day, some way.

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  6. Shari, seems you have denied yourself long enough. Share your books with the world. I’m in awe of what you’ve accomplished. Thankful to be here for the beginning of something amazing for you.

    My mother always told me to get up, take a shower and put some makeup on. Said I’d feel better if I did and I’d be ready to face the day. Rolls eyes. Still tell myself that on days I don’t want to wake up.

    Funny enough it was a fast car for six months where I found my light for my muse. I felt quite powerful behind the wheel. My poetry was better for it.

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    • A fast car – escaping the intolerable? Or rushing toward your future and everything wonderful?

      The books will come, and you will know when they do, but I’m trying a new venture, something that could be quite wonderful for me, and I need to put everything else on the back burner for a few months while I attempt this. I’m not a gambler but this is a chance I’d be foolish to ignore. My own fast car, perhaps.

      Here’s to fast cars everywhere – whether the ones with steel rims or the ones with opportunities to the fast track.

      Thanks, my friend. I need you along the way.

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  7. As I’ve said before, published or not, three books is impressive. I agree with the other people on this thread about working to get them published, but I realize from one of your answers that you have a new venture on the go and so need to concentrate on that first. I hope it all works out for you.

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    • Thank you so much for your encouragement. Yes, possible new venture on the horizon and it could really jump start my writing career is it works out for me.
      In addition to all the usual responsibilities any adult might have, I also have an obligation to another person who is not able to advocate for “themself.” (Wrong word of course, but I want to not reveal anything about this person, not even what gender.) I will be published one day, all three completed books, the two I’ve recently begun, and the rest in queue. So appreciate your support, Bun.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hmmm. I’m thinking about how engaging you are as I ponder your publishing dreams. I say try self-publishing one of your books. You have many here that will read it and help you promote. I say just get in the waters. I say this because I fished around for a good while with my Irish book, couldn’t get a nibble with an agent, then, in frustration, wrote another book in a genre I’ll probably never write in again. I did this thinking if I could get one book out, it may lead to the Irish book’s publication. My aim was to simply get in the traffic. I went with the first publisher that expressed interest, and this house ended up putting both books out. I think you know my story. Suffice it to say I’m still building. My 3rd book will be out in 2018 with another publishing house, and I think it’ll have a wider reach, but be it known I am aware that I am still building. Generally speaking, I’m a believer in looking for an open door, regardless of what it looks like. Many have astounding success with self-publishing. No matter what, you’ll be taking many matters into your own hands. And who’s to say with you, as talented as you are? Sharon, get a book out and take it step-by-step. Having something to build upon is the way to go. You’re good enough to believe in yourself and your future!

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    • You’re extremely complimentary, Claire, and I’m deeply touched by your belief in my talent. I’m working with an editor with the book I think is most likely to attract an agent’s attention. I want to give myself a chance. What happens with it will determine where I go with the rest of my books. I’m considering many options and self publishing is one of them. In following your story, I’m aware of how carefully you’ve built your platform and am wishing you much success.

      Liked by 1 person

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