Thursday, September 22, 2011

First the Forest Then the Trees

The Girl Who loved Tom Gordon, a modern fairy tale by Stephen King, is also a good parable for writers.  It tells the story of nine-year-old Trisha McFarland straying from a hiking path and getting lost in the woods. 

She is tormented by insects, tested by the elements, trailed by a mysterious beast, and learns that “the world has teeth.”   An archetypal survival tale if ever there was one.          

So what does being lost in the woods have to do with writing?  Everything.  The protagonist finds herself in the vast unknown, “a place where the rules she was used to no longer applied.”    There was no outline for plotting a course out of the woods.  No instruction manual on survival.

In writing, do you always come full circle and end up where you started?   Or do you get lost among the trees in the forest, chasing one rabbit trail after another…

Until you lose sight of where you are, as I did when writing a novel once – which I finally managed to finish after five years of hunting jackrabbits.       
Of course writing the novel was never about fame or fortune – thank God - but about proving to myself that it could be done – and done well.  It was about surviving the wilderness without a compass.  About finding my way through the woods and coming out on the other side alive.   
Then comes the time for pitching to an agent and/or publisher.  I sent the first fifty pages to the former, the entire 350 page manuscript to the latter.  Long story short: rejection from both.  But it never deterred me from continuing to navigate my way through forests dark and deep.              

The Right/Left Brain Fusion

I’ve recently been studying right/left brain characteristics.  Right brainers see the forest first, then the trees.  The big picture, then the details.  They are masters at creating, but losers at innovation.

They finish books, then hide them in manuscript boxes in closets and move on to the next artistic project without having sold their finished products…   

Because when it comes to taking care of business and coming up with a selling strategy, their left brain seems to be in a coma.   What to do, what to do?   Remain a starving artist forever?    

Some folks are apparently adept at exiting the forest alive and getting their survival story out there.   Those most likely to find success with their creative ventures are switch hitters… 

You might be a switch hitter if you know how to shift gears from the right-brain creation mode to a left-brain innovation focus when you reach that juncture… Like a gifted baseball player who can hit the ball with his right or left hand, depending on the pitcher’s angle.             

Are you left brain dominant or right brain dominant?
Or have you succeeded in becoming a switch hitter?

If you aren’t sure, and would like to take the quiz before answering, go ahead, I’ll wait.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Train Ride

The things which the child loves remain
In the domain of the heart until old age.

The most beautiful thing in life is that our souls linger
Over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves.

~ Kahlil Gibran

What childhood place of joy still remains in the domain of your heart?

I will never outgrow the miniature train at the park, and I still enjoy my choo-choo rides as much today as I did way back when.  Come travel with me around the track.            


Train Ride

Weekends, the conductor stands at the gate
in his striped cap, cigarette perched between
his lips, collecting fare from kids and a few
adults along for the ride.  When I hand him
my buck fifty, he knows I’m in for the long haul.
Ten rounds of breeze in my face, the same
gray canal reflecting trees and sky,
and in the midst of all this,
pasture-green grass.

A momentary tunnel we pass before

seeing the light, the dark so fleeting we
hardly notice it’s there except for the screams,
fierce but brief.  The whistle blows as
we pass the gate yet again
where parents wait, smiling
and waving back at their children.
Forgetting to be an adult, I wave
as well, relish the thrill of being in motion
while they stand still.

Like a homecoming queen, I wave with my
elbow to passing cars on Raleigh Road.
Who knows where the conductor will be
tomorrow when the train is closed.  If he’s
like me he’ll go back to his Monday routine,
traveling in circles with the globe.

What youthful fun do you still enjoy with playful abandon?

“Train Ride” was first published in the literary anthology, Traveling Time.
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