Copyright 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers Association. All Rights Reserved
Back to You: Knowing How to Take the Bounce
‘What will they think of me?’ must be put aside for bliss.
~ Joseph Campbell
In my art school days, I decided to take a sculpture class. I had no desire to take it, but had heard that students should be exposed to all media. So, I signed up. It started out and ended up a bad fit, which included a strained relationship with my professor. My clarity and confidence went out the window. When I finally completed something, his critique was fair enough, but also brutally unconstructive. Towards the end of the class, my marbles had pretty much rolled away. I wasn’t pleasing the teacher and I wasn’t pleasing me. I had gotten so outside myself, lost in what I should do and in the thought that I didn’t know anything, that I had to retreat. So I went back to me. I backed off on my judgment of the class, the teacher, and myself, and made a final project (with only my own consent) that was fun and easy. I managed to salvage my grade and my sanity – but it had taken months of looking outside myself and feeling awful before I finally returned home.
Though it seems that life is a game of doing, more significantly, life is a game of thinking. More than actions, situations, or people, our thinking is what torments or saves us, misleads, or guides us perfectly. There is little as un-grounding as focusing on what others think of us; and the longer we persist in this outside-in view, the worse we feel. Even the positive review (if you’re a writer/artist/creator type) can become grounds for mental instability. Though it is desired validation, it can insidiously link our good feeling about ourselves to external response. So, if we buy in to the idea of causation, the praise can instigate a cycle of self-doubt once the glow of approval has worn off (give it a day). more...
The First Time I Got Paid for Doing It
The first time I got paid for doing it was… for writing, of course.
There was a church in our town on the corner of School Street and Main – the United Church of Christ – where “Ballroom Dancing & Etiquette Classes” were held for eighth graders. My mother refused to let me attend.
“That’s where girls get pregnant!” she said.
Every morning as my school bus passed the church, I pressed my nose to the window, wondering what on earth went on in there. Halfway through 11th grade, I finally got to check out the inside of that building. The circumstances were different, but I thought that I might finally be privy to the scene where these mysterious activities took place.
In junior English class, we had received a single-page handout detailing the Lions Clubs International’s annual World Peace Essay Contest. What a notion. It was December 1966. The Vietnam War’s Operation Rolling Thunder had flown nearly a million sorties by then, with thousands of American men joining their fruitless efforts, bleeding and dying month after month. And here I was, sixteen years old and hardly even been out of town, contributing my five hundred naïve, optimistic words on achieving world peace.
I gave it my best shot, between vacuuming, cooking dinner, changing my little brother’s diapers, and watching American Bandstand with my homework on my lap on the living room sofa. (Mummy worked four nights a week. She passed me the baby as I entered the front door after school, and hustled down the steps and away. No instructions and no looking back.) more...
I Didn't Do It!
by Cherie Tucker
The passive voice, some form of to be used with the past participle of a verb, can be effective if used intentionally.
In the following sentence, the writer does not tell who did the action. The subject (the bill) is the object of the action, an
d the emphasis is on the action and the object acted upon.
The bill was not brought up for a vote.
In this sentence you see what wasn’t done to the bill, but you have no idea who did the “not bringing up” business. If, on the other hand, your purpose is to show who did the action, you’d write it like this:
The Speaker did not bring the bill up for a vote.
The determining factor should be your intention. If you wish to obscure the subject, use the passive voice, as in the first example. If you need to show who the subject is, use the second.
The purpose of using the passive voice is to put the focus on the object of the action. The active voice puts the focus on the doer of the action. more...
Writing as Responsibility
Last summer at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference, I spoke to Jared John Smith about his then-upcoming memoir Rabbit (his first, Pink Fish Press, 2014). Bright with the generosity and on-earthedness of a newly published author, he said that in his doubting moments, the belief that Rabbit could help people kept him going.
Now in the third draft of what will hopefully become my first book, a memoir about finding a meditation practice that has split me open and changed me profoundly, the same belief has long moved me on days when the love of the process falls short. And perhaps more importantly, it has nudged writing into a different box for me. In that box are the things that I have known fill me inexplicably, but I’ve still struggled to make room for them, head shaking, as I have to make a living and there’s-only-so-much-time. Then, in another box, I’ve had the things where I don’t have a choice. I have to pay my rent, I have to show up to work each day, I have to care for the people I love in my life. If someone else is involved, I have felt more accountable. If I have recognized writing as a responsibility to more than just me, I have found a way.
West African author and spiritual teacher Malidoma Somé addresses this theme of accountability to others in his book The Healing Wisdom of Africa. He writes that his native Dagara tribe believes that “No one is born on this earth without a reason, a special purpose,” and “pursuing one’s life purpose is the foundation on which the health of both the individual and the community rests.” If an individual is doing something they can tell is not in line with their ultimate purpose, he explains, it’s not just the person who suffers, but “society loses in [the] process, because it is not receiving what is the individual’s to give.” more...