more than just a writer

You are a scientist: examining life through telescope and microscope, observing both the great expanse and the most minuscule but essential detail.

You are a composer and musician: listening to the rhythm, pacing the beat, moving your characters dancing across the page.

You are a magician:  fashioning people and places from the lofty atmosphere of imagination.

You are a parent: protective of your characters and mindful of their actions.

You are an architect and builder: mortaring words and stacking paragraphs, mindful of delicate balance and pleasing form.

You are the Dreamweaver, the Educator, the Wanderer in unknown lands, the Obsessive always searching for the suitable word and flawless phrase.

You are the Faithful One who cherishes the written word in an era of images and sound.

Why the cross

As we watch and pray waiting for the Resurrection, let us contemplate the meaning of the crucifixion.

I never understood the teaching that “Jesus died for our sins.”

Rather, I see him taking on all our fears and showing us how to conquer them.  Yes, lose this life. Do not fear death. Let go of identifying with your physical form and you will discover a life greater than you imagined.

Jesus lived his teachings. He spoke the Word and he lives the Word.

He said, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” (Luke 17:33)

The basic instinct to survive is strong within man and animal. All creatures fear death. Those who cling to this life on earth remain focused on this world, trapped by the restraints of flesh, blood and DNA. How many people limit their lives out of fear – afraid of persecution and death?

In a way, such people lose their real lives and become ghosts fighting to survive, though the battle always ends in defeat. After all, everything that has a beginning also has an end.

Death is only a transition, much the same as the child “dies” so an adult can come into being. Every stage of you journey on earth has been a series of deaths and resurrections. The physical form of a baby ends so a child can walk and the child then becomes an adult. And, when the adult dies, a new form emerges not of this earth.

Jesus died on the cross so Christ could emerge from the tomb.

a cross

the duality of a writer

Solitude is an essential tool for every writer. He or she must become a hermit in a self-created cave, The voice of the muse, the inner creator can only be heard where there is no distraction. Writing becomes a self-imposed exile.

And yet, the writer is also a missionary of sorts, always aware that just outside the cave stands The Reader waiting impatiently. When we write, we “speak” to the unseen Reader.

The duality often becomes a conflict. We want to be true to the inner voice but we also take into consideration the Reader. After all, if we write in a language only we can understand, what would be the point of expressing it at all? We’d just be talking to ourselves. Why put words to paper? Why post it? Why share it at all?

Because the writer feels she or he has a message, something worth sharing with the world.

The challenge is having the hermit and the missionary working in harmony with each other.

Too much isolation is like doing shadow puppets in a dark cave. Only you know what you’re doing and even then can’t be sure of it.

Conversely, too much concern for the Reader may distort your inner voice, diminish the message and weaken the power of your words.

That is the duality of the writer. I myself, can only write when I am alone and the chance of interruptions is minimal. At the same time, I am the critical Reader keeping check on my writing, making sure it is understandable, cohesive and, most of all, not boring.

I have some really good arguments with myself.

Basildon Park

Get to work

Leonid_Pasternak_-_The_Passion_of_creation

My mind likes to wander, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The trouble is when the mind acts like an errant child running off when there’s a task to be done. Interestingly, that happens the most when I need write. Seems it wants to do a hundred things first before sitting down and facing the keyboard.

And when I finally sit down, my mind refuses to cooperate and stubbornly goes blank. It’s not Writer’s Block nor is it lack of direction. It’s just that my mind doesn’t want to work, doesn’t want to agonize over the right word, doesn’t want to come up with a creative paragraph that basically says “He then went to the [wherever].” 

So I have to coax my brain into writing mode. What sometimes gets the words flowing is reading Chinese Buddhist Poetry.

Like this one by HanShan:

Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,
The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:

The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,

The wide creek, the mist-blurred grass.

The moss is slippery, though there’s been no rain

The pine sings, but there’s no wind.

Who can leap the world’s ties

And sit with me among the white clouds?

If that doesn’t work then I turn to The Chinese Art of Writing. I find the section on the various style of poetry to be inspiring.

At the present moment I have to write a battle scene. Having never been in a battle since I  was a kid growing up in the Bronx, never mind a battle during the Crusades, I haven’t a clue where to start. But then I remembered something I saw in a Gore Vidal interview. He stated that the best action writer he knows of is Edgar Rice Burroughs who wrote the Tarzan series. Really?  So, I found some excerpts and yeah, Vidal was right. Even these many years later his action sequences draw you in. Check it out for yourself.  Tarzan of the Apes.

Of course, there are times my mind refuses to play along. I need new enticements to wake up the hamster to turn the wheel and spew out some really good words.

So, fellow writers, what works for you?

What is a Monk?

Images arise: sandals, tonsure, a rope for a belt; fat, jolly friars partial to frothy beer; gaunt, hooded ascetics with a fondness for self-flagellation; Saint Francis as a perch for birds, a lone figure silently standing in a garden; saffron robes mottled by a green forest; red robes chanting the sutras in ornate temples. Some images are true. Some are fiction. Always male. I guess women who follow The Way are referred to as nuns.

But as Saint Jerome once said, “Interpret the name monk, it is thine own. . .”

To be a monk is to follow an uncharted path. It is a journey of discovery, a quest to find the source of the river. Along the way, he or she may stop to test the water, to gauge its clarity and determine what direction to take.

A monk, however, doesn’t stop to build a church along its banks or form an organization to advance the expedition. The quest leaves little time or energy for worldly matters.

A monk will forsake a personal family but sees all people encountered on the journey as a brother or sister. Nevertheless, a monk often walks alone. A monk has few friends. Few companions are willing to also search for the source of the river.

A monk is celibate so to be blind to the world of duality, seeing neither male nor female, neither old nor young, neither beautiful nor ugly, seeing not the flesh, but the light of the soul.

A monk lives simply treating possessions as cumbersome burdens. Though grateful for all that is given, he or she remains detached.

A monk is imperfect. Only God is perfect and a monk seeks perfection through God.

A monk is a child who will stumble. Monks know they will trip over his or her mistakes. Chastity, simplicity and devotion are all practices and like someone learning a musical instrument, the wrong note will often disturb the harmony but the monk continues to practice.

The Way of the Monk is difficult. Obstacles get in the way. Sacrifice is painful. Confusion lurks at every new turn in the road. Nevertheless, the monk will continue to walk and stumble because the monk is homesick. Home for a monk is not a place but a state of being.

Some will see the monk as mad or foolish. Some see only the images found in picture books and movies. Look closely and see the scarred bare feet from thorns trampled underfoot. Feel the ache of loneliness when no one listens, the tear-filled eyes that have seen suffering in the world, the broken body that has struggled to free itself from the trap of trivialities.

Look closer, however, and you will also see a smile. For the monk who has found the source of the river is given “what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, what no hand has touched, and what has not arisen in the human heart.”

The Way of the Monk is difficult. Obstacles get in the way. Sacrifice is painful. Confusion lurks at every new turn in the road. Nevertheless, the monk will continue to walk and stumble because the monk is homesick. Home for a monk is not a place but a state of being.

Some will see the monk as mad or foolish. Some see only the images found in picture books and movies. Look closely and see the scarred bare feet from thorns trampled underfoot. Feel the ache of loneliness when no one listens, the tear-filled eyes that have seen suffering in the world, the broken body that has struggled to free itself from the trap of trivialities.

Look closer, however, and you will also see a smile. For the monk who has found the source of the river is given “what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, what no hand has touched, and what has not arisen in the human heart.”