brittni in ink

a writer's blog

one life

I haven’t written much lately. Our dog passed away last week, and it’s been really difficult to focus on anything where I have to be creative.

At the same time, a loss brings the important things forward. A reminder that time is limited, that lives pass on, that one life changes everything around it in ways that often go unnoticed.

The past week, I’ve been thinking that art is the way we can best remember. That all the excuses I make for not writing are white noise. That I should never use busyness as an excuse to be unkind. That everyday routine means something. That life is full of wonder. That one life is incredibly significant. That’s what I want to write about. That’s what I want to remember. That’s what our dog taught me.

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second draft shakes

So I’m part of this playwrighting circle. Usually, we meet at a pub or a coffeeshop, read through a script together and then discuss it. It’s a chill and intelligent group and I enjoy talking theatre with them.

This past meeting, however, was particularly intense for me. I had an edited draft of my play ready and I felt pretty good about where it was at. It wasn’t until we were a page into the script that I noticed I was shaking. Like, trying to hold it in my core bursts of shivering. On some level, it didn’t surprise me, but on another, it was weird. I chalked it up to nerves, and kept going. Although I was relieved to hear that my play didn’t suck, and that the word “beautiful” was even applied to certain aspects of it, I carried the shakes home with me.

“Are you cold?” P. asked as I sat down on the couch with my arms crossed and my legs pulled up. Later, making coffee in the kitchen, he said “Ah, you’ve had a vulnerable day.”

And that was it, exactly. Writing is vulnerable. Sharing something you’ve written can be like telling someone you love them without being sure if they reciprocate. It’s bringing that solitary writing process into a public space and letting people go over every inch of it with flashlights. And for someone who prefers to run sound and lights over being onstage, it’s difficult to be vulnerable.

Yet, it’s necessary. Because without vulnerability, there’s a lack of authenticity. There can’t be deep relationships. Without vulnerability, there’s no story.

three different places

A rare stretch of hours to work on the dreaded NOVEL.

Last night, closed up in my office, only Bowie to keep me company – actually, Blackstar is a excellent writing music.

It was frustrating for the first half an hour – I forgot where I was going with some of the characters, and it’s easy to get bogged down in what’s already on the page. But new ideas compelled me forward, and characters said things and conspiracies were uncovered.

After writing a couple of chapters and reworking some plot points, I emerged (P. and J. even said “she emerges”).

But when I write for that long, it’s hard to get out of it. My brain is still working, I’m drinking tea but not tasting it, I’m smiling but not listening. It’s like I’m in three different places at once. It takes me a while to decide where I am.

trudge

Words are great. But lately, I’ve been keeping my distance.

Opening Google Docs to check up on my novel is like trudging through a bog. Slogging through a marsh. Marching through a quagmire. I get caught up in all the little things. I get stuck in a rut.

But then I read a good poem, or see a post about writing workshops, or experience a very small and compact moment. It whets my wordiness, sharpens my hunger to make something. Not to be afraid to slog through the heavy task of stringing words so they feel light, easy.

I’m hoping the next couple weeks will be full of writing. It takes time to trudge through a manuscript, which I’ve been learning for years. But it will never get written unless I write it. Trudge on.

5/ 100 Rejection Challenge

I had a burst of poetry the other day and wrote a few pieces I liked.

 

I sent three of them to a literary magazine.

 

Now I’m thinking – What was I thinking? A literary magazine, my writing’s not good enough for that! I should have kept those poems under wraps, let them incubate a little, torn them up and pieced them back together before even THINKING about sending them out into the world.

 

But it’s too late. Someone might be reading them and judging them right now.

 

…At the same time, I’m relieved that I sent the submission instead of fretting over it for weeks. Now I can prepare for the rejection and look forward to some feedback (hopefully).

 

I guess that’s what this challenge is all about, though. Not being perfect. Sending work out for the sake of sending it out. So, no regrets! Take life as it comes!  It’s only 5/100. Lots of time to keep working on the craft.

 

 

January/ February Books

Quick reviews of recent reads!

Insurrection by Peter Rollins

This book is rad if you’ve ever felt disillusioned about “happy Christianity.” Some challenging criticisms of institutional structures and how we think about God. Rollins uses anecdotes that border on folk tales, examples from his own life and the bible, and psychology to comment on how real faith does not necessarily make us happier people. Alternatively academic and humourous, with a casual yet compelling tone throughout. A few years old, but still relevant.

The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

This book is pure fun. Allan, a man who hates talking about politics, whimsically affects world politics through the power of friendship – and a nip of the hard stuff. A rewarding book for history buffs and casual readers alike, with an understated humour that reflects on the absurdity of prescribed society. Sometimes cynical, but still tells a story in which humanity is good, if at times ridiculous.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, Atwood retells The Tempest. In this modern day fictionalization, Mr. Duke runs a Shakespeare program for Fletcher Correctional while he plans his revenge on those who removed him from power years ago. It’s a brilliant piece of fiction, but may be more enjoyable for Shakespeare-savvy readers. The tension leading up to the re-enactment of the play (a play within a play, so to speak) is palatable and delivers a Shakespeare experience like no other. As a theatre enthusiast and Atwood fan, I applaud this well-crafted project.

lonely writing island of solitude

There’s a Margaret Atwood quote which says writing is alone yet never lonely. Some say that writing is a way to combat loneliness. Others say that being a recluse is one of the defining attributes of a “true” writer. But there’s something missing from these approaches, something that I feel pretty deeply whenever I sit down to write.

Many of my POV characters over the years have been lonely. They’re disconnected from their surroundings, they’re waiting for people to accept them, somewhere to fit in. A lot of times, these alienated protagonists are a bit fuzzy around the edges, undefined.  We get a sense of anesthesia from them.

I wonder if we sometimes avoid the act of writing because we know there is a void waiting for us. That there are thoughts and anxieties about our existence that we can’t face any other way – maybe writing is a way into loneliness. Maybe it’s a cathartic experience. We commune with our alone-ness and then re-enter the world more aware of how our interactions shape us.

I was reading a book (that came in the mail!) by Peter Rollins that touched on loneliness as a kind of “crucifixion experience.” That by losing everything  – the social structures that determine our behavior, the comforting image of God as a literal deus ex machina, even the image we have of ourselves – we can live fully acknowledging that loneliness and not feeling guilty about it. It doesn’t mean we are depressed; rather, it means we can live more fully and honestly.

Writing is alone. Writing is lonely. Writing brings us into our loneliness and we can learn a lot through coming out on the other side of that. Not guilty about the loneliness. Not afraid of it. Maybe more aware of our small existence. Maybe a touch more compassionate for loneliness we see in others.