Thursday, January 20, 2005

writers & ritual

I'm not a spitter. I don't keep rotten apples in my desk drawer to sniff for inspiration. I don't use a specific pen, nor do I wear a lucky writing hat when I sit at my desk. (And on the subject of clothing: I prefer to wear some while I'm composing--but that's just me. The rest of you do what you like.)

I don't habitually write in the bathtub while eating apples, like Agatha Christie, although I did write in a bubble bath once while eating an apple-based fruit salad, and I regularly jot notes in there while sipping herbal tea.

Writers love rituals. Something about habit, pattern and routine busies our left brain so our right brain can sneak to the forefront and create. It's wily, yes, but the end justifies the means. Let's be honest. It's daunting enough to face a blank screen without doing so cold--just like that, just because the clock says "write." So we creep up on the work. We dance near, careful not to lock gazes, and ease ourselves into position with familiar, comforting ritual.

My own is relatively simple. Every morning, before I've written a word, I go online, navigate to my local paper, and read the obituaries. Morbid, you say? Probably. But I'm okay with that. Part of this routine stems from the fact that I've lived in this area nearly all my life and I've reached an age where I know more people divorcing and dying than I do those marrying and giving birth. So I feel a need to keep tabs on my people. But I've discovered a bigger motivation in that ritual. There's something about seeing all those faces once clearly so full of hope, yearning, contentment, ambition, and passion--and realizing the hearts belonging to those faces have stopped beating--that causes me to sit upright and slap my lazy tendencies into submission. It has never failed me yet: I read those numbers, find two or five or ten within my relative age group, and say to myself, "You're still alive, girl. Get busy."

Today I saw the face of a beautiful 29 year old girl who will never speak another word. I looked in the eyes of a 43 year old man and wondered, "What would you say if you had five more minutes?" I grieved over an 18-year old boy and a 34-year old woman and an infant, and then I thought of a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said, "Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside us."

Sing. Whatever that means to you, find a way to express your song. And pray that your music heals and comforts and lingers, long after your voice is stilled.

I'm praying too.

5 Comment:

At 1/21/2005 10:11 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin had this to say ...

Shannon, What a fascinating ritual and a pointed reminder to sing. Beautiful and well-done. Thank you. Terry The Writing Life

At 1/23/2005 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Hi Shannon:
Sharon of Oregon here!Loved this particular"blog".Steve and I read the obits too but for a different reason...He and I have both worked with seniors in some capacity here in the Willamette Valley and so sometimes look to see if anyone we have cared for or cleaned for in the past has passed!Now as to the quote by Mr.Oliver Wendell Holmes....it has"haunted"me for months now as I first read it back in the summer I think.Sometimes I feel there is a "song"in me waiting to come out in song form or even in book form(my favorite things in the world besides Jesus and Steve are books/words/reading/writing and music).But I have looked fear in the face when even considering"blogging".:-)Sad,I know."What if nothing comes to me"?"Will anyone read what I write"?"Will anyone comment on what I've said"?It is as if I have"writer's block".These are some of the thoughts that came to me as I tried,somewhat in vain,to explain"blogging" to my husband the other day.With his(at that point)limited understanding of"blogging"he then declared it stupid and a waste of time(I am certain the fault lies with me and my description of it).He may as well have said something unkind about my deceased mother!:-)I very quickly defended"blogging"and"bloggers"everywhere....LOL...I have just realized I am rambling quite badly here.I guess I have said all this to say that I DO NOT(intense here but not shouting)want to go to my grave with my song still inside me.I guess I had better get busy and ask the Lord if there is a song inside me that HE wants me to sing.In closing I just want to say that I really do enjoy reading your blogs and that I have enjoyed the links to other bloggers too....especially like"The Master's Artist"Shannon!God continue to bless you and your writing!!

At 1/24/2005 8:32 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Thank you, Terry and Sharon.

Terry, I've been enjoying your blog. I appreciate your insight and the diversity of topics you cover. And Sharon, here's a cyber-introduction for you: meet Terry Whalin. He's a writer, editor, and instructor. Jump over and check out his blog.

At 3/02/2005 5:59 PM, Blogger C. Fish had this to say ...

This is something we have in common.

I read the obituaries too.

I grieve over the loss of youth and pray for families of those who have passed, as well as for the souls themselves.

It is also a look inside a life you didn't know. Many obituaries give details that tell a bit about a person. I look at the images and try to imagine what their life was like.

At 6/13/2005 6:37 PM, Anonymous OldGuy had this to say ...

Very nice story Shannon.

I'm not a writer perse, I've just discovered I like blogging over the last year so I write about different things; family, friends, little stories and poems.

What gets me going is just plain old inspiration. I get and idea and run with it.

I cannot write if I'm feeling low though, it just seems to sap my will to even try.

I love your writing.


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