Valentine’s Day Again, or Love and Other Emotions

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You can write any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or rather you can if you will be ruthless enough about it. But the best writing is certainly when you are in love.
~ Ernest Hemingway

Valentine’s Day is around again and, while that might not mean much to some people, it certainly means something to the masses victimized by commercialism. At the very least, it’s a good time to reflect on love and its accompanying emotions. Yes, love afflicts people with various emotions, depending on the situation. When we fall in love we are elated, feel joy, happiness. Sometimes we become obsessed with the object of our attentions and we end up despairing,  miserable, insecure, and uncertain if the attention is unreciprocated. If the one we love loves someone else, we become jealous or envious, which can lead to anger and rage. When we lose love, we go through sorrow, grief, despair, and misery all over again. When our love is reciprocated, we become excited and exuberant. Clearly, love is one powerful emotion that floats us up to cloud 9 or has our heads in a tizzy. No wonder people celebrate Valentine’s Day. It brings the promise of so much more than just chocolates and roses. It reminds us what it is to be alive.

Imagination is enhanced by inspiration and, usually, the best inspiration comes from being in love. That’s probably why literature is littered with so many love poems, songs, and love stories. Love and courtship have certainly been the motivation for countless historical events, giving rise to a couple of eras when the subject of literature revolved around the themes of courtly romance, chivalry, love, and beauty. Even outside those eras, there has been no shortage of literature dwelling on similar themes. However, I believe imagination is likewise enhanced by any other powerful emotion. A great deal of writing has emerged from anger and rage, fear, despair, grief, depression, and joy. Inspiration certainly is not limited to what only those emotions evoke—humans are afflicted with myriad emotions in varying intensities and writers take advantage of that. Writers are moved to express the infinite nuances of each emotion in countless ways and fill millions of shelves with the whole gamut of emotions pouring out of millions of characters that entertain and—yes—inspire the reading world.

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On Writing: Writing Retreats and Inspiration

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And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
~ Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Happy Easter to all!

As a teacher in Catholic institutions, certain things were a given, including annual retreats, often held during the Lenten season, which was something I actually welcomed back then. Retreats are a great way to withdraw from the rest of the world to collect your thoughts and, as a writer, retreats are a welcome time to devote to nothing but the creative process. My writing group recently took a one-day write-in, not quite the weekend retreat we take each year, but a whole day to take a break from our daily hustle-and-bustle just to write with a bunch of like-minded individuals. It’s a wonderful break that I look forward to because when I write at home, there are too many distractions. Not to mention, editing jobs that require a different type of attention. It’s wonderful to just share the creative energy that electrifies the air when 10 people are in one place all writing. It’s also wonderful to share a little bit about what you’re doing, what you think, how you write. It’s a great way to connect with fellow writers who understand your little idiosyncrasies because they also have theirs. That is why I look forward to those little writing “retreats.” They break down the stereotype of the solitary writer. What people don’t realize is that, while writers mostly write alone, they are far from solitary. Writers, like any other creative person, need a creative energy that they get from being among people. They might not necessarily interact with those people or even know them well, but it is precisely those people who feed them with ideas and inspiration to write. People are inspiring and people inspire the imagination. While poets can shoot off the most impressive and sensual combination of words and phrases at the sight of a sunset or a flower petal or a leaf floating on a slip of wind, or even a shoe lost in the mud, prose writers, especially fiction writers, need to see and experience people, life, the whole teeming humanity of it in all its splendor or ignominy. That is what writers write about. Life and everything in, about, and around it. And when we know that others also struggle in their writing, we are encouraged and inspired to continue because success does eventually come, albeit in a varying degrees.

All writing comes from life. That is the simple bare truth about it. No matter how wild your imagination, it is and will always be something about life—and yes, death is part of life because any writing about dead people is in reference to their lives, the people they left behind, the people they meet in death or the after-life or whatever you want to call it. Fantasy writing, no matter how otherworldly or fantastic is about life because your creatures and characters are personified—they speak, think, feel, and behave pretty much the way humans do; and even their inhumanity and non-human behavior is based on what you have seen, observed, read, or researched about. Armed with that knowledge, there really is nothing off limits as far as what there is for you to write about. All you need is one little nugget of truth and a lot of imagination. Sometimes, you worry about not having enough imagination or a creative enough imagination. Sometimes, all you need is the power of observation and the ability to put your ideas down in sentences. Writing, in many ways, helps you make sense of what is happening around you. Every single day, you are bombarded with information and sensory input. All you have to do is put it together like a puzzle. Your pieces can come from anywhere. You might have a character with traits from a dozen different people you actually know or just one or two. You might create a setting that’s a little bit of a dozen different places you’ve been or just a one. You might create a history and future for a single event you read about in the news or witnessed at the bus station. It might be the woman in the line-up at the supermarket checkout; it might be the stray kitten in the gutter; it might be the well-dressed man with the fedora at the bookstore; it might be odd plastic bag swirling with an eddy of dried leaves in the middle of an intersection. All you need is one little prompt, a lot of imagination, and the courage to put pen to paper and write away.

Writing is good for your brain!

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Don’t just think about something. Write about it. It’s good for the brain.

It doesn’t matter what you write about. It doesn’t matter how good it is.

Just a sentence a day keeps dementia away!

It’s good exercise for your fingers, especially if you type (more fingers are involved).

It’s good practice for grammar. You’ll eventually get those sentences right with practice.

It keeps your vocabulary active.

It makes you think. Thinking stimulates the brain.

It makes you remember things. One memory leads to another.

It brings back memories. Don’t just say something smells nice. Say how nice it smells. Say it’s a faint aroma that wafts in the air and reminds you the gentle fresh scent of a newly bathed baby. It’s the warm, satisfying smell of freshly baked bread just like grandma used to make.

It stimulates your imagination. When was the last time you had a fantasy and wrote about it?

It makes you read. After all, you read what you write, don’t you? And then, you’ll want to read what others have to say about what you write. Then you’ll write some more. It’s a vicious cycle.

It challenges you. If think you have nothing to write about, think again. You can write about not being able to think of something to write. That’s something to write about! When you’re done writing about not being able to write, write about other things. Write about what you like. Write about what you don’t like.

It teaches you to be observant. Write about what you see, hear, feel, taste, smell.

It expands your vocabulary. Look for the exact word to describe something. Don’t just say your desk is cluttered with stuff. Say that it is an endless expanse of treasure and trash that constantly surprises you with objects that you had forgotten you owned. The kiss you got wasn’t just nice. It could have been sloppy and wet, reminding you of your dog licking your face. Or it could have been completely titillating, creating a tingling sensation that travelled from the tip of your toes to the top of your head, and after that you felt like a marshmallow trapped within his tight embrace, warm, fuzzy, and melted like a smore straight out of the oven.

It makes you want to learn more. Every time you learn something new, write about it. Every time you think of something you’d like to learn, read about it. Then write about it. Then go ahead and do it, then write about it again!

It makes you creative. Don’t say the dog ate your homework. Say it blew over the balcony when your mom opened the balcony doors and got caught in the branches of the tall tree in your backyard. Or your father accidentally put it through the paper shredder because he thought it was one of his old files that he was disposing of.

It helps pass the time. If you have nothing else to do, write! If all the people in the world who had time on their hands wrote in their free time, there would never be an idle mind or idle hands. Nobody would be bored. And the whole world would be literate!