Do you remember that scene in Out of Africa when Meryl Streep, playing Karen Blixin (later known by her nom de plume Isak Dinesen) was hosting Robert Redford and Michael Kitchen on her estate in Africa, and times being what they were–before CD’s and DVD’s—she entertained them with an after-dinner story. Robert Redford’s character gave her the first line, and just like that, she extemporaneously created an exotic, complex tale. I saw that scene and had instant writer’s envy. Wow, I thought. I wish I could do that.
Now over thirty years of writing practice later, I still can’t do that. But give me a few prompts, a pen and blank page, and the comfort of a nonjudgmental audience, and I can whip out something resembling a story in twenty to thirty minutes. Flash fiction! I love it!
A few weeks ago, I heard an interview with George R.R. Martin on NPR in which he divides writers into two groups: the architects and the gardeners. The architects draw up elaborate blue prints before writing a word. The gardeners plant seeds here and there, and then watch to see what will grow. When I’m writing a novel, I do a bit of both. But when I’m writing flash fiction, I don’t fit into either of these categories. Neither architect nor gardener, I’m more of a forager: rushing out into a vacant lot to gather up weeds and wild flowers. I toss them into my metaphorical cauldron, hoping to concoct something tasty. This is my idea of fun.
But, you’re wondering, how is this a spiritual practice? The simple answer is “devotion.” My devotion, commitment, and loyalty to the writing craft has been like a prayer or meditation practice. Confronting the blank page has been an act of faith that the Universe will allow Divine Energy to flow through me and bring me to a place of joy.
When I first started writing these very short short stories, my writer friends encouraged me to publish them on my blog. I refused. My writing wasn’t good enough, it needed revision, and what’s more, ______________ (fill in the blank with lame excuse). Finally, it occurred to me that very few people were reading the stuff on my blog anyway, so what the heck: let it go! How liberating it’s been to throw my stories out onto the wind and watch them fly.
This blog has become a great joy for me! It’s helped me stare down my perfectionist self and present my barely-edited, flawed writing, even in all its juicy messiness. I am so grateful to all my regular readers, and all my new readers! What’s Thanksgiving if not the prefect time for me to tell you how blessed I feel and how thankful I am.
I’ve been posting every week without fail for nearly two years now. Along with the blog I’ve also been learning how to market my novels—a process that has been absolutely fascinating, but very time-consuming and labor-intensive.
My plan right now for 2020 is to continue weekly posts, but I may scale back to every other week occasionally, because I need to devote more time to my next novel, already in progress. I’ll keep you all posted.
Many blessings on you all and Happy Thanksgiving!
p.s. I’m taking next week off!
4 thoughts on “Making Up Stories: my spiritual practice”
Like active imagination with word clues. Jung considered active imagination a spiritual practice and spent years ion his imagination and writing the famous Red Book about his insights. Why cant NANCY S. Why cant everybody?
SoCal Nancy, thank you, as always for the affirmation of imagination! So grateful!
Finally spending some time in a little coffee shop to access the internet and your blog. Keep writing Nancy….. keep the FLOW flowing and growing. I love your way with words…..and concepts….. and devotion to your art.
Thanks for the encouragement, Tara!