Tag Archives: creative writing

The creative muse I’ve never met.

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I’ve had a story rolling around in my head for over a year now. It started as a few really vivid images from a dream I had that stuck with me for several days. After talking through them with my husband, it was clear they needed to be turned into something other than an interesting dream. At least a short story, and maybe a novel or screenplay.

So, I sketched out an idea for a story, and even did a little research on the time-period and location I have in mind. That was last year, and I haven’t really done anything with it since then. Until today. Today, John Mayer became my muse.

He’s muse-worthy, don’t you think??

I’m sure that when a musician releases a new cd they hope that it inspires some listeners. They would be happy if it provides a bit of a soundtrack to someone’s day, or even a special event, or a break up, or some other emotional moment. I am confident they hope it means something to some people. When I started working on this story idea, I was listening to The Civil Wars‘ cd, Barton Hollow, a lot, and the sound of that music seemed to fit perfectly with the mood of my words.

Lately, I’ve had Mayer’s new release, Paradise Valley, on repeat on my Spotify feed. I’ve really been loving his lyrics and kind of rediscovered him after not listening to much after Continuum was released in 2007.

Okay, this is where it gets odd…

Sometimes, I talk to myself. In fact, I have conversations with people that are not only not in the room, but are also no one I have ever met or will ever meet. I chalk it up to my highly creative mind. I swear I don’t do drugs. When I was in my early 20s, I imagined entire conversations with Prince Andrew. (Before he met Fergie, of course.) And today, I chatted with John Mayer in my kitchen.

For today’s break with reality, we were both traveling through Europe and met at a hostel somewhere in Bavaria. I was cool when I met him, not letting on that I knew he was a famous musician who dates gorgeous young things. We chatted about meditation and why we’re on the road in Europe. He told me he was taking some time to himself after a break up and I told him about a book I’m trying to write. He made me promise not to write about meeting him… because that would kind of blow the whole anonymous traveling thing. Makes sense, I was fine with that. So, as I described the synopsis to John (who was listening with rapt attention, of course), I had a breakthrough about my main antagonist.

Now, I’m not saying that it was John who brought this creative brilliance on… I mean, it probably could have just as easily been Dave Matthews, Viggo Mortensen or Johnny Depp. Okay, maybe not Johnny Depp… he seems to shy to be much of a conversationalist. But John just happened to be the guy on the patio with me in Bavaria… in my kitchen.

   

The bottom line is that I was chatting with John Mayer(‘s pretend self) and I had a creative breakthrough. That makes him my muse, right? I can list him in my “Thanks” notes in the book jacket, at least.

Works for me. Thanks John. 🙂

Let’s talk about sex!

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Okay, not really… I’m actually going to talk about books that inspired me. But there will be sex involved, I promise, even if it’s only literary.

I recently found a new blog. More accurately, I discovered a blog that has been around a while, but that I hadn’t seen yet. You know what I mean. The author of the blog, Roni Loren, is actually an Author… soon to be published, award winner, etc… (no, I’m not jealous. Shut up!! I am not!!!!)

Anyway, as I was saying before I was rudely interrupted by my conscience, Ms. Loren wrote about books that she read as a youth that influenced her literary interests and adult reading habits and, ultimately, her writing. I had never thought about how what I read growing up might have informed my writing. I mean, yes… I have heard from professors, articles and books about reading probably 847 times that if I want to be a writer, I need to read. But that was after I decided to write. I never put the pieces together to connect what I write now with what I read before I turned 18.

So, let’s take a look… (I know, you’re sweating with anticipation).

As many kids do in the U.S., I read a lot of Dr. Seuss books when I was very young. My mother read them to me and I learned to read with them. If they influenced my adult reading preferences, I’d say it’s in the area of language. I love words – especially words that challenge and increase my vocabulary. I suppose Dr. Seuss also inspired some fantasy appreciation; my desire to think about my world imaginatively. I loved to build forts and create small worlds in terrariums and doll houses. Certainly, a quick glance through a few Seuss books opens up a world of color and texture possibilities, not to mention the imaginary creatures that become very real through those books.

In middle school I read “Island of the Blue Dolphins” and “The Boxcar Children” series and was again fascinated with environments that were far from what I was used to in suburban Little Rock. In addition, the way that these books portrayed children close to my own age living on their own, foraging for food and shelter – and in the case of the Boxcar series, solving mysteries –  was fascinating to me. Still today I consider the challenge of survival in a wilderness of some kind exciting. I would love to be dropped off in Alaska or be a part of the Amazing Race.

I should say I am still figuring out who I am in terms of writing fiction. I am all about personal essay and creative non-fiction, but have struggled in the process of creating characters and plot lines for short stories or novels. I tend to feel I just don’t have those skills in me, but the more I think about what kind of books I have enjoyed reading I wonder if I need to just focus more on those early influences to help me get started.

Heading into junior high, I discovered Judy Blume, and eventually got my hands on a copy of “Forever”, which was the first book I ever read that had references to romantic eroticism. It was a YA novel, so I wasn’t reading anything Susie Bright would be editing, but it was definitely eye-opening (and mind-blowing) to my 13 year old self. “Flowers in the Attic” was another one that stretched me a little. Or perhaps it was “Petals in the Wind”, the followup to Flowers… I think there was some allusion to incest as well. Quite an education.

I grew up feeling fairly comfortable with my sexual side, and wonder now if it was the books that led me to be curious about that subject, or the curiosity that allowed me to enjoy and seek out the books? Hmmm…

“Thornbirds” was a high school read that was passed along from my mom, as was “A Rose in Winter”. It was really the only time I saw my mom reading for pleasure. She went through a brief romance novel thing. Kind of like when she decided she needed to invest serious time and money in Tri-Chem fabric painting… it passed. Those books talked about “male members” and passion, and as a budding teenaged heavy-petter, they reinforced my belief that the things I was learning in Sunday school about dating and the opposite sex were most definitely not the only options.

“Cannery Row” has to be mentioned, not for the sexual references, but for the way I learned to appreciate even more the foreign environments and, especially here, dialect. John Steinbeck has been a favorite author ever since reading this book in high school English class, and in a similar vein I also love Maya Angelou’s writing for the way her characters are created in large part by their language and the local speech patterns and slang they use.

I’m an admitted narcissist, which I suppose is a good thing when considering my desire to write essays and memoir pieces. But based on this little trip down my literary memory lane, I’m thinking that the idea I had many years ago to write erotic short stories should be revisited. Now, the big question: Pseudonym? Or go bold and just use my real name??