Monthly Archives: February 2014

What Is Your Gorilla Today?

ImageWhen I was younger I used to have recurring dreams of a gorilla-suited man trying to break into our house.  I’d run around and lock all the entrances, usually forgetting the glass patio door. When I did remember, the faulty latch wouldn’t hold. I’d freeze in fear as I stood face to face with the hairy gorilla-man. I can still hear and see him pounding on the glass as he reached for the handle. Suddenly I’d remember the stick we used to drop into the aluminum tray to secure the door, but I would never reach it before the gorilla broke in. Then I’d wake up, shaking in fear.

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I recently attended a writer’s conference. The main speaker, author Susy Flory, addressed common writing fears. She never mentioned a gorilla, but she did say that E.B. White would often mail a manuscript only to run after the mailman and retrieve it because he feared it wasn’t perfect. She quoted White as saying, “I admire anyone who writes” and “I write in terror.” This from the man who gave us Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.

Flory also related that Mark Twain once said, “Courage is resistance to fear –  mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” The crime writer Lawrence Block observed, “Fear and courage are like lightning and thunder. They start out at the same time, but the fear (lightning) travels faster and arrives sooner. If we wait long enough, the requisite courage will be along shortly.”

Some of my writing fears include, “What if no one likes what I write? What if my computer crashes? What if I run out of ideas? What if I get sick and can’t finish? What if people criticize me?” Then I realize that all of these things have already happened, and will probably continue to happen. I choose to write anyway. The gorilla still comes, but now I’ve got the stick.

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Honestly Speaking

LetsBeHonestSmlr
Author and blogger Cristian Mihai wrote in a recent blog, “I’m an ardent believer in the fact that all great writing comes from a place of truth, from a place well hidden inside our soul. I believe that those elements that are based on our own experiences, faults, and beliefs give substance to a story.”

Those words hit home. In my historical fiction novel The Bronze Dagger, my 12-year-old protagonist, Samsuluna (Sam) is asked by his mentor, a Babylonian healer:

“What do we always take with us when we visit the sick?”

Sam wiped his cheeks with the back of his hands and sniffled. “Our pouches with our medicines and tools,” he replied.

“And do we always have what we need?”

“Most of the time,” Sam responded, and then sniffed again. “But not always.”

Balashi pursed his lips. “Most of the time, parents carry a pouch that gives them the tools they need to take care of their children, to love them, provide for them, protect them. Your father didn’t have any of those tools in his pouch.”

Sam imagined his father carrying a pouch like the one Balashi carried when he visited the sick. In his mind, he opened his father’s pouch. He saw nothing inside. Empty. Sam began to tremble. He looked up into the stars. “Maybe if I had been a better son.” Hot tears spilled out onto his cheeks. “Maybe if I hadn’t cried so much as a baby he wouldn’t have thrown me across the room and I wouldn’t have this limp. Maybe.”

Balashi also looked up into the sky. “No, Sam,” he interrupted. “As I said before, children shouldn’t have to earn their parents’ love. Love should already be in a parent’s pouch. Parents must teach their children right and wrong; but providing for, loving, and protecting your children should be unconditional.”

I added the above section on my third draft of the manuscript – when I began to make more honest connections with my main character. I experienced abuse as a child. In the process of learning to forgive, I realized that my parents didn’t have all the tools in their pouch they needed to provide a protective home. When I connected with that honest truth, it enabled me to give more substance to my story.

Mihai also writes, “Readers read fiction knowing it’s just make believe, but they also know that every story holds a bit of truth, a bit of the artist.” We must write from a place of honesty and truth, even (and especially) in fiction. Only then can we really honestly connect.
– Marie Sontag, PhD
www.mariesontag.com

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Blissful Scribbles

Musings through the journey of writing my first novel

ACFW - DFW CHAPTER a.k.a. DFW Ready Writers

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

Bay Area Writing Group

Northern California Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers

Letters to Noah

Spoken words are fleeting, but written words last beyond a lifetime.

Sontag Writing Dreams

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

marsha ottum owen

I make Children's Books

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"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

Cathleen Armstrong

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

A Writer's Diary

Author, Educator, Consultant