We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself. Carl Sagan
This post may seem all “new agey” at first, but I invite the reader to keep an open mind.
With a big fat student loan to repay I’m really not too optimistic about getting a traditional job out there when it comes to being a writer. Job searches never have much to offer when I hit the drop-down selection that says “writer.” Sometimes I get discouraged that I took out a loan to get an MFA. Rather like buying a world-class cruise ship to go on a fishing trip.
Yesterday someone asked me what direction I wanted to take with my writing. My mind conjured images of millions of books that have been written and continue to be written, books about every conceivable subject, books with stories that can change lives, magical books, meaningful books, books that enchant and make me howl with laughter or cry or nod my head with profound recognition. Write the book you want to read is a common bit of advice. But I never really stopped to consider what book I wanted to read. There are hundreds of books I’ve enjoyed reading since I began to read in third grade.
At some point I realized that I want to use my writing to give back. Not out of some sense of privilege, but out of the recognition of the gift that life is. And we are living during a time when the world is crumbling beneath our feet. What is it in a story that brings tears to my eyes or brings the laughter of shared experience where I think, “Yeah, I do that too. I thought I was the only one…”
So. The next thought was, How do I give back? We talked about possibilities. She suggested that I list ten volunteer organizations that could use writers. That’s a start. But I also seek a deeper dimension in my writing, something that can help me be the change I want to see. I use writing as my outlet because as I’ve written elsewhere, I have avoidant personality disorder, for lack of a better term. Which means I’m not good around people.
The upshot is that my conversation with this person left me with ideas and networking possibilities, doorways to walk through, websites, things to think about. Interesting that quite “by accident,” meaning I wasn’t looking for them (synchronicity), today I came across several websites that discussed how to make money as a freelance writer online. And as usual, one link led to another and I came across a page about keeping a Waking Dream Journal. Many writers keep dream journals and use their dreams to inspire stories. But this is a different sort of dream journal, although there is always an overlap between our wakeful life and our dream life.
A few years ago I tried an exercise from The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron. It’s called “A Day in the Life of a Writer” where you choose a day and put a notebook and pen by your bed to grab as soon as you wake up. You get up and take your notebook with you, going through your daily routine, jotting down what you’re doing and what you’re thinking. Just short phrases. On and on you move through your day, simple phrases: showered. got dressed. fed the cat. remembered the cat that rode on my shoulder. ate a doughnut with sprinkles and had coffee. feel a cold coming on. short and simple. just little notes to yourself, capturing details, thoughts, memories, just the minimum to remember the thought or event or detail more fully later. keep pushing ahead. whatever you do don’t stop. continue through the evening. make a final note before you hit the pillow and turn out the light.
At a later time, the next day or in a week or month, you can go back and flesh in the details. Highlight the ones with the most interest. Insights and observations will come to enlarge the scope. You can create a fictional character who goes through that day.
I started my day by jotting down the dreams I had had the night before. It wasn’t until I read back through what I had written that I had to sit down from amazement. Several images I had had in my dreams the previous night re-appeared in the day that I captured in my notebook! I still can’t explain that. However, as a writer, I’m teaching myself to MAKE CONNECTIONS in my fiction. I don’t mean coincidence. The best fiction doesn’t use coincidence any more than it uses Deux ex machina. But creating fiction is all about connecting, finding meaning where no apparent meaning exists. Jung called this synchronicity. We all know how random life seems and how the dire events on the news all seem to get worse and even more meaningless. That’s when I tell myself that The universe is made of stories, not atoms.
What am I trying to say here. Well, it has to do with finding meaning in what we read and what we write. Finding meaning is to me magic. It is a way we can give back.