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Daily Archives: November 10, 2014

Creative Writing Study Group: Why do I write?

I’m an undisciplined writer, rarely keeping to a specific writing schedule. Still, there are a few things that keep me writing regularly.

First, and perhaps foremost, writing is a bug. It’s like suffering from a chronic disease, or having worms. I can never seem to get rid of the disease entirely, because maybe there’s an underlying need, a compulsion, yearning, fixation, demand, hankering, desire, frothing-at-the-mouth obsession, but whatever it is, it is always nagging me to express itself.

I write more regularly when I am interacting with other people through correspondence, or as of late, through my connection to fellow writers at the ‘Creative Writing Study Group’.

I learned, when I was away from home, sailing in foreign waters, that writing letters to friends and relatives felt so good, a kind of therapy to overcome loneliness. I have saved my letters all the way back into the 1960’s. I have boxes of the things. Now and again I’ll pull them out to refresh my memory. It is ever a source of amazement when I discover how often the years have twisted up my recollection of past events. The letters put me back on track. Then there’s the rush of nostalgia, of course, as I re-read letters to those people who I had written to years ago, now having died or disappeared. It brings them back to life, and all of this helps me to write what I write today or tomorrow.

I’ve discovered, with old age, that feedback is incredibly useful, it is almost always helpful, and serves for me as a method to hone my writing skills, and hopefully improve upon them. I get sarcastic, even resentful reviews, but I’m an old guy, my ego is bullet proof. However, down-deep I feel I have something of a talent (whatever it might be), so honest criticism won’t defeat me, but rather feed my anxiety to be better. I personally believe that positive and honest encouragement reaps far greater rewards than being beaten down by some idea of perfection. Some writer’s simply can’t cope with abrasive criticism, no matter how constructive the critic, and I think that I would be cruel and unfeeling if I were to cut somebody’s legs from underneath. Simply put, I don’t do it.

This I-want-to-be-the-best-in-the business is horribly destructive of anybody’s creative talents. I feel that we must each strive for excellence, but within the context of our own uniqueness, not somebody else’s. When I begin to compare myself to others, I am ultimately doomed, because there is always going to be somebody who does “better” than I. But, still, I must aim for excellence.

While I do write for myself, by nature I tend to be kind of a ham and try to entertain others with what I write. At the same time, I am very self-deprecatory and unsure of my own writing abilities. Therefore, much of my particular kind of writing has taken on a tongue-in-cheek style. I’m not sure that this is the most desirable way to write (there’s a lot of tension involved), but if I can get somebody to laugh or at least be amused, then this, too, encourages me to keep on writing. I certainly don’t recommend this for others, however. It’s just something I do within the context of my own makeup. When I sit down to write I have found that what works for me is to ‘stay loose’ and learn to breathe my words onto the page.

This may go some little way toward explaining why I like to write. I will never make the mistakes as innocently egregious as those I made when I was nineteen, nor know as much as I did then, nor be so terribly concerned to get it all down at once. Nor will I ever be nineteen again, typing till four in the morning, with the letters printing as dimly as stencils on the page because I was trying not to wake anyone. I felt very important, and full of secrets, and I couldn’t sleep for hugging myself and smiling.

Boy writing

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Posted by on November 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Written for Daily Prompt: Life is too short to…?

Right now – and there’s a ‘right now’ every day since my father sailed away – I’m thinking what a gift he had. Those who read me know my father was a fisherman. A Scotsman. He, too, loved to write. He said he wanted to touch people with his poetry; have his words lie by the ears of those too troubled to sleep. I suppose my ego runs amok when I’m writing. It certainly does so when I write about my father, so much wanting to be like him. Today would have been his birthday. He was a hundred-point-man, more than my pen could ever reveal. When I think about him on an intimate level; who he was, what he thought, how he loved the pen when his thoughts were running dry and scratchy across the page, driven by the ink from a splitting nib, I recall he was a man constantly in pain. Oft days knocked from bow to stern, food ruined by the perpetual taste of salt in his mouth. But och! He would say, these bruises are but rich rewards for a man crippled by a thousand frost bites, a thousand falls down the deep brassy troughs of a reckless ocean, only to be sent on his way by the saxophone-seahorse, pushed home by violin winds under percussion skies. Days are too short to concern ourselves with life’s bruises

.Trawler 2

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/no-time-to-waste/

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Hero’s Journey: November Project. My contribution to the ‘Creative Writing Study Group’

This story is my homework effort under the guidance of Donald Miller, for the ‘Creative Writing Study Group’. During the month of November we are studying individually, and as a group, Joseph Campbell’s monolith: The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

Heq

Chapter One: The Coming

The village Shaman had returned to the igloo village after three full moons and summoned the villagers. He stood in their midst. The villagers were hungry, disillusioned with their chosen one.

The first to speak was Alipak, teenage son of Shamuk, the whaleman, and rumored to become the next Shaman.

 In your absence we have hungered, Shaman, o’ great hunter and protector of the people. Tell us that your prayers to the Gods have been more successful than your poetry!

A snigger spread throughout those gathered.

The Shaman stood strong, his demeanor resilient. He had left to make prayers, damning himself, and asking for guidance. The Shaman’s response to Alipak’s cynicism was to push back the villagers, and with his spear carve a great circle in the ice.

 My prayers were not that we should have food tomorrow, but that our people will survive the darkness.

Almost instantly a splintered flash of divine brightness left a naked child in the middle of the carved circle, holding out its arms. The Shaman stepped forward, staring up at the sky. The villagers waited patiently for The Shaman to speak, but Alipak was angrily impatient.

 This child is simply another mouth to feed when we are already half starved.

The villagers had asked Shaman to summon the spirits for better times, something to eat, something to wear, not another hungry mouth.

 This child is the answer to my prayer. Shaman said. He turned to the child, lifting him into his arms. Now will come a break in the weather. The whale will come. After many moons a darkness will descend, and when it does this child shall be Shaman and his name shall be Heq.

There was a mournful gasp from the gathered.

Ojuat, daughter of the Salmon Fisherman, too, is scornful of the Shaman.

 Your prayer for blubber has been answered with a blubbering child!

The villagers shrank some, hearing the girl ridicule the Shaman.

The Shaman held the child to his breast, turned and spoke in still softer tones to the jubilant Ojuat.

 You are daughter of Pitak, guardian of the Salmon, but neither he, nor you, can prevent what darkness comes. For our people shall be no more. He then held the child aloft. This child is sent by the guardian spirit, Kilalurak.  It has fallen to me to take his hand, teach him the ways of the hunter, instill in him the ways of the protector, educate him, teach him wisdom, and nurture his courage. He will need all these skills and more to face the darkness. He then tucked the child deep into the warmth of the caribou skin, kissed his head and turned again to the villagers. Alipak shall hunt in my name. I will remain Shaman until my heart is won, cut out by my successor and fed to the sleigh dogs.  Is there any man here wishing to challenge me?

Brave men, strong, not without wisdom remained silent. Shaman turned his back and walked back into the tundra’s wilderness, this time carrying the child.

Many full moons passed. Heq’s education continued. He grew to become a natural warrior, a bringer of food, knowing of medicine, and learning about the darkness of advancement into his world.

At seven he could build shelter strong enough to withstand the charge of a walrus. At ten, make ropes and clothes from the skins of animals he had slain, and by fifteen hunted the Minke with harpoons made by his own hand.

Shaman had all along known the coming of Heq was the answer of the spirits; that this child was his destiny, his end. For Heq to become Shaman he would one day have challenge for the privilege to lead his people in front of the oncoming civilizations and advancing technologies. It was to be an enemy that no Shaman before him had faced. Heq would need more than the skills of a warrior, more than the cunning of the fox, more than the fearlessness of the polar bear to keep the evil spirits away from the village.

Shaman called Heq to the warmth of his hut, erected of driftwood, whalebone, and tundra sod.

It is twenty cycles since you were sent, tomorrow we will begin your final lesson.

 I’m ready, Shaman. Must I kill the polar bear with a single spear? He asked, bumping down to feel the warmth of the fire.

Shaman smiled roundly. The polar bear is a large target, Heq. There’s another hunt; a great hunt, to be tracked with care. When you find it you must not wish to kill it, but to live with it inside you.

Not kill it! What kind of hunt can this be, Shaman?

 You must hunt down the Spirit of Love. He answered.

Love! What is this spirit? Heq questioned, his face showing great puzzlement.

Such a spirit I could tell you about, though you will never fully understand its importance, not until it shows itself to you. Each child, each mother, each hunter in the village is your responsibility. When illness comes to the people they will turn to you for a remedy, when fearful they will find solace with you, when hungry they will rely on you to feed them, and when threatened they will look to you for protection. You will require more than your spear, Heq.

 How will I know this spirit, Shaman?

 The morning will come soon enough. Sleep now. He told Heq.

Heq then fell asleep dreaming of green nights, thunders that ripped skies open, and lightning that stitched clouds together.  He dreamt that herds of whales were singing their mystical hymns.  Morning came. Heq was eager to show Shaman that he was more than ready for this last test of courage and skill.

Heq, He said, placing one hand on the boys shoulder, you must demonstrate your skill with one last feat. You have made your spear, now you must prove your accuracy. I will go and stand among the seals, I will point to one small seal, and you must throw to kill; you must throw with great force and great accuracy. Do you understand? Heq nods, it would be a simple task. If your spear is wayward you will kill me. Do you understand? Heq smiled, for the thought of a wayward spear did not enter into his mind.

Shaman looked into the eyes of the boy. You have come to save us. You are wise. You will do what is right. He kissed the boys head. Heq had long been ready to prove his ability. The Shaman stood next to the smallest of the seals, pointing out the target. Heq drew back his spear and with great force and great accuracy launched the spear through the arctic air. It flew direct, fast, searing the sky. Shaman, hearing the spears approach, stepped in front of the seal. He fell dead, the spear had pierced his heart. There was no consoling Heq. Grief had struck with the power of the Polar Bear’s claw. Love had found him.

When Heq returned to the village, none immediately recognized him. With that same spear, he carved a great circle in the ice. The people gathered. He entered the circle, knelt, and called on the ‘Spirit of the Great Sleigh Dog’. From beneath sealskin he produced the bloody heart of the Shaman, and watched as a ravage of wild dogs tore and ate at the heart.

A new Shaman had come of age.

The village Shaman had returned to the igloo village after three full moons and summoned the villagers. He stood in their midst. The villagers were hungry, disillusioned with their chosen one.

The first to speak was Alipak, teenage son of Shamuk, the whaleman, and rumored to become the next Shaman.

“In your absence we have hungered, Shaman, o’ great hunter and protector of the people. Tell us that your prayers to the Gods have been more successful than your poetry!” A snigger spread throughout those gathered.

The Shaman stood strong, his demeanor resilient. He had left to make prayers, damning himself, and asking for guidance. The Shaman’s response to Alipak’s cynicism was to push back the villagers, and with his spear carve a great circle in the ice.

“My prayers were not that we should have food tomorrow, but that our people will survive the darkness.”

Almost instantly a splintered flash of divine brightness left a naked child in the middle of the carved circle, holding out its arms. The Shaman stepped forward, staring up at the sky. The villagers waited patiently for The Shaman to speak, but Alipak was angrily impatient.

“This child is simply another mouth to feed when we are already half starved.”

The villagers had asked Shaman to summon the spirits for better times, something to eat, something to wear, not another hungry mouth.

“This child is the answer to my prayer.” Shaman said. He turned to the child, lifting him into his arms. “Now will come a break in the weather. The whale will come. After many moons a darkness will descend, and when it does this child shall be Shaman and his name shall be Heq.”

There is a mournful gasp from the gathered.

Ojuat, daughter of the Salmon Fisherman, too, is scornful of the Shaman.

“Your prayer for blubber has been answered with a blubbering child!”

The villagers shrank some, hearing the girl ridicule the Shaman.

The Shaman held the child to his breast, turned and spoke in still softer tones to the jubilant Ojuat.

“You are daughter of Pitak, guardian of the Salmon, but neither he, nor you, can prevent what darkness comes. For our people shall be no more.” He then held the child aloft. “This child is sent by the guardian spirit, Kilalurak.  It has fallen to me to take his hand, teach him the ways of the hunter, instill in him the ways of the protector, educate him, teach him wisdom, and nurture his courage. He will need all these skills and more to face the darkness.” He then tucked the child deep into the warmth of the caribou skin, kissed his head and turned again to the villagers.

“Alipak shall hunt in my name. I will remain Shaman until my heart is won, cut out by my successor and fed to the sleigh dogs.  Is there any man here wishing to challenge me?”

Brave men, strong, not without wisdom remained silent. Shaman turned his back and walked back into the tundra’s wilderness, this time carrying the child.

Many full moons passed. Heq’s education continued. He grew to become a natural warrior, a bringer of food, knowing of medicine, and learning about the darkness of advancement into his world.

At seven he could build shelter strong enough to withstand the charge of a walrus. At ten, make ropes and clothes from the skins of animals he had slain, and by fifteen hunted the Minke with harpoons made by his own hand.

Shaman had all along known the coming of Heq was the answer of the spirits; that this child was his destiny, his end. For Heq to become Shaman he would one day have challenge for the privilege to lead his people in front of the oncoming civilizations and advancing technologies. It was to be an enemy that no Shaman before him had faced. Heq would need more than the skills of a warrior, more than cunning, more than fearlessness to keep the evil spirits away from the village.

Shaman called Heq to the warmth of his hut, erected of driftwood, whalebone, and tundra sod.

“It is twenty cycles since you were sent, tomorrow we will begin your final lesson.”

“I’m ready, Shaman. Must I kill the polar bear with a single spear?” He asked, bumping down to feel the warmth of the fire.

Shaman smiled roundly. “The polar bear is a large target, Heq. There’s another hunt; a great hunt, to be tracked with care. When you find it you must not wish to kill it, but to live with it inside you.”

“Not kill it, what kind of hunt can this be, Shaman?”

“You will hunt the Spirit of Love.” He answered.

“Love! What is this spirit?” Heq questioned, his face showing great puzzlement.

“Such a spirit I could tell you about, though you will never fully understand its importance, not until it shows itself to you. Each child, each mother, each hunter in the village is your responsibility. When illness comes to the people they will turn to you for a remedy, when fearful they will find solace with you, when hungry they will rely on you to feed them, and when threatened they will look to you for protection. You will require more than your spear, Heq.”

“How will I know this spirit, Shaman?”

“The morning will come soon enough. Sleep now.” He told Heq.

Heq then fell asleep dreaming of green nights, thunders that ripped skies open, and lightning that stitched clouds together.  He dreamt that herds of whales were singing their mystical hymns.  Morning came. Heq was eager to show Shaman that he was more than ready for this last test of courage and skill.

“Heq,” He said, placing one hand on the boys shoulder, “you must demonstrate your skill with one last feat. You have made your spear, now you must prove your accuracy. I will go and stand among the seals, I will point to one small seal, and you must throw to kill; you must throw with great force and great accuracy. Do you understand?” Heq nods, it would be a simple task. “If your spear is wayward you will kill me. Do you understand?” Heq smiled, for the thought of a wayward spear did not enter into his mind.

Shaman looked into the eyes of the boy. “You have come to save us. You are wise. You will do what is right.” He kissed the boys head. Heq had long been ready to prove his ability. The Shaman stood next to the smallest of the seals, pointing out the target. Heq drew back his spear and with great force and great accuracy launched the spear through the arctic air. It flew direct, fast, searing the sky. Shaman, hearing the spears approach, stepped in front of the seal. He fell dead, the spear having pierced his heart. There was no consoling Heq. Grief had struck with the power of the Polar Bear’s claw. Love had found him.

When Heq returned to the village, none immediately recognized him. With his spear he carved a great circle in the ice. The people gathered. He entered the circle, knelt, calling on the spirit of the ‘Great Sleigh Dog’. From beneath sealskin he produced the bloody heart of Shaman, and watched as a ravage of wild dogs tore and ate at the heart.

The new Shaman had come of age.

Eskimo

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2014 in Uncategorized