FEATURED WRITERS CORNERI first ‘met’ Genie Rayner electronically, when I read her heartrending poem Paradigm Shifts on KPN, a writers’ webcommunity we both belong to. Her fierce stance through personal pain struck me most significantly:
“In the grand scheme
the little things don’t
seem to make much difference …
Just as climate change
shrinks Mother Earth,
my father’s world
and he’s lost his little girl.
As he bends closer to the ground,
turns off more lights
as he goes more blind,
he already wears his death mask,
shrinks deep into Alzheimer’s past …
Then a long, warm fall
with hints of the shadows
one cat makes friends
with the others,
and new times to write,
to try to sing …
these little things
make all the difference in the world …
I’m no longer
his little girl.” Paradigm Shifts by Genie Rayner, 2009
For me it gave meaning to Robert Frost’s belief that ‘a poem begins with a lump in the throat’.
I learned more as we got to know each other. You know how these web friendships take time to unfold. Before the years of caring for her dad, Bill, she seemed to me somehow like a southern swallow homing in on her northern perch: originally from New Orleans, she just kept moving north until she found Vermont — and stopped. And stayed.
‘My soul had to find Vermont before I could gain the courage to call myself an artist,’ she says.Maybe she is part-bird. Like me, she is deeply caught up in the seasonal movement of the flying creatures, owls, cardinals, hawks; also trees, flowers, anything green; she grows an organic garden, empathizes with frogs, deer, most mammals, autumn breezes. Like me, she has more cats than most people consider ‘sensible’. I make no excuses. I like her. In her writing on her ‘other’ wordpress blog, she goes by the name of Ladybirch — it is, after all, a Birch (B)log. She is poet, novelist, freelance editor, photographer, artist, quilt-maker, chair-restorer, writing mentor and consultant. Co-founder of Rutland’s BirchDel Poets and Druidfarm Creations, she encourages all talents focused on creativity for the wellbeing of mind, body, earth and soul. You get the picture: she’s a busy woman. At the moment she’s working on a poetry chapbook — or two — a novella and, if you need your own work edited, she’s your (Magiclamp Editing) woman. In her spare time she has written her first novel, Song of the Blessing Trees published by British small press Gilead Books.
i wasn’t certain I was being very kind when I asked her to take time in her busy schedule to contribute to my little Writers’ Feature Corner, but she readily agreed. And I’m so glad I did, because she brings to this sharing of our thoughts on writing — so many authors, budding or successful, with so many points of view — a gentle wisdom and deep perspective of what it takes to extract words from the subconscious and place them one in front of the other on the printed page.
Bless you Genie for this insightful piece.
The ‘Whole’ Meaning of Writing by Genie Rayner
When you think about it, words are funny things. There are, after all, easier and quicker ways to communicate: eye contact, touch, music, visual art, dance, even silence can all speak volumes – for good or ill – if we’re aware, attuned and receptive to the possibilities waiting to be evoked.
As writers – and speakers – we know all too well that words can be awkward, slow, difficult to find. They can cause pain or distress, tears, anxiety or fear; they can wound and cause irreparable damage. On the other hand, the right word(s), written or spoken, are among the most beautiful things in the world.
At least to this writer.
As much as I love and need the other arts, as much as I use the other ways to communicate, there is nothing quite like a beautifully-turned phrase, a thoughtful way of putting words together, to inspire a sense of meaning in one’s life.
Almost everyone is familiar with the popular definition – and concept – of logos. In his book A Man’s Search for Meaning, though, Viktor Frankl digs even deeper than the usual translation of ‘word.’ From his experience in a World War II concentration camp, Frankl explains that logos actually denotes ‘meaning’ first and foremost:
“Frankl relates how he came to discover his new school of psychotherapy … in Auschwitz where he had been interned. He tells how, with his trained clinical eye, he began to perceive that his fellow prisoners were wasting away and dying physically because… they had no ‘meaning’ to live for, so they gave up the struggle and buckled under. Very unobtrusively Frankl started to pick up meanings in the[ir] lives… in casual conversation with them; then, he began very naturally and imperceptibly to feed these same meanings back into the lives of respective prisoners. What he noticed in sheer wonder… was that these companions of his, who had practically surrendered to their fate… came suddenly alive and could go through any torture, any trial, any hardship in the camp, thanks to the meaning or meanings that had been injected back into their lives….
“So it was that Frankl discovered and later developed his logotherapy – that is, making people whole (= therapy) by giving meaning (= logos) to their lives. For the primary signification of logos is ‘meaning’; its secondary signification is ‘word.'”
Discovering Your Personal Vocation: The Search for Meaning Through the Spiritual Exercises (NY: Paulist Press, 2001, pp. 19-20), by Herbert Alphonso, SJ, quoted in Genie’s Master of Arts thesis
I think one of the reasons for this is because words – and by extension, at least for writers, the written word – connect us to one another. They can and do create relationships, sometimes when we don’t even know the other person(s). A wise woman recently wrote to me of the ‘umbilical connection’ writers have with words; that most basic relationship, then, grows and connects to untold others who read our words.
That is one of the fundamental reasons I write: relationship.
Sometimes I’m lucky – and privileged – enough to know that my words have made a positive impact on someone, and that is thrilling. Even when the impact is negative, at least I know I’ve made a connection, made someone think enough to argue with me or want to discuss something further. That, too, is exciting. I’ve done my job!
I’m also enough of a writer to fantasize about the connections some of my now-unpublished works might make after I’m dead and gone. If anyone goes through my desk drawers and the boxes under my bed, they’ll find reams of old poems, essays, jottings, story ideas, and books in various degrees of progress. Maybe that person or those persons will care enough for my efforts that s/he or they will take the time to read them. Perhaps a poem will be found at a time when it’s needed to help someone through a tough spot; perhaps one of the unfinished books will stir up enough ideas for the reader to continue it to fruition; someone might even think something is good enough to submit posthumously and it will finally get published and reach others somehow, somewhere.
But even before then, one can – and does – hope that some of the same things will happen. Some of my poetry and other writings have engendered lifelong or important relationships, just as others’ works have inspired me to contact and connect with them because of something meaningful in their words or craftsmanship.
More often, though, I have no idea how readers take my words or respond to them. Most writers don’t.
So what’s the point of writing?
I keep coming back to ‘meaning’ and relationship and connection. Perhaps the most important relationship, the most meaningful one, is that with ourselves. Though I always hope others will find some kind of meaning in my work and my words, they can’t if I don’t first. I suggest this is why blogging has become such an integral part of our recent technological lives: people need to connect with themselves and with others.
Of course, there are always pieces that will never meet other people’s eyes, heart or soul, but I still had to write them for my sake. I hope I’ve become a better human being because of the letters, poems, stories and fragments that have helped me work through trauma, crises, heartache, joy, even silliness… but they’re too personal or not developed enough ever to crawl out of the desk drawers or boxes under the bed.
Sometimes just putting words to paper – especially putting words to paper, rather than typing on a keyboard – makes that vital connection between head and heart that, I hope, results in a more developed person. Though the works themselves may not be complete, simply making the creative effort to find meaning makes me more complete. If I’m lucky, working through something by writing about it will spark insights and revelations that couldn’t have come otherwise or in quite the same way, and I am even more whole.
It truly is. One understanding of the word ‘righteous’ in the Bible is ‘right relationship with God.’ Though it may sound selfish and self-centered, if I can’t or don’t make that critical connection to me – to what’s going on in and with my ‘I’ (as in Martin Buber’s I and Thou) – first, then I can’t connect to God, or the Other. And I sure can’t connect to all the unknown others I hope will find meaning through my words.
It is, after all, a cooperative creative process, this ‘thing’ writers must and can do. We writers may think we’re solitary, but we’re not really. Call it spiritual, religious, holy, or any other term with which you’re comfortable, writing is a co-creative endeavor that involves many others—some known or intended and seen, some unknown and unintended – and many layers of involvement.
Just as Frankl’s spoken, and then written, words were healing – and ‘wholeing’ – for others, I think most (if not all) of us want our words to do that as well, regardless of genre or theme or plot. At least on a fundamental, intuitive level.
We strive for that connection, those relationships that complete our work – and ourselves – with our work, by our work.
With that intent, we can’t help but contribute to a better, more complete and healed world, even if it’s person by person, reader by reader. It may be a slow process, co-creating a collective world of and with meaning, but it’s worth it, in my view. Maybe it’s even better to be slow, more one-on-one. There’s an intimacy to that concept that really appeals to me.
Regardless of how long or slow writing is, how solitary or collected writers are, I suggest that we are working for and toward the umbilical relationship of wholeness with others and ourselves. That gives a meaning to my work that can be expressed only through more words.
Every time I sit down to write, I look forward to the anticipation of possibilities and connections that will emerge – for something unexpected always occurs. I always find a little more of and about me and I hope I always find a little more of and about others, the world, the human condition, God, and the mysteries of the creative process.
It doesn’t get much more meaningful than that.
©2010 Genie Rayner
October 13, 2010 Posted by siderealview | authors, birds, culture, environment, gardening, Muse, nature, novel, publishing, writing | Alzheimer's, Auschwitz, Birch (B)log, BirchDel Poets, birds, British press, cats, DruidFarmCreations, editing, Genie Rayner, Gilead Books, healing, KPN, meaning, New Orleans, novel, Paradigm Shift, poems, psychotherapy, Robert Frost, Song of the Blessing Trees, swallow, The Word, umbilical, Vermont, Viktor Frankl, wholeness, wordpress, writing | 5 Comments
Featured Writers CornerWhen I first got the idea to feature some of my struggling author friends, it was a seed kernel: a tiny cell in need of germination: I have quite a few writerly friends in various guises, on a couple of continents, some friendships generated through the miracle of electrons… all extremely busy at what they do. The writerly occupation, after all, as we’ve said before, is not something you can pick up and put down. It lives inside. It has its own form of development, its own pace, its own drive. We, the hands on the keyboard, the implement allowing it voice, are merely facilitators.
So, when some of my author friends agreed to write a guestblog for me, I was over the moon. Every writer sees the Muse differently. Every one of them has a unique perspective on our communal pursuit.*
All of them are busy, as I say: as a writer, storyteller, blogger, novelist or journalist, you have to keep at it or you’re doomed. So it was not a surprise when some of my friends said they’d do it, but it would be a while.
Jim Vires, my column guest today, said: ‘when do you want it?’
Jim is just as busy, just as motivated, just as obsessed as the rest of us.He has just launched his phenomenal ‘The Evolution of A Conceptual God’ on Amazon – subtitled: ‘Navigating the Landmines’. It is a collection of powerful stories, both fiction and non-fiction in a life curve designed by the author to overcome adversity and his gratitude in being able to do so. Jim arranged for all profits from the sale of his book to go to Salvation Army Homeless Shelters.
He’s moderator/group leader Yinseriv of the NonFiction writers group on KPN Network (run by KeyPublications guru Damian Gray); he’s a video wiz, photographer and music buff; and he writes — and helps others to write — in his so-called ‘spare’ time. He also dashes about the country helping others get their books launched, but we won’t go into that this time around… in short, he’s an inspirer, as well as being inspired.
I am therefore honored — and delighted with his speedy response — to be able to present the spiritual view of storyteller, ‘teller-of-tales’ Jim Vires on writing as a medium to inspire others.
Energy, Intent and Writing by Jim Vires
Often I hear from other writers that they have succumbed to Writers’ Block. To be truthful, these words have passed my own lips. I suffer from this self-imposed malady when I think of writing as a craft, or as my job. For me, there is a cure for the condition, but I never learned of it in any college classroom. The glossy paperbacks touted as ‘How To’ by bestselling authors fail to mention it either. I remind myself that writing came to humankind as a gift.
Before I continue, allow me to address any readers who may bring up that language preceded writing as a gift to humankind. As a member of a tribe with a long history of storytelling, I do agree that language is a gift. I also see the gift of language shared by other dwellers of our planet. To the best of my knowledge, so far, only humans have mastered writing with purpose.
‘Purpose’ is the key word I want to focus on about writing. Often as writers, we start with a set purpose in mind as we put words to page. Our cerebral cortex starts firing as we set our awareness to a task. When all works well, we find that we enter an altered state of awareness as we write. The distractions of outside influence fade as we focus on the words imparted from our brain to the world. You may call this altered state by any number of titles depending on your frame of reference. In the end though, it becomes one writer acting with purpose, to place format to a thought using one letter at a time.
Are you aware of the purpose of your words? Many of us have used the written word to influence, or at times, manipulate the thoughts and emotions of others. When we do this well, we transpose our intent to the will of our readers. This is never ‘bad’. Without the phrasing of a thoughtful love letter, our reproductive prerogative never would have evolved from who is the best physical suitor. Wars have started and ended over the words written on a page. These are just three examples of the power behind the purpose of words.
What happens once the words leave my brain and enter the domain of the reader? All control of my purpose, intent and meaning default to the experience of the reader.
Shall we try an experiment?
Smile.Five simple letters form one word. What did you think of as you read the word? Each of us filtered that one word through our experience. Did you smile at an innocuous request? Perhaps you came from a background where you learned that a smile is a mask. The word smile may signal a harbinger of deceit. The point I make is that as I typed the word there was one meaning in my mind. One purpose. Through the act of reading, we all share the word. It has become our word. This is the Spirituality flowing underneath writing. We connect in a shared experience.
As a writer, I am all too often forgetful of this on a conscious level. Until I enter an altered state while writing, I am imposing my will, purpose, on the reader. Once I do enter that state, words flow from my fingers in an attempt to connect with my projected reader. Instead of imposing, I strive to connect with you, the reader. You become the focus of my being. This is the joy of being out of myself and fully alive in this moment. This is the gift of writing.
Does this seem a little too ‘New Age’? Allow me to challenge this. What is the power of any classic literature? The writer has taken us outside of our existence and placed us within a frame of reference we may never have lived. The writer places words in a careful arrangement that allow us to travel inside of the written word and give life to the words. The words become living words. In a transcending of time and place, we enter into a contract of writer and reader. The writer wrote with purpose. At what point though, did the purpose leave the intent of the writer and become part of a greater purpose? This happens the moment there is a reader.
While in the process of writing, the writer owns the words, and it is the writer’s job to bring meaning to those words. A thoughtful writer always considers the intent of the words. The writer considers the thoughts and emotions that the reader will experience by the selection of the words.
This again brings me back to purpose when writing.
The written word can wound and it can heal. Rarely when writing are our words a null void. Why would we write if they were? Granted, most of us write without intent to hurt others. How often has your intent been to heal? I dare to guess that it is not often enough. When we use our words to educate, lift up, or bring a smile to our readers, we are engaged in healing work. As we enter an altered state while writing, we become funnels for the energy that surrounds us. The words become a balm freely given to the writer with the understanding that they are to share with readers. If we allow the process to shine through us, at the end of the job the words turn into a paper, story, poem, blog or a book. The writer gives up ownership of the words.
At this point, the reader now owns the words.
As stated earlier, we can never tell with certainty the perception that a reader is going to bring to the page. It is now on the reader to take the words to a new sphere of influence. The five minutes a reader spends reading on work break eases some of the tension and worries that are common to so many. The reader interacts with coworkers and family, now infused with the purpose, power, of the words he read. A classic energy string radiates within a community and quite possibly returns to the writer.
I wrote this blog with intent and purpose for you, the reader. As I distill final words to an ending, I understand that my part of this contract ends. Now the contract rests with you when you continue your life.
It is a simple word, the word smile. Such a simple word holds so much transformative power.
© Jim Vires 2010
Ed. Thank you Jim for a sidestep into the cosmic realm of dreams, belief, heart and soul and for bringing us back to earth too: because this is where we all have our work cut out for us!
*My other writerly cohorts who have appeared or will appear again in this conspiracy to collude in the crystallization of seed-words on the printed page include:
And to Jim: bless you.
October 5, 2010 Posted by siderealview | authors, consciousness, culture, Muse, publishing, spiritual, Uncategorized, writing | altered state, Amazon, Conceptual God, Damian Gray, energy, exercise, facilitators, Featured Writers Corner, guestblog, healing, inspiration, intent, Jim Vires, KPN, language, Muse, spirituality, transference, words, writer's block, writing | 1 Comment
Lots of writers use a nom de plume to distinguish between their personae – it’s the way publishing works. Blogs, too. What choice, what abundance: we can be guided by all our Muses and still retain our integrity (who doubts it?)if we are prone to take one persona more seriously than another. For this blog I become this particular blogger because the material is time-sensitive; the research is all coming together now and our way forward is mapped. That said, it’s up to us whether we take the information and run with it.
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