Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Moth of Hope

Worried about the death of publishing or the public’s diminishing appetite for stories? The Moth offers hope.

Last night, as a Christmas gift to me, my daughter took me into NYC for a Moth storytelling event. The doors opened at 7, and we figured that getting there at 6:30 would assure us of a seat. Wrong. The line outside the Bleecker Street entrance snaked around the corner and all the way down LaGuardia Place to Third Avenue. We stood in line for over an hour, braving the wind, the cold, and an incredibly annoying laugh from one of the women standing behind us. We made it to within a few feet of the entrance of the aptly named “Bitter End” rock club, only to be turned away.

All was not lost. My daughter and I had a nice Thai dinner and got to witness two creative subway begging routines (one played the saxophone and claimed to be a space alien). And the woman behind us in that long, wintry line will undoubtedly one day end up in one of my daughter’s own stories… or mine.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Different Sort of Writer's Block

Someone once asked Michelangelo how he was able to sculpt an angel out of a block of marble. His reply: "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

Writers face a similar task. They must chip away everything that holds their story back, that prevents it from taking flight. But there's an additional task. Unlike sculptors, writers must first create that block of marble, the material that will require so much chipping, carving, shaping, and polishing.

Some writers enjoy making the marble. They revel in writing the initial draft, setting their imaginations free and allowing their characters to take them wherever the magic of creativity takes them. They dread the process of carving and polishing. Other writers prefer the chipping and carving. I'm in that camp. For me, the first draft is the most painful part of the writing process.

The problem is that inner voice, some call it the inner editor, constantly telling me that what I'm writing is stupid, obvious, or done before by much more gifted writers. It also enjoys reminding me, frequently, that progress-to-date is woefully slow.

"But go ahead," it says every morning. "Try to fill that blank computer screen with something someone will actually want to read. Good luck, pal."

And so, every morning, I must first take my hammer to my inner editor. It gets messy.