Oh, What Thoughts Awaken in the Early Morn’

There was a full moon the other night. That could be one reason as to why I’m feeling the way I do. My family – specifically those on my father’s side – find ourselves affected by the light of a full moon in strange ways. We aren’t secretly werewolves or some members of the occult; no, we just get a little antsy when there’s too much light in the room. Or too little.

I feel like a strange creature because I like the dark as much as I like the light. Some of my best work can happen in the dark while conversely, some of my best learning experiences can occur in the light of day. It’s a curious conundrum I find myself within. To think that in order for people to enjoy a good book or a good read, I must immerse myself in darkness; in secret; away from the world until that work is ready. If Edgar Allan Poe were still alive, I’m sure he’d agree. Only while others are asleep, I find myself awake. Conversely, when I prefer to sleep, others come awake themselves. What an interesting arrangement, this is – this whole light and dark business. Other writers and storytellers must find themselves in this same, ambiguous mess. I like the challenge, personally, even if the concept makes little sense to anyone else.

The one comfort I find in writing is that it reminds me of a common truth: I’m human. A being that indulges in darkness and light alike, or rather, dwells in both. The scientific term would be cathemeral (active in both night or day) but that description alone does not do the human condition justice. People often relate pain with dark times while joyful days are just that – days, but with light abounding. Why is this so? As a writer, I feel most invigorated in the early morning. When the world is still waking up for the day, I’m the most alive in thought. The light hasn’t fully reached me where I am, if you will. And when I feel the least inspired, the least likely to produce a good work, is the middle of a sunny day. How can that be so? Is it because I absorb the day so I can expunge what I’ve gathered at night? Something to consider, I suppose, if nothing else.

So this tightrope walk I’m on goes onward – drawn to the light on one end, but drawn to the dark just as much. And not because I desire dark times or eternal dusk; no, that isn’t it. I simply know where I must be if I am to work at my best. And it typically isn’t in the face of a hot sunbeam. Maybe one day I’ll adapt, but I’m curious if other authors or writers throughout history would agree. Or vehemently disagree. Either or, I’m intrigued to know the answer.

So here I am. It’s early morning; I’m immersed in my early morning thoughts, immersed in the unsteady nature that my thoughts bring, but excited at the possibility of what may occur should I tame these thoughts for proper application. And all the while, I am wondering when the sun will take hold of me again. For when it does, I’ll be thrust out of the dark room of my own understanding and thrown back into a world of new understandings – ones far beyond my foresight and well beyond my own making. Perhaps that way, when the dark returns, I will have had time to make right the chaos of these early morning voices. My thoughts will have been tamed in radiant sun; unable to hide away in the dark recesses of my own imagination. Oh, what a grand feeling that will be. And oh, what a great moment it’ll be for me to share. For the tasks I’ve completed in secret – or in darkness, if you will – will at last have the opportunity to be enjoyed by others. And in the light of day, no doubt.

Some remarks… on Part 10

Pacing is a crucial element in storytelling. You can’t throw everything at an audience at once. Imagine telling a friend about your entire day. You’d start with when you woke up, gradually leading into breakfast (if you eat breakfast, and by all accounts, you should), then onto work or school, then off to lunch, then the afternoon, then evening, then whatever is beyond that. That’s a ton of information to regurgitate. And you don’t want to bombard the listener with everything you’ve experienced at one time. For one, it’s boring. Two, it’s anti-climatic if you’re trying to keep interest, and three, there’s no sense of relief. You’re smothering the person you’re trying to connect with.

And yes, that’s bad.

I find that with Spirit Run, there’s plenty of instances where I need to address my pacing. If I’m always charging forward with no sign of slowing down, then the reader is properly getting exhausted. As a writer – or a storyteller – telling a tangent thought may feel like a great opportunity to “wow” the reader. But in reality, that “wow” is only exciting to me. The reader/listener has no semblance of what’s going on in my head. If my message is jumbled, then they’ll be jumbled. So I have to give what I have in small chunks. I have to slowly build my case, release small tidbits, and gain momentum until I’m fully able to unveil the climax of a story.

It’s as simple as that. In practice? Not always so easy. Ever been at the brunt of a really long, really exhausting story a friend is telling you? Well, that’s a writer’s worst nightmare as it relates to storytelling. Stories need good pacing or else they become nothing more than poorly crafted run-on sentences; rehashed by the author out of some need to fulfill some storyteller’s buzz. I get that sentiment at times. But as much as I look to my own writing as being therapeutic, I am not in a position to keep my work to myself. Nor do I want to. It’s meant for sharing. And to be shared at a good pace.

Thoughts on “Spirit Run” – part 9

I hope it’s no secret by now that Spirit Run is a story dedicated to the unseen. A place that’s invisible and open to interpretation dependent on the individual. Where he is in life, where he’s going, and where he’s been. And we all get to experience the “invisible” in different ways. For instance, I was reading a Twitter post this morning via National Geographic that said something like this (and I’ll paraphrase): “Science allows us to see what cannot be seen otherwise.”

I would agree with this statement. Science certainly does permit access to a realm that cannot be witnessed by the naked eye. Who knew that every single thing is made up of tiny particles called ‘atoms’? And how else might we learn what lies on the surface of the moon and beyond? The human ability to create, dissect, and analyze the most minute and far places of the universe is really astounding if you think about it. No other creature in the known world can do that – only us.

*pause for effect*

I was fortunate to hear a speech this weekend that covered topics related to human science and discovery. The speaker talked on what the world must have been like when we discovered how the Earth was not the center of the universe. It was our planet that was moving, not the sun. People’s brains must have been turned inside out. And when our atom smashers discovered protons, neutrons, and electrons – well, you get the picture. Scientific ventures continue to unlock more of our universe, but in the 21st century, we know that the Earth rotates the sun and we are made up of atoms. This is common knowledge. These may not seem as exciting to the seasoned scientist, but they are scientific fact all the same. And as we move forward, only the new and the undiscovered will pique our interests as adventurers. That much is also true. In other words, we are delighted for what we know, but we are driven even more to find out what we have yet to understand.

This story is teaching me a lot about this human reality. As much as I want to have a handle on everything I encounter, I am reminded how I cannot get all the answers at once. What’s unseen is intriguing enough though, so I do what I can to unveil those yet-to-be-revealed parts of my life. But first, I must simply be open to the idea of not knowing. In that way, I can find what it is I am looking for. Philosophical? Sure, it absolutely is, but it’s also a truth, I feel. Spirit Run‘s latest section, 9, delves deeper into this concept. My characters might have thought they were guarding a male spirit, a “Son”, but in reality, it was a “Daughter” the whole time. Their willingness to see through the journey made that revelation possible though; a revelation that’s amazing to them. I feel like science and faith find themselves in the same boat on that one. Sometimes our pursuits of one thing lead to the discovery of another. And it happens when we least expect it.

And I’ll be honest, I like having a good surprise in my story too.

Thoughts on “Spirit Run” – halfway home

Writing this story has taken a lot out of me. And in other regards, it hasn’t. When you work tirelessly at your job, you may find yourself using the expression “time just flew by”. And when you stop what you’re doing, you’re amazed at what you’ve done and amazed at the time it took to do it. That’s how it’s felt with this story. I would open up my computer, plug into a Word document, and away I’d go. It was a very natural process. One that I could literally sit for hours and not step away from or be distracted by something else. The words wrote themselves and I was merely a conduit for their journey from my mind to my computer mainframe.

That’s a great feeling when you’re a writer, but it can also drain you. Before I sit down to write something, I usually develop some plan of attack. Be it reviewing my notes from days prior, continuing right where I left off, or just saying a simple prayer – I have to have an idea of what I’m going to do. But when the idea takes flight and time passes without warning, I come to the end of a story feeling like I’ve just built a house. From scratch. Writing can be an exhaustive process if you aren’t taking time to take a breather. I’ve been rather ruthless in my pursuit to write a new story every 30 days for the past 6 months and by all accounts, that hard work is beginning to pay off. I have plenty to talk about and I have plenty to share. But if I’m honest with myself, I’m also worn out. Not from procrastination, but from massive amounts of idea dumping. As I said before, it’s a good feeling to just let the story “write itself”, but I have to be a willing participant in that process. I still have to take the time to make that happen. And that takes lots and lots of time. Time that literally “flies by” if I’m not aware of it – all the while requesting my utmost attention and focus for the duration.

This story, along with so many others, took time. As will any other story I decide to undertake and share with others. I cringe when I think about the overwhelming scale of these projects, but still, I knowingly accept them with open arms. Just need a little faith to keep things in perspective. And if I may use a potentially poor transition piece here – faith has been a huge part of this story, Spirit Run. When you paint a picture of angels coming to save the soul of a human being – such as what’s happening in this section – you are indeed asking for a little help yourself.

Halfway through this story though. And halfway into the next one, I’m sure.

Editing … or Thoughts on “Spirit Run” – part 6

Stories are best understood when they are read straight through. No interruptions. In a perfect world, that’d be the way to do it. Even if the book is 1,000 pages, it would do a person good to start reading and then finish what he is reading in the same sitting. Or at the very least, within a short time frame. But hey, I’m sure that doesn’t happen very often. I, for one, can’t sit and read for more than 15 minutes. If I’m thoroughly engaged, then yeah, I’ll stretch that time limit. It’s not ADD, it’s just a lack of interest. Or lack of patience. Or I’ll remember that I have other things to do like, run an errand or something. But if the story is good enough or if my mind is clear, I’ll stall a while. I’ll wait until I get to a good stopping point. There’s always that point in the story where I, the reader, can take a break.

I find my editing process to be like that more often than not. I’ll look for those breathing points, taking 15 minutes to reread certain sections rather than read all the way through. This is ideal if all I’m doing is reading, but I’m not. I’m changing things too. And that’s a slippery slope if you’re going over your work with a fine-toothed comb.

It’s better to do a thorough read of your work when you’re editing. This is of utmost importance. Selecting pieces and parts of a story as you go along can be harmful. Just as much as a reader doesn’t start in the middle of a new book, neither should a writer when editing his work. The times when I’ve returned to my work and just “picked a random spot” have been the most frustrating for me as a writer. I find myself being disillusioned by the part I’m revising, angry that the tone or feel just isn’t living up to my expectations.

That doesn’t sound right.
That doesn’t feel right.
That doesn’t fit with that.

This can be dangerous for a writer. Unless you’re catching the emotions and thoughts from prior sections, you may feel like your work – as a stand alone – is missing something. But don’t freak out. It is missing something. What it’s missing is the rest of the story. The feelings, the added conflict – everything that makes up the entirety of what you’ve crafted. If you need another analogy, think of it this way: architects and builders don’t build the roof before the foundation. They begin with the foundation, aka the beginning, and work from there. The same should be the case with revising and editing. Once you’ve done a few reads, you’ll find that your brain will recognize those sections where you could do something different. Or you could say something better. It’ll never be altogether perfect, but you can certainly get to a relative state of peace so long as you make the effort to understand as much about your work as possible. Then, you can give it over to another set of eyes if you wish.

This is something I’ve been working on as I go through this story. Where, when, and how to do effective editing. I feel like reading through my entire work can be overkill but it’s also necessary. Otherwise, I may run the risk of changing too much out of context. A delicate balance, but once again, a necessary evil. And it’s definitely an evil to any person who can be as impatient as I can be.