Sketches: Introduction

Sketches

Gentle Reader,

As discussed previously, I don’t want to stop writing but I also don’t exactly know what to write about at this time. And so, an invitation. I would like you to play the role of newspaper editor. What would you like me to write about? I ask not in an attempt to go viral or shape myself to please an audience, but as a creative muscle-building exercise.

We’ll call this series “Sketches.” It’ll go on for however long it goes on. Through comments, the Facebook page or the contact form, send me your ideas. A word, a sentence, a topic. Serious, silly and anything between. I will do my level best to craft something in response. Honestly, I quite like this idea, for it changes this space from a monologue to a dialogue, which we desperately need more of in this world.

To kick things off, let us consider the word: introduction.

I don’t remember when I first came to love Britain. It must have something to do with Mary Poppins, which remains my favorite movie to this day. She is everything I would like to be – in control, beloved and respected, yet quite mischievous. I have a vague memory of attempting to work out how I could make my voice sound like that of Julie Andrews. (Not her singing voice; this alto/tenor will never hit those notes). Those childhood musings introduced me to the wonderfulness that is accents and impersonation, which in turn provided evidence that I could make people laugh, and thus often talk myself out of trouble.

History textbooks came home with me many evenings. I was probably the only child in the class who never understood why the Colonies chose to rebel against King George III. (I still don’t. We can fight about it later). By my teen years, I had strong opinions on Ethelred the Unready (a fabulous play on words), Anne Boleyn (never to be regarded as some saint of the Reformation), the East India Company (a bunch of criminals) and other topics that few were interested in discussing, save for the handful of students who joined me in Advanced Placement European History, where the jokes about popes and Poland flew fast and furious.

Documentaries, maps, photos and books galore fanned the growing flame of love. Alison Weir gained a forever fan as I read (and re-read) The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She was soon joined by David Starkey, Antonia Fraser, Winston Churchill, Lucy Worsley and so many others. I embraced Jane Austen and loathed Charles Dickens. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when Princess Diana died. Wrestled through Shakespeare and John Donne. Played a not-witch and squire named Patsy in scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I was, am and shall remain an Anglophile.

In 2009, I finally got the chance to visit the country I had dreamed of for so many years. I wrote about that trip, though I wish I had written more. London, Bath and Edinburgh in a dizzying and all-too short ten days. Set my computer aside for a good fifteen minutes just now, to leaf through stuffed photo albums. Lunches in Kensington Gardens. Hours spent in the National Gallery. Minding the gap. Late afternoon tea breaks in quiet cafes. Being warmly welcomed by a group of drunk Scotsmen. (At the time, I felt more relaxed in Edinburgh, despite the red-haired man who poked his fingers liberally into our food, but now…my heart beats for London).

How I long to return! I felt quite at home there. Strange, I suppose, for a crowd-averse, anxious person, born and raised in the Inland Northwest where nothing much ever happens. If money were no object, I’d hop on the first plane headed toward Heathrow. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, “America is my country and London is my hometown.”

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For all posts in the Sketches series, go here.

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Just a Bit of Creative Crisis, Please

Where Now

Gentle Reader,

If this is the first time you’ve ever come across this little blog, first, welcome. Second, apologies. You find me in the midst of wrestling with what direction all this writing is meant to take. Such a “creative person” stereotype, to be filled with doubt, questions and even a bit of self-loathing when considering what it means to have been out here, online, for over a decade. To think about the dozens of journals I have filled since age 12. To sift through sketches, ideas, bits and pieces that have yet to see the light of publication.

That word – decade – is probably what’s causing the consternation. You see, we never stop growing up. At least, we aren’t supposed to. Each new ten-year span brings about change. I remain as curious and thoughtful as I was when I was a child, but there is no doubt that the woman who stares back at me from the other side of the mirror is not the same person she was even a year ago.

There is an itching underneath my skin, the kind that cannot be soothed by potions or ointments. Something is coming. A change whistles on the wind. A longing for…what, I don’t know.

Certainly not fame. There are, of course, times when I covet the spot at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, but I would be a terrible famous person. I want to be able to go places and do things without interference. Essentially, I mind the obscurity less and less. Truly, most of us labor in obscurity. The James Patterson’s of the world, who are able to churn out several books a month, are rare. And, candidly, wedded to a formula. There’s nothing wrong with that; after all, the famous authors are famous for a reason. They are able to quickly discern what works for them and keep at it. The rest of us, we put out some good things, even some great things, but there’s a lot of dross surrounding.

Sadly, I suspect that I am in what I shall term a “dust period,” a time of writing nothing very special at all. It is tempting to step away from here until the magic of inspiration strikes again. All writers need breaks. In fact, a very important part of the creative process is found in doing things like staring out the window, reading about the Treaty of Utretcht, cuddling the newest goddaughter and generally finding anything to do but write all while feeling vaguely guilty that the writing isn’t being done.

But then…I think about what I want this blog to be about. What I want my writing to be about. The words of my journalism adviser roll around in my mind: “Tell the story, whatever the story is.” The truth is that life isn’t always glorious and inspired. More often, it’s mundane. Pulling weeds in the garden, folding laundry (again), wondering what shape my hair is going to take today (as all curly-headed people know, you do not control the hair, the hair controls you), drinking coffee, mild bickering with the husband over what to watch on television. Another truth – writing is much more cussed determination than it is talent. I keep doing it not because I am the best, or hope to ever be the best, but because there is no alternative. Perfection is the impossible dream, right up there with Don Quixote’s quest. If I were to wait for the “right time” or the “best subject,” then I’d never write again.

So – I don’t know where we’re going from here, but I do know that we won’t stop going. Just, perhaps, instead of boldly the scaling the heights of spiritual Mount Everests, we’ll walk through quiet neighborhoods, allowing ourselves to take the slow, less glorious path. Instead of searching these words for brilliance or entertainment, rather imagine yourself linking arms with me, looking ahead, as we talk about everything and nothing at all.

Cozy little picture, isn’t it?

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