Thursday, March 11, 2021

An Unusual Breed

Mark Smith Photography

By Cheryl Oreglia

John Updike said about writing fiction, “nothing less than the subtlest instrument for self-examination and self-display that mankind has invented.” Meaning, we’re not only writing a story, we are revealing more than we know about our own quirks and nuances in between the lines of our story, like finding yourself naked in a dream, but you’re also running around trying to find a barrier for your nakedness ~ when there are none to be found. Such is the life of a writer.

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” Dorothy Parker

It’s as if you’ve agreed to have a live stream video attached to your home 24/7. As Dani Shapiro says, “we are constructing the very thing that holds us. We have nothing to latch on to. If beginnings and ends are shorelines, middles are where we dive deep, where we patch holes, where we risk drowning.” As Loyd Alexander says “fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”

The strange thing about being a writer, aside from the benefit of humiliating family and friends, is that it requires very little physical risk, but a shit load of courage. I’m not one to fill my bucket list with skydiving expeditions, scuba excursions, or mountain climbing but when I’m tucked in bed, slugging down my fourth cup of coffee, my thighs heated from balancing my MacBook for hours on end, the house empty, the dog asleep next to the bed, and a light rain is beginning to fall - I’m as fearless as Evil Knievel (the guy that broke every bone in his body, google him).

“Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential.” Jessamyn WestIt’s

It's as if I’m scuba diving for treasure, I stay down until I’m almost out of air, then using restraint I slowly rise to the surface, flushed with excitement. Most of the time I come up with nothing but an empty hand, maybe a broken shell, but on those rare occasions when I do find something of value, I hold it up to the light, positioning it for all to see. 

But as we all know courage and fearlessness are very different mobilities, courage asks us to do what we are compelled to do, feeling the fear, but doing it anyway.

Writers are a strange breed, don’t you agree? I mean who would prefer being cooped up in their room, avoiding life so they can try and tap into some deep-seated knowledge about the nature of humanity and the meaning of creation or a solution to the zombie Apocolypse? 

“I think horror, when done well, is one of the most direct and honest ways to get to the core of the human experience because terror reduces all of us to our most authentic forms.” Alistair CrossI

I can spend hours typing every little thought that comes into my head but I end up deleting more words than I keep. I have to remind myself that this isn’t normal, most people avoid writing, or find the task so distasteful they hire someone to write for them. So how is it I’ve come to believe they’re the crazy ones?

“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” Graham Greene

When I fail to make space for writing it’s as if I need a blood transfusion, the words pumping the rich oxygenated cells throughout my depleted body, without it I believe I would simply die?

I’ve been in a writing group for over a year now, we have always met on Zoom, as our formation happened at the beginning of the pandemic. Our group consists of nine people from around the world, half male, half female, different ages, temperaments, and ethnicities. We meet once a week to “encourage and support” one another. We’re more like a murder of crows, squawking about this and that, watching for subtleties in our writing, pushing each other to break out of ingrained patterns, fly out of formation so to speak, knowing we can bring each other to greater heights with the subtleties of gentle underpinning.

As Dani Shapiro says, “Each and every day that you approach the page, you are reaching for it once again. At times, it will elude you. At times, it will seem to have abandoned you. But in the face of this, be persistent, dogged, patient, determined. Remember that this moment, this day, is one stitch in a tapestry of days.” I love that.

It’s an occupation where one never actually arrives, we just glide with the wind of our thoughts, see where they take us, the destination matters not, it’s all about the journey.

"The only bird that dares to peck an eagle is the crow. The crow sits on the eagle's back and bites his neck. The eagle does not respond, nor fight with the crow; it does not spend time or energy on the crow, instead, he just opens its wings and begins to rise higher in the heavens. The higher the flight, the harder it is for the crow to breathe, and eventually, the crow falls off due to a lack of oxygen.

Learn from the eagle and don't fight the crows in life, just keep ascending, the detractors might be along for the ride but they'll eventually fall away. Do not allow yourself to succumb to the distractions...keep your focus on the things above and continue rising." Solara. 
“As for literary criticism in general: I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel or a play or a poem is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.” kurt Vonnegut
We are indeed an unusual breed, trained for a specific task, and therein lies our value, because it is both a privilege and an instinct to bring a banquet of stories to a starving world. 

Join me in the comments! Love to hear your thoughts on being a writer in the world today. 

“If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.” Martin Luther

When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, join me when you can. 

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