Category Archives: writing

Skillful Means

I know that one of the key elements to success as a writer is simply to write a lot. I mean, that goes for any skill, creative or otherwise, though we seem more willing to do it when it’s an obviously technical skill, like mechanical engineering or something, and far less so when it’s a creative endeavor. But art, music, writing…they all take skill to do well too. We are so enamored of the notion of creative genius and pure raw talent that we tend to eschew the importance of skill. The contemporary “Art World” often touts concept over craft, as if one can successfully convey (even a brilliant) concept without skill; and most any skill can become an art, they are not mutually exclusive. It all depends on how you do it.

When I make soup, say, I often follow a recipe. Sort of. Truth is, I tend not to remember exact proportions, even if it’s something I’ve made a hundred times, so I refer to the originating recipe for guidance in that area. But then I inevitably make my own adjustments, using the recipe as the basic structure and then ornamenting it as I see fit. I replace herbs and spices, I alter quantities, I switch out ingredients. That is the art in my cooking, but the knowledge of what is reasonable and tasty to substitute, and how much I can alter the quantities without throwing off the consistency, texture, and integrity of the thing? That is a skill based on years and years of practice.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ gave a TED Talk about the nature of genius, and the origin of the term. She talks about how, to the ancient Greeks, the genius was a sort of house spirit that helped you with your work. If you were successful, well you couldn’t get too swelled a head about it because it was actually only half your work, and if you weren’t successful, you couldn’t get too crushed because it was only half your fault. It is a comforting thing to me and it removes the romance of genius just a bit. In our American culture we glorify the individual, the self-made man, the talented genius who gets discovered and makes it big, all the while dismissing the multitude of contributions we all make to each other’s lives and the amount of skill and hard work it takes to develop “genius.”

I propose that we choose to romanticize toiling together for the collective good and to build our skill level at participating in all aspects of life. I propose that we fall in love with reality and lived experience. I propose that we use our skill to glorify the pursuit of skill.

What do you say, are you in?

Crowned by Star and Sky, a collection of works dedicated to the Queen of Heaven

So, some amazing friends of mine are publishing a zine called Crowned by Star and Sky. It’s gorgeous and scholarly and interesting and wonderful. You should check it out, just in general. AND, in a burst of shameless self-promotion, I’m also going to mention that I made a piece of work that is included in the latest issue (and was even used for cover art! woot!).

But you should check out both published issues because there’s lots of other great stuff in there. Plus, you should consider submitting something for future issues! For real.

The Longing

Would that I could quell this restless longing, it will not leave me be.
Like a stormy sea it rises and falls, pushing me far beyond the ken of land. In truth, I have been so long without, I cannot aver its actuality. I know not whether I would even recognize my own landing, since sands are just as shifty as the sea.

Hanging above me in silent benevolence, the moon illuminates my intemperate journey, describes an erratic path through this swell of inchoate desires. She is cool, remote, unmoved by any appeal; no longing disturbs her mild countenance as she gazes down through mist and spray to the teeming souls of earth.
Above, not among, she smiles at me. I know that I am animal, not celestial, and yet I am. Both.
The gravity of knowing pulls at my molecular bonds, rattling my heart in my chest and the thoughts in my head. It does not rest easy in my body.

I believe that enlightenment is the integration of disparate forces of material and numina, but to achieve it I needs must put aside my desire. Desire is sticky and clings to my fingers, it is beautiful and sad, lilting and radiant, and I can resist all but temptation.
That is a lie, I resist temptation at every turn. So deeply that my muscle memory has forgotten how to accede, though my heart remains a wild beast banging against the bars of its cage and roaring to no one. I muffle it as best I can with shrouds of circumspection while the roaring in my ears grows still deeper, a vibrato note that tingles in my teeth and fingertips.

Little beast in my body, lie quiet. Rest with me in this sea of stars until we come upon a welcoming shore, until the gentle murmur of earth ripples softly over us, until the breath of bird wings fills the silence and joy substantiates.
And then be free.

Tread

How many doors open, how many doors closed?
Moving through them each by each, sometimes you cannot tell until you get there
Sometimes I fear there are no more open doors
Sometimes the intractable shutness is cool water on a burn
Denial and affirmation elaborate their swirling dance as summer builds
Another summer, another spin, another tumble toward dissolution
Green shoots are rumoured to follow
Which door will that be?