There's an old wisecrack that goes, "Be careful
what you pray for. You may get it." But what about those things we pray,
or yearn, for that never move any closer to realization? Sometimes the praying
or yearning isn't followed by any positive steps to get us closer to where we
want to go. Sometimes the answer is that what we want isn't possible.
Most of us, I suspect, have had at least one
relationship in our lives that somehow got lost. After the fact, we wonder what
Dealing with strong emotions is a problem for
left-brain writers like me. I tell people, "I can do romance, but I can't
write about it." Grief is another problem area, a lesson I've had to learn
and relearn. Sometimes having a focus for grief makes me shudder inside, until
I have to face it.
As my friends know, my wife and I are partial to
cockatiels. We adopted our first one as a baby, naming him "Crockatiel
Dundee," or "Crock" for short. His constant affection helped to
sustain us through some hard times in our family.
We've all heard, "A picture is worth a thousand
words." In the age of Photoshop, that probably understates the case.
Nowadays, even amateurs can alter photos to present a very different impression
from the impression the image creator intended. A photo can speed a lie on its
way faster than the human brain can respond.
As writers, though, it's more interesting to consider
how a photograph can convey a truth with an indelible intensity. As a former
history teacher, when I have the chance to visit a historic site, my minds runs
through my stored collection of images.
When my aunt readTangled
Woods and Dark Waters, she asked me, "Where do you get the names of
all these people?" In contrast to my story ideas, that answer is easy:
Over a forty-year professional career, I met thousands of people, many from
other countries. When I need to name a character, I can dip into my basket of
memories and scramble the names to create new personas. If you make the proper
disclaimers, you can get away with a lot in these arena. Read any of Pat
Conroy's novels and you'll see the names of his friends show up
(coincidentally) in the names of his characters.
Probably every serious writer has had the experience
of fielding the question, "Where do you get your ideas from?" If I
have to answer that question off the cuff, I generally say, "Out of the
woodwork" or perhaps, "Out of the ether." Over the next few
weeks, I'll be going into some background of the tales inTangled Woods and Dark Waters. Let me just kick off this discussion
with some general thoughts. For those who'd rather read their own meanings into
these stories, fine.
The late J.M. Juran, industrial quality guru, referred to "life behind the quality dikes" as a way of denoting how dependent we are on the things which stand between us and disaster. Yesterday's terrorist outrage in Nice is but one example of how we normally expect to go about our daily business, free from danger.
It doesn't take a terrorist attack, though, to bring home the force of Juran's words. My home state of South Carolina suffered an inundation of Biblical dimensions last October.
It's probably inevitable, given the fact that we are in the midst of the centennial of World War I, that a number of highlights or lowlights of that epic slaughter get special mention. Today, at the midpoint of 2016, Europe observes the 100th anniversary of the First Day at the Somme.
In a war that saw many days of horror, July 1 is particularly infamous in the English-speaking world. Two hundred thousand men from Britain and the British Empire went over the top. Sixty thousand of them were struck down; over nineteen thousand of them were dead or missing.
I will confess: I didn't see it coming. Of course, I'm referring to the vote in favor of Brexit. To my American eyes, it seems like a raspberry toward the outside world, a world that had come to seem heedless of English wishes.
Therein lies the problem: The pro-Brexit vote was drawn heavily from England outside Greater London. Londoners voted to stay in the EU, as did residents of Scotland and Northern Ireland. There have already been rumbles in the latter two regions about a possible breakaway from the United Kingdom.
Mark Twain once said, "History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes." Looking at the shape of American politics this year, I think he was onto something important. Namely, that the hopes (fears) with which we invest our candidates are cyclical, except that we often don't recognize what's happening.
What do I mean? Just this: there is very little about Donald Trump that's surprising. Anyone who looks at the less-than-golden past of our elections can pick up echoes of things Huey Long might have said, or Father Coughlin, or George Wallace.
We always remember "the day of," don't we? In my parents' generation, there were the obvious dates - December 7, 1941 being the perhaps the first . Perhaps more significant are those more personal - wedding days, the birth of children, anniversaries, retirement parties, funerals. For my generation (I'm giving my age away), November 22, 1963 was the first great national trauma. Perhaps our children remember January 28, 1986 (Challenger disaster), but for most of them, September 11, 2001 is the one always burned into the memory circuits.