Category Archives: Geroge I


I catch the movie Meet Joe Black and finally see it beginning to end–I’ve only ever seen the ending. I am stunned by Brad Pitt’s beauty. He’s playing Death, and I think, what if death really is this beautiful?

It’s over, Anthony Hopkins’ character says. He means his life. The words reverberate. What a moment that must be: when you know to your core that you are going to die. Does that realization change you? Cleanse you? Purify? Electrify? What? It seems like it would have to shade the acts of living a precious vibrant purple, a bold, deliberate red.

And at the end, before Hopkins walks away with beautiful death, he says to the people gathered to celebrate his birthday, I want nothing more.

I’m reminded of a Sufi poem by Rumi:

On the day I die, when I’m being carried toward the grave

don’t weep,

don’t say “he’s gone! he’s gone!”

 Death has nothing to do with going away.

The sun sets and the moon sets

but they’re not gone.

 Death is a coming together.

The tomb looks like a prison 

But it’s really release into Union.

 The human seed goes down in the ground

like a bucket into the well where Joseph is.

It grows and comes up full of some unimagined beauty.

 Your mouth closes here

and immediately opens with a shout of joy


in and out of light

It’s late afternoon, and he goes into the bedroom, the little spirit, my youngest grandson not quite three who lights my life right now. Rainbows, he calls out excitedly, and I see that the afternoon sun has sent its prisms through the cut glass set high in the bathroom wall, and colors are here and there on both the bathroom and bedroom floors. I forgot, I tell him. You forgot, he repeats, as he steps into their colors and moves about in happiness. She forgot, he tells the colored light. Nana forgot.

I do forget to walk into my bedroom in the afternoon and see this tiny spectacle of light. I forget to be glad of it. I forget to feel wonder, but my latest angel reminds me. He is moving out of angel stage, into little boy, into maneuvering and understanding this world of ours. But right now, he steps in and out of light.

I do the same, inside. Do you?



How do I wrap up what I know about the care and feeding of the writer within? By reminding that each writer is unique, a special bundle of drama and memory and insecurity, and each writer must figure him or herself out to create long work or continual work. That understanding your inner writer is as important as writing because when you block or stall, often it has to do with the conditions under which the inner is laboring or the fear the inner is experiencing.

To steal a factoid from a wonderful talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about inspiration on TED:  perhaps the muse is an outside thing, a gift given whether we deserve it or not, and therefore it isn’t our fault that the creative process is so capricious. And, as Ken Atchity says, the muse  can visit while we’re in a project; in other words, that we don’t have to wait for inspiration to show up and set us afire. We can take the steps and have her surprise us along the way. Discipline helps the writer, orients him or her, but too much discipline, and at the wrong time, breaks the spirit.

There is a wonderful book, Writing the Natural Way, that uses clustering, a seemingly random gathering of right brain memory, to begin writing. I think clustering is a great fallback in the middle of a hard project or as a beginning to one. I think clustering can help unblock. You may find out more about you than the plot, but that is likely what you need to know anyway.

And finally, I end my little series on the care and feeding of your writer with lines from a poem, Family Reunion. The lines I’ve chosen describe the fragility of creativity within me, the care it needs, its innocence, and most of all, its knowing.

….most are cut off from their own/histories, each of which waits/like a child left at day care.

What if you turned back for a moment/and put your arms around yours?/Yes, you might be late for work;/no, your history doesn’t smell sweet/like a toddler’s head. But look

at those small round wrists/ that short-legged, comical walk./Caress your history–who else will?/Promise to come back later.

Pay attention when it asks you/simple questions:  Where are we going?/Is it scary? What happened? Can/I have more now? Who is that?

How are you caring for your writer?


How does discipline play in the care and feeding of your writer? It has a bigger role than you imagine: not enough and you feel terrible; too much and you burn out. Ken Atchity writes in his A Writer’s Time that you should work on your project whether or not you feel the muse. She’ll show up eventually, he says, and it might as well be for something that matters.

My own experience is that I have to show good faith on a long project (for me, a novel), but that the not knowing where I’m going and the deadend writing that is the process of that wears and tears emotionally, and I have to step back sometimes, give myself a break away. This is when I head for morning pages or when I try to write a haiku every day, something that keeps me engaged with the act of writing but isn’t the process that is currently busting me.

I also have to find a balance of discipline, which means when I’m in a hard stage of a big writing process not writing so long and so hard that I exhaust myself, another of Atchity’s tips for the long haul on a project.

This is also where you use the tricks of stopping in the middle of a scene or knowing exactly the first sentence you will write the next day. (The mind rewrites it, but you mustn’t until time to sit down and do it.) And when in a hard project, you work until the point before exhaustion or depression. That way, you keep faith with the project, and yet you protect that part of yourself that is terrified you won’t be able to do whatever it is you’re aiming for.

Bonni Goldberg in her Room to Write has a great writing prompt: give your muse a look and give it a voice, too. Picture it, and then write what it says to you. I do this exercise every year in my writing class, and every year, the muse is so kind to the writers, so much kinder than the writers are to themselves.

Hope is a thing with feathers/That perches in the soul… of its faces is creativity.