What is "Doom Eager"?

Lorrie Moore, from "Better and Sicker"
"Martha Graham speaks of the Icelandic term "doom eager" to denote that ordeal of isolation, restlessness, caughtness and artistic experiences when he or she is sick with an idea. When a writer is doom eager, the writing won't be sludge on the page; it will give readers -- and the writer, of course, is the very first reader -- an experience they've never had before, or perhaps a little and at last the words for an experience they have."

Monday, January 17, 2011

words of courage and hope from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this day of celebration, a day set aside to recognize the birth of a great leader, a beacon of hope and transcendence, some words from the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

It is incumbent upon each individual to act upon the "urgency of now" to move society forward in whatever capacity each is able.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Faulkner on a "formula to follow to be a good novelist"

Faulkner's advice to those working to become a good novelist is taken from a 1956 interview for The Paris Review:

Interviewer: Is there any possible formula to follow in order to be a good novelist?

Faulkner: Ninety-nine per cent talent . . . 99 per cent discipline . . . 99 per cent work. He must never be satisfied with what he does. It never is as good as it can be done. Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. An artist is a creature driven by demons. He don't know why they choose him and he's usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done.

Interviewer: Do you mean the writer should be completely ruthless?

Faulkner: The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is worth any number of old ladies.

In what ways must we be "ruthless" for our art? I know when I was teaching I had nothing in me to give at the end of the day for my writing. I became content to watch my students learn and advance and create while I stood at the sidelines, cheering them on. Although my "only responsibility" cannot be solely to my art, I will know no peace until my book is written.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

help creativity flow in the new year

"It all begins when the soul would have its way with you." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

If opening up "the soul" allows our creativity to flow, in this new year here's hoping we will all engage in activities to open "the soul" (whatever that term may mean personally) and help our creativity flow.

Here are ten of my favorite techniques for pumping the creative juices:

1. Taking a walk.
2. Reading poetry.
3. Tasting new foods.
4. Creating new recipes in the kitchen.
5. Listening to music.
6. Imagining "What if ... ."
7. Reading the first paragraph of a novel.
8. Recording my dreams
9. Experiencing great art.
10. Imagining life through another's eyes and heart.

Happy New Year, all, and keep the literary faith in 2011.