Still Sweeping excerpt by J.G. Chayko (published 2011)
A writer friend of mine posted on his social media page: “some days I feel like everything is going wrong and some days I feel like everything falls into place.”
Most days of writing can be a struggle. It takes work to craft that perfect piece we finally deem ready for the public eye. While we all want those easy days where the right words come in the right order at exactly the right time, I realize that our successes would not be quite as sweet without the struggle. It’s because of our failures and frustrations that we achieved success in the first place. Those labours are the core to our success – they are our passions, our efforts, our desire and our inspirations. Without them, it wouldn’t feel nearly as rewarding. It’s those frustrations and setbacks that drive us to keep going. They teach us to dig deeper, push harder, take a second and even a third look and make us question if it is really our best work.
Life would not be stimulating if everything was just handed to us. We would lose our ability to imagine, we would lose the remarkable creativity that defines us. What would we learn if we never had to struggle? There’d be no impetus to do the things we love if we sat down and wrote a perfect piece every single time. What would happen to our curiosity that took us there in the first place?
That’s the roller coaster, the topsy-turvy unpredictable world of an artistic life. We will, and should, have these days – and when we achieve the triumphswe worked so hard for, we can be thankful for those times where everything seemed to be going wrong.
“It seems like New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken – at least that’s what it feels like for me. Every year I envisioned these grand sweeping dreams and every year those dreams floated away from my reach, bursting like delicate soap bubbles.
Lost in the shadow of my grand promises, however, I somehow achieved a cluster of small goals I failed to recognize as accomplishment. In fact, as it turned out, many of my finest moments and triumphs in the last year were due to the surprising result of broken resolutions.”– J.G. Chayko, The Old Lady in My Bones.
Sometimes we accomplish more in a year than we realize. I hope that everyone can take a moment to celebrate the small victories hidden in the pages of our lives. No matter how big or small, every achievement should be celebrated. I look forward to picking up my pen, gathering my notebooks, opening a new word document and rediscovering the triumphs waiting in another year of broken resolutions – one day at a time, one word at a time, one story at a time.
Cheers to all for a very happy, healthy and creative New Year in 2017.
Contrary to popular belief, writers actually do (and must) participate in a life outside of our own secluded world – I can’t always be at my desk, but no matter where I go or what task I am currently performing, my mind is constantly in motion, spinning out chunks of dialogue, visualising settings and chasing plots.I write down as much as I can when I’m on the road, hoping I can call it up again when I’m ready to work. It doesn’t always turn out that way – sometimes I come to the desk and my muse doesn’t. Those incredible images that were filled with color two days ago are black and white; the fantastic dialogue has silenced; my characters are nowhere to be found.
This happens to all of us at one time or another. We show up for work but our muse and our literary characters have clearly made other plans. It used to be that when this happened, I walked away from the desk and went back to daily life, just hoping my muse would reappear in a glittering shower of inspiration. Nothing is more frustrating than showing up at my desk and staring at the screen for two hours, wondering if there was something else I could have been doing instead of wasting time – as it turns out, there is.
In his book “On Writing”, Stephen King states: “if you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot”. It so happened that one day I came to the desk and the words didn’t come with me, so in an effort to spark some motivation, I picked up his book, opened it to the page where this sentence was written (page 145 for your reference), and stumbled upon a new awareness: reading is not only an enjoyable pastime, but it is a big part of my work as a writer. I am learning about my craft and staying in my writing mind when I come to the desk.
Now I don’t get frustrated when the words don’t come – I use that time to read. It’s another way for me to keep coming to the desk. It’s the purest form of research. It’s enjoyable, inspiring and most important, it keeps me focussed. Reading about writing or reading about the experience of other authors, will ultimately ignite a road flare that summons my muse back to me.
When do you call yourself a writer? This seems to be a complicated dilemma for many. Some people feel they can’t truly call themselves a writer until they’ve received some sort of exceptional endorsement for their work. I disagree.
There is no test, no exam, no screening method, no extraordinary circumstance that suddenly makes one “a writer.” When people ask me when I called myself a writer, I tell them I called myself a writer the first moment I picked up a pen. Before my first publication, before my first meager payment for a short story, I was a writer. A publication or a payment should never define you as such – short stories, poetry, memoir, novels, essays or blog posts – quite simply, if you write you are a writer. All you need to do is do it.
I mainly write fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry, but every now and then I like to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself by writing in a new genre. And anytime that challenge helps out with a cause, it brings with it a delightful feeling of satisfaction.
Here is a review I wrote for a local show produced by The Page Theatre, a wonderful little up and coming theatre company created by a friend of mine through her passion and love for theatre. Since their creation almost four years ago, they have produced four shows, taking one of them all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It’s no easy feat trying to get a theatre company (or any company) off the ground, but if I can help them out on their creative journey, and develop my own skills along the way, I will gladly do so.
Sometimes the only thing I need to inspire me is a quiet place to call my own; a creative sanctuary that unlocks my imagination and leads me to new possibilities. I am always seeking different places to stimulate my creativity – parks, coffee shops, libraries, restaurants, museums – but in the spring and summer months, my creative refuge can be found in my own backyard – or in this case, my patio.
When the sun makes its reappearance and the mercury begins to climb, I often retreat to the comfort and harmony of my patio. Everything I need is at my fingertips, just by stepping over the threshold and back into my home, but my patio offers me a barrier against the distractions of daily life and technology. I can leave my phone inside, knowing it is safe from light fingers; I can make my own tea and get refills at my own discretion; I can absorb the beauty of the great outdoors without taking precious time to drive or walk anywhere else; I can arrive in seconds, leave and return again in the same moment. My music is the chirrup of robins and chickadees, the haunting cry of seagulls; my stimulus are the people in my neighborhood, my solace is the flow of words that trickle out with the hiss of sprinklers in nearby yards. The constant motion of the outdoors is the white noise I can tune in or out of at will. In my writing sanctuary, I can cultivate my words and watch my stories bloom alongside my garden.
“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.”
The blank page is the writers’ canvas. Don’t be intimidated by its stark whiteness, its vacant stare, its arrogant lines undulating across the page – know it is there to fuel your imagination and give you permission to write anything you desire. It is not there to restrict or impose rules but to inspire, to animate and excite. The blank page is the window to new worlds, new characters, new places, new happenings – it invites you to write down every emotion, memory, secret or vision. It is our friend, our rival, our therapist, our lover, and our companion. It plays devil’s advocate driving us to reveal our most intimate thoughts – and out of the jumble that gushes onto the page, we will unearth the stories we are destined to cultivate.