My son likes painting water colors. He showed us on his cell a picture of one he made for his young nephew–less than a year old. It was lovely. I was thrilled he did that. His nephew will appreciate the picture when he gets older. It so happened that we gave him a paint set for Hanukkah and Christmas. He was delighted with it. My wife bought the set for him. I still have two collages he made for me–one was for father’s day and he made a small one on a mirror. I do not see him often enough but when he is in the area, he makes an effort to see me, which I appreciate. I talk to him every few weeks briefly. I am glad we have that contact. All I know he gives great hugs.

What Is Creativity?!

Author: siggy

What is creativity?! If you are a composer, it is putting together the notes in a fresh way. If you are a musician, it is not simply playing the notes by rote, it is putting your feelings in it. If you are a writer, your composition feels fresh: it has cohesion. These are only a few quick observations what someone else’s creativity feels like.

‘It is contagious’: Tolstoy’s definition. You should have no doubt what the piece was about: anger, sorrow, grief, joy, etc. These feeling are conveyed instantly upon hearing the piece, viewing a picture, reading the piece whatever vehicle the person chose. Of course, these observations are not exhaustive by any means. This is just a quick sampling.

Things really do not make you happy.  They really don’t.  The only thing that does is love.  The people who are in your life whom you love.  I just came back from NYC where I met my sister and her husband briefly.  We went to an outstanding art museum (and NY is full of them).  First we had lunch or should I say brunch in an outstanding bagel shop.  I had something that is almost impossible to get in Pa–a good salt bagel.  I had come a long distance on Amtrak for this rendezvous to spend some time with my family or at least part of my family.  Then we walked around and viewed art in a nearby museum.  I was amazed how quickly I became tired.  After an hour and an half we sat and ate at the restaurant in the museum.  It was more to rest than to eat.  I was glad to see my sister and her husband.  They were in from California.  My family this year threw me a birthday party.  I can’t remember the last one thrown by my family.  It was my sister’s idea.  I did see the rest of my family that day at least my other sister and her husband.  I no longer remember whether my nephew was there and his wife.  I think they were.  It was a perfect day.  I will not forget it for awhile.  I did see my nephew (and his wife) on this trip to NY.  The train ride was fun.

More Than Anything Else

Author: siggy

I guess more than anything else from my written piece I want to know:  did my love come through?  I would rather my piece be poorly written but have my love come through.  If my writing is grammatically correct but says nothing it has failed.  Ideally it would be both.  I also want to know:  did you feel what I felt?  Did you have an inkling?  Were you there?  Did you want to be there?  Did my humanity come through?  Those are questions I am always interested in.  If the answer is “yes”, it is relatively simple to go back and clean up the language.  All that is simple when the “guts” of the piece are there.  If they are not, no fiddling with it will matter.  I am not always aware of the response.  The answers to those questions determine the success of my written piece.

Why is it your own “blood” does not validate you?  My writing growing up was always taken for granted by my immediate family–my mom and dad and two sisters.  In the beginning it was my letter writing.  In the sixties I started keeping a journal.  In the late seventies I wrote poetry.  And now I am going on the fifth year of keeping a web site and blog.  Both of my parents are now dead.  I am not sure if my two sisters ever go on my web sites.  They usually don’t comment on them.  My writing is who I am, what is going on which is important to me.

Gratefully my wife cares about my writing, as well as other friends.  I found out I had a talent for making people laugh at open mikes.  And that is a validation of my writing although humor is not the only type of writing I do.  I keep getting hits on my web sites and that is encouraging.  And occasionally I get a poem published in a literary magazine.  I guess we choose our friends.  We can’t choose our family.  Up till his dying day my father who lived until ninety-two was more impressed with money than anything I wrote.  I was a failure in that area.  That still hurts.  Sometimes you have to go outside of your family for validation.  And that was my case.

Every poem I write is pared to the essential.  That was the one lesson I had to learn over and over in my two years of creative writing.  The beauty of a written piece is always what is left out–the empty spaces.  I had to look at my poems repeatedly to see what was necessary to say.  I do not have to say something directly if it was said already even if was only said implicitly.  Some teachers may use the statement, “Show don’t tell”.  This is very difficult to do since it is my own work.  It is hard to view it objectively.  Of course, a good editor helps this process.  It is very common for a beginner to resist this process.  Everything they write they think is “gold.”

I am a little luckier than most:  my wife is a fine editor.  I do not hesitate to change something if her advice is on target.  If her criticism is right, I will make the necessary changes.  Your instincts have to be accurate.  If a line (or a phrase or a word) can be taken out and the poem still stands, it was not necessary.  Sometimes the opposite is necessary:  you need to add something.  There may be ambiguity you don’t want or maybe you want it there.  You, also, may have to rearrange some lines.  Your piece is not coherent.  The reader can’t follow the poem easily.  What are you trying to achieve with the piece?  Sometimes that is not an easy question to answer and may determine the changes you make.  You always have to make the decision when to leave the poem alone (and come back to it later) or whether it is even worth working on.  Every word has to count.

The beauty of a superb piece of writing (as a gorgeous musical composition) is what is left out–the empty spaces.  A writer does not want to confuse the writer (???) with clutter.  Every thing that is not necessary has been taken out.

You want every word, every phrase, every sentence and paragraph to matter.  I always said that an excellent editor is worth their weight in gold.  It is very difficult for the writer to see their piece objectively.

You always need someone from the outside who you trust for their advice on your written piece.  Sure you need to do everything you can before you submit your piece to someone else.

Nevertheless, at some point you need to present your piece to someone else for their opinion.  You have to be very careful who you choose and when to do this.  You have given your piece your all.

Now it is time to let someone else read it.  Everything that gets in the way has to be taken out or changed.  You want every word to count.  You can not do this by yourself.

“501 Must Visit Natural Wonders Of The World,” is a book I have that has extraordinary accompanying photos on glossy paper.  I think this book was a Christmas present to my wife.  I am sure I bought it in the discount bin of a big book store.

Every once in a while I open it up and view one amazingly beautiful photo after another.  Travelling is not an option for me.  It is not that I would not mind.

If you can’t view the beauty right in front of you, a trip to one of these spots would be a waste of time and money.  I do not feel impoverished.  I am still thrilled every spring when life awakens.

For that matter, winter has its own beauty.  The Susquehanna River viewed from the top of the valley still takes my breath away.  Snowfalls isolate the street I live on and all the trees that are covered with white.  This only happens a few times a year.

I still love watching the birds come to and fro my feeders I view out side our large living room window.  It was not that long ago that the slate covered juncos came back.  I have a friend that calls them ‘snow birds’.

I have no need to go far to see beauty.  You first have to see what is in front of you before you travel at great expense to see the foreign and the exotic.  I will leaf through this book but I will not lust after these places depicted in glossy photographs.

I know there is much to see in my own backyard so I don’t have to go far to see beauty.  I just have to open my eyes and pay closer attention.  Wonders are all around.

Life is full of the tedious but get past it.  Get past the mundane and other worlds you barely imagined will appear.  It is always a waiting game.  A game that entails patience.  Door after door will open but first you need to open them–one by one.  Do not be afraid.  Each new day is a challenge and each day is an eternity waiting to be opened and plucked by you.  The universe is always there just beyond so work through the mundane.  It is always a waiting game.  Watch for your opportunities.  And be patient.  Another universe is always in front of you.  Patience is always the key.  Pounce on the opportunities presented to you.  Reality is like an onion to be peeled away layer by layer.  And there is always another layer even when you believe you have peeled and exposed the last, final one.  Never give up.  And always take care of yourself.  There are no end of worlds to explore but first you have to extend yourself, go beyond the ordinary, go further until there is no more to be seen, felt.  And another door will open.  And another.  The doors are endless but you have to get beyond the ordinary, the usual, the bland.  Only then will you be surprised.

“How great art thou?” is a question that does not help a writer.  Of course, you will always have doubts of your talent.  Those doubts really do not help and all they do is split your concentration.

You are asking the wrong question.  The right question is to be, “Am I getting better?”  Not am I matching up to someone else’s work, which is implied in the question, “How great art thou?”

Only one person can answer the question, “Am I getting better.”  That is yourself.  All you can do is improve as a writer.  And the benchmark is your own work.

As far as publishing your work, that decision whether your work is accepted for publication is not yours.  Yes, you have to put it out there but you can not become overly concerned with that.

It prevents you from writing as well as you can if that is in back of your mind when you are writing and editing your work whether it will be published.  Your job is to get it as good as you can.  That is it.

I believe everyone has talent but somehow you have to get beyond anyone’s expectations including your own and write as honestly as you can with the least amount of affectation and be whoever you are.

You are who you are.  And when you can demonstrate that people will want to read what you have written.

The love we share of music is only by serendipity.  My wife and I both intensely love music.  We grew up listening to the same artists and groups.  She is also a musician, which I am not.  The only area she knows better than me is R&B, which I never went out of my way to listen to.

She is the recipient of my DJing every day.  And to me there is no greater joy than to share a beautiful piece of music, especially something she never heard.  Both of our tastes in music are eclectic:  we listen to a broad range of music.

I was responsible for her falling in love again with Peter, Paul & Mary.  She listened to the ninety minutes I put together of them on cassette repeatedly.

I have put together dozens of anthologies on cassette culled from my extensive music collection.  I must do a good job.  The cuts usually blend pretty well and she can’t tell always tell when they have come from different albums.

I have always gone deeply in particular groups and individual performers I have loved.  I sometimes surprise her with the material I have recorded of performers she knew well.

I turned her on to British folk rock–a world she had no idea of–Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span.  And performers from England like Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and John Tams for starters.

She was the third woman I turned on to Richard Thompson.  The second one divorced me.  The first one was a friend.  And we have gone to several of his concerts.  She has fallen in love with his songwriting and guitar playing.  We never get tired of him.

To be able to share my deep love of music with my wife is a gift.  And I never forget that.  It is a real treat.  When I am home, the stereo usually is on although I have to admit when I go out, silence reigns.  I never take that love we share for granted.  It is a real gift.

The Reality Of Can’t

Author: siggy

The reality of can’t.  There are some things we can not do.  Everyone is handicapped.  Of course, the handicaps are often invisible.  If there were thousands of talents in the world maybe you only possess several hundred.

The only tragedy of the word can’t is when you give up too soon and never find out what you can truly do.  And unfortunately that happens all the time.  That is why a computer can not replace a superb teacher (or parent or friend or mate) who can inspire you to greater heights.  No computer can do that.

Just realize there are some things you will never be able to do.  It is not one of your gifts.  Period.  And that is okay.  I believe each person I meet can do something well.  Much better than I ever can.  You just have to find his/her talent.

So don’t write off others, appreciate what they can do.  And accept your limitations.  But never give up on your talents.  Never.  Always try.  Don’t quit prematurely.

And it is not enough you can do something.  You have to want to.  That is another reality of the word.  Talent is not enough.  We are all wired differently.  So you have to listen to your mind and body.  And that is really part of the equation of the word can’t.