Probably Not the Blog You’re Looking For…

When I first started the blog, I had an idea of what I wanted it to be – something quaint, simple, and thoughtful. Something that didn’t rely on lists of Do and Do-Not’s, 10 Best Techniques of whatever. I wanted something personal and friendly, almost like a conversation with someone in your local coffee shop. Or a meet-up with a friend. Something that, at the very least, was consistent.

Well, here we are – halfway through my first real year of blogging – and I would consider this blog neither quaint nor consistent.

Rambling? Yes.
Simple? Probably.
Thoughtful? I like to think so.

The truth is, I had something of a chance of heart at the beginning of August, after celebrating First Harvest. I don’t want my blog to be just another author’s blog out there, giving out tips for writing scenes, or developing characters. There are far better and more qualified writers with blogs out there for that. I’m not that person. I don’t have a four-year degree in English or Creative Writing. I don’t have a dozen published novels or e-books out there for you to check out. And I may never have them and that’s okay.

I write because it makes me happy when I do. I write because I try to connect with people, places, and things that interest me, and writing helps me process and internalize those things.

There was a large gap in my usual posting because my concept of what I wanted this blog to be had changed and I was unsure how to move forward. Now, I have a better idea. It’s my hope that updates will be more consistent (there’s that word again) moving forward. There will be some difference in content, but the style of writing similar to previous posts.

There will be thoughts on seasonal things and nature, something I’m getting increasingly close to and aware of these days. There will be posts of poems and short fiction still, just as before, but there will be more personal non-fiction as well. Less emphasis on writing nuts and bolts, technique, but hopefully more actual writing.

If you’ve followed me this far, I hope you will remain. If you plan to leave after this, that’s fine…I understand.

Here’s to a new start and a better blogging journey…

With Mortified Fondness

In many ways, I was a typical teenager. I spent a great deal of time in my room. I listened to music and wished I was anywhere but where I was at any particular moment. And starting sometime during my sixth-grade year (I was eleven at the time), I started writing poetry.

I fell in love with Edgar Allen Poe. I had dedicated journals where I would painstakingly copy the flowery, overwrought poetry I’d ‘perfected’ on simple notebook paper several hours before, and I suspected that one day they would become collectors’ items when I was older and much, much more famous.

I still have those journals. Sometimes I open them up, sift through the pages, and feel mortified fondness for the poems written there.

My poetic style is more sparse than before; I became enamored with haiku and tanka and never really looked back. It is very difficult for me to write a poem that expands beyond a half a page. But that poetry was the beginning of so much more…

Like most poets (and writers in general), the same themes come up all the time in my work.

Despite what some think when they meet me in real life, my inner world can be quite dark and filled with shadows.

Themes of loneliness and heartbreak abound. A turbulent and fractured spirituality colors perception and experiences. The desire for connection is overwhelming and the emotional distance between myself and others seems quite real.

It’s one of the reasons I love Poe so much.

His work is romantic and melancholy, much of his work is somewhat autobiographical, and there is a spirituality in his words and his imagery that feels just as real as it is symbolic. It resonates for me now just as strongly as it did when I was an adolescent.

In addition to other projects, such as “The Bells of Reine” – a short fiction inspired in a loose sort of way by Poe’s poem “The Bells” – and my haiku anthology, I’m compiling a collection of poetry and short fiction entitled “Ophelia’s Tears”.

“Ophelia’s Tears” will explore themes of romance, heartbreak, my struggle with gender stereotypes, bisexuality, as well as darker elements like anger, trauma, and feelings of despair.

Some of those poems and short works will ultimately preview here on The Writings of J.S. White and I hope you enjoy them if, and when, they make their appearances. It is also my hope that they will resonate with you as much as Poe so often resonated with me.

Mind Like a Magpie’s Nest

I promised to expound on my newest projects: the short fiction “The Bells of Reine”, and a haiku anthology that is (for now) untitled but will cap out at a respectable one hundred poems.

Suffice it to say, the short fiction is personal and dear to my heart, which means I will agonize over it for quite some time, and the anthology needs more poems and some editing.

Now let us get to the heart of this post – ideas.

Ideas are my bread and butter as a writer and an ongoing goal of mine is to keep my proverbial pantry well stocked.

Sometimes the ideas flow like water. The dam breaks and I get a sudden rush of plot points, characters, backstory, settings, scenes. More often, the ideas trickle in…slow and sticky like molasses. The ideas come into my mind, but don’t move. Won’t develop. Stop and refuse to go any farther. I might get a character one day, a snippet of dialogue another, a string of conversation overheard morphs into a half-baked concept of a scene.

Many are terrible. Some are good. A shining few might earn the badge of originality.

I’m not one for idea notebooks. I buy notebooks with all the good intentions of using them for my project ideas, but inevitably, they end up sitting in some hallowed drawer in my house. Beautiful. Pristine. And very, very empty.

Most of my ideas are kept in my head or on random bits of paper or on the back of receipts hidden in yet another drawer. My mind is like a magpie’s nest and is full of such literary debris.

My favorite time to work is at night when everyone else has gone to bed. From my pile of papers or receipts, from the shadowy nooks and crannies of my mind, I recall a surprising number of those little tidbits and mull them over, or reconstruct them, or add to them. In this way, they are never left alone, but aged and curated.

And sometimes I just savor them, sipping their many flavors like fine wine, before squirreling them away again to enjoy or to work on another day.

Mind Like a Magpie’s Nest

I think that, like a magpie’s nest,
my brain is full of treasure.
Yet, none may see,
except for me,
how full the quiet pleasure
that combing through
those rubbish thoughts
gives my nighttime leisure.

Copyright © J.S. White

Picture was originally posted on an article by Newcastle Herald (11/23/2015) and is the work of Eleanor Lennard.

The WHY Behind Writing

Why do we write?

Is it simply to express ourselves and nothing more?

Is it therapeutic? Does it help us work through our problems or relieve our stress?

Do we write to turn a profit or to become a household name like Stephen King, or J.K. Rowling?

Do we write to express our opinions, illuminate the fallacies of the world, or implore the world to change its ways and seek peace and understanding?

Or perhaps we long to usher in a new golden age of literature.

There are as many reasons to write as there are writers, and there are just as many reasons or excuses that we use to dissuade ourselves from writing.

I was browsing through my Instagram feed and I came upon a post by an author and businessman who I’ve come to admire. Simon Sinek is his name. I became aware of him after reading his book Leaders Eat Last for a business class I was attending at the time. He speaks beautifully and simply about how our work and daily life needn’t conflict, that fulfillment at work needn’t be a dream of the few. In another, earlier book he wrote before the one mentioned above, he explains that in our life (whether professional or otherwise), if we can get to root of our WHY – the WHY behind what we do, then it doesn’t matter what it is we choose to do, we will find the enthusiasm and the drive to be successful and fulfilled.

My own reasons behind WHY I write are evolving even as we speak.

When I was a girl, reading books and dreaming all the things a young girl dreams, I wanted to write to bring my dreams to life. I could not live them and so I decided to live vicariously through my characters, to live a thousand lives in a thousand different lands. When I grew older, my girlishness turning into the contradictions of adolescence, my reasons morphed into a desire to give voice to the longings and emotions I suddenly felt so strongly I could burst with them. As I practiced and grew older still, I would write for the sheer joy of creating, for the freedom it gave me. In some ways, I still do.

But now, as I come upon my mid-thirties (I will turn thirty-five in October), I find my reasons are changing yet again. Now I long for connection.

With my worlds, my words, my writing, I long to connect to the deep well of humanity’s experiences. To find friends where others might only see enemies, hope where there appears to be nothing but despair. To connect with the emotions and dreams that churn deep within our collective souls. And perhaps, in connecting with others, I will connect with even deeper parts of myself.

So, in the spirit of connection, dear readers, I ask you the same question I have been asking myself these days.

What is the WHY behind your writing?

It doesn’t matter what you answer might be. Your reason can be singular, or your reasons might be legion.  So long as you know them when they speak to you, so long as you listen to their promptings, and do not silence them…that’s what matters.