Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Writing the Stress Away

For the past month and a half, I've felt more depressed than normal, with many of the symptoms you'd expect: lack of motivation, fatigue, tearfulness, et cetera. Functioning well is a challenge. One day, my crying was so hysterical that even my dog thought I was being too extra, so she left me in favor of a quieter spot elsewhere in the house.

One night, I was faring particularly badly, even though I'd watched a fun movie and taken special care to shower well, have a marginally proper meal, and clean my room a little. Uncertain of what I should do next, I finally decided to sit down and write a blog post about something I'd thought of earlier in the day.

And I felt so much better when I was writing.

This isn't always the case. But on that occasion, it worked. I'm not surprised; after all, writing has long been recognized for its therapeutic value, along with art (at this point, I must pause to give my alma mater, Lesley University, a shout-out for their excellent expressive therapies program). In fact, I seriously considered studying writing therapy myself, before other interests eclipsed that one--and after I decided I didn't want to take a statistics class, obviously.

My academic history aside, writing can prove to be a useful outlet for all sorts of people. In my case, it's not something I've ever pursued for that purpose; rather, it's an imperative, something I have to do. But I encourage anyone who might be looking for a way to blow off some steam to pick up a pen and see what happens. It might just be the prescription for which you've searched.

-Cate-

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

MaWhitdonManNa, or Getting Your American On

Let's talk about Madonna and Walt Whitman for a minute.

Maybe it's an unorthodox pairing. But frankly, these two work well together: each taking in as much as they can, whipping it around in their personal brain-blenders, and then spitting something out and sharing it with the masses. Plus they're both uniquely American, albeit in different ways: Madonna the gregarious, outspoken, spotlight-seeking variety in the vein of Benjamin Franklin (don't fight me on this), Whitman the contemplative, wordsmithing, diplomatic type along the lines of Thomas Jefferson (I'm telling you: it's true).

The thing that really unites them, though, is their proclivity for tinkering. Madonna has been on 10 tours--9 of them worldwide--and many of her songs have been rejiggered along the way. "La Isla Bonita" seems to be one of her favorite tunes to reinvent, as she's introduced new versions of it on 5 separate tours, in addition to the album and radio cuts.


Does this sound like anyone we know? Perhaps--could it be--Uncle Walt? He of the multiple revised/expanded printings of his landmark work, Leaves of Grass? Why, yes it is.


And this is also a mark of their American nature: the constant need for improvement. Ours is not a nation that feels comfortable letting something stand if it needs to be fixed. We're at our best when we take what has been good about our past and bring it into the present. That way, we honor both history and progress; that's why the Constitution has had amendments added to it throughout the years.

So maybe let's look to the examples of Madonna and Whitman and try to forge ahead, better than we were yesterday.

-Cate-

Images via here and here.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Best Part of Being a Writer

As you may know, I'm an official Goodreads author, and one of the coolest functions of an author's profile, as far as I'm concerned, is the part where we get to answer questions. Recently, Goodreads sent a question to me that piqued my interest in such a way that I wanted to take an entire post--rather than a short paragraph--to discuss it: what is the best thing about being a writer?

This question is so wide open as to lend itself to debate, and indeed, I can think of several options that may be worth exploring. But for me, the best part is having the opportunity to move people.

For many years, I resisted poetry because I was taught by teachers who espoused some variation on that old saw: "This is the only valid way to interpret this poem." I wasn't about that life, and it put me off the idea of verse. When I was in college, however, new ways of approaching all types of literature, and especially poetry, were available to me. It was then that I decided something important about my own work: as long as the reader gets SOMETHING out of it, I have done my job as a writer.

This doesn't mean that I don't have my own ideas about what an individual poem or story says. Obviously, I know what I was trying to convey. What it DOES mean, however, is that I want to hear what others have to say about my work, and my biggest wish is that they will be able to make some meaningful connection with any given piece. 

Because if I'm putting my writing out into the world, there is no point whatsoever in producing it only for my own sake. There is (I assume/hope) a reader on the other end who may have an unexpected reaction to my words, and that's okay, and I want to hear about it, too! If you're having a bad day and feel relieved because one of my poems let you know that someone else was experiencing the same thing, great! If you're in love and one of my stories speaks to those feelings inside you, fantastic! Even if you're reviled by something I've written, I have still elicited a reaction, and I want to know about your disgust. 

Basically, I most enjoy having the chance to interface with others. As an introvert, it can be incredibly difficult for me to make new friends or even acquaintances, and readers help me as much as I aim to help them. Other writers may say they most love creating their own worlds, or the thrill of seeing their name on the cover of a book, and nothing is wrong with either of those motivations. I'm simply approaching it from a more humanistic perspective.

Read on, y'all. And tell me what you think about my words!

-Cate-