Yay for stream-of-consciousness blogging today…?
What’s that, you say? Why am I going all last-minute random on this post?
Because I’m a slacker…we’ve covered that already. Sheesh.
There was a time — not so long ago — when I kept 2-3 posts queued up, ready to go. Those days, unfortunately, have long-since passed in a fog laziness and distraction. So, instead, I sat down this morning, music blaring in my ears and my 2nd coffee (pot) of the day near at hand, and stared blankly at my iPad…
Should I do another random, funny post? No, not really feelin’ all that funny this morning.
How about a flash fiction piece? No, that’s for Fridays.
Maybe another politics post? Oh, hell no. I just took a shower, I don’t need to get down into the muck and mud, thank you very much.
Well, shit…maybe it’s time to, err, do a post on what this blog is ostensibly about: writing.*
*I should probably, by the way, update the “About” section of the blog, it hasn’t been anything close to the reality of how I write this in like two years.
Screw my iPad, I’m looking out the window now. I’m looking out at the tail end of a snowstorm, at a grove of bare aspens half-buried in the drifts, at a frozen lake in the distance and a herd of deer digging for breakfast in the foreground, at an adolescent bobcat frustrated as hell because she’s too small to actually get one of those deer…
Err, yeah, I left the city behind for a reason.
Now, if I wanted to go all ambitious and thoughtful, I’d get into symbolism and meaning…get into how we — err, how I — try to use ostensibly “background” images and activities to communicate our — my — own thoughts and feelings as part of the story.
Err…umm…doing that full topic would be a lot of work.* I think I’ll narrow it down…and then narrow it some more.
Weather. No, really, I’m gonna talk about the freaking weather, for Pete’s sake.
Weather affects everything in the real world…and should in the written world, too. From the rhythm and realities of life in the city as much as in the wilds, to our very moods and customs, weather is arguably the most dominant force in our lives. What, you don’t believe me?
Have you ever been in the far north in midwinter? In the butt-ass cold? No sun? Nothing but snow and cold and dreariness? Yeah, cabin-fever is very real.
Have you ever lived at the beach? Warmed yourself in the sun after a day of play in the waves?
Have you ever lived amidst that stifling, miserable mix of heat and humidity? Felt air so thick you could barely move through it?
Yeah, that’s all weather — err, well, it’s weather and climate, actually, but I think I’ll skip the pedantry today.
So what does any of that mean in regards to writing? How does weather come into (symbolic) play?
That’s a far more personal, and complicated, thing to answer than you might think. Oh, sure, I could go back to high school creative writing and literature classes and quote the “standard” line about winter=death, spring=rebirth, etc… but that’s all simplistic bullshit.*
*Sorry, high school kids, but most of the curriculum they’re throwing at you is simplistic bullshit…
Look, I lived in northern New England, I understand cabin-fever. I understand even more the dreary misery the depths of winter can bring, the depression that comes with entire weeks at a time with no sight of the sun…but I still love the winter. I love a good snowstorm…just as much as I love being the first to hike the backcountry when that storm has passed. I love the bite of the cold when I’m out, and the almost-unbearable heat that first hits when I come back inside. I love sitting in front of a much-needed fire, and I love sitting out on the deck all bundled-up…
In short, winter does NOT equal the “season of death” for me. Winter does NOT automatically equate to pain and misery and decay. Not to go all-in on sophomoric philosophy, but winter is, for me, a necessary part of the cycle. You have to have a time for sleep, a time for cold, a time for things to slow down, in order to have anything else. Without winter, there is no spring. Without winter, there is no life.
There is a reason, after all, why every single civilization/society in the far northern latitudes has a traditional celebration of warmth and life in the midst of winter. Yes, some of that goes back to a sense of defiance of the cold and “death” of winter, but it also goes back to a feeling of re-gathering one’s strength, a feeling of freshness and preparation. In sports terms, it goes back to that feeling of build-up you get in the locker room just before your step out onto the field (or the ice, in my case).
Crap, when I started working on this post, I fully intended it to be about writing, to be about how I use the weather to clue the reader in to my protagonist’s relationship with the Universe at any given moment. Umm… Err… Ahh…
If I try to dive into that at this point, after 850+ words already, we’d be looking at a 3,000 word post. Crikey! Remember, by the way, when I mentioned that I’m a wordy sonofabitch? That I started this blog as a way of working on short-form writing? Yeah, today’s post just might be Exhibit A for why I need that practice…
Still, I want to close this out with at least something about writing. Specifically, I want to close it out with a bit about how “overlooked” background elements can — and should, I say! — be used to indicate far more than just atmosphere and mood.
Bear with me, I’ll (try to) keep this short. In the movie Casino, Martin Scorsese uses DeNiro’s clothes to indicate the character’s deteriorating mental, emotional and ethical state, to indicate how Rothstein (DeNiro) is breaking down as things fall apart. As the movie progresses, his clothes move from stylish-but-restrained into colors and styles that are more extreme, that are brighter and more aggressive. By the end of the movie, those clothes are in complete contrast to what he wore when he first moved to Vegas…just as is the character. In terms of what I hinted at above — about how I use the weather in my writing — DeNiro’s clothes indicate the character’s relationship with the Universe…
CASINO, Robert De Niro, 1995, (c) Universal
In my writing, when I use winter, I am trying to imply more than just death, more than just misery and depression and despair. I am trying to hint at rebirths and changes to come, at the re-gathering of focus and energy…oh, and at cabin-fever and frostbite, too.