Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jumping in the Deep End: Writing Out of Your Comfort Zone -- or When Self-Doubt Tries to Rule the Day

[Today's MuseJust where do writers summon up the courage to write about subjects that are entirely new to them?  Who do they think they are, anyway?]

No pain, no gain, so goes the cliche.  While that's certainly true with working the body to get it in, or keep it in shape, it's also true with writing, drawing, dancing -- all the arts.  If you write about the same subject for many years, you feel fairly comfortable starting another project on that subject, even if you're taking that subject in a new direction or putting a new twist on it.  While every writing project is an adventure, an exploration, there's a familiarity when you stay in one general area that buoys you up to some extent as you reach out for the new territory.  That's where journalists and other writers have succeeded.  They've become experts in their chosen subjects.  However, when you decide to write on an entirely new subject, that's where the true "pain" comes in.  And the fear.  And the "can I do this?"  And the "just who do I think I am, trying this?"  Etc.  Etc. and on and on.

That's where I'm living right now on a fairly regular basis with one of my projects.  I've changed writing subjects dramatically and am currently climbing the ever-so-steep learning curve.  What keeps me motivated I wonder, after a dark day when I've just about convinced myself that I don't have what it takes?  What keeps me returning to the subject to learn more, ask more, read, read, read, and think, think, think?  What does that for any writer who does the same?

Certainly what motivates me in many ways, I think, is curiosity.  I become so curious about a subject that I want to know more about it in an intense sort of way.  There's a deep desire there -- the source of which I don't always understand -- that makes me simply want to know more.  Questions keep coming, fast and furious. Responses to questions from one source lead me to want to seek out other sources.  Responses there lead me to more and more questions.  A web of questions.  And responses.  And more digging.

When my curiosity is stronger than my fear, that's what keeps me going, you know?  I think that's a big part of it, anyway.  Today, that's what I think.  Tomorrow I may crawl back into my fear-place again.  But I won't stay there.  That's what I have to remind myself of on those days.  If I stay there (which I won't, but when I'm there I fear that floundering feeling) -- if I were to stay there (which I won't, again I assure myself!) I would fail to learn any more.  So that's just not going to happen.  Not with me.  The day I stop learning is the day I start learning something new by existing in some other state on the other side of life as we know it here.

I should relax on those fretful days when I wonder what I think I'm doing, and self-doubt creeps in and tries to take over my thoughts.  Getting more sleep helps.  And the work, of course.  The work, preparation -- all that helps.  But it's curiosity, I think, that rescues me in the end -- that, and the happy willingness to chase down the questions that this intense curiosity raises -- aka putting the work in, which I do.  Pretty powerful.  Curiosity + Hard Work + Lots More Hard Work = Success over self-doubt.  Doubt -- be gone!

[You can muse, tooWhat keeps you motivated when you're out of your comfort zone on a writing project, artwork, new hobby, etc.?]

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sylvia Plath: A Biography -- Video Book Review

Nice to come across this video book review of my book, Sylvia Plath: A Biography.

Thank you, BiographyBookMix.com!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Dancing in the Dark" with Bruce Springsteen in Rochester, NY, Halloween Night, 2012

"Dancing in the Dark" with Bruce Springsteen in Rochester, NY, Halloween Night, 2012

[MusingWhat does one do the day after a first Bruce Springsteen concert, when the songs keep ringing in one's head?].

Went to my first Springsteen concert last night.  The person I went with was the longer-time fan, but I have a few of his CDs and have liked several of his songs over the years. This time, Bruce played the Blue Cross War Memorial Arena in downtown Rochester, NY. The concert took place just 2 days after Hurricane Sandy combined with a Nor'easter and struck and devastated much of the Jersey shoreline, the area that Bruce calls home and has written about at length.  Naturally, Jersey weighed heavily on the singer/songwriter's mind that night. Because of the storm, the concert was delayed one day from its originally scheduled date to Halloween night, so some songs of the night, such as "Devil in a Blue Dress" and "Monster Mash," paid tribute to the holiday.

This was the "Wrecking Ball Tour," out to promote the singer's latest album.  Springsteen was out with the reconstituted E Street Band playing the new tunes, some less-remembered songs, and Boss classics.

Courtesy of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, here's the set list:


1. A Night With the Jersey Devil
2. We Take Care Of Our Own
3. Wrecking Ball
4. Out in the Street
5. Death to My Hometown
6. My City of Ruins
7. Spirit in the Night
8.Monster Mash
9. Something in the Night
10. Atlantic City
11. Jackson Cage
12. She’s The One
13. Cover Me
14. Downbound Train
15. Shackled and Drawn
16. Waitin’ On A Sunny Day
17. Drive All Night
18. Radio Nowhere
19. Badlands
20. Land Of Hope and Dreams


21. Jersey Girl
22. Thunder Road
23. Born To Run
24. Detroit Medley
25. Dancing in the Dark
26. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

I was, at first weirdly disappointed to see so many, let's call them, ahem, "mature" people, there (regardless of age, I abide by, of course, the rules of the decidedly, permanently (ha!) "immature").  Not the rock concert audiences I remember!  However, once the lights went down and the music started, years and age and time no longer seemed to matter, and then...they did matter but with a better and clearer and shared perspective.  I was relieved when the audience took part as much as ever in the event.  Truly, I did see people of all ages there, both younger and older than the majority which seemed to be made up of middle-agers.

Sharing some songs here from the night via YouTube uploads of them from other times.

Here's the new album title track, "Wrecking Ball":

"Dancing in the Dark," a YouTube video uploaded in September, 2011.  This song is one of my semi-anthems because it talks about, for me, looking for inspiration, or learning to work without it ("can't start a fire without a spark") -- a fact of life a writer always contends with, and Springsteen is a writer.  Of course, I've always liked the line, "...sick of sitting 'round here trying to write this book."  I don't get sick of it, ever, but one often wishes it were just a little bit easier to do!  And dancing in the dark? Well, let's just say, yeh; I've done my share a-that... 

"My City of Ruins."  This song had particular meaning at the Rochester concert when so many people's thoughts were on those hurt or who had their property damaged as a result of "Super Storm Sandy" just two nights before.  Just like in this video uploaded 2 months earlier, Bruce asked the Rochester crowd if they were missing anyone tonight.  Alive but away, or only with us now in spirit, there were a lot of people missed that night, like there are every night...

More later if I can't seem to shake the "afterglow" of the concert!  (Always takes me awhile!).

Thanks for the fun night, Bruce!