Tag Archives: inspiration

musings on a feather

Another hidden gem: circa 2008, Creative Writing 1.

Musings on a Feather by Liz Van Buren

I stare. I observe its fragile beauty and the careful way it rests on the table, almost levitating. I note its elegance as the wind carelessly carries it across the counter, hairs aflutter. But beyond its mannerisms – beyond the way these hairs dance like tiny hands when my breath escapes me – I see something else, something more. I find peace in the way something so fragile can stand on its own – in the way it can be detached from everything native,
drift

to

the

ground,
and yet survive, independent, after suffering a lifetime of hiding behind others. Once alive, it is now battered with the harshness of time, yet still floats on. I am actually inspired by this resilience.

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Filed under Everyday Life, Non-fiction, Observations, Written Life

harriet the spy + why i write

So here I am, sitting in a cold, damp, deserted-dorm-room-turned-night-host-office and, instead of doing my homework, I am sifting through my Craft of Nonfiction portfolio compiled last Fall and came across this. I forgot I wrote this and it made me smile. Enjoy, and have sweet dreams as I sit here freezing my ears off.

Harriet the Spy and Other Reasons I Write by Liz Van Buren

It all started with Harriet the Spy. I was about seven when the movie came out, and the thought of there being an eleven year old spy exhilarated me. This was still around that time when I thought “anything was possible” and didn’t see anything wrong with that scenario. She traveled the dangerous streets of the city in her oversized yellow trench coat with all her “gear” tucked gently into coat pockets and the waistband of her pants. She also carried a composition notebook, personally decorated, which kept all of her observations and personal thoughts and speculations about all of the people she encountered in her travels. Harriet M. Welsch was the coolest girl alive to me, and I wanted to be a spy just like her.

Since the closest thing I had to a trench coat was a plastic Barbie raincoat, and my parents didn’t let me any farther than the front lobby, I settled on spying on people from my bedroom window, up on the sixth floor of an apartment complex mostly inhabited by Jewish seniors. This and my faulty binoculars did not stop me from believing I was going to achieve greatness as a seven-year old spy on my block. On my first day, I sat and scouted the building across the street, window by window, until I finally spotted someone moving on the third floor. I scrambled for my notebook – spiral not composition, and only decorated with the word “PRIVATE” in bubble letters – and began taking notes.

This lasted a total of fifteen minutes, until I realized that nothing interesting will come of a stay-at-home mom vacuuming and cleaning windows. Disappointed day after day with such poor results, I began to contrive my own observations – as a product of an overheated imagination. One night, I saw an adult male walk through his bedroom, look around for something, and then leave. He returned, looked out the window, and then shut the curtains. Though he probably saw the seven-year old Peeping Tom across the street and wanted some privacy, I imagined that he had some poor, innocent victim tied to a chair, ready to be sliced apart. He seemed like that kind of person. Because surely, a professional spy such as myself could read his facial expression accurately enough to make such a deduction from a hundred feet away.

But I suppose I am getting a little off-track.

Why do you write? I was once asked this very same question at a week-long writer’s workshop about four years ago. Many of the other impressionable young writers in my group spoke of family members, of being the first generation in their family to strive for education and success. Others said they hope to be published someday, and one kid even included that he often writes to calm himself from the paranoid feelings he gets while high on marijuana. We were a very eclectic bunch, I’d say. But the only problem is I don’t actually remember what I said. I remember it being some grandiose statement about something like “the awakening of my soul,” or a “cathartic release of emotion,” and perhaps “inspiration.” Ah, yes, I remember there being lots of inspiration.

Though I mock the sixteen-year old me, I’m almost ashamed to admit that those statements aren’t too far from the truth, as it stands now. I am now twenty years old, and essentially, I write to blow off steam. I write down my thoughts when, for whatever reason, I cannot verbalize them. I write when my friends piss me off, or when some asshole breaks my heart, or when my family hovers and overprotects me and treats me like an irresponsible, incapable invalid who can’t take care of herself. I write when I’m stressed about school, or afraid of the future. I write to escape the pain and distress of all of this. And sure, I suppose I write when I’m feeling rather jaded, hoping that maybe a word, or a phrase, or even the feeling of pen to paper will spark something exciting in my soul.

But I suppose that isn’t all there is to it. Lately, I also write because I am obsessed with the English language, and have been since the eleventh grade when Mr. Vicari introduced me to its many complexities and quirks. In eleventh grade English, he taught us to analyze a work until you could no longer read its original text, only the hundreds of notes you’ve taken in the margins and between the lines; not only did he heighten my awareness to intricate metaphors and imagery, but he also taught us to take note of every punctuation mark, when an author capitalizes words, and other seemingly minute details. These methods of reading also taught me to enhance my writing; I remember wanting to someday be so talented as to write something that could be so carefully scrutinized by the students of Mr. Vicari’s eleventh grade English classes.

Now, far beyond the eleventh grade, I use this almost-newfound love of words as something didactic. I challenge myself every time I write something, and I push my words to be something far better than they’ve ever been. Writing is almost like a puzzle for me – like a challenge or – ha! – a word problem. I’m like a “soccer mom” to my thoughts, obsessed with their performance.

If I were to concisely recapitulate what I’ve just said (which I often find a grueling task) I could say that the reasons behind why I write are ever-changing; it really depends on the day.

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Filed under Non-fiction, Written Life

breakfast for the brain

Stop creativity: You are Entering a School Zone?

So my brain has been going through a drought lately. A writer’s drought. It’s like, whenever I get a somewhat interesting thought process going, it just fizzles out like a campfire in a storm. I figured it’s because I’ve been going through a funk these last few weeks, and haven’t really been up to doing anything productive. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been so focused on getting back into a school zone that I’ve sort of put my creative on the backburner, which is completely unfair to the creativity that seeps through my veins on a daily basis. Either way, I’ve been needing a creative pick-me-up, a breakfast for the brain.

Lucky for me, tonight, while at home for Labor Day week, I happened upon a box full of my old writing from high school, mostly from the hundreds of writing workshops I attended during those four years, but also a bunch of free writes and undeveloped short stories. A lot of it surprised me – I didn’t realize how good I was even at age fourteen – but it also really made me miss the good ol’ days. I was so passionate about a lot of things back then. I still am passionate, I guess, but it’s different now. Back then, I used to write all the time: on napkins at Starbucks, or in the margins of my class notes. I used to be known for this passion; my teachers would come to me whenever they heard about a writing workshop or something of the like. But now, I’ve become more passionate about writing to impress my professors, or writing to impress my blog audience, or writing to jumpstart a career, but when it comes to just plain writing, for the bloody hell of it, I can think of 100+ other things to do instead. How sad, that that’s how I treat my life’s fervor – like some old childhood trophy that’s destined to a life of dust-collecting on the back of the highest shelf in the house. I quickly shook off that heavy feeling and realized that that’s the missing piece: excitement. True, honest, raw excitement. And belief, I suppose, in my talent.

Anyway, after that momentary soul searching, I realized how helpful it was that I happened upon this little treasure chest. Like I said, the bulk of this canon-of-sorts was from local teen writers’ workshops: cheap folders full of dozens of unfinished free writes, and useful free writing ideas. Finding a large source of inspiration in the midst of creative drought? Pretty sure you couldn’t write better coincidence even if you tried.

Point is, expect to find some finished (or in some cases, updated) versions of these little gems in the near future. And it’s time for me to rekindle that true excitement and fervor!

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Filed under Introspection