Kairos

This blog will cover ideas, questions, news items, research, speculations on writing, art, creative process, and the life and troubles of the writer—historical and contemporary. Kairos means the moment. The moment when all is revealed. The moment when we are connected to the cosmic as well as to the trash that has yet to be taken out. The moment, I think, nearly always escapes us. Which is why we are so in love with it. Yesterday’s moment. Tomorrow’s moment. Right now.

The Reading Part of the Writing Process

Writers are often told to use their lives as material for their writing. Rather than just making up stuff. Mordecai Richler once told me when I was a college student that if we were serious about writing, we should "fail" in school and go out to live life fully--even embrace suffering. Of course, none of us were willing to embrace suffering.Years of writing work teaches you there is no exclusive recipe for success as a writer. You need talent, but outside of that, the recipe usually calls for … [Read more...]

Getting That You Don’t Get It

The epiphany of January 6 celebrates the coming of the Magi to baby Jesus. The event is meant to portray the affirmation by other religious traditions that Jesus is the Redeemer, the One who has been sent. Often a statement like this stops any further thought about the Epiphany. Putting the religious associations aside, we still have the image of three wise men or kings putting a great deal of effort and perhaps risking their lives in order to make their journey. They are often portrayed in … [Read more...]

Knots (Part three)

  In Knots (Part One) and Knots (Part Two), I introduced the idea that compelling narratives often have a knot-like structure informing the story and motivating the characters rather than a simple through-line. I used the example of the Greek myths, in which all the protagonists of the various stories are driven by circumstances created by the gods a couple of generations before and complicated by actions taken in the present. A knot describes this condition because the characters … [Read more...]

Saying Yes to Knots (Part 2): It’s Knot What You Know

When my daughter was 4 she began to be interested in knots. Really interested. She practiced tying me up and seeing how long it would take me to get free. I should have known better. One day with the help of another 4 year old she tied up her 14-year old babysitter and brought her to tears. My daughter and her friend meanwhile laid waste to the 14 year old’s room. Blame the knots. We speak about being in knots, about problems being knotty, about being unable to understand the knots in … [Read more...]

Saying Yes to Knots (part one)

  Can writers today learn from the Greeks of more than 2,000 years ago? We have the expression “being tied up in knots” to express stress and frustration. We also struggle with undoing knots and as sailors or scouts we learn to tie knots. But what about knots as a way of looking at the world and as a creative strategy when we compose narratives? The ancient Greek way of life, separated from us by over 2,000 years of history, is very different from our own. Yet theatre productions … [Read more...]

Where is the Road Novel?

Even for those of us who haven’t read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road (1957), the novel has an iconic status as the first of the great twentieth century American road novels. Around the same time in the 1950s we get Saul Bellow’s The Adventures Of Augie March (1953). Other narratives that come to mind are Blue Highways (1982) by William Least Heat-Moon, Zen And the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) by Robert Pirsig, and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test(1968) by Tom Wolfe. I call them narratives, … [Read more...]

How Deep is Deep?

    The other day, a nineteen-year old student asked me “how deep do you want us to be?” This while he was writing an essay analyzing a story. I was stymied. “What do you mean by deep?”  I said. He couldn’t or wouldn’t say, not believing that I didn’t understand. But really I didn’t. What is deep anything when you’re not talking volume and physical capacity? I wanted the students to give me accurate observations in well-formed sentences that added up to interesting … [Read more...]

Are You A Closer?

Sometimes a story will come to us, fresh as a spring breeze and full of the wonderful energy that the season brings. We know how the narrative begins, we have a vision of its possibilities, and the main characters are present—almost to the touch. Yet the story never completes. Can we close the deal? Are we afraid of finishing? In Albert Camus’ wonderful novel THE PLAGUE (1947), a clerk named Joseph Grand is writing a novel. He is a reclusive character and the gossip is that he has been … [Read more...]

Doing It In Garbage Time

Most of us have a favorite time of day, be it in the wee hours or at high noon, and often that time represents when we work best.  The ideas flow, and we can accomplish a lot. Of course, some will say that all time is precious, and only our attitudes have to change accordingly. But if you belong to that section of the population that is still occupied with other jobs or with raising family or with ill health, then it may be that the only time you’re given for creative work is when you’re at your … [Read more...]

Unknowing

How many things did you learn this week? Not just skill stuff, but bits of information coming at us over the Internet, through television and radio, newspapers and magazines, the odd book or two, conversations. And then, of course, everything that’s penetrated us through the five senses. A lot isn’t it? In fact, it’s an incalculable amount, and yet, if you’re like me, you may feel that you haven’t learned enough, that personally, professionally, creatively there is so much more you could have … [Read more...]

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