Saturday, August 29, 2009

Out Of The Blue

My writing buddy Augusta Scattergood recently sent a link to writer Sue Monk Kidd’s Top 10 list of writing advice . Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees, and The Mermaid Chair, is an engaging and wise woman. I printed out her list for future reference – wisdom words for when my mind wanders or I find myself re-reading the same sentence over, over and over. These are sure indicators of an imagination in need of kick-starting.

Advice Number 4 held my attention. It’s about going with the third idea generated by an initial flash of inspiration. Kidd believes that one’s gut instinct is often a jumping off spot for completely new creations.

This insight comes as I’ve just completed an excellent book, The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. New ideas are not linear, Gladwell writes, and the most successful ones spread like epidemics - exponentially doubling and re-doubling. People who have these sudden inspirations are called Innovators and, more often than not, their groundbreaking ideas are unorganized and misunderstood by the public.

It is up to another group of people, the Translators, to take these new ideas, shape and refine them, so they become acceptable to large audiences. Innovators and Translators are necessary for a product or movement to reach the tipping point – mass market success.

I wonder if this same process holds true for writers. Our initial inspiration could be called the Innovator – an exciting but un-polished idea. Fortunately, the Second or Third Thing arrives to function as the Translator, whose job is to repackage the idea or come up with a new creation. The evolution of our idea proceeds to a point where it tips and the message of our writing becomes a clear and potent force.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back To The Garden

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Aquarian peace and love-in known as Woodstock. Americans even then knew they were in the midst of a defining cultural moment. Years later, people I met would look back wistfully on those days and say, “I was there.”

I, however, was not there. I wanted to go, but several months before, I moved to Atlanta and got a job in the Merchandise Mart display department. As Woodstock made history, I was gathering Fall gift items for the Mart’s display cases.

Atlanta had become a mecca for hippie life and the epicenter was a midtown area known as “Tight Squeeze.” Attracted to the freedom and camaraderie of communal life on Peachtree Street, part of me longed to join them. Rent, car payments and job security pushed aside those thoughts.

Around the same time, the rising Southern rockers The Allman Brothers played several free concerts in nearby Piedmont Park. Friends who went talked about the magical experience for years. I somehow managed to miss them.

In college three years earlier, I often observed fine art majors throwing Frisbees or lounging on the grass, seemingly without a care in the world. They were the closest the University of Florida came to having hippies, and I envied their unconcern with grades, classes or graduation. I wanted to be like them, but an inner voice urged diligence, study and the promise of a career.

Most of what I know about Woodstock came from the excellent 1970 documentary. Listening to Allman Brothers records, I still play a mean air guitar, and freedom can be sitting with friends under the Golden Rain tree at twilight. These are enough.

Iconic Woodstock photo thanks to Burke Uzzle