I have procrastinator in my blood. Growing up, my mother had a key phrase she would roll of the tongue anytime I whined before sitting down to practice my violin, finish math homework, or clean my room: The hardest part is getting started. Those words have never ceased to be true, and my mother’s voice still rings in my ears whenever I sit down to write. Any writer or artist, great or unknown, will tell you there is nothing more paralyzing than the scalding white glare of a blank page. The blinking cursor and tapping pencil eraser only provide a soporific rhythm to a voice that speaks, That’s not a plot at all! You’re not intelligent enough to write about that. Every word you write sounds pretentious. You only have cliches inside that head! You use TOO many words! You can’t write anything worthwhile. And these lies are usually enough to get me to minimize the Word document and check Facebook (the ENEMY of creativity!), get a glass of water, pick up a broom, fold the laundry, check my email, make a Spotify playlist, take a bike ride, pay that parking ticket, mow the lawn, clean out the car… anything that might seem more important or pressing than writing the first sentence to my new story. I will even go to the extreme of organizing and beautifying my writing space, documenting it, and posting it to a clever CreativesuckBook status in the effort to at least appear productive and artsy (see sepia photo below). And yet, this is not new or revelatory information for writers. We’ve all been here in one way or another. We know we must push past those anxieties and lies that push against the inspiration to finally scrawl that very first line—a line that, more than likely, will ultimately be scrambled, chopped up, pasted, or completely [deleted] from existence. And then of course, comes the moment when we have to sit down again to continue writing the story. Oh, the horror! But we all have our different methods of beginning—getting all the sludge out of our veins before the red blood flows onto the page and the real work begins. And so this blog was created as a starting point—not only to pour out some sludge and keep my writer muscles from turning into flab, but to also give my far away friends, loved ones, and fellow writers a chance to follow my summer project.
I started the creative writing MFA program at Florida Atlantic University in the fall of 2010. It is amazing how much you can grow and learn in the span of two years. And those two years, when I take a quick glance away from the future and look back at them, seem to have felt like two minutes. In that time, a million ideas for a thesis project have propositioned my mind: Pick me! Write about me! Oh, you know you’re interested in ME! But as graduation drifts closer and closer, I have reconciled myself to the fact that my thesis must inevitably materialize. And it’s funny how the millions of ideas I’ve had since my first day of workshop were thrown out (or put on the shelf) because a random trip to St. Augustine on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, 2012. While I was there, my family and I spent an afternoon at the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Climbing the lighthouse, examining the lens, walking the grounds and beach, breathing the sweet North Florida salt air, awoke something in me that had been dormant for a few years. I have a deep love and appreciation for lighthouses. The first short story I wrote in college was about the daughter of a New Jersey lighthouse keeper—a story I ultimately shelved for the crime of overt melodrama. I attribute this obsession to growing up a 10 minute boat ride from the beautiful Barnegat Light. All year in workshop, I had been trying to experiment, daring myself to write about new and foreign things…writing about earthquakes, Caribbean housewives, martyrs in the middle-east…things I was interested in, but ultimately knew nothing about. That is not to say a writer cannot choose to write about foreign topics and subjects, and it doesn’t mean I will never write about those topics some day in the future. But most of the time, the deepest passions are found in things that are familiar—and if they are not familiar, there is passion enough to immerse ourselves in the tedious job of diligent research. But my climb up the St. Augustine Light re-sparked an old nostalgia and passion for the sea, seafaring communities, and the light towers that shine over them. So I soaked up the ambiance along with all the factual information in the lighthouse museum, and I wrote a short story about a young lighthouse keeper’s daughter and her brother. It was the first story in a LONG while that I actually enjoyed writing! I was beginning to have anxiety that I had outgrown my love for stories, and I would have to pursue a career as a strictly nonfiction writer. But I loved this newly discovered world of 1930s St. Augustine and the characters I was getting to know.
(Tower and Tower Room of St. Augustine Light)
My writing finally felt real after a year of still-born fiction. (If you’re interested in reading an excerpt, I’ve posted it below.) From this story, my thesis project began to take shape. I will be working on writing a collection of stories involving on-shore lighthouses in Florida, North Carolina, and New Jersey. My writing always seems to do the leading, so details can always change, but right now I am planning on writing about the light houses of St. Augustine, Jupiter, Key West, Barnegat, Cape May, and Cape Hatteras. Each of these lighthouses already hold personal significance for me, so as of now, they hold priority in my project. Hopefully, this blog will chronicle not only my writing process, but also my excursions to each of these lighthouses! I’m fortunate enough to live about 35 minutes from Jupiter Lighthouse, so it will serve as the setting of my next story—yeah…that story that refuses to allow the first line to be written! But, as Mamma says, The hardest part is getting started! And hopefully this entry hasn’t been too sludgy and overwrought, but at least I am taking the leap to speak this project and these stories into existence and to solidify a BEGINNING. Shine on, writers!
Excerpt from “The Mooring of Light and Wind”