Mondays with Martin

Mondays with Martin: My Child, My Journal

Mondays with Martin: My Child, My Journal

A person’s writing may develop into many things. My attempts at creative writing take the form of a journal, a personal warehouse of ideas and feelings. These bits and pieces expand into larger ideas or are used to support other thoughts that come later. My journal began as a skinny, empty, three-ring notebook and evolved into a robust creation with a personality of its own. My first attempts to originate something from a non-artistic life, bound in the past to mediocrity, surprised me. Without a conscious effort on my part, this unassuming notebook began eating pages scribbled with pathetic sentences, mostly unconnected, didactic, and plain. A few pages held feeble attempts at poetry, stilted, forced rhyming patterns on the most boring topics and secretly hid some scattered, embarrassing attempts at describing the passions of a mid-life crisis or two. Without knowing what I was seeing, the birth of a journal took place before my eyes. The thing increased its appetite. From a page a week, it soon demanded a page every couple of days. As it got bigger, it enjoyed eating more. It wanted to be fed daily, then ten or twelve times a week. What began as a weak, scrawny creature developed muscles and a healthy attitude towards survival. Each time its covers opened to consume more pages, I sensed the bellows of lungs expanding as though it aggressively inhaled new life. With increased bulk between the covers, its lips pushed wider apart. It began to smile at me, as it sat on the shelf across the room. I imagined it standing up and strutting in front of those other notebooks that kicked sand in its face when it was just a little child. Now that it became aware of its own mortality, it insists on the four basic health groups for good writing; literature, spelling, grammar, and composition. Like a parent, I am learning a lot about myself by watching my new child at play, and I think I see the time coming shortly when I will have to find it a name. What would other people think if I did not have a name for my new baby? When it begins to talk, will it develop a psychological problem stemming from a lack of self-confidence without an identity of its own? Nicholas Notebook? Julia Journal? Danny Diary? Bradley Biography? Ashley Album? Pilar Page? Elizabeth Exposition? Imogene Imagination? Karma Klassic? Big Bubba Book? At times, I think my journal is a gold fish in a bowl swimming around in circles without much room to explore or opportunity to develop, while others watch me from a position outside my vision and feel a sort of pity at my...

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Keep the Faith

Keep the Faith

The more I write in my journal, the more I learn about the world and myself. The more I share my writing with my classes, the more open I become to my students, the more open they become to me, and the better all of our writing becomes.  Often, I hear students refer to their feelings of isolation from family, friends, and other students. I sense they are stranded on a metaphorical, desert island waiting for a passing steamer to rescue them. Sitting alone under a palm tree, sunburned, and tired of eating coconuts, their lives are blocked. Writing in a journal – one that takes on a personality of its own, one that becomes an extension of the author, one that holds the truth like notes placed in a bottle thrown into the Gulf Stream as a means of salvation – will help create that puff of smoke on the distant horizon indicating help is on the way.  Many times, students need to see themselves unique individuals. Being different is the price we pay for being better. Following the herd creates a boring sameness, a death-like monotony, and keeps us from achieving our potential. Writing in a journal reflects back to us how truly original we are. John Hancock Field said, “All worthwhile people have good thoughts, good ideas, and good inventions, but precious few of them ever translate those into actions.” Wait no more. Writing in a journal encourages me to translate my ideas into actions. If I can write about my ideas, I can see them as real possibilities. If I can capture them in a journal, I refer to them later when I act on them.  Many students dwell on their negative life experiences, and most of us go through periods like this, sometimes. When I have no one to listen to me, my journal becomes my best friend, my voice in the night, the big brother or sister I never had, my guiding light. Often, simply writing my feeling onto a blank page helps me get through the darkness. The seventh century Chinese Philosopher, Hui-neng said, “The meaning of life is to see.” Looking at something is not the same as seeing it. In our complicated world, we have so much to look at, but we see so little. Looking at things demeans life. Seeing things, clearly, gives life meaning. Writing in a journal forces me to see things, not look at them. I can’t count how many students have told me that by simply writing devotedly in their journals they found a meaning in their life they didn’t know existed. One of the wisest men I know told me that everyone searches for...

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Writing a Window

Writing a Window

I love windows. I love their beauty, their simplicity, and their view. They provide protection from the cold. Their light pierces the dark. They give hope to the confined. Windows symbolize so many things to me, and they help make me whole. How I remember these windows is how I remember my past. How I feel about these windows is how I feel about my future.   For many, life is a bleak, passionless existence. I see lives of boredom all around me. Barriers of all kinds, real and imagined, keep people from participating in active, productive lives. Blank stares, uncreative minds, and empty hearts reflect this lack of direction and purpose.   Windows are miracles of glass, silica and heat. They protect us and provide decoration in our world. They allow us to dream in safety. A window is frames what we see and limits our vision. They outline our view of the world.   Windows show character and variety as an individual’s personality does. Windows come in many shapes and sizes. Their diversity reflects their uniqueness. A simple, four-pained window symbolizes a simple life. Beveled glass window allow the sun to reflect through prisms creating rainbows on the floor and walls. Elements from nature produce visual kaleidoscopes. Stained Glass Windows  Stained-glass windows do not allow people inside a room to look outside, but they let the sunlight teach stories by reflecting images from the glass. These beautiful spectacles of art, nature, and philosophy provide inspiration hundreds of years after their construction.   A room with windows is a room that breathes. Windows become metaphors for transmitting images of hope, vision, and energy. They allow us to examine all aspects of our lives by focusing our attention on specific developments.   When windows are cloudy, dirty, or clear, they imitate confused people, unpolished individuals, or those with nothing to hide. Shaded windows prevent others from viewing inside, and people in the same way shade themselves by remaining closed to others, inhibited, and not seeing the light.   Where windows are placed in a building affects their appearance. Windows placed on the north side of a home receive less punishment from Mother Nature in this region. Southern windows are tortured by the sun’s rays and the strong winds from the southwest. While the north windows remain smooth and clear, the sun’s radiation on the south side forces the glass to expand and damages them.   Mirrors are windows coated on one side. They reflect backward what they see. Certain people are like mirrors. They reflect backward and use none of their energy to perceive the visions in front of them. Metaphors  If windows are metaphors for our lives, they...

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A Writer’s Prayer

A Writer’s Prayer

Great Spirit! You give me a reason for being, a sense of mission in this life. I see small accomplishments and realize there is a purpose behind them. My creativity is a gift from You. I recognize these blessings more and more each day. I know I am on the right path. Continue to guide me. Give me more strength, so I can reach my distant goals. I search for peace in my writing. I ask for others to find happiness there. I know You will guide those who listen. I look to my writing in hopes of seeing visions, those windows You open for me. I ask for wisdom. Touch my shoulder and guide me. I pray to hear Your voice in the silence of the night, in the noise of confusion, and with the terror of the blank page. – David...

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Dragon Slayers

Dragon Slayers

It is now 3 a.m. Lightning and thunder pound my head. I am tired and can not sleep. An awful dragon chased me  Our battle sounded like the thunder and looked like the lightning of my dreams. I heard my sword crash against the fire breathing monster’s neck, and I awoke to hear real monsters clash with Zeus’ bolts of fire in the sky. The monster of my dreams aroused the emotional “donder and blitzen” that took place yesterday at our monthly Dragon Slayer’s meeting. Those flashes of insight and the sound of truth now stir in me to write once again. Outside, Mother Nature’s rain falls softly. The natural thunder and lightning keep calling my attention to life’s rebirth, baptismal cleansing, and regeneration.   It’s never too late to start over. Our discussion went from patience to parking lots, nuclear holocaust to Nikki Giovanni, a search for passion to paternalism, native desires to Nietzsche, individual courage to Camus, a creative swim to Schopenhauer, and a quest for real education to erudition. My mind became tired and excited as a result of our four-hour sharing. I feel there is much electricity in this group of writers. It is no wonder that Donder and Blitzen are now more to me than just two of Santa’s reindeer. If Giovanni said there are no conversations, just intersecting monologues, what would she say about Sunday afternoon? Our sharing and discussion prove that good exposition and feedback occur when writers commit to their tasks. No one really knows the mind and soul of another. Friend, husband, wife, child, do we really know who other people are? Probably not, but yesterday’s attempt was a huge beginning. Let the flow of written words never stop, as we follow our quest to write ourselves into our destiny. “I can feel again . . . there but for the grace . . . it is the moments I like . . . memories last longer than experiences . . . suffer in order to create . . . passion and pride. . . courage to be . . . over the edge . . . eye of the tiger . . . it is a question of vision . . . a search for truth . . . be the rebel . . . personal battlegrounds . . . celebrate our 26 letters . . . a struggle to be authentic . . . .” These glimpses of everyone’s participation are sparks for much contemplation and great composition. Don’t be satisfied to talk about them. Write them down. Develop them before they vanish. We must challenge our dragons before they disappear. I try not to worry about the...

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Content in My Bliss

Content in My Bliss

Someone once said they read books to discover the souls of others. I write to discover my own. I want to discover who I am. Few things in life teach me who I am more than writing in my journal does. This desire for self-knowledge inspires me to write almost every day. I seldom lack inspiration to write, but I often lose my focus. I spend too much time doing many things other than writing. Earning money, pursuing life’s pleasures, and trying to please others causes me to get lost in the fog of daily existence. I get tired making a living in a stressful environment. I feel waves of people, emotions, and work wash over me and knock me off my feet. I search for my footing in my journal. I look for meaningful reflections in my sentences and metaphors, and my journal becomes a symbol revealing my true self. I want to be good at a few things in life. Conveying accurate images through my choice of words is one of them. I want to use my gifts well.  Simple things in life inspire me to write. My heart lifts when I see a male cardinal in a bare tree above the mounds of white snow. My soul warms when I see a strong, male hand hold a tiny child’s little fingers. Fathers teaching sons and daughters the sacrifices needed to reach maturity turn my pages. Lovers look into each other’s eyes and inspire me to paint the scene with words. Close friends sitting together, silently drinking coffee, as they watch moisture form on a window while the cold, Nebraska wind howls outside makes me warm to the possibilities. I am urged to write when I feel friendly eyes locate me in a crowded room; when loved ones bare their souls to me; when a student comes to class with the attitude, “I am ready to learn today, and you can teach me.” I write eating gumbo, listening to Cajun music. I look for pen and paper when I hear the carol, “Silent Night,” pierce the air on Christmas Eve. I sit down under a tree to record my emotions when my daughter chooses on her own to take the training wheels off and ride her bicycle solo for the first time. Ray Charles’ “Georgia,” Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” and the children’s story, “The Little Engine That Could” all speak to me in the same way. I can not pass up these opportunities. When my work captivates me, when I hear, “Daddy, I love you!” when I see outstretched hands reaching for a baby’s face, when I feel soft fingers on my shoulder, when I hear the words,...

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