In any line of work or creative endeavor, it's easy to feel frustrated or empty or alone, as though no one has ever walked this path before. Luckily, there are many who have gone before and left behind some trail markers to let us know we're going in the right direction.
To celebrate the birthday of famous local boy (sort of - Massachusetts is local when you live in New Hampshire, right?), here are a few words of wisdom from America's favorite philosopher-tree-hugger!
On this day, in 1775, someone fired a shot on Lexington Green and a nation was born.
Up until this point, a long ten years legal battle over the representative status of a colony left a country divided by more than just an ocean. King George's decision to crack down hard on the city of Boston only made matters worse, but it was General Gage's orders to seize the supplies in Concord's armory that proved the touch point.
It can't be considered a glorious battle: the militia gathered on the green were likely as surprised as the British regulars when the gun went off. After 18 minutemen went down and the rest scattered, the British high-tailed it for Concord and the armory. To say that they were in for a long, exhausting day would be an understatement. Fury torched the countryside and locals drove them out of Concord and back to where they came. The retreat was long and fraught with danger for both sides: the colonists followed and harassed the British from the sidelines, while the regulars looted and torched the homes that they passed. By the time the British were safely bottled up in the city, the tide had turned and a bridge had been crossed: our Rubicon was a wooden bridge in Concord, MA.
On April 19th, 1775, everything changed. From the awkward, furious deeds of the morning would come legends. From this day, when vastly outnumbered ordinary men and boys took up their arms to protest tyranny, the course of the world and our place in it, changed.
July 4th may be the official birth date of the United States. But the first sign of new life in the womb was April 19th.
For some reason, this poem has been on autoplay in my head all week (that and Days in the Sun from Beauty and the Beast - excellent movie, you should really go see it). I memorized this as a teenager and can still recite most by heart. What I love most about this is its vigor and inherent optimism. Hopefully it'll resonate with you, too.
Psalm of Life
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.:
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
I've been listening to Lewis's The Screwtape Letters again and, as always, find this book to be eerily timely. There are a lot of good reminders in here that this life is not all that there is and to beware the confusion that comes from putting too much importance on the happenings of men and countries.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes. (I'm omitting the one about politics - that's already been getting a lot of shares lately!)
Happy 2017, everyone!
I'm afraid I've been incognito these past few weeks, recovering from both the holidays and a few weeks of varying illnesses (yay for winter-bound ailments!). But I'm back and raring to go. 2017 is already promising to out-do it's predessors in fun and frolics. What's coming down the line, you ask? Good question! Here's a list!
- Tale Half Told will be launching later this year, marking my first writing collaboration with my much-put-upon and very talented sister, Margaret. We'll be posting a sneak-peek soon!
- Also launching later this year is Michael Lawrence: the Season of Darkness novel - a dark, twisty little book about murder, music, and mayhem set in the gorgeous city of Portsmouth, NH. And speaking of Michael Lawrence...
- Michael Lawrence: The Season of Darkness movie will have it's premiere at the first ever at the Anti-Film Festival in June. Want to go? Check out Narrow Street Films for more details.
- Coming up more quickly, Exeter, NH is sponsoring a showing of the Narrow Street Films The Man Who Wasn't Tex Magru, a fun old-fashioned comedy on February 11th. (Bonus: I sing in it! Blink and you'll miss me, but still...) Tickets are still available (shameless plug), so check it out!
Also of note, ever since watching Rogue One: a Star Wars story, I've had a hankering for stories set long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, so watch out for more reviews for Star Wars, Star Trek, cool new indie novels, and John Wayne movies, as well as contests, giveaways, sales, interviews with interesting people, and more fun.
Welcome, 2017: we know you're going to love it here!
Due to some production issues, Tale Half Told will be released in 2017 instead of this Christmas, alas! However, it will be well worth the wait, that much we can promise you!
In other news, the Kindle versions of Summer Shadows and Necessary Evil are still on sale at 99 cents each. If you haven't read them, now is the time to down load!
Happy Advent, all!
A. A. Milne is, of course, best known for Winnie the Pooh. His gentle wisdom and humor has made Pooh one of the staples of childhood literature.
I thought I'd share a pearl of his wisdom today. And with the busy holiday season almost upon us, this seemed especially apt:
Writing is not for the faint of heart. Like distance running, Marine training, obstacle courses, or marathon sessions with your drama friend, it requires stamina, endurance, resolve, and a healthy sense of humor and balance. Here, then, are four things to keep in mind when you start.
1. It's not all buttercups and Mary-Higgins-Clark
It's easy to look at the success stories of Mary Higgins Clark and Stephen King and think, "Man, all I need to do is finish my zombie-end times-love triangle-coming of age-story and I'll be made!"
Yeah. Sure. Unfortunately for you, half the country is thinking the same thing and the market is glutted.
Stories of lucky breaks and amazing hidden talent are everywhere, but it's probably best not to bank on it. Your zombie novel rocks, but convincing anyone to read it is another story altogether.
The takeaway: Write and publish only because you like your story and you're already a winner - and if you happen to become an overnight success, that'll be a nice (read: really, really nice) bonus.
2. You will get feedback: all kinds
Announce that you write and you'll get as many different reactions as there are people in the room. While almost all your friends will be enthusiastic (if you find differently, you need a better class of friends), you'll get reactions from starry-eyed comparisons to Hemingway and Harper Lee to barely concealed eye rolls and 'How can you expect to make a living off of that'?
The takeaway: Keep it all in perspective. You aren't Hemingway (there was only one) and you aren't an idiot. Let the both the criticism and the compliments roll off your back and keep writing.
3. You will have down times
Writing can be tons of fun, especially when you've got a great story and your vision is clear. But there are going to be days when you look back on what you've written and think, 'I thought this was good?' and other days when you can't write anything at all, when you're convinced that you'll never write again.
The takeaway: This is normal. You're a human, not a machine and unless you've got a deadline, you can afford to take a break. Bad days are always followed by better ones, so just ride it out. If you're really stuck, take your work to your editor or a trusted friend and get their opinion. Nine times out of ten, they'll tell you that it's not as bad as you think.
4. Bad reviews
The nature of the business is that writing is done in private, shown in public. No one paints a landscape and then hides it in the closet. But showing your work involves risk and in writing, that risk is most often displayed as a bad review. There are as many different types of readers as there are writers and bad reviews are just part of the process. When you get one, don't panic: analyze. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Did the reader actually read the story? (Yes, I'm serious - sometimes they just post)
2. Did the reader understand what you were trying to do? (They were looking for Jane Austen and your zombie-end times-love triangle-coming of age is many things, but a sparkling British comedy it is not.)
3. Do they make any salient points about plot, narrative, or grammar? Or is this merely venting? (Occasionally the readers have a point: Guy B really should have gotten the girl, because Guy A was showed stalker/obsessive tendencies that you didn't notice. But this is rare and, anyway, your critique group probably would have warned you.)
If the answer to any or all of these questions is 'No', you can rest easy. This was a case of misunderstanding on their part and your work is still good.
The takeaway: You will get back reviews and some of them will really sting. If they make a good point, learn from it. But in the end, remember why you wrote the story in the first place - whether it was for a friend, to make a point, or just to get it off your mind - and you'll find that the bad review is only a small bump in the road. Just keep trucking.
To sum up, writing is a fantastically fun way to spend time, create worlds, and spread your creative wings, but it does require a certain amount of mental toughness. In the end, you aren't your project - you are complete within yourself, valuable and needed even without the pen in your hand. So keep writing and have fun.
To further drive the point home, here's some wisdom from Stephen King: "Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy."
I first discovered this poem while reading The Book of Virtues edited by William J. Bennett. It's one of the few poems that I have committed to memory (ask my directors - I have horrible memorization skills._ There is some controversy over who wrote it, but whether it was Edgar G. Guest or an unknown, these uplifting words of wisdom helped carried me through many low points. Hopefully it will do the same for you.
When Things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and debts are high,
And you want to Smile but have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won if he'd stuck it out,
Don't give up though the pace seems slow,
You might succeed with another blow.
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might captured the victor's cup.
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown,
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit,
It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit
Last fall, I got a chance to play in a cool short film, called Heroism. Check it out here!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself: who you are and where you come from:
My name is Katie Harwood, I also go by Katie Louise and some others tbd haha. I grew up in a small town in NH and moved to California after finishing my first year of college trying grow up. Didn’t work out so well and ended up back on the East Coast after a brief stint of about 7 years meandering around the state of California and trying to finish art school. Finally made it back, grew somewhat up, got an art degree and went promptly to work in finance. The ultimate cliché.
2. When did you know that you wanted to be a musician/songwriter?
There’s footage of me somewhere at months old playing with a fisher-price toy piano. That was always my proof that is was there from the beginning. I used music to cope at an early age, but the development of songwriting started when I started realizing that there wasn’t always a song for me that fit my emotional state. I knew I wanted to write my own music when I got sick of playing classical piano and singing opera pieces that I usually only used to impress boys into thinking I knew how to speak a different language. It worked, until I finally met one that actually spoke Italian. There’s a song about that too.
3. What kind of music do you write?
The very first song I wrote was called “Die, Grandma, Die”. I was 7-years-old and had just lost my grandmother to cancer. I clearly write music mostly in a literal sense. Everything I put my hand to, has been in some way experienced, either by me or through others. The lyrics are meant to tell a story and I try and use them in such a way that puts them up for interpretation, but never something anyone has to try and figure out.
4. What inspires you?
Spontaneity. People experience things on a daily basis, but there is always that one moment when the realization of something hits you. For me, it can be a lyric, or a melody. Whatever it is usually comes at the most inopportune time, when I’m either sleeping or in the supermarket or shower. It sounds silly, but I have a notebook full of one-liners that I wake up from dreams with and an iphone full of horrible sounding voice bites. I am inspired by the strength of the people that surround me and of my own. It’s taken me a long time to be inspired by my own life, but with time, I realized it’s worth sharing as well and have been told it has provided support for others, which is, if anything, the one thing I always wanted to accomplish. I am inspired by a lot of late 70’s/early 80’s era rock, folk and country. I like things to make sense, whether it be chord progression or the flow of words. I think a lot of the old school bands like Boston, The Stones and Steve Miller Band, and random singers like Garth Brooks, Cat Stevens or Stevie Nicks. There is a wide array of things I listen to. Inspiration has come from as far off as metal and/or punk music, which is a whole way of life in and of itself.
5. What message or inspiration do you hope to pass on to your listeners?
Let things surprise you. Take chances. Really listen and take in what people are saying and find meaning in even the smallest things. Be inspired by yourself and the good things that happen as well as the bad. Don’t ever think timing isn’t for a reason.
Bonus Question: What’s next for you?
I have been working with a producer named Mike Davidson here in Boston and we just finished a successful crowdsourcing campaign that raised a little over $10,000. With that I’m on my way to head back into the studio to record my first album! I’m kind of just seeing where life take me right now based on that. I’m a free spirit when it comes to possibility. I have some other things in the works in terms of marketing and radio, but you’ll just have follow along to see where it goes ☺