Many Lessons on Writing

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Arches National Park. Photo Credit: Steven Symes

The vibrant heat of summer days is dissipating from the valleys here, after having long-fled the nearby mountains. As the temperate embrace of fall descends, trees have been turning their coats rapidly, just before shedding them for the harsh winter.

I can feel this change all around me: it’s in the bones of the towering mountains, the flocks of geese strafing overhead and even in the crunch of grass underfoot. As the fleeting final moments of summer slip through my fingers, I’ve tried desperately to conjure a few last memories: a final trip to Moab, swimming outdoors and hiking where soon only skiing is an option.

It was in this spirit that I ventured to Deer Valley with my wife for something I normally don’t do: attending a Jewel concert. In fact, I don’t even listen to Jewel – my wife is the avid fan of her music, which I don’t mind but never just turn on for myself.

I’ve never seen Jewel live. I bought a Jewel DVD for my wife a while ago, but haven’t even watched it with her. My wife also has a poetry book by Jewel that I’ve never cracked open. So I went to this concert hoping it would at least be palatable.

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The Jewel concert in Deer Valley. Photo Credit: Steven Symes

Let me say I have a newfound respect for Jewel. She told stories throughout the concert, explaining about her life and the inspiration for different songs. I’d say her storytelling ability rivals her musical talent, and that’s saying quite a bit. She told about taking part in a drug bust with the authorities in Mexico, hitchhiking as a teenager, living in her car in San Diego, her turbulent home life as a child, etc.

One thing struck me loud and clear: Jewel is very much who she is. I had heard a little about her rough upbringing, but it impressed me she didn’t shirk from it or make it a touchstone for excuses on her own imperfections in life. Instead, she was real, vulnerable and strong simultaneously. It was admirable, magnetic even. The experience gave me something to aim for in my own work.

Another form of inspiration came from an unexpected source: an article I just read on the Inc. website. It talks about Jerry Seinfeld’s three keys to success: inspiration, execution and detail. You can read it here – which I highly recommend.

I also recently finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. My wife had actually bought the book for me at a library sale, then it got lost in the shuffle of the many books I have to read. I started it at a time when I had many struggles, and the gritty nature of it was too much.Shadow’s struggles in a rustic, unfair landscape full of warring gods was heavy for me at the time.

Thinking about it, the fact the book had that kind of an effect on me is a testament to Gaiman’s descriptive abilities. I actually had a similar experience when I first read The Shining long ago. The book is great, and the ending was quite clever in ways I wasn’t fully expecting, but should have since that’s Gaiman’s style. Apparently there’s a Starz series based on it that, from the trailer, looks far too polished.

Although not unexpected, I also wanted to share more avenues of inspiration I’ve drawn from recently: the natural beauty of my surroundings. Enjoy these pictures of the playgrounds that are practically in my own backyard! The mountain photos are in and around Solitude Ski Resort within half an hour from my house, and the others are of Arches National Park by Moab, which is about four hours from my house.

I took a break from blogging for a while, resurfaced for a moment, then disappeared again. Without getting too personal, I’ve been soul searching substantially, assessing what I’m really after and if this blog can work as a support for those overarching goals. My final conclusion is that it can, but I’m going to be doing things differently. And I’m leaving it at that, keeping the mystery alive, so you’ll just have to come back and see what I have in store.

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