Search

J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

Tag

metaphor

Musings on imagery, metaphor and an unexpected journey…….

The way is shut. It was made by the Dead and the Dead keep it, till the time comes. The way is shut.
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings

So went the phrase ’round and ’round my mind in January of 2013.

But it wasn’t the hall of the Dead that Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas found themselves in, trying to raise an army that would help turn the tide against Sauron and his armies that I was thinking of.

It was my metaphoric heart, wounded and frightened, that screamed this line every time I tried to push myself past the hurt. No need to go into the cause – suffice to say, it was not a pleasant experience. It left me jumpy, terrified of my own shadow, distrustful of even my nearest and dearest.

Still, I wanted to be past that pain, beyond it, free of it. I purged the bulk of it into one novel – while a great step forward, it was only the first step in a long journey. I wanted to skip the journey and speed up time so that I could just be me and whole again. Of course, it takes time for such wounds to heal properly. In January of 2013, I wanted to be healed, right then.

I had begun revising and editing my third novel that same month- although a mystery, it was, at its core, also a story of that self-same metaphoric heart. I began with re-writing the ending, which at the time, was a Debbie Downer. I mean, it was sad and angry and hurt. It worked, it was a great ending, but it just didn’t work for the characters. So I re-wrote it with a much more upbeat and optimistic tone.

And this is where the heart imagery really began to show itself.

I kept finding places in Novel #3 to insert a new scene or flesh out an old one, or replace one altogether. I called the act cracking open the story. The image that came to mind was of the cracking open of the chest, as if for open heart surgery. Gruesome image, yes, but how else do you begin to repair an injured or broken heart? Looking back on it, that’s exactly what I was doing – prepping to repair and heal my heart.

At around the same time, I had also begun taking care of some horses, where I met an equine I came to call Best Bud Mare. Horses have, on more than one occasion, saved my soul. I would even go so far as to say that they have saved my life. Not in a dramatic fashion, the way Trigger or Silver or even The Black Stallion would, but in quiet and calming ways. They allowed me to just be, without demanding anything of me, which is what I so desperately needed. One even offered a shoulder for me to cry on when I was feeling overwhelmed with hurt and grief. I had never felt so loved than in that moment.

When I met Best Bud Mare and her equine companions, I was starting to come out of that space. I wasn’t ready to deal with people except in the most minimal of ways. I rarely left my house, except to see the horses. I remember I was wearing a crystal charm in the shape of a heart. One day, over the summer, the charm disappeared. I had literally lost my heart. I have no idea where or when. I noticed only that it had fallen off my necklace.

Converging on my third novel and my care-taking of horses, another passion, theater beckoned in the form of a question: “When are you going back to acting?”

To which I flippantly replied, “When I’m ready to put my heart back on my sleeve.”

And, after a couple of years and three plays, I am returning to the stage by deliberate choice and am currently in a local production of an Agatha Christie play. I also have my eye on another production, Shakespeare’s The Tempest as the powerful and humble sorcerer Prospero.

My heart is singing, my blood is racing and I have goosebumps every time I interact with my fellow actors on the stage as we rehearse.

I have followed my heart.

Follow yours and see where it leads.

So, I recently had the chance to see The Maltese Falcon (1941)……

……….where it should be seen to be truly enjoyed – on the big screen and starring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor. Based on the 1929 Dashiell Hammett novel of the same name, the film follows the four as they race to get the legendary and valuable bird created as a gift by the Knights Templar of Malta in 1539.
At the end, Spade and Detective Polhaus have this bit of dialogue:

“Heavy. What is it?” Detective Polhaus
“The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.” Sam Spade

Spade’s final line in the movie resonated with me, stayed with me for a couple of days. For me, the film wasn’t just a noir mystery shrouded in murder, greed and sex, it was a metaphor for being creative. The falcon is the seed and the inspiration. All the intrigue that follows in the 20th century with Sam Spade is a result of the bird being created as a gift in the 16th century.
You have an idea (the falcon). Through trial and error and self-doubt and perseverance (Spade and villains), you create the final product (book/film/song/etc.). What motivates you to create something? What drives you to pursue it to the end?
As a writer, I am constantly asking myself questions while working on a project, whether it’s a novel or a script. This is especially true when I get stuck and I do get stuck. A lot. Years ago, I took a journalism class and, while I ultimately chose to not pursue the profession, I did learn something incredibly valuable and helpful to my creative writing.
The five W’s and one H. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Surprisingly, this is also helpful for when I’m drawing.

Back to the Falcon and Sam Spade’s classic final words. At the end of the movie, Polhaus has picked up the bird, which has been revealed to be a fake. He is surprised at how heavy it is for such a small statue. Spade’s words, while seeming to be positive, actually mean the opposite – the falcon symbolizes false hopes and broken dreams.

How is this about being creative? Because what we perceive to be false hopes and broken dreams are often redirecting us to look at the situation or project with a different perspective.
Who is this for, at the end of the day? Who do you need to satisfy first and foremost? Yourself.
Why is this important? Because it’s an expression of the self.
What is it about? What does it mean? Creative work means something different to the creator than it does to the viewer.
Where is this creative muse/inspiration? Everywhere you look, there’s a story, photograph, a work of art.
When do you do it? Right now would be a good time.

Recommended Reading/Viewing:
The Maltese Falcon (novel-1929) Dashiell Hammett
The Maltese Falcon (film-1941)
On Writing (2000; anniversary edition 2010) Stephen King

*****
Editor’s Note – this blog post is published concurrently on Citizens Journal VC

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑