Guest post by Brenda Layman, award-winning writer and artist.
I am no genius. Thoreau described such a person as “an originator, an inspired or demonic man, who produces a perfect work in obedience to laws yet unexplored.” Yet, writing is a gift for me. The results are not perfect, the themes not unique, but the process is intensely satisfying, and the results give me joy. Publishing is always a thrill, but the attraction, for me, lies in creation. Knowing that others read my writing and enjoy it is also a profound pleasure, because it means that I have connected with another living soul. I also love to read. Someone, somewhere, put words to paper, and that writer lives forever. Writing that survives the test of time will always grip, for it touches something vital in the reader, who recognizes it for what it is: life distilled.
Way back in undergraduate days, one of my English professors told me that I should become a writer. “You are gifted,” she said. All of nineteen, I replied, “Yes, I know I can write, but what am I going to write about? My night at the prom? I have no life experience.” She laughed and said, “But, you will.”
She was right, of course. Decades later, I have lived through experiences, good and bad, that I could never have imagined when I was a college freshman. These experiences have tempered me as a human being, and they have certainly informed and strengthened my writing.
People sometimes ask where I get my inspiration. The best ideas seem to spring upon me unannounced, but I know that they have really been lurking in the shadows for years. Then, when I stumble upon some particular sight, sound, or situation, the idea leaps into the forefront of my imagination, waving its arms, winds of creativity blowing its untidy hair around its animated features, and exclaims, “Hey, look! There it is!” Instantly, I see the long procession of images, experiences, thoughts, nuances, and allusions that enrich that idea. All these present themselves in my imagination as if I am holding a mirror before a mirror and looking into an endless series of reflections, each one of which is different, yet essentially the same. Memories of sights, sounds, smells, and feelings crowd my thoughts. Real life inspires the work and real living gives it depth and breadth and flavor. I’ve learned that most successful, powerful, written works are those that strike the most essential chords of our lives, the ones that make us weep and shudder, sweat and groan and laugh and pray and cry aloud. Those scenes we bury deep inside ourselves and cannot look upon fully. To encounter them obliquely, in the written word, softens and pales them into something bearable and sharable, terrible and beautiful.
I’ve learned a lot since I was nineteen. Life cuts us to the bone, but it also blesses us to the core. Now I have something to write about.
About the Author
Brenda Layman is an artist and writer who works in watercolor, mixed media, and photography. She has received awards for her work in watercolor and ink, and photography. Brenda has also published hundreds of magazine articles, short stories, and poems. She received The National League of American Pen Women Letters Award and is an award-winning member of The Outdoor Writers of Ohio. Her short story, ‘Kentucky Wonder Beans’, achieved Honorable Mention in the prestigious Vinnie Ream Awards for excellence in Arts and Letters, hosted by the National League of American Pen Women. When she is not painting, writing, or photographing, Brenda plays with her grandsons, volunteers at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens where she is a member of the Director’s Council,and participates in The Ladies’ Oriental Shrine of North America, an organization that supports Shrine Hospitals for Children. She lives in Pickerington, Ohio, with her husband, Mark.
Learn more about Brenda at www.BrendaLayman.com.
(Featured photo by Ramunas Geciauskas – Creative Commons)