Monthly Archives: July 2014

A discovery about descriptions

One of the things I used to dislike in books were long descriptions. Even descriptions by such masters as Leo Tolstoy and Jane Austen made me sometimes become quite impatient and my brain thinking: “When will the story continue?”

I am sure this just shows my impatience at those moments, not the lack of virtue of the pieces I read. But still, these experiences made me afraid writing descriptions as soon as I started writing fiction myself.

And then several months ago I have read “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert and became completely dumbfounded. This book is full of descriptions! And many of them where pages and pages long. How could this be?

Last week I read an article in Writer’s Digest from January 2014 by Elizabeth Sims. The title of the article is “Miscalculations and Missteps”. And there in Section 6 named “The Great Undescribed”, I found the following:

Take a risk and go long. The value of a relatively long description is that it draws your readers deeper into the scene. The worry is that you’ll bore them. But if you do a good job you’ll engross them. Really getting into a description is one of the most fun things you can do as an author. Here’s the trick: Get going on a description with the attitude of discovering, not informing. In this zone, you’re not writing to tell readers stuff you already know – rather, you are writing to discover and experience the scene right alongside them.”

This passage revealed the secret of the SOAT (as Elizabeth Gilbert calls her book), which was hidden for me. SOAT is full of descriptions, but each description is full of discoveries: of love, of own body, of lust, of science, of secrets of universe and its origins and many more. The whole book is continuous discovery. And you can hear this wonder in the voice of the narrator, who mirrors the wonder the main character, Alma Whittaker, experiences through her journey.

The book covers the period of time of more than 50 years! This again goes against the advice I learned: “The shorter the period of time your story takes place the better. Backstory can go further back, but the plot itself should unfold in a short period of time. Otherwise, you will bore the reader.” But SOAT proves this advice completely wrong. It starts with Alma’s birth and finishes with her death.

But even at her death, Alma was discovering. As the Amazon review of SOAT says, Alma is “the insatiably curious“. And I became more and more curious with every sentence I read.

I am very grateful to both Elizabeths (Gilbert and Sims) for lifting my fear from descriptions, for showing me that I can love long descriptions and wish for more, and for giving me a great clue of recognizing a really good one.

And all this led me to a thought which applies to everything: One of the clues to having fun, along with being in the moment, is to be in a constant discovery mode, walking through life ‘with an open mouth’ and being in awe of everything around and inside ourselves.

Pictures: During our recent vacation in South Sweden I rediscovered my love and awe with Karlson on the Roof (from a series of stories written by Astrid Lindgren). I forgot over the years how much I loved these stories and the animated films based on these stories and created in Soviet Union. We visited Astrid Lindgren’s World theme park in Vimmerby, Astrid Lindgren’s birth place. Niklas wanted to see Pippi Longstocking and her house. And when we did it, I knew I wanted to see Karlson, or at least his house. And then as Niklas and I were on the roof at Karlson’s door, we saw him singing and dancing in the street in front of the house. We hurried downstairs to see more. It was such fun to see a childhood’s hero live. And it is an absolute pleasure to witness my son discovering his childhood heroes.

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To … or not to …?

“Can you imagine that a few meters away from where you are now, the following words have been written: ‘To be or not to be?’?”

I have heard these question on a sightseeing tour in London close to the Shakespeare’s globe.

A day later, I wondered: “Would Hamlet put this famous question if he would practice transformation or any other technique that helps living in the current moment, living a fulfilled life?” The answer came pretty fast: “He wouldn’t.” He would just know where he was and what he should do without blaming anyone in his misery.

I was smiling when I had these thoughts. The fact that I heard this question, that I have been to Cambridge and London this year is due to the fact that I followed one of my dreams. I wanted to go to Cambridge, I wanted to visit the transformational seminar with Ariel and Shya Kane there, I wanted to take my son and my mother-in-law (to spend time with us and to take care of Niklas, while I would be at the seminar) with me, and I wanted to see again my wonderful friends Ian and Mildred after a long time. All these wishes didn’t come simultaneously, but some of them did and the others appeared as soon as the first became clear.

I did have thoughts like “This is too crazy! This will cost too much money. I will have to organize and take the responsibility for the whole trip all by myself. I can’t possibly do it!” But the wish was there and as soon as I expressed it out loud to my husband, to my family and friends, I got support. “Go for it! How wonderful!” were the answers. And from my wonderful friend and mother-in-law: “I am in!”

Today is the first day after we are back from this breathtaking trip. And I will always remember it as a multidimensional dream that came true, and in which I was the driving force to make it true.

So the answer to the question in the title is very simple and obvious: If you really want it, then you really should do, whatever you are up to.

My next and current dream is to write as much as I can and this post a small realization of it.

Wishing all wonderful moments of making dreams come true, however small, big, seemingly insignificant or momentous they are! If you really want them, then they are important.

Pictures: As soon as I looked at the London’s map, I knew that I wanted to see two things: Big Ben and Baker Street. And these two wishes also became true. And then there was the sweetest baker at the pizzeria on Baker Street, where we had wonderful dinner.

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