Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Dreams, Writing Advice and Existentialism

"It's the kind of sentence you put a star by and underscore, then kick to death."
--Statement from last night's dream

I had trouble falling asleep last night so I decided to get up and read a little more from Gordon Marino's The Existentialist's Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age. Marino was a guest speaker at The Magnolia Salon this past month at the Oldenburg House.

I'm fairly certain that the dream I had, even though I remember no real details, was directly influenced by my reading. The very last thing in the dream was the voice explaining something about writing and the story I was reading: "It's the kind of sentence you put a star by and underscore, then kick to death."

Here's where I believe that sentence came from. Gordon Marino, who has been director of the Hong Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College, has also been a lifelong boxing coach. His talk last month was about existentialism, so he really didn't get the opportunity to digress all that much about boxing (he did mention meeting Mike Tyson) but I'm sure he'd said enough to cause my subconscious mind to make a connection to Ernest Hemingway, who had himself written a couple short stories featuring boxers. (My favorite boxing story, however, is Jack London's A Piece of Steak.)

Most of us who write appreciate good sentences. Sometimes we highlight them in the books we own, and sometimes we make discreet, light-colored marks in them when they are a library book. Not that we make it a habit to efface public property, but it helps us find that sentence later so we can savor it again. Occasionally I even keep a list of page numbers on my bookmark so I can find those tasty morsels before returning them to the library.

So it was that in my dream my subconscious adopted this habit of marking sentences and combined it with Hemingway's somewhat pugilistic brutality to create an intriguing statement about writing.

Does it mean anything? I don't know, but it was interesting enough to write down and contemplate later.

* * * *
Just as Marino's book is about authenticity, this morning's monthly email from New York writer and PR guy Don Heymann also dealt with being authentic. (Full disclosure: I shared an apartment with Don my third year at Ohio U.) The title of his article is Keeping it real: Writing that's trustworthy and credible. Before launching his own business in 1985 Heymann was in corporate communications with three Fortune 500 companies. His articles on communication are always spot on and valuable. I have never missed a one. "Keeping it real" offers seven tips, not forty, each being brief and to the point. Check it out. And when you do, put a star by one of the sentences and apply it to your own writing.

Related Links
50 of the Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature
Gordon Marino's The Existentialist's Survival Guide
Another place to get Gordon's book: Zenith Bookstore

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it.

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