NEWS FLASH: Spill on Mars

Mars

Within moments of announcing the discovery of flowing water on the surface of Mars, NASA officials were back at the podium with an additional announcement.

“We have to admit that we were completely caught off guard by this, but it seems that an oil tanker has run aground in one of the Martian streams and is spilling massive quantities of oil into the aquifer,” announced the saddened official. “Upon identifying the owner of the vessel, we will be working with their containment specialists to try to limit the environmental damage.”

“There is no indication that any native species are in immediate danger from contamination,” he pressed. “Although we are saddened to report that signal transmission from the NASA rover ceased shortly after the grounding was initially reported.”

NASA released the last image that the rover transmitted back to Earth.

"Had no idea oil companies were working in the area." - NASA official

“Had no idea oil companies were working in the area.” – NASA official

Snow drifting

(Image property of Duncan Rawlinson; http://duncan.co/tag/snowing/)

(Image property of Duncan Rawlinson; http://duncan.co/tag/snowing/)

From thousands of feet, the snowflake made its way from its misty nursery to a gentle caress of Henry’s cheek, slowly melting where ice meets the dampened skin to puddle with its fallen brethren.

Henry faces the sky, his back firmly planted in the snow bank, the drift slowly cocooning him as the crystalline waters descend, tears of boreal gods.

Flakes weave with the hairs of his beard, completing the whitening that age has yet left undone, his thinning scalp protected by the few remaining threads of a toque too old to be merely ancient.

Pedestrians trundle by, eyes held askew, muttering their disapproval as they bow their heads against the wind and cold. But he remains oblivious to their stares and sneers, in a world of his own, one with the thickening storm that swaddles him.

Henry doesn’t feel the cold they feel. He doesn’t feel the wind they fight. Nor does he feel the latex-gloved hands that lift him to the gurney as an unusually cold winter claims another life.

Consciously unconscious

When a writer is on her game, when she has found a creative groove, she writes at two levels.

At the conscious level, she weaves the stories of her various characters and environments into a literary carpet of amazing delicacy. She understands the work won’t be flawless when she’s done, but she knows and is comfortable in the belief that she can surgically pull the extraneous threads later.

This is a beautiful thing. But an even more dazzling spectacle is happening at the unconscious level.

This is the level at which the writer’s subconscious creates delicate near-invisible tendrils of connections between characters and themselves, their surroundings and other characters. It is at this level that amazing nuance and metaphor is added to a story. Without the harsh distractions of planning and plotting (both very important, mind you), the subconscious is free to perform magic that we may not recognize or appreciate until much later in the creative process.

One way you witness this is when you realize that conscious concerns you had before sitting down to write have been miraculously addressed, as though story-writing elves snuck onto our computers overnight.

Interestingly, this is one reason why it’s important to have other people read your stuff. They will see things you cannot. In some cases, it is because of what they bring to the table—their personal biases and experiences. But more importantly, it is because they aren’t encumbered by your blinders.

Other readers see your work more clearly because they are untainted with what comes before and after, whether on the page or in your head.

I witnessed and shared this personally in two reading group sessions where my fellow writers created incredible metaphors that deeply informed their lead characters. Yet, when pressed directly as to whether they were conscious of those decisions, both were the most shocked people in the room.

Both demurred that the incidences were quite accidental, but whereas I might agree that they were unintentional, I don’t believe they were in any way accidental.

We make choices for a reason (or several) even when we don’t know what those reasons are. The truth is our truth no matter how ignorant we may remain to what that truth is. We cannot help but splay that truth across our pages.

To some extent, I think creative harmony lay in not caring what those reasons are. For if we try to dissect them, I fear we run the risk of killing them. It is enough, I think, to let our subconscious guide us while we work consciously.

Let the magic within you happen. Your work will be the better for it.

I never intended to take a photo of someone urinating in a Washington, DC alley way, but am tickled I did...especially as he realizes he's been caught

I never intended to take a photo of someone urinating in a Washington, DC alley way, but am tickled I did… especially as he realizes he’s been caught