The Silent Scream

It was just another in a long, monotonous line of bleak, nondescript November days in western New York, the clouds gray and low, like bruises in the sky.  The last sunny day had been well over a week ago. I was driving to my Creative Writing class, the twenty-mile commute to the college taking me through small towns and country farms and fields.  The bare trees, with their twisted, skeletal  limbs, appeared as if they were trying to reach up and puncture holes in the clouds, perhaps, like the rest of us, desperate to reveal the blue that lay beyond.

baretrees

 

I had been in a bit of a funk.  November in the Northeast can be a depressing time.  The days continue to grow shorter, as evening falls by 5:00 p.m.  The air has a bite to it, reminding you, every time you step out the door, that a long, snowy wintry season is just around the bend.  Spring seems a long ways off, a distant thing that floats around on the wind like some vague rumor, some hushed secret nobody quite dares to believe.

But it wasn’t just the season that was getting me down.  It was my creative life–or lack thereof.  Take the Creative Writing class I was driving to.  Just a fortnight ago, I had turned in a short story called “A Day at the Beach,” full of optimism, confidence, sure that the professor and the rest of the class, who would read it and critique it for the following week’s session, would appreciate the symbolism, thematic nuances, and structure of the story.

They hadn’t.  None of them really “got” what I was trying to say, and very few of them liked the story.  In the days that followed, I wondered about that.  I had tried so hard to create something literary, rich with similes and metaphors, and subthemes that tackled the key issues of life and our existence on this planet.  What had gone wrong?

I passed a dairy farm, the cows grazing languorously in the fading light of day.  They seemed so relaxed, content simply to be.  Everything I wasn’t, with my strivings and studying and worrying over GPA.  Beyond the dairy farm, a dead November corn field stretched for acres, the stalks yellowed, dessicated, like a battalion of corpses. And on the western edge of the field stood a weathered old barn.  I had passed it many times before, on the drive out to the college.  But today it looked different.

corn

 

Its door was open, revealing dark shadows that retreated further into the interior.  Coupled with the two upper window slots near the roof and the one slightly lower, the front of the barn resembled a giant face, the eyes gazing out at the corn field, at the flock of crows gathering, searching for a morsel.  But the door–the open door . . .

It looked like a mouth, open wide, screaming . . .  I shuddered, literally, as I drove past.  My imagination–always overactive–instantly imagined reasons why the barn would feel compelled to scream.  I visualized the terrible things that may have happened within its four wooden walls, its loft, its dusty, hidden corners full of cobwebs and rusted-out equipment, long since useless but lurking, lurking, like monsters in the dark.  What secrets did that barn have to tell?  What horrors did it have to scream about?

barnface

 

I drove on, still thinking, still haunted by the image of the screaming barn.  It screamed, but without a sound.  It had a story to tell, but it remained mute, like a creature without a tongue.  And suddenly, I realized that was exactly the way I had been operating in my Creative Writing class.  I had been writing with the art of writing foremost in my mind.  I had been pressing, the literary equivalent to the baseball batter who overswings, trying to hit every pitch over the fence.  I hadn’t been letting my stories tell themselves.  I hadn’t even been writing the stories I needed to write.  If some idea didn’t strike me as “literary,” I chose to toss it aside, ashamed of sharing it with the class.  Instead I stressed over the merit of ideas, the complexity, the themes and symbols.  This was a Graduate-level class, after all.  I couldn’t just write the things I wanted to write about.  I had to write literary stories.

drained

 

No wonder my stories were lacking, uninspired, flat and lifeless on the page.  Just like that barn I had passed, I had my own screams, the ideas that kicked and punched away inside of me, ideas that yelled to be let out, shared with others, not because they were necessarily complex or literary, but because they were mine.  They were the things I was passionate about, the things I cared about and thought about and feared and hated and loved, the things that kept me up at night, tugging away at the soul, not letting go, never relenting.  These were the stories I was meant to tell.  These were my screams, which, too often during that Writing class, I had stifled and ignored.

blankpage

 

********************

I have had a few people ask me why I wrote The Eye-Dancers.  Why sci-fi/fantasy?  Why young adult?  Why are four boys the protagonists?  Why not two boys and two girls?  Or three girls and a boy?  Or . . .?  And I’m sure I could try to come up with some layered answer, discussing the themes and story arcs and character traits represented in the novel.  I could probably break out some aspects of literary theory and point of view and symbolism.  But none of that would express anything real.  None of that would come close to sharing the real reason why I wrote the book . . .

. . . I had a story to tell.  It found me, I didn’t find it.  It came knocking, pounding, banging . . . and I had to answer.  Once I did, it set in motion an inexorable tide of ideas and characters that would not rest until their story had been told.

It is like that with anything, I think.  We each have things inside of us that need to be unleashed, that need to be heard.

letourcreativity

 

So go ahead.  Write.  Create.  Draw.  Paint.  Play.  Talk.  Dance.  Decorate.  Sing.    Share the things you care about, not because they are “literary” or “artistic” or “multi-layered” (even if they are).  Share them because they are yours.

Our screams should not be silent.

beach

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

76 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elaine Jeremiah
    Oct 11, 2013 @ 19:40:45

    This is wonderfully written, Mike, and so true. I loved it! You write really well.

    Reply

  2. reocochran
    Oct 11, 2013 @ 19:51:08

    I like how you told this story, that you were writing for a class something that was beautiful use of words. It was literary, you were trying to impress with words, but you did not have the muse of writing inside your paper. It was not in your head when you wrote that specific paper. You were focusing on the wrong thing! I liked that you are being honest, find your calling, whatever subject moves you, screams at you and start writing about that! I felt your anguish over the GPA, have been there, done that! I liked this essay a lot, it helps me feel better about my writing, sometimes it seems “not deep enough” or expresssed “well enough… Thank you!

    Reply

  3. jjspina
    Oct 11, 2013 @ 19:56:44

    I cannot imagine you writing anything that is not fantastic! You are an incredibly talented writer. It is a pleasure to know you, Mike. Also, it is very enjoyable to read your blogs. I am an avid fan!

    Reply

  4. ampbreia
    Oct 11, 2013 @ 20:05:01

    I love the way you write. I don’t care what your class thinks or doesn’t think. By the way, I am loving Eye Dancers! Since I’ve been sick, I’ve had plenty of time to read and I’ve had trouble even setting it down. Wonderful story!

    Reply

  5. stormy1812
    Oct 11, 2013 @ 22:33:50

    I still have so, so, so much growing to do with my own writing but as frustrating as it gets, it’s always nice to read something like this to keep me encouraged. I enjoy this blog. Any time I try to be “literary” it really just comes out super cheesy lol. I end up tossing it out and now I probably know why. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  6. mjdresselbooks
    Oct 11, 2013 @ 23:48:55

    I love the way you look at things. You’re an inspiring writer.

    Reply

  7. The Other Side of Ugly - Letters to Humanity
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 00:21:18

    That was excellent Michael! And first let me say I could see the barn screaming too! About your internal scream to write from heart AND head I totally agree! When I try to WRITE, verses try to explain what I feel in my heart I wind up usually writing something that I don’t even connect with, never mind my audience. When I just give it to the computer straight, holding nothing back I find a greater reader interest AND I can go back and re-read it 3 months later and go “wow” that is good. Great insight and good advice my friend. Warmly – Sheri

    Reply

  8. Honey
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 00:32:37

    Great advice, but might have to pass on the “sing” part. Now a story about the barn, please. 🙂

    Reply

  9. Meredith
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 00:45:19

    For me this is a lesson to not dismiss something I write because it doesn’t sound like Bronte or Austen. We all have our own voice and our stories should be told in that voice. As much as I admire the great novelists and wish I could be as articulate as they are, my way of writing can be valid just as it is. It probably won’t go down in history, but valid nonetheless. Let that scream out!

    Reply

  10. sakuraandme
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 02:13:39

    Hey Mike. 🙂

    This post had me transfixed. Why? Because you wrote with such passion. I wanted to know what happened in that barn? Lol
    It was brilliant.
    I finishes The Eye Dancer whilst recently on holiday in Victoria. At home I had too many distractions.
    At first I felt it was more towards the teenage bracket and not really adults. But after finishing it I really enjoyed it.
    It would make a great movie for teenagers.
    Have a great weekend. Hugs Paula xxx

    Reply

  11. Micheng
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 02:39:41

    Your writing is so passionate. Wow! I cant say a word. Every sentence is so deep to the soul. You are a true writer!

    Reply

  12. Jilanne Hoffmann
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 07:06:07

    One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about writing was to stop thinking while you write. Think before you write and after you write, but during the process, just write. So stop thinking and get on with that story. :o)

    Reply

  13. Fashion Mayann
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 13:31:16

    Mike, this is such a great “I bare my soul” post which turns into a “I share what I do best and I inspire” post ! Thank you so much for writing this (and I can tell you that, thanks to its wicked introduction, I’m definitely ready for Halloween !).

    Reply

  14. Jade Reyner
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 14:06:22

    Excellent post. Aptly describes what we all go through usually on a daily basis when trying to find that perfect angle to our story. But you are so right – when a story finds you and begs to be written, you no longer need the angles. Push forward creativity in whichever form we find it and do not be shy in celebrating it. 🙂

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Oct 14, 2013 @ 19:12:19

      Hi, Jade! It is very much that way, isn’t it? When a story is yelling and kicking to be written, IT is very much in control of us, rather than the other way around . . . A wonderful feeling, too, when it happens!

      Reply

  15. Brook
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 18:46:08

    Mike…this is an excellent piece!!! From the very first “clouds like bruises” *Magnificent* writing!!! I could *feel* what you’re saying…It’s wonderful the way you see vivid images like the screaming barn and can translate them into a heart that beats with life and words. You’re a *wonderful writer.* Never give up!!!

    Reply

  16. Francina
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 18:53:52

    Excellent write!, Mike.. very much enjoyed reading your article! Also very well spotted the look of the barn..he looks screaming indeed.
    groetjes, Francina

    Reply

  17. eemoxam
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 20:50:10

    Great post. I wrote genre fiction for the longest time, thrillers, mysteries, because that’s what I thought writers did, they picked a genre and wrote in it. I had a lot of other ideas, but I didn’t realize I could write them because they didn’t fit nicely into any genre I had ever heard of. It sounds silly now, but I was so shocked and excited when I realized, quite luckily, that I could write about anything, even weird things. That’s when I actually felt like I became a writer, or a least a much better one. It seems so obvious now, but it sure took me a long time to figure it out!

    Reply

  18. Lynda
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 21:03:11

    Your honesty and experience inspire me to keep at it. Thank you, Mike!

    Reply

  19. laurie27wsmith
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 00:20:24

    Answers come to those who wait Michael, and reading your blog has brought home an answer to me. I have two adult/crime novels self published and my third has been for an edit. My editor a woman in her thirties gushed over my first books. The third is no different in content, yet it is now sleazy pornography. She has done another course and believes I should be writing literature. I love writing the stories I do, the way I do and in the style I like. People buy them and I warn them about content. Don’t get me wrong they are full on in all aspects but it’s MY writing. Like your experience you were writing to please others instead of yourself.
    Laurie.

    Reply

  20. Sheryl Wright Stinchcum
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 00:43:34

    Wow, Michael. “The Silent Scream” is a great piece of writing. i love your metaphors. Your description of the barn reminds me of the “House of Usher” with its “eye-like windows.” You are an exceptional writer. Maybe “The Silent Scream” should be the title of your next short story. That’s the creepiest barn I’ve ever seen, although I would not have noticed had it not been for your colorful description.

    Reply

  21. Sherri
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 11:06:26

    Did you write this just for me Mike? 😉 The story finds us and we are compelled to write as by then we don’t have any choice in the matter! I loved ‘The Silent Scream’. Got to let that scream out. Thank you for your beautifully written message to all your readers 🙂
    PS your weather in November sounds very similar to ours here in jolly old England!

    Reply

  22. jeffgoulding
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 12:06:35

    Beautifully written.

    Reply

  23. lolarugula
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 18:43:37

    Great post, Mike, and very insightful!

    Reply

  24. Sue Dreamwalker
    Oct 14, 2013 @ 11:35:38

    Wonderful post Mike, which held me to every word from beginning to end.. I will share with you I started to write a book, Called the Summerland of Lost Dreams… its still not even quarter way finished… as something happened while writing it, And as yet can not find the inspiration to complete it.. Its no longer knocking at my inner door to be completed..
    Your story found you, and you followed your intuition to write it… I think that’s why my poems come as they do.. I can not sleep and instinctively know I have to get out my journal and pen. They then just flow.. hardly ever do I need to search for a rhyming word, as the verses write themselves as you see them, no corrections needed…

    Loved the Silence Scream………..
    Have a wonderful Week
    Sue

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Oct 14, 2013 @ 19:21:18

      Thanks so much, Sue! And you’re right–when a story or piece feels forced and we don’t feel inspired to write it, it’s nearly impossible to finish. Creative writing is such a mystery–we are not really in control. Our stories and poems and ideas are!

      Reply

  25. chalkdustfairy
    Oct 14, 2013 @ 14:39:18

    “”Beyond the dairy farm, a dead November corn field stretched for acres, the stalks yellowed, dessicated, like a battalion of corpses.”

    That’s a really great line. 🙂

    Reply

  26. BroadBlogs
    Oct 14, 2013 @ 15:51:04

    I’ve heard from a number of New Englanders that November is the most depressing time there. Since November is my birth month that makes me sad. I am glad that it wasn’t the month that was bothering you. And thanks for the upbeat advice on being creative.

    btw New Englanders, the depression of November/December is what Thanksgiving, Hanukah, and Christmas are for. (In the case of Christmas, quite literally. The Solstice was not given up easily to the Christian conquerers, no doubt in part because it brought light to some pretty dark days. Good thing that the solstice/yule celebration was transformed into Christmas! Unless you are one of those who dislike Christmas because it brings so much responsibility and tension. I say give up the gifts – I did – and enjoy the spirit of the season.)

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Oct 14, 2013 @ 19:23:31

      Really enjoyed your comments!:) And you’re right, of course–having the holidays fall when they do is a great help for those of us in bleak winter climates. But then January comes along . . . and it’s still a long way to spring . . .! (You can probably tell I’m not a big fan of winter . . .)

      Reply

  27. insearchofitall
    Oct 14, 2013 @ 21:49:50

    This many comments speaks volumes about your writing. I enjoyed every word. The bleakness reminded me of my creative writing class though it’s at the senior center and not for any credit. I’ve never been to college nor taken a real class but write what I must. I know that scream with no sound. Sometimes I’m afraid to write what’s inside me because I’m not sure how it will be received. Sometimes, I take a chance. It’s all we can do. I enjoyed your book very much even though I’m not an adolescent or a boy. 🙂

    Reply

  28. Debaroon
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 12:10:00

    Goshhhhhhhhhhh!!!…This I so heartfelt a piece….I’m stunned at its words, struck by its brilliance….

    Reply

  29. Charron's Chatter
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 15:37:05

    share this with that class–because it is brilliant. BEE-rilliant. A brilliant COMPLEX weave rife with imagery and true emotion. Exactly what you discuss within its contents as being “of merit”.

    I notice this, too. The power writes over the “should works, technically correct, smart, etc” writes. It’s the silent, screaming truths inside that make compelling reading. I wrote my “Through the Monitor” as you wrote your beach story–and while its technically “all that” it fell flat for me. Just never got the spark that real feeling imparts.

    all my best short stories are published in anthologies * sigh *

    aside: I am through. I am on the other side of the eyes. 🙂

    Reply

  30. onemunchingmomma
    Oct 16, 2013 @ 02:04:06

    That is my favorite kind of writing…just letting all that is important to me, flow out onto paper. Really enjoyed reading this!

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Oct 16, 2013 @ 16:43:07

      Thanks so much! And the way you just described it is creativity in its purest form. You can’t really go wrong when you allow the words to flow and come as they will . . .

      Reply

  31. stockdalewolfe
    Oct 16, 2013 @ 03:01:34

    I love this piece! The screaming barn is great and the progression of ideas is very clever and pleasing. Do you take your own photos? They are perfect for the piece and so pleasing to the eye.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Oct 16, 2013 @ 16:44:40

      Thank you! Some of the photos I use in posts are my own, but very few.:( Usually, I find images online that would work, and just use those. I’m glad you like the ones that are chosen!

      Reply

  32. Master's Slave
    Oct 16, 2013 @ 17:54:58

    Beautiful and heartfelt. I love old barns, they are romantic and nostalgic. In the summer, we have barbeque and hangout and drink wine. Bring our chairs have a bonfire. Barns can be fun. Lovely write,

    Reply

  33. alittlebirdtweets
    Oct 21, 2013 @ 16:18:34

    I love the setting and how you describe it. A lovely piece 🙂

    Reply

  34. beebeesworld
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 02:47:48

    Thanks for reading my blog. Your stories are wonderful, I wish I had the talent you have to make my pages more interesting. How did you learn the techniques? beebeesworld

    Reply

  35. Charlene Woodley
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 16:39:07

    I sat on the edge of my seat during this post and once I arrived at your explanation and true reason for it, I could only shake my head in amazement AND agreement! I truly love and appreciate the way that you include honest and heartfelt reason to your writing as well as the writing of others. You are a great inspiration – thanks!

    Reply

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