Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Living Vicariously

Nursing let me live vicariously through patients in that I experienced many things in life with them that I luckily didn't have to experience myself. Characters let me do that too. And I haven't even scratched the surface of that whole crazy town.

The ability to Vine and Instagram and Twitter and get news at any time of the day leaves little time for introspection. We are constatly entertained. And fewer people are reading. Maybe I'm just writing for myself. Whatever the case, crafting a story makes me think of things in a different way, from the character's point of view and in situations I've never encountered. It's kind of fun - you should try it.

Writers also do weird things for writing reasons that no one else needs to do. My inner editor, the critical voice that never shuts up needs to be silenced sometimes so that I can go off on a tangent and maybe discover something fabulous. Or write a bunch of crap. Either way, creativity is stifled if you are always editing yourself. I had lots of trouble with this. My writing sounded . . . constipated (for lack of a better way to say it - anal retentive maybe?) Those of you who know me are completely unsurprised by this but you might like the way I handled it. Maybe you can even use something like this yourself if you are trying to create something, anything, and your critical voice gets in the way.

I took a small paper mache dress form (all of 1.99 at Michaels) and I did the old decoupage thing to dress her up. I am not an artist in the drawing sense of the word but I can do scissors and glue. Anyway, by the time she was done, blue skirt, red top, pearls, I named her Caliope and she was my inner editor come to life - sort of.

The reason I made her was so that I had a tangible thing to identify as being in my way. Telling one part of your brain to hush does not always work, so Caliope gives me the visual reminder that I am either creating (right side of the desk) or editing (left side of the desk). I had her at work on that desk for a long time to remind me that I used to write and now she's back in action.

I've found it helpful. I can more often just write something completely crazy without hearing "you can't say that," or "nope, someone will identify that asshat." Having the inner editor outside of me, standing on my desk at the ready, is the best tool I've come up with so far to assist my vicarious living. Where shall we go?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Character, Or Who Are You Really?

Character is the original reason I started this blog. I was writing a character that was younger than me (oh, by about 35 years) and I was having trouble with her "voice" - the way she talked and what she said. But also I needed to develop who she was. What were her vices and ethics, what color was the lens through which she saw the world?

Margaret is kind of, sort of, me, with a completely different life. That's the fun of writing. I like to think that I have good character - whatever that is - but it doesn't allow the protagonist to learn anything if you start them out with good character. What is this "good" we ascribe to people (even fictional people) and what is this "bad?" Ah, that is the craft of writing.

In real life, we don't meet one dimensional people - good or bad. I'm loving House of Cards because the writing shows both. Bad people who occasionally do good things - or do they have an ulterior motive and it's not really a good thing at all? Fabulous writing.

For most of my life, I've been kind of the goody two shoes. Oh, I've screwed up royally at times, but I'm certainly not the alcoholic, depressed genius some famous writers have been. Maybe the genius part. Does that condemn me to mediocrity? I think I can use the bad times in my life to dredge up stories of pain and loss. I really don't want to only write about pain and loss. It is the tendency now in the literary journals and the MFA (Master of Fine Arts) programs to spill your guts and let everyone walk all over them.

I can do it, but I think so many people have been doing it that it's just not interesting anymore. Reality TV. Trainwreck central. Enough said. I would rather write stories that show the good in people. To show when the character learns a lesson through hard work and that lesson isn't that the world will rip off your head and shit down your neck. Sorry, had a reality moment there.

My latest story that is currently sent out to a few publishers is a quiet, meditative piece on how the things that happen in your life don't necessarily steer your life. You can be better than your trauma. I recently got a very nice rejection letter that said in part "Over all the story was very quiet in nature, and honestly I prefer those types of stories. I think the market for the quiet, reflective pieces is pretty small. Good luck, I think this piece is publishable, you just have to look for a good match."

Hmmm. Yes, you must know your audience - in any business. Yes, I understand that the trend is toward in-your-face action and drama. Do I want to change what I write so that I can be published, or do I want to write what I want to write? I haven't decided yet.

And that decision is indicative of character. Not the outcome of the decision, but how I come to the decision and that I write for the right reasons. I may never get published. I'm okay with that. In the years I've been writing, my motivation has changed from recognition to producing the best art for art's sake. Does that component of my character make me better? Decidedly no. But people struggle with those types of questions - one's in which there is no right answer - and I fear our society and the technology of today inhibits people from figuring things out from the basis of who they are.

I would like to write about people who know who they are. Or who find out through good and not torture. Not who did what to whom, but why they did those things and what they learned from them: Characters being true to themselves and righting the ship when they've gone off course. I don't know how far it will get me, but it will be in character.



Monday, April 7, 2014

Order of Life

God, self, family, friends, work.

The order of life has gotten jumbled for me on many occasions but I find the simple list most helpful in keeping things from listing to port and ultimately sinking the ship. That would be bad.

In the last few years, the only thing that has changed is WORK, but it changed so dramatically that it threatened to literally drag me down - suffocate me with demands that I could never live up to.

I wanted to be good at it and to make a difference. I think I was good at it but sometimes the difference you attempt to make is not the one that is appreciated, or needed, or right for the particular situation.

I can't do the things I know how to do any differently, so I chose to stop doing it. Work that is.

I'm not completely unemployed. I do chart reviews from my home office and I can listed to music and have a beer if I want (just one though) while working - try THAT at the hospital. You would soon be not-working too.

The fabulous side effect of stopping working is that I have time to write again. Hallelujah! Time to dust off the two novels and get them revised and rewritten and send-out-able. It's gonna take a while. Time away from writing can give you fresh perspective and renewed energy, or it can make you rusty and sophomoric until you find your voice again.

Bets? I bet I am rusty. But I will plow through word after word, page after page if that's what it takes to get the edge back. I've recently been told that I am not a good communicator. Ouch. Those are harsh words for a writer. I don't necessarily agree with that person though. I think I'm a great communicator. So there.

As you can read for yourself, I have some work to do on my persuasive arguments.

For those who know me personally, I am happy and ready for whatever life throws at me now. It's been a long few years and time with my family is something I will not put behind other demands. God, self, family, friends, work. They will stay in that order from now on. Or at least more closely in that order than I have been able to keep them.



Saturday, April 5, 2014

Goodnight Daddy

"Goodnight Daddy."

How many of you remember the last words you've said to someone? In a life filled with words, sometimes the simplest ones get forgotten.

My father died in the early morning hours of January 20, 2013. I left him with these last words and he left me with a little empty space.

Goodnight Daddy.

That's partly the reason why my last post was January 1, 2013. Other reasons include a way busy life and hellacious busy job but both of those things calmed down when I quit my job in October. It's April and I'm just now starting to write again.

I think I was recovering from death and overwork. Or maybe I was just being lazy. I haven't been lazy too many times in my life, so even if it was that  . . . so be it.

The first step in starting to write again was actually putting my butt in the chair and producing something. Caca at first. Luckily, writing is like riding a bike and most of the important skills came back quickly.

The terrifying part is the place I stopped was the dreaded revision stage. I have tons of stuff written and starting something new is joyous. But oh, that fixing of things so that someone can read and enjoy is not the easiest component of writing for me.

Now I need to practice writing and revision every day. Just like a job. Because it actually is work.

"Just do it." Nike is pretty smart. There really isn't any other way to get it done.

Step two was telling people I was writing again. There's no going back after that and this post serves the purpose in publicly committing to being a writer again.

Life is good and I am so blessed to be able to work part time from home (actually, I work when I feel like it which is about 60 hours a month instead of 60 hours per week - bonus!). Writing now has a space in my life again and that makes me happy.

Oh, and I have the best husband ever who, in these crazy economic times, said he fully supported me leaving my very good job because I needed too. He's the bomb. I'll have to make sure that the characters based on him are always the hero.

Love you Kevin!