Writing through the Fear

Like most writers, I am definitely an introvert. I crave time alone and behave like an evil genius when I get it. At least, I used to. Now? Now I have all the freedom in the world to write, and I can’t think of a blasted thing.

I can, however, find a million things that have to be done – anything to pull me away from my rough draft. Like binge-watching ten seasons of Supernatural….seriously, it had to be done.

I took a gigantic leap a couple of months ago and made writing my priority. I was on fire, excited and eager to turn my dream into a reality. I was determined and absolutely positive that I could do this. Nothing was going to stop me.

It’s funny, really. When I was working, all I could think about was writing. I would jot down notes on anything, anywhere, at any time – ideas came easily and the desire to write was insane. It was like an itch that I couldn’t quite reach until I was able to steal a moment at home.

I finally have to admit to myself what the real problem is. I’m just plain terrified. I’ve put all of my apples into one basket and I’m scared to pick it up. The desire is still there, and the urge is still strong. But I’m letting fear beat me to a pulp.

Oh so true:

That epiphany pisses me off. I’m facing the fact that I’m afraid of failure, and I’m allowing it to paralyze me. I’ve had sixty days that could have been filled with writing. Sixty days. That’s a lifetime for a full-time writer. For a rough-draft, that’s about 60,000 good words that I’ve squandered.

Sure, I’ve fiddle-farted around with my rough draft. Reading it aloud, fixing things that didn’t sound right, adding / deleting little snippets here and there. But it’s still sitting there, far from finished, staring back at me like the bully that it is. I can hear it taunting me: what are you gonna do now, crybaby?

as long as u get beyond 4:

What am I going to do? I’m going to write crap because that’s precisely where I am right now. I wasn’t afraid of writing crap before, so why should I be afraid of it now? It truly is part of the process. It’s akin to any sickness – you gotta get it out in order to feel better.

I’m officially declaring September 1st as World Crap-Writing Day. Heck, we could even extend the dates into a World Crap-Writing Festival.

So, let’s go write some crap!

Keeping it Simple

It has been a little over one month since I walked away from a “normal” life.

It has been a beautiful awakening.

What I’m about to say may sound like I’ve taken refuge in a hippy-commune (which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing – peace, love, and happiness ya’ll). I’ve come to a place where I totally understand why people choose to walk away from lucrative careers and live off-the-grid.

I won’t lie: this place is a bit scary because of the sheer amount of introspection that occurs. But, it is also an eye-opening experience that I welcome with open arms and zero regrets.

We purchased a cozy little camper, just big enough for the four of us, and spent the first two weeks of my freedom camping. It was just the two of us for week one. It rained off-and-on for four days of that week, the pitter-patter of rain-drops only adding to our contentment. We would wake at dawn, share the quiet mornings with a cup of coffee, and simply be.

We had nowhere to rush to, nothing urgent that needed to be addressed. There were no outside pressures to clog my brain or my spirit. We did alot of walking, sometimes talking to one another and other times just enjoying our surroundings as no words were needed. A peace settled over us both in that first week.

Surrounded by the song of cicadas and the scent of forgotten camp-fires mingling with the mossy aroma of damp earth, I found myself again. That wasn’t my intention, but my soul began to feel as I filled a spiral notebook with descriptions of what I was seeing, hearing, and smelling.

I cried alot as my emotions became words on the page, a sweet release of tension and pressure that had surreptitiously taken root over the last several years. I bled out, getting rid of infection that was full of societal expectations and perceived responsibilities.

The kids joined us shortly after that, the second week being their last hoorah before going back to school. It all clicked into place as I watched my step-son head off to fish, looking like a teen-aged Opie Taylor (from The Andy Griffith Show) with his pole slung over one shoulder and a tackle-box clutched in his other hand.

My heart’s desire is a simple life. Uncomplicated, uncluttered, unfettered by what is currently considered “the American dream”.

 

Before anyone explodes, let me explain. By definition, the American dream is freedom for all to pursue prosperity and success. You may ask, what’s wrong with that? Nothing – not on the surface, anyway. Let’s dig a little deeper.

What is the definition of prosperity and success? Most would say wealth, or financial freedom. Financial freedom, in my humble opinion, is an oxymoron. We are all slaves to our bank accounts, regardless of how much or how little is in them.

Now, my idea of the American dream is the freedom to take risks, to follow our hearts and chase our dreams. It is the freedom to fail, and to fail fabulously. But, it is also the freedom to get back up, dust ourselves off, and march on.

So, now when I’m asked what I do for a living, I tell them I’m a writer. My answer is often met with raised eyebrows, which makes me smile. I already know the questions that are flying through the minds of the askers. One simple sentence should answer all of their inquiries, though: Because I can.

I’m a writer. That lone statement is the creation of my future, my American dream.

 

I wrote a boring character….UGH.

Have you ever been 20,000 words into a story when you realize that you don’t find your main character interesting anymore? Writing for this character has become boring, filled with blah blah blah and yadda yadda yadda.

This is where I find myself.

My main character’s best friend, however, is awesome. I know her, right down to the noise her shoes make when she walks. And, she makes me laugh.

I like laughing.

I like the secondary character more than I do the primary character.

How’d I do that? How did I create a “best friend” that outshines my protagonist?

Her purpose was to bring levity to an otherwise not-so-funny situation. I enjoy writing for this character – her scenes and dialogue flow with ease because I know precisely how she’s going to react or respond. I can literally hear her voice in my head and I can’t get her words to paper (or screen) fast enough.

On the flip side, it takes real work to write for my protagonist. She has become cumbersome, an anchor that’s pulling me down, down, down.

This struggle is showing in my writing, and I have to do something about it. And, I think I know what the problem is……

My protagonist has zero attitude. She’s too polite – meek, even. She has no quirks, nothing that makes her stand out in any way, nothing that I can play on while writing for her. She’s bland. There is nothing that makes her interesting.

Because I didn’t give her anything that makes her interesting. All I did was give her a problem and a supporting cast to get her through it.

I failed her.

So, I’m returning to some very basic NaNoWriMo tips in order to meet her. For the first time. Again.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? I mean, I’ve done a lot of writing and this means that I’ll have to back up and kind of start over.

I’m okay with that. I look forward to it, actually.

I look forward to it because I know my writing will be better, and her story will be a better one. Plus, I’m learning from it and that’s never a bad thing.

That’s the cool thing about writing – we never stop learning. We will never know it all.

And here’s the bonus: do-overs are as limitless as the stars. We can start over as many times as it takes to get it right. And we just know when we’re there.

That’s such a good feeling. I’m gonna go find it.

 

 

 

 

 

Working for the Weekend

I’m showing my age here, but does anybody remember a mind-bogglingly (is that a word?) fascinating band called Loverboy? They had a song called “Working for the Weekend” back in the eighties, I think.

Anyhoo, that song earwormed its way into my head this week as I sat as my desk (dayjob desk) thinking “it’ll be over soon, it’ll be over soon, it’ll be over soon”.

By the way, clicking my heels as I repeated that mantra did nothing. Massive disappointment.

Back to the point. I had a glaringly obvious realization this week that I am doing precisely that: working for the weekend. And it made me start thinking about why my perspective changed, because I used to like my job.

My daddy passed away almost three years ago. He was our rock. He taught us everything we know about earning what we want through hard work.

He was an aluminum siding man, working long hours outdoors no matter the weather. He worked all of the time. And, he never complained.

He was an incredible story-teller. We would gather around him, in the floor of the living-room, while he played his guitar for us. Mom would bring a huge Tupperware bowl of popcorn and cups of Kool-aid to us. He would sing a little, talk a little, sing a little more.

That sums up how I knew my daddy, until he passed.

Like him, I’m an avid reader, so I got his books. His many, many, many books. To say he loved history is an understatement. He studied history. He underscored, high-lighted, cross-referenced, notated. I have spiral notebooks full of things he’d found interesting, written in his neat script.

He was brilliant.

But I didn’t know that about him. I had no idea he was so passionate about something, other than being our daddy.

He never got to visit the places he studied up on, wrote about. He was only there in his beloved books, his mind leaving the confines of our tiny crowded home to take him on journeys to battlefields and historic buildings. I imagine he thought about those things as he climbed ladders, hammered nails, and burnt up in the sun or got soaked by rain.

On his last good day, he talked to us of regrets. He didn’t want us to have any. He wanted us to chase our dreams, fulfill what we felt we were put here for.

He wanted us to live, fully and abundantly. He was proud of the adults we had become.

Yeah, he had a huge hand in that. Mega huge.

My life changed after my daddy passed away. His words changed me. His books and his writings changed me. I cried as I perused his notes, laying my hands on pages of books he’d worn thin.

That’s when I became dissatisfied with my path. Not with my life, just with my path. It made me really think about where I was going. I was at the half-way point of my journey here, so I made a conscious decision to change direction.

It was the best decision I’ve ever made. Daddy really did know best.

He would’ve turned 79 this week. I suppose that’s why my mind has lingered here all week. His quiet influence still plays a role in my life, gently urging me to continue on, whispering encouragement to me.

I’m crying now, missing my daddy. I have his picture beside my desk, a constant reminder of how much I’m loved. He was pretty darn awesome.

Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you.

 

 

 

 

Why a divorcee?

A beta reader asked me why I would make the protagonist of my story a woman going through a divorce.

So I asked this person, why not?

Their answer: Well, divorce is devastating.

Yes. Yes it is. But, it can also be FREEING. It can be viewed as an opportunity for a new beginning instead of just an ending. We can draw strength from it instead of wallowing in our heartbreak and misery.

I, myself, am a divorcee. Believe me when I tell you that I wanted to wallow. And I did for a short while, with the help of A LOT of good red wine and way too much take-out. But then I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and began creating a new life for myself. A better life.

I had no idea that someone would find that idea offensive. I didn’t know that I would make a person feel “broken” because they were still struggling, years after the fact.

Given my own experience, I know that my perspective on it will be different than others. I wrote from that perspective, because it is the only point of view on the subject that I have.

Never, ever, did I intend to make anyone feel “less than” or “wrong”.

Unfortunately, she felt so strongly about the subject that she became angry with me and decided to stop reading for me. I will truly miss her input.

We, as humans, are made up of experiences. Some will be similar, and others will be vastly different. That doesn’t mean that one is better, or more right, than the other. We are unique individuals, therefore our reactions to certain situations will be unique, as well.

I’ve always been told to “write what you know”, and I really think that’s sage advice. What I know is that laughter can be abundant again, love can be thrilling again, and life can be as fulfilling as we make it.

Words are powerful. I just witnessed that truth, in a very awkward way.

 

 

Paycheck VS Passion

It’s six a.m. on a Saturday and I’m the only one awake, as usual. Except for my cats, of course. It’s them who wake me up this early because, technically, it’s two hours past their feeding time. Apparently they have schedules to keep, even on the weekend. Go figure.

My day-job continues to be a hellish landscape. Text messages while I’m at home allow no escape from it. The stress and pressure follow me wherever I go, even the frozen food section of the grocery store as I am too tired to prepare a fresh meal for my family.

My mind is so tired from the business of the last two weeks that words simply escape me. I am exhausted, more mentally than physically. I still have the urge to write, the craving to do so, but my mind simply isn’t cooperating.

It is preoccupied with the busy-ness of life. It won’t allow me to take flight into my imagination because one part of it knows that it’ll take me all weekend to get the laundry caught up. It wonders if I have enough scent-beads to make it through all those many loads.

While I yearn to jump back into the make-believe world of my novel, my brain is making a meal plan and grocery list instead of allowing me to see what my characters are going to do and say next.

I’ve stopped laughing out loud when my favorite character, Ella, pops off at the mouth with her usual silliness. Her frame of mind has morphed into my frame of mind, and she has become tired and boring.

That’s not good writing.

I have never seriously considered quitting my day-job. Until this week.

I am the primary bread-winner. My paycheck is a necessity for survival.

But what about my own survival? What do I do when that paycheck is squashing the very thing that makes me feel alive?!

Reading and writing are what fuel me, bringing out everything that is passionate within me. If I were ever stranded on an island, I’d need three things to survive: a good book, a pen, and paper.

Yeah, I would starve to death but I would die happy.

I have vacation scheduled next month, and I strategically planned it around it my family’s activities so that I could have a “stay-cation”. I plan to stay in my jammies, my big bootie at my desk, and write.

Blissfully uninterrupted, laser focused, completely responsibility-free.

I will block the numbers of my co-workers. They’re on their own.

I am steadfastly determined to finish my novel that week. I look forward to the rewrites, revisions, cuts, and all the hard work that will follow.

This is the difference between passion and paycheck. I welcome and embrace the work produced by my passion, while simply earning a paycheck is stripping me bare.

It’s two completely different types of survival.

I’m hoping, during that week of “stay-cation”, to determine a solid path that will allow me to survive with passion.

And, I hope that returning to work after a nine-day absence won’t make me lose my mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing?

I’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time this week researching the pros and cons of both traditional publishing and self-publishing. I think I’m more confused now than before I started. I had to take a class that touched on this subject, but that information really didn’t enlighten me, either. The discussions with my classmates were primarily opinion-based, and I quickly realized how self-publishing was looked upon solely as a means for bad writers to get published.

I wholeheartedly disagree with that opinion. And not just because the thought of query letters and perfect submissions scare the crap out of me. Self-publishing is a valid platform for writers to get their stuff in front of noses. Period.

It’s the representation part that concerns me most. I feel like I would want someone in my corner, helping me to make my book the best it can be, fighting for me, and holding my hand when necessary.

Now this wandering path takes me back to self-publishing. I see this as a sort of way to take back control of our work (and our income), but that has it’s drawbacks, too. There are more expenses up-front (editors, cover art, etc.) and no marketing team when you’re finally ready to launch. On the other hand, there are no query letters (yikes!) nor incessant worrying about if you’ve followed submission guidelines to a T.

Hence, my confusion.I have reached the point of thinking both avenues are akin to a slow death: painful yet unavoidable.

Writing is hard. It’s time-consuming. It’s pull-your-hair-out frustrating. But, we love it and we do it anyway. It’s because of this love that I want to move forward carefully and with my eyes wide open.

Having said all this, I would love to hear from others regarding their experiences with either. My formal education in this regard wasn’t as insightful as I hoped, and I can only assume an attempt was made to avoid pushing students in one direction or the other.

Please feel free to leave comments. Some “real world” teaching would be most welcome. I realize it boils down to a purely personal choice, but I’d like to take a voyeuristic peek at the fire before I jump into it.

Thank you for reading!