The Courage to Write

ImageI am reading a new book. I found it in a sporadic stroll I have started recently of “how-to” books for writing. As I slowly wade through, picking my way on each word and paragraph like an explorer through swampy land, I am realizing things. The sedate pace is not because the book isn’t amazing — it definitely is — and I recommend it for any who are struggling to believe in their writing. It’s because something about each phrase resonates so profoundly within me that I cannot rush. There are a hundred things clamoring for my attention right now, and I continue to come back to this book.

“Faulkner had the courage to accept that flawed work (flawed to him anyway) was better than none at all.” – Ralph Keyes, pg 27

That line accompanied by the facts that I respect Faulkner’s work, the section in the book on writing about what you are afraid to write about, and the crazy response to a short, throwaway post here on the emotions I needed to let out to sleep has thrown into sharp relief what I have been hiding from.

Book 1 needs rewriting not editing. 

Let me outline the differences for my own frame of mind. What I wrote last night was emotional and resulted in a gripping snippet. The opening chapter of my book 1, no matter how I edit it, falls flat. Is it bad? Essentially, I don’t think so. There are elements and emotions there that work well, but it was written by a complacent girl who didn’t live or die by her writing. Alright, that’s a bit melodramatic but truthful enough. I lost my job over my writing, I refuse to lose my heart too.

Right now, I am prepping for NanoWrimo 2012. It’s probably cheating to rewrite the book again. But I was worried about having enough prep to write book 2 on a shaky book 1. I think my old-standby will work instead: writing out of order. I will write 50,000 new words for this November, but they officially don’t have to all come from the same novel.

So I will rewrite the first chapter, and hopefully have enough courage to maybe post some examples of the before and after here. Either way my writing has improved and simply re-editing the same words won’t add my heart back into that opening chapter and it needs to bang.

Write what I should write. Write the way I know how. The rest will follow.

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Doesn’t Belong Here

Not sure this statement really belongs here. I will justify it by saying that I think Twitter has outlived it’s usefulness, almost no one is on Google+, Facebook is filled with people making asinine comments, and otherwise there is just space. Writing is my cathartic space, so here it goes.

It’s only been 48 hrs and I miss my husband painfully.

He is alive and well in Columbus, Ohio driving back to be home tomorrow night. I went to Jacksonville to see relatives while they were closer than usual. It still amounts to the fact that I hate being the only one awake with the hum of the AC to add counterpoint to my sleepless thoughts.

The bitter irony is that the job I am interviewing for and really, truly want includes 100% travel with a six week stint in India. Did I mention it was only 48 hrs ago?

I want to do this. I am excited about the opportunity, the training, the money – but I am scared about staring into the dark 5 nights a week. How does one rectify two such disparate emotions inside one mind?

…..

Instead you close your eyes. The AC cuts off, and the only sound is the ringing your ears make up as they search for something to hear. A deep breath in, held, out…wait, again. You think of calming memories, “happy places,” anything to be able to trust yourself to the void. That peaceful place between waking and sleeping when you reach out in habit and there is no breathing anchor beside you. The emptiness shakes you from your half dream state and you shift to begin the whole process over again. Only hoping this time you don’t reach for what isn’t there.

Though I Walk thru the Valley

I am back. I have to admit how sad it is that it has taken me this long to come back. I have no excuses really. And, just like a sinner who only talks to God in times of strife, I am back to recount the past few months.

I had found a job. It was wonderful. I carpooled to work every day with a close friend. We had lunch together. I was getting to know people and learning the ropes. It was challenging, it was all new, and it was glorious. Hell, on top of all that, it even paid well. A week before Labor Day weekend, I sat down to lunch with my boss and we talked about my prospects to continue. My contract was going to be renewed. I had the prospect of a full time gig. I had options.

 

Three weeks later I was fired.

 

Excuse me, as I was corrected at the time, my contract was terminated. Fucking semantics.

The reason? The purpose? My writing. No, the irony is not lost on me. And, in the truth of the anonymity, my first draft was bad. It was an attempt at a tone and a topic I shouldn’t have tried. But I was given a chance to rewrite it. I did with every bit of my craft behind me. I even recruited beta readers and critiques to understand where I had gone so horribly wrong the first time. And it hurt, but I went through it all and examined my mistakes and honed my words.

It didn’t matter. After reading through the entire second draft, my boss looks me in the eyes and tells me it’s still horrible. My world shattered, exploding apart like fine crystal in slow motion frames. In the span of 24 hrs, I lost my wonderful job, the time with my friend, and the paycheck that was allowing my husband and I to make progress on our debt. I was damaged goods and the company wasn’t going to keep me if it felt like I couldn’t perform.

So three months before the holidays, I am jobless and searching for meaning. But then, most people are one or the other, if not both. 

My writing…sits. The 76,000+ words of progress I had made on my first, rough draft of my NanoWrimo novel lays unedited. A unknown ground that lays fallow as the farmer has lost the will to deal with the seasons. I can’t even give it a proper title. Ceara’s story is still that “NanoWrimo” work. November itself looms monstrous in my mind. Whereas up to my termination, I was looking forward to triumph again, to continue this novel, and to learn who Nathaniel is and what he means to Ceara. Instead, I dread the 30 days of writing for the joy of writing, because I am too afraid to lock my inner editor away again. I doubt my abilities and the editor keeps me safe.

It’s such a simple thing to doubt, but it grows like kudzu in the heat of a Georgia summer. 

And the hardest part is that to get better I know I need critiques. I need to continue to write, but its something that I hold so dear to myself that it is hard to hold it out for the world to bludgeon. I don’t try to pretend that I am perfect, that I am some artist. I am just a singular soul who can’t NOT write. I only want to tell a story and being told time and time again how wrong the semantics are wear away my foundation to believe I have a worthy story to tell. 

A new job search it is then. Maybe somewhere along the rocky way I will stumble across the sage who knows the words to restore my faith to write again. Ceara deserves that kind of faith. 

The Slow Grind

The days are crawling by, yet as I turn to look over my shoulder, all I see are distant days that felt like they would never end. It’s getting to be Spring Break here at the school and everyone from teachers to students to administrators are becoming stir crazy. One more week of classes after today and then 9 blissful days of no students, papers, and lesson plans.

What there WILL be instead in writing and beading. Yes, unfortunately I cannot lay sole blame of me not writing on work. My other hobby has reared its beautifully seductive head. I bead and make necklaces, etc for fun. Well, the fun morphed into an Esty shop. I’ve always been building for about 5 years now as Rounds and Roses, but this is my first aggressive foray into selling my work to more than family and friends. Therefore, all the hype associated with that has occurred as well. From twitter (@RoundsandRoses) to Facebook (Rounds and Roses) I’ve been dutifully trying my best to build more than just casual interest in my necklaces. My luck is probably normal for right now, but so depressing when actually in the middle of it. Forest, tress, yadda yadda yadda.

So, the writing has been growing in small fits and spurts. I finally compiled all the hand written notes from the last few weeks into my Scrivener file – 67k words altogether. But I am looking forward to a quiet apartment and no work.

Yesterday, on the drive home (an hour one way) I had an epiphany for how the next scene was going to go. Not the best time when both hands are supposed to be on the wheel. So, thank the Stars for iPhones. Headset – check, voice memo app – check, record on – check. Of course, if  you had passed me on the road you probably would have been a little intrigued to see a person gesturing and getting emotional. Thankfully, from outside the car, no one would ever know I was literally talking and acting out an entire scene to myself. It’s more than likely a carry over from my theatre days, but talking and acting out certain scenes is much easier for me than thinking in epic novel format. The novel comes together through drafting and notes. In my head, its dialogue and blocking. But don’t ask me to write a script. I would put that italicized block in to no end.

With an empty apartment, I can do both quite happily. I can bounce from computer to pacing and shouting and gesturing back to typing without any questions as to why I am doing what I am doing. That’s the plan anyway.

 

Whole Plan:

Finishing jewelry commissioned by friends

Write another 15k on the novel (at least ~5 scenes)

Get new job that isn’t teaching

 

It’s doable, right? Gotta give me some credit for at least still being hopeful at the end of all of these. Haven’t quit yet and don’t plan to.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Corny but true. My mother always told me everything looks better in the morning. I don’t think she meant that morning light made good photographs. But in the wee hours of the morning, it truly can look the darkest before the dawn.

Another dreary weather day in Georgia meant cold wind, drizzle, and occasional real rain kept me indoors and made me sleep way past my usual awake time of 8 AM. Last night, I had basked in the new glory and joy of my first comment and like and follow for my blog. I loved being found and like the metaphorical hand out of the darkness, Carmen Lezeth Suarez, gave me a belief in what I was doing. And really, it was what she said that made it worth while. As a writer, as we are all writers in some way, we all want to know that we aren’t along in our struggles. That someone else, some stranger, may care what we are going through and simply say, “I’ve been where you are, and I have seen the other side.” A message of hope? Maybe, one would like the glass always to be half full. Mostly, its a message of companionship, understanding, empathy.

So I embarked on the day to simply enjoy my Sunday. I had school to teach for the following 5 days. 3 classes of children whom the system has convinced aren’t good enough to make it. 3 classes who complain so much I just want to scream at them somedays. 3 classes of children who tell me at least once a day that they look forward to my class for a chance to laugh and smile and feel understood.

I chilled. Sat. Lazed. Enjoyed. And, sometime, miraculously, through all that, another 1,000 words emerged onto the page. And I learned that my rut wasn’t just me, but it was the part where the story lulls a bit between action. Later, during editing, I will have to fix the pacing to make sure my reader doesn’t end up with the same drudery that I felt. But for now, those pages simply exist and that is good.

Tonight, I sleep. Tomorrow, I teach. And I simply have to remember that word count is simply another measurement of time. The journey there is the best part. (I mean if you start with cliche, might as well end with one too)

The Day After

I sat down last night to type at least 1,000 words. Yeah, didn’t get one. I got so wrapped up in research on fallen angels and bragging about this new e-book I found, that I was able to come up with every excuse except typing. I even watched my husband play Gears of War instead of writing. Not that I don’t actually enjoy Gears as well. Point being, I didn’t write.

Which brings me to the conclusion that my apartment is an absolute black hole for me to try to type in. Which sounds like another excuse, but one I’d like to think has a little more validity. I need a place to sit, with laptop, head phones and no pets, tv, husband, etc to worry about for an hour at a time. Starbucks comes to mind, but being a teacher all day throughout the week means that after 5 PM (when I finally get home) all I want to do is collapse horizontal on something soft. On some days even the carpet looks perfect. Therefore, going out to a store (my closest one being a hole in the wall with horrible seating) means that the options (and Georgia winter weather) are limited.

Not sure what to do about it at this point, but words to a page need to happen in any sense. I will try after I get done here. Yet, being almost 11 PM eastern time, no Starbucks are open and my nice bed is calling my name. But, I have procrastinated all day til just this very time, so I must write something or prove the bed right yet again. There’s ice coffee in the fridge and plenty of alcohol should I wish.

The only thing that needs to happen first is for me to go out and drag my muse kicking and screaming back into this story whether she likes it or not. Maybe her rants will help me anyways.