Could Be Anywhere

[As I had always feared, nursing school took the wind right out of me. I will be better in the future; I will spread myself out with more care. But some places, no matter how long you stay away, are easy to come back to.]

Am I too tired to see what’s there? The west-facing windows offer too much light for the hour. As it sets, the room gets warmer. Too warm. It feels unnatural. I leave the blinds open, though. The view of the street make me feel neither at home nor near it. As if I’m walking away from a person I’ve just met, and can’t decide what I don’t like about them. Just something. I could be anywhere, but I am not.

On a chair too short and too stiff to enjoy the rest. By a window to warm to be tempted to open it. The bushes and branches twitch at the bursts of breeze that must not hold a current. In fact, they are so infrequent that I am startled every time it picks up and I see a flicker of movement in my far right field of vision.

The walls are white, but not as white as the ceiling or doors. Nothing spots them but the switch plate; it, too, is whiter.

The dog can’t tolerate the heat, either, but she hangs around for my sake. Laying on her side, she is panting louder than the air conditioner, in full recovery mode. The cold air whistles through the vent at top speed, but doesn’t reach me. The streaming sunlight must change its flow, redirect it to some other corner of this room.

Then it becomes too difficult to summon the desire to keep my eyes peeled. So I slide down, throw my legs over the low back of the chair, and close them. The sunlight reaches every part of me. I don’t need a blanket. Sleep comes without trouble or effort. And I’m walking though the window.

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Under the Big Top

Am I my character? Are my characters merely expressed versions of repressed facets of my sparkling personality?

Oh. Wonderful. My multiple personalities get to be the stars of the show.

I go to sleep thinkimg of the same scenes. The same words are exchanged between the loved amd lovers. I sometimes even dream about these familiar strangers. These disembodied entities that warm the night.

I had this idea for a story. Beginning to end, it flew up like a tent and the charcters joined me beneath for a party that has yet to stop.

But what is it we’re celebrating out here? I’m never too sure. One minute it’s love. Then possibly enlightenment. Maybe survival? It changes daily. And I have to admit, I love not knowing what to expect when I show up, ready to play.

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You Are A Problem (Admit It)

Have not written anything of substance. No, not at all. Weeks away from the process, I feel unclean. Thoughts are lost in clouded water. It all seems complicated. I miss my characters. I wish I could call them. Or, at the very least write on their Facebook walls…

Two jobs (now one). End of Semester Whatever. Holidays. Getting on the on-ramp to nursing school. I have reasons to be mentally checked out, obviously. Caught in the cycle (vicious?) of not being able to write -> not being able to function because I am not writing -> impending mental asphyxiation.

I have no lesson gained or sage lyric to conclude this daft jaunt of a post. I suppose running out of fuel on the on-ramp is a good reason not to get on. Of course, I don’t have that choice. Another life compromise? Yes! And in two easy steps!

1. Admit you have a problem.

I have this basic need that must be met in order for me to not walk around with toothpaste in my hair mumbling nonsensical quotes from Jane Eyre at people. I must indulge in a creative process of my own making. I either have to write, or think about writing (not while spacing out).

Ms. Rowling is always asked during interviews, “are you currently writing anything?” To which she always replies yes, noting that she has to write for her own mental health.

Seems simple enough. She writes for herself. But the simplest things always seem to be the most complicated to execute, because we bring our complications to the table. It’s like sitting down to a perfectly made meal, then trying to eat it with a bent-back fork.

2. Realize you are the problem.

The constant dilemma of finding time has little or nothing to do with the 753 things on the to-list; it has everything to do with me. Yes, I have to go to work, do homework, feed the dog, do the laundry, the dishes, and watch the latest Grey’s episode. But I am choosing to prioritize all of those things above writing. It is my job to plan and execute a schedule that allows me to write, a job that I have failed to do.

This blog is a small way of helping my remember how much I love writing, and that my words are important. I must constantly tell myself: There is no excuse not to write. I have forever insisted that writing is not a hobby, so why do I treat it like one?

I sincerely hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Thanks for the support this year!!

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Distract Me

I don’t have children. I do have a cat and two dogs. One of those dogs, Kona, is a 60 pound puppy that needs almost constant attention. When she’s not stealing notepads off my desk or chewing a pen until it bleeds ink, she’s disturbing the peace by barking, whining, crying and moaning. We’ve had her for almost 6 months; I adore her. But having a member of the household going through their terrible twos is not exactly conducive to writing of any kind, let alone writing fiction.

I am reminded of Robert Olen Butler saying “there is no excuse not to write.” I would like to invite Mr. Butler over for a cup of tea in my office, and see how long it takes for my dear Kona to knock it into his lap.

Before Kona, the only animal distraction was Zoe (meow) attacking the wadded paper that had missed the trash can. Now she is as annoyed as I am, and can be heard screeching across the kitchen multiple times a day, throwing kitty-slurs in all directions.

Command That Which Taunts You

R.O.B. is right, there is no excuse. There are, however, a thousand distractions against which a writer must develop an arsenal of good habits. Writing everyday has brought me to the conclusion that, if writing is to be a top priority, all other things must be stifled. I, for one, can’t write if there are things nipping at my ankles or chores nagging for completion. Things must be addressed, not out of des peration, but out of life management.

But distractions are a gift, there is no denying. Whenever I sit at my desk uninterrupted for more than an hour or two, I start running into myself over and over. 

Actively Not Thinking

Also, the best ideas come when you’re not thinking at all. And for me, the best zone-out time is when doing remedial tasks. Doing the dishes is my favorite time to let my brain storm on its own. I get some pretty interesting solutions to blocks when I’m cooking, too. Things have a way of working themselves out mentally when you’re working with your hands, I’ve found.

Balance is the only way for me to write well. I used to have these visions of myself holed up in an cramped office for days, mugs of cold coffee everywhere leaving rings. But that isn’t how I do my best work. So I thank the distractions, and manage to fold them into the work at hand.

Family Album

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The Rail | NaNo Update

I have been very naughty this month.

NaNo started, of course, on All Hallows’ Eve. But there were too many sweets and forgettable movies to be motivated at midnight. So I began, slowly, the following morning.

The Best Intentions

I had spent a month preparing. Dreamstorming. I thought I had the perfect layout for the novel I wanted to write.

The problem with that was I wanted perfection. I care so deeply about my characters. It was important that they be allowed to be exactly who I knew they were.

So, in a word, I choked. I told my girlfriend – on more than one occasion – that I felt I had a mouth full of peanut butter. I couldn’t speak. Neither could my characters with anything worth saying.

Procrastinating. Over thinking. Call it whatever you want. I was terrified to continue. Would all this NaNo hype be a waste?

A Reason to Celebrate

I welcomed some delicious distractions. My pre-NaNo excitement caused me to completely overlook my birthday, November 7. I assumed I’d have the work ethic to write though it.

That did not happen.

I am blessed to have something wonderful to celebrate and someone incredible to make it memorable. My girlfriend took off a week to spend with me. I feel lucky to have been confounded by love.

The Rails

But November yields for no writer. Catch up has become the name of the game, the new strategy. I am pressing myself to get in my zone. To write without thinking, without ideas of what it should be.

Word count today: 11,274.

38,276 words in 19 days.

Forget the numbers. I’m writing a novel.

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From Where I Dream – Part One

I have written a lot of terrible fiction. Things I would not stand behind today. Things to which I would not sign my name. A lot of bad fiction; the characters crawling, deformed, from the pages.

It took me a long time to call myself a writer. Others did, faintly. I shook the remarks like bad karma. “I want to be a writer…” one day, I’d say in that callow, when-I-grow-up sort of way.

But, of course, I am a writer. Since I was six, held up in a tent I made from a sheet suspended between two sticky dining room chairs. I wanted to read this story that had never been written. It is the story I will write all my life.

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

It took me most of my years to respect my writing, and the writing process. I took a creative writing class my second year of college. I didn’t read the books; barely wrote a word I cared about. I got a C.

One such book, From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler, has become scripture to me, once I came around to reading it. It has brought meaning, purpose, to my fingers. It has taught the unteachable. Has made me understand what I was doing wrong, precisely. I have been able to clarify my process.

Robert Olen Butler has been published too many times to count; has won the Pulitzer. Intimidated, I thought I could learn nothing from this accomplished writer. Before the cover, I was purely amateur.

The book contains too much to discuss in just one post, so I will stick to Chapter One, appropriately titled, “Boot Camp.”

Great Expectations of Self

It was not a long journey through paper before I came to the reassuring verse:

“You must, [to be in this class], have the highest aspirations for yourselves as writers – the desire to create works of fiction that will endure, that reflect and articulate the deepest truth about the human condition.”

Though strongly worded, the highest ambition a writer could fathom, it seemed…achievable. I felt this sage author was speaking directly to me. Saying firmly: You have to want it; you have to want it all.

The Artist’s Trembling Eyes

The second wonderful thing R.O.B. bestowed upon me was treating me like an artist… and informing me of the responsibility embedded within that calling.

“To be an artist means never to avert your eyes.” – Akira Kurosawa

The white-hot center, he calls it. The place from which you create. Your dreams. It is everything; bound to be are the things you don’t want to see. Don’t want to remember. The things you wish you could remove from yourself. You’re going to want to look away.

“You’re going to be, and probably always have been, led to avert your eyes. But turning from that path is what it means to be an artist. You need courage, and that’s something I can’t teach you. I can each you that you’ve got to have it.”

So it is courage, and a zenith to aspire to, that will be with you through every word. Not to guide you – there is no map. It is to lie in your skin, only to emerge in the most desperate moment. In times you want more than anything to quit. To be anything but what you are. From that chaos in your head and heart will come meaning.

Who you are, why you have been through what you have, why you write.

Part Two will be along shortly. For the next few days, the novel will be my only focus.

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NaNoWriMo Update: Pre-Race Stretching

I’m really trying to be hardcore about this.

NaNoWriMo begins in 6 short days, and I have been getting positively antsy with anticipation. The prep work that seemed insurmountable 5 days ago is now neatly tucked into a few forgiving notebooks. Of course, I still have about a month’s worth of work to do before November 1st; but I feel I have already conquered the most elusive NaNo demon: pace.

I have been creeping through character interviews, literal character sketching (I can’t draw) and scene lists. That last one has baited me rather cheerfully. Though they currently overlap and ramble incoherently, my scene lists are coming along willingly. I have been promising myself: stay in the unconscious…screw the deadline. When I feel myself begin to analyze and assemble structure, I stop. So far I have about 120 imperfect scenes, in no particular order and overlapping.

My challenge this week is to “finish” the scene lists, then write them all out on index cards. This way I can tarot my way through the deck and find some order I can call a starting point.

After that, all I have to do is write a novel in 30 days. Piece of cake.

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