Writing is a curved process. At least it is for me. It’s never linear. I start on a topic here. And another one there. And then I go back and add and subtract some words from the first piece. Then I start writing about a third and fourth topic. Then life interrupts me about 1,729 different ways and I don’t do any writing. Then I play with my photography. Then life calls again.
Will it all come together someday? Will that novel in my head ever make it to print?
I hope so.
Writers today have to immerse themselves in every kind of technology you can think of just to get your name “out there”. You try and promote your writing on Facebook, and/or Twitter, and/or a zillion other blog sites. You have to submit and face rejection and often absolute nothingness. You have to learn how to multiply your contacts, exposure, connections, and ideas. By the time you figure that out; you’re spent!
You probably waste hours and days figuring out the process when all you really want to do is create. It makes you feel like everyone else is ahead of the curve and you’re a thousand miles behind.
I remind myself daily that writing, photography, and any other artistic endeavor worthy of consuming is unfortunately now days more about learning about process than it is creating of craft. I love creating. I detest learning about process, and yet I know that’s what I must do soon to take either hobby to the next level.
Our words flow in linear fashion but our thoughts and ideas are far from such tidy organization. Perhaps when we are sleeping, both are being stitched together, day by day, like the curves and lines of a peacock feather. One day we finish “it” and just know:
I created something beautiful
Writing can give so much joy; it can also make one feel utterly worthless as if you are wasting time and not living a “productive” life. Then all of a sudden–an encouraging word is granted, a glimmer of hope shines, a nugget of wisdom is gleaned, or a new challenge is mastered.
You’ve been thrown a curve ball. Only this time you catch it and say:
I died taking a picture of a rainbow. I didn’t mean to. It happened at Target. In the parking lot. You don’t wake up thinking I may die today and it will probably involve a rainbow but that’s exactly what happened to me. I remember lying on the black wet asphalt as my vision of earth spiraled ever smaller until it was a pinpoint and then it was gone. I couldn’t move. My eyes were open. I couldn’t speak. I just kept staring straight up at the rainbow.
It had been a really lousy month. But today I woke up feeling optimistic, the first time in a while. I was here because my cats were out of cat food and my kids needed milk for cereal tomorrow. John’s teacher had requested a bag of M&M’s for a math project. My husband had left us the week before and I didn’t work, I was often reminded. I wasn’t sure how we were going to make it.
I had just gotten out of the car, list in hand and was walking towards the entrance of Target. And that’s when I saw it. Out of the corner of my left eye, I saw the tail end of the rainbow. I turned my head and followed it with my entire vision. It was magnificent. It was the biggest most vivid rainbow I had ever seen. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet colors literally popped out of the bluish black sky in an arch sweeping the entire landscape.
I stopped in my tracks and fished my I-phone out of my pocket. A quick click and….
Tires squeeled. BAM! No time. In a fraction of a second, I was completely airborne. A Brinks truck driver didn’t see me. The driver probably for one second forgot about the cash bags he was about to pick up and was instead focused on the rainbow.
Where was I? What’s happening?
My phone flew out of my hands a good twenty yards. It landed unseen and abandoned under a crumpled Starbucks cup that was lying on the ground under a tree, an island refuge in a sea of cars. No one saw the phone with the rainbow as its final image. Two other people walking towards the entrance watched in horror, put their hand to their mouth, and stood shocked still for a moment before running over to help me.
It was too late. John and Sophie would be getting off the bus in another hour. I wouldn’t be there to greet them. Robert was kissing the neck of his secretary and didn’t know this was happening to me, but it would soon happen to him too. The cats would not eat until the next day even though they were hungry when I left. They would have lunchmeat and not cat food. John’s teacher would have to use counters instead of M&M’s for her math lesson the next day. John would not be there; both wouldn’t even notice there was no milk because they would wake up at their Dad’s apartment, after being picked up late the night before at my neighbor’s house. Where was Mom? They anxiously wondered for four hours!
Yes, it’s true. Your life flashes before your eyes. You remember everything. All of the good and all of the bad. Seeing your life in review, it’s so crystal clear now what you should have decided at each critical moment you weren’t certain of then.
I wasn’t sad. Or worried. Or mad anymore. I didn’t have enough time left to know if Sophie and John would be okay living the rest of their life with Robert and his secretary-ultimately-turned-stepmother to my kids. It wasn’t in my power anymore.
I’m in heaven now. And it’s so beautiful. There are no words to explain what it’s like. Now I look down sometimes and see rainbows. I see each pixel of color as it pours out like liquid. I can almost taste the difference between molecules of red and indigo.
Did I die doing something I loved? It’s hard to say; certainly I loved my kids so much more than any digitized memory of something beautiful. Certainly I died seeing something I loved, and feeling a love that doesn’t exist on earth. I’m part of that love now; it’s as big as the universe and it goes on and on. It’s not constrained by conditions; it’s unlimited. Time takes on a different meaning. I can be patient now. I have all the time in the world. For now, I wait and I watch. I have so many happy reunions to look forward to.
We all make plan, for today, and for our life. We plan our careers, family, finances, dreams, and we hope for our future. But sometimes God throws us a curve ball. The one we don’t see coming changes everything.
Today is Friday. I’ve been in heaven three days. Two teenage boys are popping wheelies on their bikes in the Target parking lot. One of them gets tired and takes a brief respite and sits down on the curb of the tree island. He leans back on his hands behind him. That’s when he finds it. His left hand bumps into something hard under a light layer of pine straw. It’s my phone. Five years of digital memories of my kids. And one magnificent rainbow.
Will he do the right thing? Will he call home? What will he think about all my pictures? Will he see them at all?
I smile as I see him successfully turn it on and watch from above as he starts to scroll through the various menus.
“Hey!,” he shouts to his friend straddled on his bike, temporarily frozen in envy at his best bud’s good luck, finding a phone simply by virtue of taking a rest. “It’s got POWER!”
You have no idea I think. Absolutely no idea.
What would you write if you didn’t fear failure? What would you do with your life if you never gave a single second of worry to what others think about you? Who would you be if you were totally uninhibited, and felt completely free to be who you truly are?
I was watching Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium with my young son tonight after an incredibly challenging week. This one line was exactly what I needed to hear:
You’re life is an occasion; rise to it!
Sometimes we let rejection or lack of support hinder our dreams. Why? Because we’re spending more time worrying about what people think. That’s the deadly trap that stops our hopeful endeavors every time. At least it does mine.
Your dreams are fueled by hope. Without hope; dreams die. Hope and vision is something within you; it’s not found in the affirmation of those you wish to find it from.
And trust. Trusting in an unknown outcome. That’s the hardest part. We finite beings always crave knowing how the story ends. Our life. The result of that which we pursue. We race through our life faster than we read a book.
We know this truth intellectually; it’s wrapping our heart around this that hangs us up sometimes:
It really is about the journey!
So slow down. Relax. Stop trying to know what the future holds. Keep writing, or pursing your art, your dream, or that which you most truly are. When we slow ourselves enough to get into the moment, we find confirmation and affirmation: KEEP GOING.
That’s it. Just keep going. And dreaming. And doing.
Rise up. Your life is waiting!
Lily Tomlin as “Ernestine” The Operator – Laugh In TV Series 1968-1973
Writers must be a magnet for weird. Or perhaps they just use their experiences as reference material more readily than other professions. Once, I went to drop a letter at the post office drop box. That’s when seemingly out of nowhere I suddenly become aware of a man standing near me, just feet away from the mailbox I needed to access. He was a pale fifty-something man, hunched over with thinning stringy hair combed over his misshapen head in polyester blue pants, dirt brown teeth, and a black and white RUN DMC t-shirt on. “OVER MY DEAD BODY!” he screams as he rubs his hands over and over one another as if washing with soap. “You know I did NOT start all this! The others were watching and they started it. You know I’m right!” His eyes narrowed into tiny slits as he looked accusingly at……at who? I looked left. Then right. No one! Great!
Who ya talkin’ to?! I think but don’t dare say out loud.
“Tell her!” he barks at me. Fearing for my safety, I nod my head in agreement and turn to the left where he’s still arguing vociferously and non-intelligently with someone who clearly has an invisibility cloak around them. So I look at where he’s looking and say to no one in particular I say, “It’s true, he didn’t START this. There’s no way. “He was WITH ME! We both were at a Run DMC concert.”
Oh no! Now you’ve done it! I think to myself. Prepare to die. I laugh nervously.
He busts up laughing. He says, “See WOMAN! I told you the truth. It couldn’t have been me. She just vouched for me.” Alrighty now! I’ll just slip this little card in the mail and skeedaddle. I fake a smile, wave, and make tracks. I really am not sure I have that much more to say to Mr. Crazy and Ms. Invisible anyway.
Sometimes writing feels like this. When you write, who ya talkin’ to?
Is it the critic who lives in your head? Is it an ex-lover/friend/spouse that you silently scream to: Are you reading this? Are you hearing me now?
Is it somebody specific you hope will somehow glean insight on just how incredibly talented you are? Someone you seek validation from? Or is it ulterior in motive–dribs and drabs of truth dripping out in your fiction in order to speak revenge, love, truth, or perhaps memory to someone else? Perhaps it’s just a quest to write popular to reach masses of fans. Or is just random ramblings and musings aimed at no one in particular?
Who ya’ talkin’ to?
Do you seek a huge audience? Do you wish for fame and recognition? A paycheck? Or do you write just for you—for therapy, to chronicle life, a digital observation of life preserved forever in cyberspace.
I’ve been told and even advised by others you should write FOR you. Hogwash! You should write TRUE TO YOU, but if you’re writing with the purpose of wanting to a bona fide writer (published) you’re ultimately going to have to break into the business of self-promotion a little bit. That’s hard because writers vary in mood from moments of narcissism to self-loathing. How do you promote something you love one moment and feels lacking the next?
All writers write to a certain degree to be admired for their work. Paid writing is a perk. Fame is what you make it—a blessing or a curse. Since I have neither yet, I will refrain from advising.
I will just say this about writing. The process can feel really weird. Because when you are writing, it’s just you, your fertile imagination, and your deft fingers on a keyboard. The audience is still in the future, imagined, but still unseen.
Writing sometimes makes me feel like I am the Jodi Foster character in the movie Contact; you’re broadcasting a signal into deep space just wondering, can anyone hear me, anyone at all? Here you are perched in front of a keyboard, but your head is deep in another place, another time, another persona even. And out of memory, or perhaps out of nothing, you are creating something with mere words.
You’re here, but not here.
It’s weird–this surreal place that defies the boundaries of time. It’s unnerving. It can be disturbing. And then you finish your work. You hit send or publish or whatever it is you do to distribute your work to the masses.
Now the ball is in their court. What will people think? That you’re genius? Disturbed? Clever? Boring? Will strangers read it? What is their first impression of you? Will family and friends wonder if you are okay?
You may even pass by some of these readers over the next few days in real life and talk normal to them. After all, they may hear voices in their head too and have weird thoughts—they just choose not to write about them.
I say, go ahead. Be brave. Write it all down. Transcribe your weird experiences into a book and call it fiction. After all, you’re writing thoughts and stories—it’s not as if you’re not baring your naked body all over social media to be shared world-wide. No, it’s just the essence of who you are, the core of your self-esteem. Besides, what’s a little trampling criticism, or even complete unacknowledgement ever done to anyone? You’ll be just fine!
Here’s the naked truth: Writers are often confident outward but inwardly they are vulnerable to all sorts of crippling insecurities, hence they must write! OK, kidding….kind of.
So why did I talk to Mr. Run DMC that day? Perhaps like me, he just needed to know someone is listening. Maybe he is where once-sane writers end up when they don’t meet their goals, so perhaps a certain amount of mercy is called for here. For a brief moment, we needed one another, though for different reasons. He needed understanding. I needed fresh material.
May you write TRUE TO YOU today.
Sigh…..Who doesn’t think about it from time to time. You know, the one that got away? Did you have one?
Maybe it was a person. Maybe they seemed perfect and you didn’t feel you were enough. Maybe it was all in your head. Perhaps it ended in disaster or tragedy and no good-byes were said. Or you weren’t ready yet to be more, so someone else stepped up to the plate.
Or maybe it’s not a someone, but a something. You lost something of value or perhaps it was taken from you. You were careless and misplaced it and now you can’t get it back. You weren’t paying attention and now it is gone forever. You missed a deadline and the opportunity passed. You let fear stop you, so you’ll never know what you could have had.
Once you had a dream. Remember? What was it that you knew you could do, before doubt entered your mind? Who slipped out of your life because you were afraid to be more then you were or are? What is it you would do, if life offered you no resistance? No doubt, no fear, no shame, no obstacles, no time restraints, no excuses on your part?
Though you cry, the one thing that doesn’t return to us is time. Time for a do-over has passed. That’s because sometimes….
Later never comes
Sometimes the only opportunity for a life changing moment is this this one. Now! Right here, right now.
Maybe you’re different. Maybe carpe diem is more than your motto, but your standard operating procedure. If so, more power to you. By all means, keep going.
Find your passion, your dream, your love and pursue it with all your heart. Our days may be finite, but the potential for possibilities that lie within us is infinite!
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
–Thomas A. Edison
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
What would be the use of immortality to a person who cannot use well a half an hour.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.”
“May you live all the days of your life.”
Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in “Sweeney Todd”
You burden me with your questions
You’d have me tell no lies
You’re always asking what it’s all about
But don’t listen to my replies
You say to me I don’t talk enough
But when I do I’m a fool
These times I’ve spent, I’ve realized
I’m going to shoot through
And leave you
EMF – “Unbelievable”
So I’m having this WRITER’s problem. Ok, stop. Back up. That’s a bit of an oxymoron because I haven’t finished a great work yet. I’ve never been published. I dream of finishing a work of fiction. I start lots of stories. I’ve finished zero of them. Why?
I feel like Woody Allen when he said, “Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.” Here’s my problem. I start a lot of stories. I sit at the computer and have marathon typing experiences! Like a car’s tachometer, the words keep tumbling out 3000, 4000, 5000, 9000…..you’re approaching the red zone, slow down, it’s almost morning and you need some sleep. Let’s take a look-see at what we’ve got here.
And there in the problem reveals itself. While my characters were busy zigzagging around through time and relationships, somewhere along the way they dropped a few important things: Plot, dilemma, resolution. Dialogue that makes sense! The characters, the words they say, the events that happen in a short span of time, are frankly:
It reads back like a Jerry Springer episode on steroids. I confuse my own self. I start too many subplots and don’t know how in the world I’ll ever be able to tie it all together. Bing! Hit SAVE. Then file it in the FINISH LATER folder, which is only one tier above the recycle bin.
In a few hours I’ll crawl minute by minute through the day lamenting the curses and gifts of a writer’s existence, or at least a writer’s mindset.
I have quite a few published friends. I am truly happy for them. I want to join them. But I seem to start out on the journey, get sidetracked in the story, and then to complicate things further, get sidetracked by my own life, and how to utilize the few increments of time we’re given to manage each day, that rapidly accumulate into months and years. I hem. I haw. I make excuses. But the truth is this:
I don’t finish what I start.
Simple as that. No therapy required. I don’t have to look past my kitchen sink most days to see the pattern. Somewhere between 50 and 90 percent of a task, I quit. I stray. I am distracted by the least little thing. Then things stack up, everything becomes urgent, a hundred tasks have to be tended to, and then as the last small brushfire is just about put out, a crisis of epic proportions arrives, and for dessert another one arrives, maybe three.
Looks like it’s time to find a full time job because a part time job and a sporadic hobby of non-paid blogging don’t pay the bills. Quick! It’s an emergency! Go get a job yesterday already as I briefly pay attention to my inner reality check.
Guess what? Being that I don’t finish what I start, the dusty old resume never quite gets finished. Kind of like my stories. So feeling the full weight of fiscal pressure, an amazing thing happens! Inspiration.
Because Woody Allen, pessimistic sardonic genius that he is, reminds me of this simple truth:
“Because it’s much more pleasant to be obsessed over how the hero gets out of his predicament than it is over how I get out of mine.”
There you have it. Reality-avoidance issues, dreamer mentality, occasionally peppered with blinding optimism all rolled into one: me.
It’s time to write! Right now. Roll those sleeves up because it’s hammer time. Step by step is how we get to the FINISH LINE. And when we do, it’s going to feel unbelievable!
And if you’re having a bit of writer’s block today, enjoy the complimentary music link here. And jump around! Can’t hurt. Might help! Ciao!
ART BY ANNE EMOND
6:30 am – Alarm blares. Damn it! Right arm pushes pillow tighter over head while left arm pushes clock off dresser trying to find snooze button.
6:45 am – Shower. Uneventful. Pray for endurance. Again.
6:56 am – Coffee started
7:00 am – First sips. A flicker of inspiration. Didn’t I dream something amazing last night? What was it again?
7:00 – 8:30 am – Daily chaos. Get kids ready for school. Get dressed. Pack lunch boxes. Feed the dog. Kiss the hubby. Review the “to do” list today. Yep. Impossible. Great. Let’s get started.
8:31 am -Forgot work project. Go get it. Refill coffee mug in hand. Oh yeah. Unplug coffee pot so house won’t burn to the ground.
8:45 am – Kids at school. Go ahead and push the pedal to the medal now.
9:00 am – Arrive at day job. Tune out for a few hours while some really great stories invade your brain, making productive work more challenging.
11:37 am – Scratch out a few words on a post-it to remind you later of your amazing best seller book idea: Crumpled, Yesterday’s Scissors, The art of knowing……
12:00 – Head to a drive through since you left lunch on the counter at home. More for the dog today.
12:31 pm – You’re late! Time sensitive jobs really bite!
12:35 pm – Go to break room. Grab last remaining grounds and cold water of stale coffee.
1:00 pm – 2:37pm – Vacillate between inspiration and dire need to take a nap.
2:37 pm – 5:00 pm – Feign productivity.
5:01 pm – Scram!
5:01 – 9:30 pm – Errands, cook, eat with family, help with homework, do a few loads of laundry and dishes, pay some bills, clean up your lunch the dog barfed on the carpet, remind yourself to stay awake long enough to write later, give baths, and tuck the kids in–with someone else’s really good published book of course!
10:00 pm – Make another pot of coffee.
10:30 pm – Last person finally in bed and appears to be sleeping. Head over to laptop for some quality writing time.
10:31 pm – Handle significant news events on Facebook as efficiently as possible. Decide to ignore email until the weekend.
11:00 pm – Review earlier scrap of paper with illegible words. The art of knowing….The art of knowing what? What the hell you think as you ball it up.
Start writing: The…. (Wait for it. Wait for it. Inspiration. It’s coming. Hang on.)
11:55 pm – …..purpose of this story. No, no, no. That’s not right. Start all over. No good writing ever starts with the word “The”. Good writing shows what happens, it doesn’t start out explaining it.
12:00 am – Try to push down feelings of anxiety as you realize you really need to get to bed. You had an hour. You tried. You failed. You half-heartedly forgive yourself. It’s all part of the process you say.
12:05 am – Brush teeth. Go to bed. Say your prayers! Start drifting into dream land.
3:34 am – 5:54 am Gahhhhh!!! Wake up with a startle. Grab glasses. RUN to the computer. I remember, I remember! Yippee!! Will your fingers to please type at least half as fast as your brain is thinking. Pressure happens at the three thousand word count because now it’s 5:54 and you’re just getting started. Fight panic and tears as you have to put a lid on it. After all, you’ve got to get some sleep tonight.
6:00 am – Reluctantly flop back in bed. Pray for speed sleeping.
6:25 am – Deep REM finds you at last.
6:30 – Alarm blares. Rise and shine. Rinse and repeat.
You just don’t get it. You don’t hear what I’m trying to say.
Do you ever have this mental, maybe verbal conversation in life? With people? With readers? With the voices in your own head?
How do you overcome doubt? How to you stave off confusion? How do you avoid miscommunication? How do you convey most accurately what you are trying to say?
How do you avoid being Miss Understood?
Answer: You don’t.
In writing, and in life whenever we open our mouth, or put words out there, we do so knowing that words mean things. That doesn’t mean everyone’s ears and mind are tuned in on the same frequency. Words tumble out and risk is assumed.
Writing true assumes risk. Risk of failure, risk of discovery, risk of opening doors you haven’t opened before or don’t want to open but probably will anyway.
One person makes a statement or asks a question. Another person hears an ulterior motive or perceives a criticism. You write a sentence crafted from an artistic mind. Someone else asks “are you okay?”
You laugh. You know the truth. We are completely separate from our writing, our painting, our sculpting, or our composing. We are not our art. We are completely different indeed.
Or are we?
What are you brave enough to write today at the risk of being Miss Understood?
(Therapy song to get your smile on)
Okay, so life hasn’t been a bowl of peaches lately. It’s been the pits. In fact, it’s been pure anarchy, bedlam, chaos, and disorder– a real A to Z list of mad maladies all the way up to the zymosis of your mind. It’s all hit the fan again and there ain’t nothing you can do about it baby.
Except write. Eat. Sleep. Work. Then write. Then write some more. Keep it simple. Just do it. Write.
All those things in life you can’t control can be reshaped and remolded into words. Let black and white be your color. Let black and blue be your drama. Let black on black be your humor. Let your black be others light.
Let go. But hold on. Don’t hold back. You’ve got something to say.
Shhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone this. Even in the bleakest moments, you secretly know life is being filtered thru a lens that others can’t see. You see the other side. You know–the one where it’s all sunshine, daisies, and lollipops.
Or at least beauty. Truth is beauty. Write true, beautifully.
Don’t stop until you get there.
“Every single cell in the human body replaces itself over a period of seven years. That means there’s not even the smallest part of you now that was part of you seven years ago.”
― Steven Hall, The Raw Shark Texts
Like this sweet little boy who is completely pooped after a big wedding, you may feel like this too after writing a long chapter or a challenging piece. Your tired. Spent. Exhausted.
It’s okay. It’s time for you to rest. It’s good to give yourself permission to stop sometimes, especially when life gets busy.
“I’m just a drinker with writing problems,” the Irish poet and playwright Brendan Behan one stated. In that case, know when to say when!
It’s so easy to dither between unwarranted intoxication or absolute depression over the words we spill all over the page. Don’t let writing make you feel wasted! Translation: There is still life out there that needs to be lived!
If you wrote something today then good for you! Review then rejoice!
If you wrote poorly or didn’t have time at all, than tomorrow is a new day. Take the time now to pause and take a breath. Reflect a little. Rest. Then you can come back tomorrow renewed and refreshed and ready to write.
Renewal: A necessary part of the creative process!