What I Learned from Hamilton

Writing a book is something I’ve always wanted to do. I could go into all the reasons I’ve never seriously sat down to write one. I won’t. There’s no point. They are all just excuses. At the end of the day, the real truth is I have never felt worthy enough to have a story to tell and I was scared.

I am still scared. But I am worthy.

In October 2016 the children and I evacuated to Alabama during hurricane Matthew. I braced myself for the worst. The car was packed. The Volkswagen was busting holding the five of us. We knew we would be like that for about six hours – if the route I chose wasn’t crowded with other evacuees. Fun right?

Turn out to be a blast!

I had heard of the Broadway play Hamilton before in passing. The cast performed for some award show I watched. The accolades, awards, and Pulitzer news had made its way to me. My oldest daughter had mentioned it and was a fan.

Once we were on the road, she asked if we could listen to it. The other children seemed excited. I agreed.

It would be the only thing we listened to for the totality of the 12 hour, round trip car ride.

For the next month, I rarely listened to anything else. I almost felt guilty turning some other type of music on. As a writer, I already knew how hard it was to take nouns and verbs and put them together in such a way that is meaningful. It’s really fucking hard. Sometimes, it seems impossible.

Lin Manuel Miranda did it – within the boundaries of history and the restriction of musical movement in the art of storytelling without crutch and with passion.

The body of work struck me as genius in its entirety. I ranged emotions. I was engrossed in the story. I moved, felt, wanted, loved, feared, rejoiced.

Over and over again a thought kept coming into my head. “How in the hell did he do that? How did he birth a body of work into existence? How did he manage? Why can’t I?”

And the answer, when it occurred to me, was so simple. He just did the work. He allowed the process. He encountered a piece of work, Alexander Hamilton’s biography, found inspiration, and worked it out. Six years he did the work. Sure he had help, collaborators, supporters. But he did the work and this is his reward.

I do not do the work. I want to do the work. I want to want to do the work.

Nina Crespo once told me that writing is a muscle – you have to work it out or it gets soft. I have neglected the gym for a while. I have played with it like the bench sitters that go to the weight rack to be seen and not sweat. I have held the fear of failure and fear that the work will be too hard. I worry that it won’t be good.

Unfortunately what I have managed to achieve is worse. It won’t be anything if I don’t commit to the process.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Update (Warrior vs. Fairy)

I was/am super excited about participating in my very first NaNoWriMo. There is a lot about it to be excited about. What a neat little concept to challenge writers and want to be writers to commit to an average of about 1,700 words a day in the month of November to hit a 50,000 word count goal that looks something like the first draft of a finished novel.

Except I am averaging 281 words a day.

Well, in all fairness, my overall word count is much higher, they just aren’t all book oriented. I’ve done a ton of work with things I had already written, published a few more things here, and made headway on this writing thing actually paying bills. While those do not count for this particular project, I have decided they do count as considering this first full month of answering the question of “What do you do?” with “Writer” a win.

The actual act of book writing itself has not been the scary monster I thought it was going to be. It is true that the more you put words together, the more you are able to put words together. Writing follows the same rules as everything else in the world; inertia and practice payoff are really things.

I gave more credence to the power of what I didn’t know to what I did know. I have been so hesitant to write outside of my comfort zone (long form fiction) because I just couldn’t imagine how I could pull it off. How would I describe places I hadn’t been? How would I make real things that I knew little about appear authentic? Could I create a whole story of people and places I totally made up in my head? The answer is yes. I give credit to the guys over at the Self-Publishing Podcast for turning that lightbulb on. They talked about “writing around” those things you weren’t an expert on or that felt unauthentic. Eureka!

I thought that would be the hard part and the actual act of writing would be the easy part. Turns out I had it exactly backwards. Figures.

For nearly 18 months I have been trying to figure out the new rhythm of my life. I had grown very accustomed to the steady, waltz like beat of 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, of the time before. I woke early in the morning, if I was writing, I wrote. If I wasn’t, and there were long periods of time when I wasn’t, I filled the morning hours with other things to distract me from the fact that I wasn’t writing. I handled my regular life during the day – work, kids, house. I went to bed. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.

I now function more like an alien on milk at my first rave. My calendar has given up the ghost, I can’t even fake a schedule, and making sure the kids are getting everything they need to be successful is the only thing I can absolutely guarantee. Most days I can’t even tell you what state I’m going to be in. Learning to write outside of a set time or place and becoming accustomed to finishing projects in pieces versus one sitting is taking some practice. I’m kinda getting the hang of it, but learning that talent while working on a totally different type of project (i.e. a book) is a bit of multitasking that is not going well.

The way I write is a bit different too. Or at least it is becoming different. I am working on being more open and confident. I am attempting to become a more fearless writer. Sometimes nouns and verbs go together in ways that are a bit scary to own. In my life from ago, those things would be immediately deleted. Today, they are thoughtfully considered and sometimes allowed to breathe whatever air they need to work themselves out. This process has made it more difficult to switch to projects that aren’t real (fiction writing) or not about the work I am doing (that wedding toast that I swear Ann is going to be great).

So while I am finding greater peace and enjoyment, the clock suggests a bit of a challenge. I need to write about 7,200 words a day to “win” NaNoWriMo. Gracefully, the folks over there also offer another cute little stat – at my current pace I will still finish on April 27, 2018. And honestly, that doesn’t sound so terrible.

The warrior in me balks at that, chides the fairy side of self on settling for the out, finding the justification where ever it may be to give me comfort in accepting defeat and failure. I own that. I think there is some truth to the fact that I could have been more disciplined in the the task. I could have taken the whole thing more seriously and been more confident in just getting words on paper. There is a piece of this project that is a failure. I do not expect a trophy for simply showing up. And, while admittedly unlikely, who knows what magical word count feat I’ll be able to pull off at the end of the month. Ever seen Rocky IV?

But the fairy wins today. I will not apologize for taking the time I need and doing the things I need to do. I will not feel guilty for the mornings I chose to steal minutes in bed when I could have been up putting words on paper. I will not begrudge the chaotic because I am all too grateful for both the chaos creators and the freedom of life to rock the rave.

 

*Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

On Writing Rules

Just start with a word and see what happens…that’s the rule.

Write a little everyday, it should be a habit…that’s the rule.

Don’t censor yourself when you are writing; speak your truth even when it scares you…that’s the rule.

When you are writing, don’t worry about what other people think…that’s the rule.

I consider myself to be a person who does pretty well with rules. I am not typically a rule breaker. There was that one speeding ticket…and the way I refuse to run with traffic…but outside of that I am a pretty stick to the straight and narrow kind of girl.

But writing. I find it super hard to follow the rules when it comes to writing.

First of all, I really like to write about writing. I don’t know if that’s breaking a rule or not. But I am certain you are probably supposed to expand your field of subject matter outside of the very action itself.

Except there is something about the very action itself that is at the core, for me of all other subject matter. There is a ribbon through all the things that I am, see, do, taste, love, fear, dream, denounce and that thing is writing – putting words to my chaos to give that chaos some order.

Writing, for me, is the act of taking out the brand new puzzle, hunting for the end pieces, making some sense of the outline, sorting through the middle, and then hoping like hell all that work takes some kind of shape. Often times that happens for me and I get to look back on what I have written and think to myself, “There is is. That’s what I think today.” Life then moves on, sorted and in order so that I can continue experiencing and being a part of this journey that belongs to me.

Then there are the other days.  Forget finding any end pieces. It takes all the energy I possess just to open the damn box. Once I finally do get in there, there aren’t any end pieces, some of the pieces are already missing, and extra pieces that don’t even belong have been thrown into the mix. My brain hitches. Thoughts swirl. These days require significantly more effort to remain engaged and present as there is no order to experience. The ribbon is knotted.

Eventually the knot loosens and the order comes. There is always a first word, that beginning match of two end pieces.

Just start with a word and see what happens…that’s the rule.

There is no such thing as Writer’s Block (Take 2)

Alrighty, now that I got all of THAT out of my system (I think), let’s try this again, shall we?

“I don’t believe in Writer’s Block…Writer’s Block is something that people tell themselves; it’s not something that really exists…if you give them a writing prompt and tell them to write as many words as they can in five minutes, they will all write words. One sentence breeds another sentence.”
~ Grant Faulkner, Executive Director, NaNoWriMo

I know that I have said “damn Writer’s Block!” before. In fact, just yesterday I stared at a computer screen on and off for probably two hours just trying to figure out what word to write next.

I know what it is, firsthand, to feel the creeping anxiety that you will never be able to come up with another cohesive sentence again. To feel like every idea that you have ever had is used up. That every phrase you turn has been turned so many times before that you are one cliche away from being a fabricated pop song. I know what all that feels like.

So it is probably fortunate that Grant’s little declaration that Writer’s Block isn’t merely a myth, but a situation of our own creation, therefore controllable and not really a thing occurred deep in a conversation that had already cemented my opinion of him as someone to listen to. Otherwise, I am certain I would have dismissed the notion straight away.

As it is, I considered it. And considered it again.

This will shock you…but I have been known to be wrong. I know. Even more unbelievable is that I am pretty okay with admitting it. In fact, I will over analyze some situations just to ensure I haven’t overlooked the way in which I am wrong even after I have determined that I am, in fact, right. That’s the tactic I employed today. Convinced as I was that I myself could vouch for the validity of Writer’s Block, I needed to give the contrary its due.

“I feel like I have experienced Writer’s Block.” – True
“Writer’s Block is a subjective concept” – True
“I can 100% say that my feelings are always objectively correct.” – False

A subjective label determined by subjective methods cannot be objectively verified; I had to consider the possibility that what I had experienced was not Writer’s Block.

What would be characteristics of true writer’s block? The inability to put words on a paper. If someone offered me a huge sum of money or threatened some terrible consequence, could I, even at the height of the perceived block, put words together on paper? Yes.

Shit. He’s right. What I experience is not Writer’s Block…it’s Writer Refusal.

There are times I just refuse to write. Ranging from mismanagement of time to fear of rejection or consequence, I was immediately able to identify a myriad of reasons why I couldn’t get words on the paper. Not a damn one of them had anything to do with being unable and everything to do with being unwilling.

There’s a huge difference between unable and unwilling. Frankly, I can see why my soft self prefers the former. That one can’t be my fault. That one can’t be chalked up to my failure or my accountability. It just is and I’m off the hook. That’s a much cozier feeling that the latter – the choice, the willful neglect, the culpability.

So I find myself here, and it’s a pretty serious gut check. I have quit my job. I have declared myself a full time writer. I have insisted that there is a better than average possibility that this will not only make me happy, but can parlay into a dream career. The obstacle that stands in front of me is not one, despite previous declarations to the contrary, that I can shovel into the “oh well that just happens sometimes and I’ll just have to play Candy Crush until it passes” pile.

The obstacle is created by my own doing and it will only be moved the same way. There is not Writer’s Block. There are only Writer Choices. As I have declared myself the writer, it’s time to start declaring, and owing, my choices.

Thanks Grant.

*Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

There is no such thing as “Writer’s Block” (FanGirl edition)

“I don’t believe in Writer’s Block…Writer’s Block is something that people tell themselves; it’s not something that really exists…if you give them a writing prompt and tell them to write as many words as they can in five minutes, they will all write words. One sentence breeds another sentence.”
~ Grant Faulkner, Executive Director, NaNoWriMo

Before I get into the barrage of thoughts that this excerpt created in my brain, let me first tell you where it came from. Actually, in true “one sentence breeds another fashion,” the telling nearly spurred me into probably twelve different next sentences. Let’s see if I can keep this stream of consciousnesses thinking out of the ditch.

You may have heard that I recently turned loose my pretty amazing corporate job to be a full time writer. There may or may not be correlation between the timing of that and NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is this crazy little idea that suggests if you start on November 1st and write roughly 1,500 – 1,700 words a day, you’ll end up with a 50,000 word novel at the end of the month. Crazy? Maybe. But have you ever heard of the Robert Pattinson / Reese Witherspoon movie Water for Elephants? Well, it was originally a book…a NaNoWriMo book. So, there’s that. And there’s more.

I decided to do what I always do when I am trying to get my bearings straight – I google related podcasts. I happened upon these three guys over at the Self Publishing Podcast. The content itself is great. But the delivery is where it’s at. I could go on, instead just hop over there and check it out and I am going to try really hard to stay on topic.

As luck would have it, Johnny, Sean, and Dave had Grant on this week’s show. It’s one of the few podcasts I’ve ever listened to twice.

Ok, nevermind. I have some things I really want to work out about this writer’s block business and it just isn’t going to work right this second. So I have added “FanGirl” to the post title (which also happens to be a NaNoWriMo work) and I will continue with my love of what happened during this podcast.

Grant Faulkner and I are facebook friends now. Yeah, no big deal… (!!!!)

So the podcast first. I haven’t been listening long obviously, but the thing that keeps me coming back to it is the lack of pretense (and Dave). Because I have never had the opportunity to belong to or immerse myself in a writing community, listening to these guys discuss their craft, work around topics, move through the weeds, has been invaluable. These guys just write. As a great side benefit, it makes me wanna just write.

If you are not a writer, “just write” is not easiest thing on the planet. Probably because when you say it, what I actually hear is “just write really great, earth shattering shit all the time and be consistent and wonderful and productive and published and income producing…” Yeah, it’s a thing.

Except for when these guys say it, it really sounds more like “just write.” Period.

Now to Grant’s episode. There was so much real stuff in there. Mostly, Grant just sounded like a really good dude. If I wasn’t excited about NaNoWriMo before, I am now. Reminds me of the time I saw Andy Grammar in concert. I walked in sorta liking his music. I walked out a fan. When today’s podcast was over, I am a Grant fan and a NaNoWriMo advocate.

He called the process “improv writing.” He discussed the “yes, and” when moving through a story. They also talked about the “time hunt” – that process of finding the time (because it is there) to cater to that creative side and just write. There were talks about community, support, accomplishment, goals, expectations, and just being a writer.

Did you know Toni Morrison wrote her first novel in the small time she had among all the other things she had to do in the day? Me either. Grant breaks down the math … roughly 300/day … 10,000/mth … 120,000/year … boom!

I was in for November before the podcast…I am all in now. Thanks guys.

*Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Turn Around Tuesday Tailgate Party (aka Help!)

Nope, it ain’t Tuesday yet.
But I have some housecleaning
and decorating to do
and I need your help.
~April

I have transitioned to a full time Writer, StoryTeller, Content Creator, Consummator of Nouns and Verbs. It’s amazing and scary and wonderful and wild. Having the love and support available for this to even be an option for me is mind blowing.

I have been here before – writing for others. But it was always as a side hustle. As much as I enjoyed it, it had significant disadvantages – stress, missed deadlines, loss of focus, inability to produce quality work.

There is no more side hustle. There is only this. And I could really use your support.

1 – Let’s reconnect if we haven’t in a while. I know my life has changed a lot since the last run of TATs. I am sure yours has too.

2 – Share my stuff. The newsletters, the Facebook posts, the links. Check out other places here at See the Butterfly. You’ll see familiar stuff there as this is both a consolidation and the place for new stuff. If you enjoy it, share it. If there’s something you’d like to see there, suggest it. Subscribe to it.

3 – Recommend me. Been on LinkedIn lately? Check it out. Leave a review, click an endorsement. Met somebody who is looking for a story to be told, content to be created, copy to be produced? Let them know. Let me know.

4 – Keep me posted on how I can support you. I believe a rising tide lifts all ships.

Thanks for the coffee, the support, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

~A

Does it Ever End Different

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with a friend I had lost touch with. She knew nothing about my divorce or the reemergence of “Our Story 2.0.” Like most every person that hears the story, she was surprised, encouraging, and a little giddy of the beautiful romance of it all. Her husband walked in and she cliff noted the story.

“Can you believe it?” She said. “Isn’t that just the sweetest thing!”

He turned and looked at me with a sincere and honest face.

“You ever read the same book twice?”

This was nothing I had expected and I was momentarily confused. “Huh?”

He repeated the question. “I said, have you ever read the same book twice?”

I knew where this was going. “I have.”

“Have you ever known the ending of any of them to be different?”

Knew it. “No I haven’t. Let’s hope this one is.”

“Well,” he says without a hint of condescension, “if you’re happy, let’s hope so.”

And he meant it. And I appreciated it. There are quite a few people that have various opinions concerning the numerous changes I’ve made over the last year or so. Some of those opinions are ill formed, selfish, and soaked in dripping amounts of high and mighty. I have learned to ignore those.

But this one…this is a question I had never been asked. I had to admit it was a good one. And it was asked in, what I perceived to be, all sincerity.

It stuck with me long after I told them both goodbye and went on about my week.

I am going to try and answer it.

I have read J. D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” three times – in high school, during my brief tryst with college, and about 6 months ago. Not only did the words at the end not change, but neither did any other word in any other part of the book.

Except the story had changed because I had changed.

When I was in my teens, I loved this book. I was Holden Caufield – misunderstood, raging against the world’s ideas, alone, sad, looking for connection. I knew Stradlater, I wanted to be Jane. Salinger brought the teenage condition out of the shadows of my brain and showed me that I was not alone. Most teenagers, despite their belief to the contrary, have the same thoughts, fears, questions. I saw that there on the page. It was one of my first true experiences realizing that writing, telling the story, brings connection, validation, and understanding.

Later, in my 20’s, I picked up the book again. This time I was a young momma in the Navy. I had bills, responsibilities, taxes, and little Phoebes of my own. The book irritated me to no end. This little shit kid and his little shit attitude. I wish one of kids would act like that. Ungrateful and spoiled. Does he think the world revolves around him? Like the death of Allie hurt only for him? Like his folks hadn’t been through enough they have to deal with his entitled bullshit. I finished the book scolding myself for ever liking it at all. I scolded myself for ever reading a book twice. It would be a long time before I realized that reading a book again was not the problem – failing to realize perspective was.

A few months ago, I picked the book up again. I had since learned that great books should be read often. “A Catcher in the Rye” is a great book. Rarely have I enjoyed a piece of work more. Everything about the offering appealed to me. As a momma (of grown children this time), I ached for young Holden. This tortured teenager so much like my own and all other teenagers before him had to move through the process. There’s really little that can be done to ease this for him as his youth makes him unable to know all the things he doesn’t know. I hurt for the Caulfield family. That kind of loss, that kind of heartbreak, the aftermath of it all. How difficult it all must be. And as a writer – now there was the gift. To watch Salinger give voice in an authentic way so much so that you forget a gifted wordsmith has pen to paper. To be able to create pages that feel like a real teenage journal. To move a reader through this created persona in a way that forces one to engage at the character’s level. It was masterful and inspiring.

So no, the story didn’t “do” one thing different. When I turned the last page, Allie was still dead, Holden was still sad, the journey was still incomplete. But it was different because I was different. My world, my experiences, my choices were different.

And that is how I want to answer the brilliant and thoughtful question. Yes, in the ways that matter, the story did, in this instance, end differently. If it makes you feel better, I acknowledge the intent of your question and had given it careful consideration long before you asked it. I know better than anyone how the story ended 20 years ago. It is not lost on me that sometimes the end is just the end and it could very well be that way again. Before I walked too far down this road I conceded that this could be either the greatest love story of all time, or the most heinous train wreck ever witnessed. I decided then the book was worth picking back up. I decided the danger of losing all nostalgia and innocence was worth the possibility of gaining a treasure.

One True Sentence

There have been a lot of “hard things” about writing and generally interacting with people since my marriage split up over a year a go. It isn’t the usual things you would think as the split was not emotionally difficult for me. I know that sounds like a horrible thing to say, but it’s true. Once it happened, once he moved out, I can honestly say I have never missed him a day.

See, that right there. That’s been one of the hard things about writing now. That sentence right there is where I have to start and I know it will sound awful and hurtful to people because it is awful and hurtful. But to me, and I have found I am never alone, it is also beautiful and magnificent.

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I’ve never been to Paris, but I have sat on the shores of big water and watched as the tides moved and versions of my heart who live outside my body play in its offering. I know what it is to feel inspired. I know what Hemingway is saying. And it is easy because there is always a true sentence. And it is hard, because there is always a true sentence.

“There is nothing to writing,” says not Hemingway. “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” That sounds like Hemingway. His name is often attached to it. It isn’t his. But I am sure he felt it. I find it impossible to believe that one would comprehend the “one true sentence” theory without feeling it.

Concerning the idea of bloodshed, the question isn’t ever confined to the writer alone. That would make it easy. To offer up oneself in fullness in order to release the pounding of nouns and verbs stuck inside a writer’s head is a ready option. All writers know this. There are few things as painful as a sentence on the inside that wants, needs, to be on the outside.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Although I love the phenomenal Maya Angelou, that quote, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t hers. It is actually from Dust Tracks on the Road by the brilliant Zora Neale Hurston. But you can find it everywhere, shared and shared again – just like the bleed quote – by folks from all kinds of different backgrounds.

I can only conclude then that it is a common struggle – to find the true sentence and then address the agony of considering the bloodshed. If it were simply the writer’s blood, my blood, the sentiment would be less than a fleeting thought. Writing is as much a life force and a necessity as the heartbeat. But it isn’t bloodshed of the singular. It is the bloodshed of the many. I do not live in isolation; I do not write about myself alone as my experience did not come in solitude. It occurs in the world and intertwines with the experiences of those in it. Others with ideas, memories, perceptions different than, sometimes in direct opposition to, mine. Others whose, deserved or not, feelings I consider.

As such, writing for me has been convoluted, disjointed, dishonest, vague to the point of absurdity, confined, or stalled completely. Working through that has been a slow and fearful process. The fear of writing is not new to me. For many years I was afraid to write. But the source was different. It came from the others. That’s a beautiful, albeit cowardly, hiding space as I decided I had to take no personal responsibility for it; I want to write, I should write, I have to write, but because of forces outside my control, I simply can’t. That isn’t true anymore. It really wasn’t very true then. But now I can’t even pretend that it is anything other than my own fear and hesitation.

And there is so much fear and hesitation. Every sentence is checked and double checked. Ideas that may come across as anything other than conciliatory and nice suddenly require encyclopedic levels of explanation and clarification. Caveats to thoughts in an attempt to tourniquet a paper cut that I fear may be a hemorrhage in the eyes of another become so numerous as to be exhausting and overwhelming. The writing becomes nothing more than a nearly incomprehensible apology for my very existence and a purposeless martyring of ink.

Even today, this is not what I sat down to write. The idea that started my time at the keyboard was allowed exactly 54 words before it went sideways into palliation. I decide to jot a few notes in hopes that one day I finish that thought. It was clear to me that I was risking nothing with that option. If I lose the idea as the moment has now passed, it really is okay; without doing this work first, that idea never really had a chance of survival anyway. None of them do.

It has become clear to me that unless I can honor the space where my true to me sentence can just breathe, I cannot write. That is not an option. Through the ages writing as been a scandalous venture. Nouns and verbs have been the harbingers of misunderstandings, condemnation, ridicule, and ostracism. Yet still the quill was inked, the pen moved, the key stroked. Why? In the face of obvious and time tested proof that the writer only has control of the delivery and not the reception, we still write. I still write.

You write because you need write, or because you hope someone will listen or because writing will mend something broken inside you or bring something back to life.

Joanne Harris, Blackberry Wine

One day (hopefully sooner rather than later) I will go back and put nouns and verbs to the awful beauty of that true sentence and other true sentences like it. Today however, the ability to just leave it there and not delete it will take all the moxie I possess. Maybe today the point is to mend something broken. Maybe that is how we bring things back to life.

Neurotic About Reading what I Write

I hesitate to even admit to the amount of time I read, reread, and reread again things I have written. There is a little voice in my head that says, “If you admit this to them, they will know…they will know…they willllll knnnowwww.” Yeah, the voice in my head is just that much of a nag, and just that obnoxiously creepy. See what I have to deal with? Seriously.

However, if Hamilton can write the Reynolds Pamphlet, I can write this. Okay, so maybe one is way more serious than the other. I’ll let you decide which is which. I think it’s a no brainer. Really.

I reread my own words neurotically. I do not say that lightly, with exaggeration, or figuratively. I consume my own writing with anxious and obsessive repetitiveness. I am constantly going through, saying the words aloud, working through the structure, putting it down and coming back again, attempting to pretend like I am reading it for the first time with a different worldview. Sometimes I even attempt to read it with a different accent. Not a mandarin one though. That’s just too much. I have boundaries.

I often worry that this is an ego thing. I am sure there are some folks out there who will bet a paycheck that it is. One, it’s the easy answer. Two, it’s what they want to think about me anyway. But I am going to go ahead and let you know that it is not an ego thing. I have ego things – my hair, my gym time, the way my man looks, my hair (did I say that already – of course I did) – but the way I reread my shit, is not like any of those. So I can only conclude it is not an ego thing. I really wish we had bet that paycheck.

There is some embarrassment to admitting this. I have heard folks talk about what they don’t do with their work – actors who don’t watch their own movies, musicians that don’t listen to their own songs, children who won’t acknowledge their own mess. Okay, so that last one is not the same, but you get my point. I have heard folks say this and there is an air to that sentiment that suggests confidence, coolness, professionalism, comfort that I just don’t have. At all. And I really would like to use all those words to describe myself. Instead, I get compulsive. Yay.

But truth is truth and I am attempting to process it as it comes in its rawest form and see what types of interesting ideas I can pluck from the material.

The best I can figure is I just give a shit.

Writing is so amazingly personal for me. It’s a gift, really, as being able to put nouns and verbs together on a page in a way that seems to be pleasing to consume has helped me more than any other outlet in discovering my ideas, sorting my brain, and growing in myself. So I am appreciative.

But it is so amazingly personal. Words that I put on a page have always felt like an extension on myself – another toe, maybe an arm, most assuredly a piece of my heart. So I am critical of it. Concerned that I have presented it properly, was truthful, respectful, honest, not dodgy. I worry about how others perceive it, if I was responsible in the tone and delivery, thoughtful of others who may see themselves in it.

So I read it. And I read it again. And I read it again. And then again.

But the truth is no matter how many times I read it, I will still miss things. And I am not talking just about commas and misspellings (although I am sure there are both). I am talking about perspectives, nuances, thoughts between the spaces.

Because that’s where the real stuff with writing happens – between the spaces. And there’s nothing as a writer that I can do to control what happens there. I know this. The catch is that I have total control over what creates the space, therefore I feel responsible, to a large degree, for what happens inside the space. And, while I may be a bit harder on myself than I should, there is a real sense of responsibility and insecurity each and every time I push ideas into the public domain.

But I continue to do it because writer’s write. And the only avenue I have found to calm my nerves about the appropriateness of the thoughts I have put together is to read them over and over again. The repetition, as irritating as it is for me, does serve to either confirm that I have done the best I can do, or bores me to tears to the point where I just don’t care anymore and it’s fine the way it is. I’m not sure this follow through technique is the most productive proofreading style, but I work with what I have.

I felt compelled to share this little bit of explanation just in case someone gets twisted, disagrees, or generally hates something I have to say or that I felt the liberty to say it. I just want you to know that I read it, extensively, and so there is a bit of confidence that it was something I wanted to say, in the way I wanted to say it, that I felt I had the liberty to say. Also, I realize I get it wrong, so I am completely up for a discussion concerning what happened in the spaces when you visit what I create. But the neat thing about this journey is that I am learning that while I do get it wrong sometimes, I am not always wrong just because someone says that I am. My voice is valid. Yours is too. That doesn’t take agreement or submission.

It’s Not The Piece, but it is A Piece

I have fallen into a pattern over the years where I have a certain time of the day I like to write. It started, I think, because the super early mornings are the quietest time in my house. Everyone is asleep. There is nothing to distract, there are no people to entertain, there is no guilt about other things I could be doing…I just write.

The hours of writing are pretty rigid. 0400 until about 0800 is it. If I am up any earlier than that, I use that time to do whatever until 0400 because seriously, I cannot reward getting up earlier than four in the morning with extra writing time. It would seriously get out of hand. After 0800, the guilt starts to creep in around the other stuff that I should be doing. I fall straight into “oh my god you big piece of shit you aren’t even getting paid to do this so get up off your ass and wash a dish, cook a meal, pick up a sock, or something productive” mode.

While this time frame has served me well, there are some real drawbacks to it.

First, the obvious. Sleep. I like laying around in the bed as much as anyone else. I have to make the choice. Sleep or write. When I started running, the choices became even harder – sleep, run, write. It becomes pretty daunting to a schedule when three wonderful things are all fighting for the same time slot.

Second, I have a lot of unfinished stuff. Worse, I have stuff I just say fuck it and delete. The time slot feels like a deadline. If I can’t produce in the amount of time given to me, it just isn’t there (or so I have conditioned myself to think). Usually I just hit delete. Sometimes I will save it, but honestly, I rarely go back to any of it. I write in the moment so often, it is hard to put it down and go back to it later.No greater agony

The third thing is akin to the second. I don’t have a large project and I would really like to. But I never feel like I have the appropriate time to devote to a larger writing project. I also am afraid to commit to a theme that I feel today but won’t feel tomorrow and then what am I supposed to do with that? It’s almost the same way I feel when I am registering for a long race. This is so far out in the future. How will I ever be able to plan for this? What if something happens? Can I really be ready? What if I spend this money and then I just can’t get there? Won’t that be a waste? Won’t that make me feel like a failure?

Let me tell you that all those things happen in the brain of writers and runners. It really does provide a compelling argument to choose sleep.

writing garbage

Finally (at least for right now) is I think I have the misfortune of conditioning myself to both writing at this time,  and also to ONLY write at this time. If I don’t make those hours for whatever reason, I’m not writing. Even if I really need to. This is not productive. If an idea comes up outside of those hours, it gets very little attention paid to it. I don’t even make a note of it. I have become so accustomed to the time parameters that I have justified in my brain that all worthy ideas will happen during those times and any ideas outside of that time will not be worthy once I get around to them. I then further conclude that because those things are true, I am only creating mess and clutter by attempting to preserve these snipets of worthless thoughts and really, who needs that in their life?

Me. I need that in my life. I need to be more open to the words that come into my head, the ideas that rattle around in my brain.

Me. I need to be more flexible with my reception to ideas and times to just put words on paper. So writing at night feels different than writing in the morning. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe there is something there I have never discovered, a groove I’ve never explored because I have convinced myself that it just isn’t “the way I’m wired” or whatever.

write it down

Me. I need sticky notes every where. Journal pages scribbled on. Every where. Half formed ideas and snippets of thought snatched from a moment of time to be revisited later when their full worth or lack thereof can be better measured. My ideas, my thoughts, while not all spectacular, are at least worth more than a passing throw off because the timing wasn’t optimal.

Write for yourself

Me, I need bravery in the process. That it won’t all be good and that’s okay. That it won’t all feel good and that’s okay. That it won’t all be true and that’s okay. That it won’t all be my voice rather another that I am trying on because I have never walked that way before and how can I explore all the pieces of the world if I only take the same trips over and over again?

#nobow

 

Tennessee Williams Quote

Tennessee Williams Quote