Life is perfectly flawed

Intuitively, I feel something is wrong. I text her, “Are you OK?” She replies that she is having one of those episodes no one really wants to talk about. It’s called “feeling sorry” for myself. Everyone knows this one, and no matter what’s going on, it hurts. It hurts like hell.

Something goes terribly wrong. Someone spews garbage on you. You are working your ass off and still losing ground. You get yelled at or snubbed. You trip over something and injure yourself. You fail a test, don’t get called back to an audition, miss a promotion, say too much, screw things up.

Sometimes when I am feeling sorry for myself, I go into my closet, close the doors and sit alone in the dark. The tears flow, my heart breaks, I think there is no future.

Disappointment is the word that says it all. Sadness squeezes your heart. Expectations are shattered. Hopes and dreams are about to be discarded. You are at the end of your rope, tired of trying to go where you are going. “No more!” you say with conviction.

In the closet, I take a deep breath, then another, and another. Soon calmness prevails and once again I remind myself. Life is flawed. There are no two ways about it. But it helps me to say it this way.  Life is perfectly flawed. Without the disappointment, I might not change anything.

Disappointment is a bright shining beacon that helps us to choose something different, to make small improvements, to live more authentically. To be unabashedly the person we truly are, a beautiful, ever-growing light to the world.

Atop the doghouse

One of my writing books suggests that supporters are the first best place to find feedback. I line them up with enthusiasm and then wonder why.

Though definitely apprehensive, I go ahead and hit Send, then stare at the Sent Mail folder and realize there is no turning back. No getting it back. The developing baby has left my protective grasp and vies to live on its own.

The first critique session goes well. Several good pieces of feedback come. More re-writing and critique. A couple issues that had bothered me at a subliminal level are gone, and before I know it, I have created a hungry monster.

My small pod of readers is hammering on me for additional story. We want more, they demand.

What?

It’s a great feeling. I think I am like Snoopy atop the doghouse, head down, working with a fervor. I look up smiling. Hopefully it will last into what they have to say about the next chapter.

What I don’t know

There is real traction. Spinning wheels have connected with earth, and I am off, creating awesome rooster tails of mud behind me. I am in Drive, re-writing my first draft, and it is … exciting! Oh yeah, did I mention, it is a lot of work?

Normally, I am able to think things through, plan in advance, and manage the details to get where I am going. It is my nature, and these are good characteristics for a writer.

Wait, hit on the brakes! It’s apparent I keep on walking by the planning part, like it doesn’t exist. Intuitive me loves to play. It is a lot of fun at times to NOT know where the story is going, and I like surprises.

However, this is Round Two. I have a good skeleton that needs serious fleshing out. Before I drive off the road into pantser land again, I make a conscious choice. This time, I really want to know (and understand) what I don’t know.

Following “The Rules” isn’t usually my first approach; I lost that urge somewhere along the line. No maverick here, just one used to questioning statements about “the way it is,” especially when imposed by rigid, opinionated mouths. I can totally respect “The Rules” which I will happily challenge or break, as long as it’s legal and I know I am breaking them. You have to know the rules to break them.

There are tons of rules regarding story structure, or maybe they are strong suggestions? Here I go a-Googling. Story structure, outlines, plot points, pinch points, turning points … none of them particularly scary, but it spins my head like the girl in “The Exorcist.” These subjects fill many books on writing. You could spend a fortune.

This intersection is familiar—the outlining question—I bought a couple books awhile back. I look on my writing shelf and what do I see? “Outline Your Novel” by K.M. Weiland, and another one I think is really good, “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks.

Oh! My attention is on craft. Back to you shortly.

Mind dump or mind map?

My writing group sends me on a new adventure. It is called mind mapping. If I have a map, maybe I can find my way out of there. Or is it through there?

I get my non-bleed butcher paper, size it to my drafting table and secure it with masking tape. My black Sharpie and assortment of colored magic markers are nearby.

Drum roll, please. It is time to begin.

You know what? This seems like a very large, blank sheet of paper in front of me. I am not organized about it at all. What happens next is more like a mind dump than a mind map.

I begin with all of the negative messages I hear internally or have been told by parents and family, employers or other authority types, voices of ex-boyfriends, ex-friends and all people who were able to bruise and abuse. That non-supportive stuff can echo in your space for years afterward (if you let it).

Next, I write all of the positive messages I hear from myself and other mentors, cheerleaders and supporters. Now I feel much better than I did!

Visually, I have two tight, round balls of words and phrases. They look like two eyeballs. There is much more to come, until the entire piece of paper is covered with words, phrases and illustrations.

I study this giant mess for a while. I hang it on the wall and look at it. I take it to my next writing group and discuss. Yep, pretty sure it is not a map. After awhile the fog clears, and finally, I get it.

This is me stepping out of my own way!

See where I am going

I consider the lopsided stacks of stuff: scraps of paper with quickly jotted ideas, magazine articles and books about story, structure and characters, file folders with notes from writing conferences, manuscript printouts, character bios and pictures. What to do with all this?

It is time for clearing. It is time for organization. I want clean and orderly space for re-writing my novel. I want music. I want books and visuals that support what I am doing. I want butcher paper and Sharpies for mind mapping.

Everywhere I look, I want to see elements of my story manifesting.

I drag a bookcase across the room by myself. I decide I am not doing that with the two-drawer lateral filing cabinet. My husband doesn’t mind helping. I see removed files sitting on the floor, but stay on task and return them to the filing cabinet. Whew, dodged a bullet from another distraction!

Now there is a place for speaker and iPod. I plug in the AC cord and snake the wire behind the cabinet. A scented candle joins the music center. Appeal to the Taurus moon with comfort, sound and scent.

Last, a drafting table and chair join the party, along with a small table for magic markers, pens and pencils.

I pick a chunk of Amethyst crystal out of a dish and place it right in front of my eyes on the desk. It is a shiny, pretty mass of crystals in many shades of deep purple to lavender, mauve and clear.

See where I am going with this? Let the games begin.

It is frightful not to live

She gasps for air, life-sustaining air. She clings with fingertips slipping on the edge of the unknown. She cannot let go. She will not let go. With the stubborn tenacity of her miserable existence, she desperately grips life by the throat, drawing in yet another shallow breath that deprives her. Death is near.

Tortured last moments foreshadow impending separation for those who remain, the emotionally injured, diminished by a lifetime of callous indifference. They love her, they hate her, but mostly they are beaten down. There is no reward for met responsibility, no love, no approval, no support.

She slides quietly away from a diseased carcass, leaving earth as she came, alone. There is relief, and finally peace for those around her. Their problems soon reduce to a box of ashes. She will inflict no more pain.

One of life’s fundamental truths presents itself to those who see and feel death. We arrive on this planet and will leave it one day. Death is not to be avoided, prevented, or ignored.

“It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live.” –Victor Hugo

An important thread

aztec-owlOne of my favorite necklaces is missing.

This is a fairly common occurrence in my world. I attempt to focus on where I put things, but it is an imperfect system. Generally, I select a “safe place” for an item to reside. I put it there and forget.

I have an attachment to this necklace. The pendant is a silver Aztec owl—my zodiac symbol—on a nine-inch silver chain of alternating dashes and ellipses. Good support for a writer, I suppose, as these signify what is in parentheses or omitted, often the crux of the matter.

After many months, I resign myself to its permanent loss.

In the story I am writing, birders search for a Northern Pygmy owl, in a mixed forest on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. A small spotted variety, it is active at dusk and dawn and hard to find.

I am in the float tank when I realize this owl is an important thread. My excitement is explosive; yes, this is right and I know it!

The next day I am cleaning my closet and what do I find? The Aztec owl is staring up at me from the floor.

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