Ode to the Lonely Flip-Flop

Ode to the Lonely Flip-Flop

20170113_123932We drive under a telephone line that is completely booked by a row of fat pigeons all squinting in unison in the direction of the orange sherbert glow of morning sun.  “Look,” I say out loud in spite of what the rest of the passengers in the vehicle think. “Dawn Patrol.” From what I gather, these greasy little sky-rats  are here every morning, holding a meeting on the same wire.They remind me of their slacker seagull cousins who squat together on the beach, and all face the same direction waiting for that perfect wind, like surfers who wait for that perfect wave. These guys remind me of a story that I started a few years ago. It’s nowhere near finished, but I need to get back to it soon.

My son in the back seat watches the world float by his window while quietly grazing on dry breakfast cereal. We are on our way to pick up his cousin and drop him off at daycare. En route, we notice a child’s flip-flop in the middle of the road. Actually, it would be more accurate to say we noticed the child’s flip-flop because it’s been there for two days. It doesn’t look abused or broken in any way, just abandoned. Forgotten.

I could smell the slightest whiff of a poem about an abandoned shoe as an allegory about society in general gently rolling in like that perfect breeze meant for seagulls. The beginning of a random metaphor started to form in my head that I planned to use at a later date, when I hear, “I wonder why you only ever see one shoe in the road,” my son’s mother said. “It’s never a pair of shoes, it’s only one. I wonder why that is?”

I can feel the Train of Thought pull away from the station. I had to seriously contemplate when was the last time I saw a pair of shoes abandoned and discarded in a place they weren’t supposed to be. I have never seen a pair of Keds on the ground as if they were some victim of some heinous violation cast aside and left to rot in the gutter. I thought about it longer than I would have liked to. It kind of bothered me, truth be told. Because, not only was it another unknown that might be worth at least a few minutes of research for… I dunno… in case I get swept up in bar trivia at the local Chili’s, but counting this scenario, along with the birds taking in a sunrise, and the cereal munching munchkin in the back seat (whom I’ll come back to in a minute), it now looks like I have a few more ideas to build stories around. The last thing I need right now is to add to my growing list of works in progress.

I mean, is there an epidemic of singular shoes dotting the landscape? Do other people notice this? Does the lost shoe feel a sense of detachment and ennui because its favorite sock got eaten by a dryer and now feels lost without it? Is feral footwear common? What about other articles of clothing? How do they feel about it? How often do they get cast aside?

These things are the sugar in my coffee. These are the things that give me a warm fuzziness in my belly because it feels like my obsessive nature has finally been directed into a more positive, and less destructive path. Over the past few years, I have turned into a storytelling savant. I’m constantly asking “what would happen if..?” and among other things, I try very hard to not use zombies as a McGuffin because I ran out of ideas. “At long last, Frank and Carol could now share that kiss in the happy home of their dreams. But they couldn’t because zombies. The end.

Every week, I eagerly await another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenge. Sometimes I play, sometimes I feel a little too out of shape. Other times I collect story prompts like seashells, and of course, there are those moments when something that can’t be easily explained comes charging into my personal space, like say, figuring out why one shoe ends up in the road and not the pair. Instead of defaulting to logic and reason to explain it (which is really boring and smells an awful lot like bullshit), I prefer instead to faceplant directly into the blueberry pie of “Just Make Shit Up” (which might be tedious to the listener, but dagnabbit, it’s not my fault that you ask the most random crap and expect something extremely insightful and intellegent to roll off my tongue.You ask a rhetorical question, you get a left field answer. Deal with it.). I mean, I’m a storyteller. Storytellers…tell stories. How else do you think this works?

I can’t take on other projects. Not right now. My current first draft is nearly complete, and I’ll jump into revising the beast over the course of the next few days. I have several other half started projects right behind this one that need to be finished. These projects are moving slower than I’d like because writing is only taking up a little of my day. When I’m not writing, I’m taking my son to therapy (details, and perhaps the whole point of this post below), and when I’m not doing that, I’m taking care of the family. Which is why it may be dangerous to draw my attention to something that will cater to my obsessiveness like a lonely shoe.

As a Crime Action Drama

Mr. Deveraux could not stop his limbs and extremities from twitching, while Mrs. Deveraux remained the stronger of the two, and opted instead to chew off the skin around her cuticles. Their home has always been a peaceful sanctuary, they’ve fussed over it for years to get it to that point. But this morning was almost too much to process. Melinda had been missing for a little over twelve hours. Since that time, almost an entire squadron of police officers had taken up residence in their once pristine stainless steel kitchen with laptops and various pieces of tracking equipment that they’ve never heard of, and they weren’t entirely sure, but it looked like there were a couple of FBI agents huddled closely in the hallway talking about something, looking grim.

The Lead Investigator’s voice was soothing, almost hypnotic. “We are all going to get through this,” he said. “We are going to get your daughter back. I have called in our finest to track these guys down. Also, once word got out that it might be the Oaxaca cartel, the FBI became very interested. Whoever did this is going to have a very bad day, understand?” Melinda’s parents do their best to acknowledge. “Good, now when that phone rings, I’m gonna need you to remain calm, and act normal.” Mrs. Deveraux laughs an empty laugh, because her normal felt like it has been trodden under by so many police issued boots in her garden full of mums.

When the phone finally did ring, it was as if everyone started breathing again in unison. As if they were allowed. A technician punched in a code into his laptop, and gave a signal to the Lead Investigator. The Lead Investigator donned his headphones, and gave the cue for Mr. Deveraux to lift up the receiver.

“Hello?” The tremble in his voice choked back hard.
“Do you have the money?” The voice at the other end was computer generated. The expressions on the cops faces let the Deveraux’s know that they were dealing with professionals.
“Do you have my daughter?” Mr. Deveraux sneered, “Is she still alive, you son of a bitch?”

The next voice wasn’t computer generated. It was the sound of Melinda, scared, hopeless, weeping, but very much still alive. Mrs. Deveraux clasped her hands over her mouth to stifle whatever might be pushed out of it.

“You have such a pretty child, Mr. Deveraux,” the emotionless voice continued. “Her eyes are quite captivating. It would be such a shame if she were missing one.”
“You bastard!” Mr. Deveraux bellowed. “If one hair is out of place on her head, I swear to God I will…”
“Do you have my money or not, Mr. Deveraux?”

The Lead Investigator nodded silently to Mr. Deveraux. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I have your money.”
“Excellent,” the voice replied. “Now, listen very carefully, this is what I need you to do next. I need you to grab an article of clothing that belongs to Melinda.” The Lead Investigator snapped his fingers at a cadet to whisper something in his ear. When he was finished, the cadet ran upstairs to her room. “I need you to take that piece of clothing and drop it on the corner of 5th and Elm. Walk across the street and when a brown Oldsmobile parks in front of you, get in the back seat.”

The cadet reappears holding a tiny, pink flip-flop. The Lead Investigator holds it up for Mr. Deveraux to see. “I’ll be using one of her flip-flops, will that do?”
“That will suffice,” the voice said.
“Will my daughter be in the car? Where are you taking me?”
“Be ready at 10:30. Bring the money.” The line went dead.

As A Middle-Grade Fantasy Novel

It rained the night before, and when the kids were waiting for the bus the next morning, none of them seemed too worried that the sun  was hidden by the clouds. The lack of sunshine made everything look dull, except for Rebecca’s very pink backpack and Mark’s very yellow rain slicker.

On the other side of the street, in the old lot where the old drug store used to be, there sat a very white sneaker. Shoelaces untied, and sitting upright collecting rain. Rebecca noticed it briefly before her friends started talking about lip gloss. Mark didn’t notice it at all because he doesn’t like talking to too many people. Charlie noticed it right away, and he knew exactly what it meant.

It means the Fog Giants have returned. There was going to be plenty of long nights ahead.

~***~

See, things like this are a bone for me to chew on. It’s things like this that make me remember why I should carry a notebook everywhere I go. It’s things like this that yank my attention away from whatever I’m working on at the moment. So please, for the sake of progress, don’t allow me to occupy my mind with such things. It’s bad enough that I’m reminded about that part of my WIP where a flock of blackbirds sitting on a telephone wire.

It also doesn’t help that I have tied that project to the other thing that we are leaving the house for. Let me get back to that.

Recently, I have posted about my son, and how he wants to talk at length about anything, but he hasn’t developed the skill to form words yet. I have always been of the opinion that he will come around to it, but still, there were other characteristics that were telling us that he might need a little help.

The problem was recognizing that he had a problem to begin with. He’s still two, and he’s still trying to get used to things like eating a proper meal, or sleeping in his own bed, or learning words, or not being so focused on certain things. It was hard to tell if he was being difficult, or if there was something more sinister afoot.

To put our minds at ease, we tested him for hearing and vision, and determined that the best course of action would be to see a speech therapist. After a few months of regular sessions, we have made small breakthroughs and tiny miracles. But, for all the progress we have made in regards to getting him to say the simplest words, it didn’t solve the mystery as to why he still flaps his arms when he gets really excited, or why he prefers to walk on his toes.

To REALLY put our minds at ease, we went back to his pediatrician to finally ask the question we’ve been putting off for too long. Is our son autistic? It only took a few minutes of an unofficial yet very effective method of determining he wasn’t to give us some relief. But with that burden taken away from us, and most importantly, from him, we were still in the dark as to what seems to be affecting him.

It took a less than fruitful session with his speech therapist to have her bring our attention to something called Sensory Processing Disorder. It’s a very real condition that affects mostly children. It often mimics autism, but it isn’t autism. It is a very real condition, and the cruelest aspect of this condition is, it’s not recognized officially as a real condition.

To put it simply, SPD is where the person has a difficult time responding or reacting to whatever stimuli they’re exposed to. Think of trying to process something as simple as walking along a beach. Everything you experience, the feel of the sand between your toes, the smell of the salt air, the sound of surf, all collide at the same time like traffic weaving through a poorly attended intersection at rush hour. Everything is snarled and not going anywhere too soon. Reaction times in the individual with this disorder are slowed, or often times, not present at all. Or in the case of my son, happening all at once to trigger this extremely excitable reaction where he flaps his arms, open his mouth wide like a lead singer of a metal band, and have a vein or two swell up in his neck.

It is a very real condition. Unfortunately, no one in the healthcare community can come to a consensus on how to define it. Look, is it on spectrum, or is it another version of OCD? Figure it out and get back to us.

It is quite cruel.

Fortunately, my son isn’t at that level. He’s quite happy, and he’ll respond to things and look you in the eye and talk to you…the best he can. But he’ll still do it on his own terms.

Because SPD isn’t uniform and has a broad definition, and has the traits of something else without being that something else, and it does different things to different people, there has been no formal diagnosis of this condition. That means doctors can’t officially prescribe anything, let alone talk about it. The only thing they can do is suggest Occupational Therapy.

Which is where we were going to this morning, my son and I. This is where we’ve gone for the past few months.20170114_104609

His speech therapy is touch and go. He’ll either be in the mood to say something or nah. Occupational Therapy, on the other hand, is so… much… COOLER! There’s a ball pit! And big bouncy balls! And a tunnel and more toys! It’s a process of learning through playing…or what we used to call it in my day…playing. Occupational therapy is a welcome supplement to his boring ol’ speech therapy. And I think the biggest takeaway from attending these sessions, is my child has to take the lead as to what he wants to do. It’s up to the adults to go along and work with it. So, it’s a learning process for me too.

So, I suppose I could be one of these concerned parents and talk at length about getting your child screened and look for the warning signs and blahblahblah. “I need you to feel empathy for my baby because reasons!” But, I don’t feel like it, and I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate it either. He’s not sick. He’s normal, he just needs a little boost. And while I could be the loudest crusader to get this condition the recognition it deserves, I really don’t think that’s necessary. It is what it is. It’ll probably stick with him for the rest of his life, but we caught it early enough so he’ll know how to deal with it when he gets older, and that’s all we can do right now. Still though, it would be nice to see him walk normally, talk normally. I love my boy, and I’m happy with my boy. I am proud of every one of his accomplishments every day.

I could complain, but I’d rather deal with it in my own way.

He has several quirks. That’s all they are. Just quirks. Things he does. Most of them are indicative of the condition he has, the rest are all his. And instead of Googling what they all are and fret until I mis-diagnose the hell out of it, I have decided to make him the hero of his own story.

Because, I’m a Storyteller. It’s what we do.

He chuckles in his sleep. It’s the most adorable thing in the world. He also likes to look up at the sky while he’s walking. It’s his preferred activity over anything else to do outside. Recently, I was stringing Christmas lights around the house. I switched them on, and as he was passing by with eyes cast skyward he said, “Bye!” It wasn’t directed to anyone. It was directed to the lights. At first, rationality took over. “Well,” I thought to myself. “Maybe it has something to do with the red bulbs, and somehow relating them to watching taillights move down the driveway every morning as his mom goes to work.” Red light means someone’s leaving, which means “Byyyye! See you laytor!

So, instead of freaking out, I just think of the lonely flip-flop…

Untitled Story Idea…

A family moves to a haunted house, and it’s a house that hasn’t been lived in for a very long time. The ghosts that reside there, mainly an old married couple, have been there for a very long time, and haven’t found a way to leave. The only person in the family that knows it’s haunted is the toddler, and he isn’t saying much. The ghosts aren’t very good at scaring people out of the house, because no one has lived there for such a long time, and they couldn’t find it within them to scare them because they were grandparents at one time. So, they spend most of their time looking after the children to make sure they don’t get into trouble. Somewhere along the line, the ghosts figure out that if they can get the baby to laugh, then the hold that this house has on them begins to loosen. Good deeds remembered, they are allowed to pass on once Christmas lights are hung and illuminated.

~***~

Another one of his quirks, and this is something his mother and I need to focus on, is that he has this obsession with doors. The way they open and close, if they latch or not, if they have a lever or knob, do they squeak, how much effort is needed to go through it. We REALLY lose him at the grocery store where the doors open on their own. *GASP! What sorcery is THIS?* He will literally spend the better part of an hour opening and closing doors. It’s something that we learn to live with.

I’m not sure how to break his fascination with them. Once he gets on a door binge, it’s hard to stop, and that’s something that we are slowly learning at Occupational Therapy. It appears that both of my children have their father’s obsessive nature.

There are good days, and there are bad days. But mostly, they’re good. His OT is quite adept at getting him away from his door habit and directing him to playing with blocks and puzzles, and as a result, his obsession has diminished. What hasn’t diminished is my own curiosity. “Why doors?” I ask to myself…in the same tone as “Why one shoe?”

Revision to ‘Kids of St. Anthony’

Story so far:

A social worker who has lost her child to cancer, and as a result, going through a divorce, is now set to task for finding homes for three young siblings. They reside at St. Anthony’s Home for Wayward children; an orphanage. For the most part, all the children that reside there are normal children, but there is a wing of the church that not a lot of people know about. It’s the wing where they put the “special” children.

The oldest of the three (based on my youngest daughter) has a habit of drawing what appears to be circles on paper with crayon. The middle child has hushed conversations with people who aren’t there, and the youngest cannot cope will unless there is an animal present.

To the system, to the nuns that run this place and to the social worker, these children are perceived to have special needs.

It turns out, they’re partially right. The youngest needs to be in close proximity to animals, because they can talk to him, and that’s how he has been in touch with the outside world. The middle child as actually holding conversations with ghosts. They warn her of danger and teach her history. The oldest, who looks as though she draws in anger and frustration with every circle getting deeper as each crayon gets ground down, is actually drawing very intricate talismans that are crafted to protect all of them. All three children team up with the social worker to solve mysteries and stuff. She ends up adopting them…until zombies…the end.

UPDATE:

First of all, enough of the frickin’ zombies.

Second of all, it might be wise to turn this into a series and expand the universe. Because all the cool kids are doing it!

Why not have this orphanage be home to other children with secret abilities? Maybe it’s been a home for children like this for a long time. Like this one child who shows no attention to the world around him, except when it comes to doors. He might come in handy in a pinch.

The bad guys are closing in on our heroes, and the youngest child is feverishly opening and closing a door to a closet; essentially, opening a door to nowhere. At the right time, he opens this door to nowhere, and it turns out that it’s a door to somewhere. They all escape danger because a toddler opened a closet door to reveal a field of wheat somewhere on the other side of the world…next chapter.

Conclusion

This is me blogging because I need a kick in the ass. This post has taken a week in re-writes and has ended up being approximately half the length of my current first draft. It feels like I’m stalling, but I need free up the log jam in my head.

It’s important to let you know that I haven’t gone anywhere.

I would love to write a short story a week, as I’ve pointed out previously. Respectfully, I’m not sure when Mr. Bradbury laid down the gauntlet about doing this, but I’m fairly certain he didn’t have to take care of kids and household at the same time. Right now, I’d be satisfied if I could finish a chapter a week.

This year will be the year I wrangle all of these ideas that land in front of me and turn them into something interesting maybe. I’m hoping that I will be able to find more time to get to them, but the chances of that are quite small. As much as I’d like to lock myself away in a shack in the middle of the woods, my kids need me right now.

And they are most important.

More to come.
Watch this space.

©2017 AA Payson

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The Shape of the Stone (On Following Your Passion)

The Shape of the Stone (On Following Your Passion)

So, there I was this morning. Woke up at a reasonable hour while the sun was still low in the sky and the house was still quiet. I shoved a bowl of cereal in my face while I had a hard enough time digesting what has been happening for the past few days. I shut off my Twitter feed, had a stretch, drank my coffee and got back to my first draft.

Ideally, I like to get a jump on my projects in the mornings. I’m not a morning person, but I do like getting stuff done earlier in the day. Some mornings go smooth. Still, there are other mornings that feel more like a inflatable pool raft. They take a little while, and a lot of effort to get up to where it should be to be sea-worthy. And when they do, when all the things are set in a row and organized and neat, everything is fine. Those mornings go swimmingly as I lounge on my giant, imaginary ducky floaty.

Then some prick comes around and lets all the air out.

For the most part, I feel that, after many years of fumbling about and finding a place for myself in this world, I am lucky enough to have found a calling. Notice I didn’t say the calling or my calling, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

In my sophomore year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And I know that for some people that’s normal, and they don’t concern themselves with this until much later in life. But for me, it was kind of a big deal. Like, wake up in the middle of the night big deal. Fortunately, a teacher recognized an ability in me that I didn’t notice about myself, and so he encouraged me to get involved in Theater and Speech Club. Thus began a pursuit of a passion. I must have been doing something right. I went to state championships, regional championships. I came in 2nd in a region of 6 states participating in competitions that forced me to do the thing that would make most people wet their pants. Public speaking, performing, learning to take control of an area no wider than your shoulders. Looking people in the eye and selling a character. Second. In a region of 6 states. Not bad for a shy kid. </dadbrag>

I call it a passion for lack of a
better term. It was more like my “A-ha” moment where I was taken by the hand by thisg60077833g6 gorgeous hunk of a Norwegian comic book character into this surreal melodrama that involved European race car dri… sorry, that’s not right. Scratch that. What I meant was my “a-ha” moment where I finally knew, or at least had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t kid myself. I knew I had to work for it. Just like everything else. But at least I knew what I was doing. I had a direction. It was enough. This pursuit got me through college, but it was finally dealt a Quivering Palm Death Touch when I made the mistake of moving to New York while still a little green. Real life set in quick. The passion faded.

Since that time, I’ve been through several jobs. Most of them were dead end. All of them had nothing to do with what I went to school for. I didn’t pursue my passion at the time because it wasn’t financially possible to do so. I had day jobs to do while I pursued the one thing I worked very hard for. But it wasn’t before too long where my Plan B suddenly turned into my Plan A, and any hope of getting back to my passion withered like a vase full of neglected orchids. I was no longer in pursuit of my passion. I was in pursuit of a paycheck.

And I think, therein lies the problem I have with the “Don’t Follow Your Passion” movement. It’s a mentality of “Give up on your dreams because they’re unrealistic and instead, do something you’re good at.” Well, what if your passion is the thing you’re good at? What if my passion is something I worked at and practiced on a regular basis? Do I give up on something I worked hard for to find an unrelated job that pays the bills, or do I follow my passion and face ruination because in the long run, it’s too hard because there are too many people wanting the same thing? Should I have even bothered in the first place? Am I a “loser” for following my dreams, or am I a “loser” for finding a McJob in an exchange for something that’s meaningful? Some might say the answer is to marry both of these choices together to find happiness, but I suspect those people are usually close to retirement, or financially solvent and at the end of the day, could give a pimpled rat’s ass about you and your stupid little passions. Sometimes, you can’t have it both ways. Sometimes, life gets in the way.

Sometimes, you get lost.

And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Didn’t you want to be a chef at one point?
Too much stress and it enabled my alcoholic tendencies.

How about an IT guy?
Good work if you’re willing to jump through some really REALLY expensive hoops to get to what, in the end, was going overseas anyway.

Accountant?
Did you go to school for it?
…mmmNo?
Have you ever kept a ledger?
Is that the same thing as balancing a checkbook?
Can you define ‘mortgage’?
Dude, I’ve rented my whole life. And, why is it spelled like that anyway?
Then, yeah no. It’s probably not a good idea.

It’s conceivable to regard writing, or any other piece of wonderfulness that lights a fire under your ass, and gets you out of bed in the morning as “just a hobby” as more of a realistic term. Especially, if one were to concern themselves with other goals that are more tangible to them; promotion at their day job, running their own business, raising a family in the suburbs. And it’s easy to step back and look at the sharp decline in readership for the past couple of years and mourn our semi-literate society as they blindly walk out into oncoming traffic to catch another goddamn Pokémon and say, “Whelp, nobody’s reading anymore. Guess I should give up altogether. Oh look! A new season of Big Brother is on! Let me slip into my Faded Glory pajamas and throw a bag of Dollar Store popcorn in the microwave while NOT thinking about killing myself. Giving up this way is so much better!”

I understand it, and I get frustrated by it a lot. I’ve felt it. But you know what else has taken a hit these days? Theater attendance. Not a lot of people are watching movies at the theater that much anymore. Is Hollywood packing it in and only making movies for the one or two people who kinda sorta pay attention maybe? No. They seem content to crank out the same meaningless, poorly written, completely forgettable crap they have been for as long as anyone can remember, because that’s what people want according to some algorithm or something. We are slogged with mediocrity, and we don’t care. They’re still making it. People will eventually watch it. Just because a movie is obviously not “Oscar™ Worthy”, doesn’t mean people aren’t going to watch it and be entertained. Just because a book isn’t on the New York Times Bestseller List, doesn’t mean people aren’t going to read it.

And, here’s the thing: If the movie wasn’t directed by Spielberg, does it mean no one is going to see it? Is he the “exception to the rule”? Have I dodged a bullet because I didn’t follow through hard enough on my passion for acting to instead embrace the world of the cubicle? Personally, I’m not so sure.

I too hear the voices of dogged practicality. The ones that barely contain their disdain at the mere utterance of what I do, have done and want to do. The ones that sound exactly like disapproving parents who mourn the day that their child dropped out of Law School. “So, you know I was talking with Moira the other day,” (Note: For some reason, the Disapproving Parent voice in my head sounds a lot like a Jewish mother from Staten Island. To the best of my knowledge, none of my relatives are Jewish…or from Staten Island, for that matter.) “You remember Moira? She used to be part of our book club until, ya know, the accident? Anyway, we’re talking the other day and she told me her bubby graduated from Harvard. Pre-Law. Isn’t that wonderful? I thought it was wonderful. I just thought it was nice, seeing her being so proud of her successful lawyer son. Yeah. Good times.”

The ones that are so quick to equate creativity with poverty. “Oh, you’re a writer. Wow, that’s neat. What do you do for your day job?” You know, those ones. Don’t think that the side glances and hushed conversations haven’t gone unnoticed. I know I’m in the minority. I know that what I have done and what I am doing is fiercely competitive in nature. But you know what else is fiercely competitive? Being a lawyer.

As recently as 2012, Law Schools were stuffed to the rafters with cute, little lawyerlings all ready to hatch and fly after speeding ambulances. That is, until word got out that the world is overflowing with them (Shakespeare saw this coming). The internet, with its vast wisdom and convenience, just made the roles of internships and paralegals obsolete, because legal documents were easier to get online and print out, rather than consulting a law firm. And those that were lucky enough to find employment on the other side of Law School were too focused in hanging their shingle in a specialized arena, rather than work for something that might benefit them in the long run (i.e. show business law as opposed to trial law). Basically, there were too many new lawyers and not enough law firms. There were too many people pursuing the same thing, and not enough things (jobs, opportunities) to go around. The market became saturated.

…sound familiar yet?

Financial Assistants, Pediatricians, Personal Bankers. Hell, even trying to be a food server at the local Chili’s is competitive. It’s going to be the same no matter where you go, or what you want to do. Competition should be a given. So with that in mind, why do writers, actors, singers, scientists and athletes get dismissed so readily when it comes to pursuing their own goals? Why do people who have a passion to follow their dreams in the financial industry get a pass? Is it inconceivable to presume that there aren’t people out there who dream of being a hedge fund manager, but have to be satisfied with being just another investment banker? Why aren’t they considered idealistic, starry-eyed losers like the rest of us?

These are the thoughts that have been brewing and bubbling in the back of my head for a while now. It’s always out there, but it has been taking center stage lately has young people transition out of school to the real world. Maybe it was just me, and maybe it bothered me so much that I started seeking it out like some sad drunk with a chip on his shoulder and a newly minted ex-girlfriend when he grabs the biggest, meanest, baldest guy in the biker bar, grabs him by the front of his densely patched leather vest, looks him square in the eye and whispers, “You are such a pussy.”

Well, maybe not quite like that, but the displaced rage is the same, and the result of following through with it might leave me just as damaged. I’ve been known to punch above my weight. Never turns out well.

There seems to be a lot of people who will tell you that “Following your Passion” is pretty bad advice. I can see what they’re saying, and I have a pretty good idea who they are saying it to. It’s a reality check for those people who…ooohh…pffff…I dunno…want to play video games as a career. You might be good at it, and it does sound like fun, but seriously building a future around playing the Madden franchise, might be looked at as a little risky when looking to get a mortgage.

See? There’s that word again!
Drop it.

What they say when they say “don’t follow your passion” is something along the lines of, “Look. It’s good that you have a passion and that you are driven to do something great and change the world. But the reality is that more than likely, what you want to do isn’t going to be the best fit for you. So a better option would be to do something along the same lines of what your passion is. You will still have your passion, and you’ll have a more fulfilling life.” Which is all they have to say! If they would have led off with that, then it wouldn’t be so bad. I wouldn’t have to write this long ass post, and I can get back to my first draft.

But harsh reality is better than sugary platitudes, and the advice still knocks your teeth in like some bald biker who just had his masculinity challenged. What it sounds like is, “Congratulations on dumping a hundred grand on an education that’s not gonna get you anywhere, dumbass. Good luck trying to figure out the rest of your life, because we have no idea, and it’s not our job to figure it out for you. We just like to knock the stars out of your eyes so you’ll be compliant enough to take anything that comes your way. We want you to be just as frustrated as we are, because this is reality, loser.”

I dunno. Maybe I’m giving these people too much credit. Maybe I’m missing the point. Maybe I should try and turn the other cheek when it comes to some nameless d-bag who leaves a comment on my post and tells me in so many words that I should just give up because nobody is reading anyway and following your passion is stupid.

The thing I hate most about this way of thinking, other than being defeatist, mentally damaging, and unhelpful, is that I think it presumes WAY too much about other people. It presumes that the person who has dreams of becoming something someday, is still a child. Even though this “child” as a College Degree in, or relating to, that thing they wanted to be when they were an actual child. It presumes that every person who follows their passion has not worked for it, will not work for it, and is expecting to be dropped right into the thing they want to do completely ignorant and unprepared. It presumes that we, the ones who do follow a passion, are stupid.

And what about that word I keep repeating? No, not mortgage, the other one. Passion. Perhaps it’s the word itself that people have a hard time with. Passion: That Purple-Prosed, Bodice-Ripping bastard that pollutes the shelves in airport bookshops and local supermarkets. Passion: the very presence of the word makes you want to lock up your daughters.

The dictionary definition of passion is essentially “to have strong emotions about something”. I think that most people think that something refers to one thing, and it should. But we forget that a passion can be easily replaced. Especially after life changing events: I had a passion for smoking and junk food, now I have a passion for smoothies and yoga (not really, just sayin’). I had a passion for chasing girls around the mall, now I have a passion for chasing my children around the house. I had a passion for acting, now I have a passion for writing. People change. Plans change. Passions change. You still have that passion that lights a fire under your ass in the morning, but it’s fuel doesn’t come from anything external. It comes from inside, Grasshopper. Now, go fetch some water and when you return, see if you can take the pebble out of my hand.

In my lifetime, I have accumulated many callings, and I feel lucky to have experienced all of them. If it weren’t for that fire, if it weren’t for passion making things interesting, I would be a lump of couch potato salad wasting away watching The Simpsons every night. Which is something I don’t want to be. Potato salad is very hard to get out of a couch.

Another thing that chafes my thighs is when most people say “don’t follow your passion”, they don’t follow it up with anything actionable. There are no alternatives to doing your do. Just the cautionary, knee-jerk, face slap that can easily be housed inside a fortune cookie.

“Don’t follow your passion.”
Why?
“Because it’s bad.”
How?
“So bad, you have no idea. Believe me.”
…Wait a minute, you’re Donald Trump, aren’t you! How did you get in here?

Saying “don’t follow your passion” is like giving a death of a thousand cuts where the words don’t kill you right away, but rather they take their time and root and fester in your mind, until you wake up one morning and notice the fire is gone, and you look in the bathroom mirror, and you notice you resemble a human husk made of toenails, cobwebs and failure. Uninspired, drained of will, and waiting for your last breath to leave your body. Say, “be flexible.” Say, “see the world.” Say, “keep an open mind, you never know what might fall in.” Not following your passion sounds an awful lot like “just give up.”

I don’t feel like giving up.

Not anymore.

My calling, if that’s what I’m calling it, isn’t even mine. I didn’t make it or give birth to it, I just scraped off the masking tape name tag of someone else it belonged to, and added my own. And as I hold it in my hand, I can feel the warmth of every hand that loved and nurtured it in their own way, and that gives me hope. What I do now is barely a shadow of what I once did, and that’s okay. In my experience, the world needs more storytellers and less lawyers. I’m happy with what I do now. In the future, who knows?

Whatever it is…

…just let me be happy doing it.

A Good Day’s Work

A Good Day’s Work

20160629_180716I wrote a thousand words today.

Over, as a matter of fact. One thousand and two was the last count I had. I have written over a thousand words towards my current project today.

Granted, yes all of them were going towards notes in a storyboard. But, there were words involved in the overall process. Over a thousand of them.

Now, before you either laugh at my amateurish milestone, or pet me on the head for doing such a good job, consider that up until a few days ago, 1,000 words was still pretty much a lofty goal.  Considering that today might have been a fluke because I mistakenly thought yesterday was today, and got most of my chores done yesterday. So it might have been a direct result of more time to devote to writing today. I’m trying not to congratulate myself too much because I’m not sure if this will happen again.

Also, it’s notes. Not dialog, not intricate sub-plots or meandering back stories, not narratives depicting the scenery or how someone was dressed. It’s notes. Something that isn’t even going towards my final word count goal. I just wrote a thousand words that essentially don’t matter. Like Bernie Sanders trying to run as a Democrat.

[political commentary…check.]

Just so we’re clear, a thousand words isn’t unheard of. It can be done if, like I said, the deck was cleared, the kids are preoccupied, and things didn’t have to get cleaned right away. Shit, on a good day, 1500 isn’t unheard of. It’s expected.

Still though, typing a thousand words for a project might have knocked the wind out of me last week. Today, it feels like Miller Time. Tomorrow, next week, next month, whenever I get back to the draft, it’ll feel like a day in the mines.

But, at least it’ll be much easier since I started taking notes and using Scrivener. So… a day at the mines, with quick access to a Starbucks kind of thing.

I wrote out my note cards last week. This week, I write notes that go into further detail in the chapter and take care of some rudimentary blocking. Today, I almost fell victim to not following along with what I jotted down last week. The notes that I wrote today were not lining up with the synopsis on the card. More to the point, the action was going faster than anticipated. To fix it, I went back through the notes, and made a small change in the plot that made everything line up, and everything was hunky-dorey. No big deal, but if I were writing this as a draft with no notes, I think stopping the forward momentum to go back and change something that happened 5 pages ago, would have derailed everything. Like usual.

Another project gone to rot in the boneyard.

But not today. Today, I’m a thousand words richer. I’m a thousand words closer. Technically, they don’t count…on paper. But it counts for me. Last month, I was hovering around 800. Today, it’s a thousand. Next month, I’m shooting for double. It feels like I’m in training.

Go me!

 

How To Find Your Voice (4 Tips on Taming The Black Dog)

How To Find Your Voice (4 Tips on Taming The Black Dog)

HappyAlexMy son turned two recently. This means he’s reached that magical age where he gets into everything he’s not supposed to, and screams “no” a lot. Except that, he doesn’t say “no” a lot. Frankly, he doesn’t say anything resembling a full sentence. My son is two, and he’s going to be a late talker. Now, whether this is because of blockage in his ear canal, or he doesn’t feel the need to express his wants and needs beyond a window-shattering screech remains to be seen. Mommy and Daddy have been put on a list for speech development therapy, and hopefully something will come of it.

Still though, he’s happy. Despite his lack of vocabulary, he’s healthy and happy and loves to play and get into trouble as every two year old should. And just to be clear, no, he isn’t on the spectrum. He responds, he interacts, he smiles and laughs, and most importantly, he tries to speak. He wants to speak. A lot and at length. He wants to pontificate and sing and argue. But, as of right now, the best he can do is sound something like an octopus that desperately wants to join the world of man, so he disguises himself Clark Kent-style to go about his business on dry land.

Boss: “Johnson, have you finished those quarterly reports yet?”
Octopus: “Glorba BLORGA blorga glorba blorgablorg!
Boss: “Ah, very good. You know Johnson, I like you. You’ve got the right attitude to make it in this business. Wilcox, how come you can’t be more like Johnson?”
Wilcox: “Because he’s a cephalopod, sir.”
Boss: “Have you always been this racist, Wilcox?”

He likes to talk. He wants to. And when he starts chugging along on his little sibilance choo-choo, I am convinced that he thinks he’s making perfect sense. I am convinced that he’s got The Gettysburg Address, The St. Crispin’s Day Speech, and ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas completely memorized, and he’ll roll it off his tongue at the drop of a hat. The thing is, no one can understand him, although not for lack of trying. His family all just smile and nod and do their best to understand. And he’ll still get frustrated at us because we still don’t get it.

I cannot help but sympathize. Sometimes, I feel the same way when I write. Especially when I blog.

So, You Want Your Voice Back?

For the past couple of days, I’ve allowed, as an old friend used to say, The Black Dog to

sherlock-202-the-hound
Yeeesh..

come to my doorstep.

The beginning of my blogging days were cultivated in the dark, dark days of the now defunct Yahoo 360°. For those of you too young to remember, Yahoo 360° was a social profiling site along the lines of MySpace and was the perfect place for the more socially averse who weren’t quite ready to jump on board the Facebook bandwagon. Those were the days where I was still cutting my writing teeth and finding my voice. Although, as I think back to then and reflect on what I do now, not a lot has changed. And I’m not quite sure I found my voice yet.

Among the new friends I accumulated at that time was a fledgling author. At the time, she was doing the song and dance of getting herself published. Her blog kept her friends and followers in the loop as to how and when the publishing was coming along. That is, when she wasn’t regaling us with tales about her kids, or refurbishing a house she and her husband just bought, or random pieces of erotica that she wrote. Her writing would have us in stitches, but every once in a while, Doubt would come calling, along with her kooky cousins, Anger and Depression. She would apologize for her candor, and blame it on the Black Dog that showed his teeth when she tried to step outside of her house.

It’s over ten years later. The people I knew on that site are now scattered to the wind, and I wish them well. It’s over ten years later, and it hasn’t been until recently where I’ve actually considered getting published myself. I haven’t thought much about that time until now. I would have been satisfied leaving it in the past, but presently there is a familiar beast who has found himself just outside my own door with a sign around its neck reading, “Isky sends her regards.”

I get lost. More times than I’d like to admit. It’s so hard not to in this brave new world of self-published authors and readily available information. I want views and notoriety just as much as anyone else who starts down this road. I want to write as a career, and I’m willing to work for it. But sometimes I get impatient, and the void I scream into doesn’t respond back. Then I start to question my motives and practices, and maybe I should return to the “real world” because my blog hasn’t sold enough widgets and the placement of my SEO has gone all screwy or whatever. I get nervous, and the Black Dog gets hungry.

When I get lost, the first thing I gravitate towards are the hectares of blog posts that are so eager to dispense advice on how to boost your blog traffic. Their oh-so clinical and categorical language always leave me more confused, frustrated, and about as satisfied as forcing myself to eat a freezer-burned Lean Cuisine when I really want a pizza. Then come those days where I just want to detach altogether, put a ball-peen hammer through my computer screen and spend the rest of the month binge watching Gilmore Girls. When I get scared, I lose my voice. When I lose my voice, I get lost. When I get lost, The Black Dog will find me.

But I’m not alone in this. I take the smallest grain of relief in the knowledge that there are others out there like me who are worried that they haven’t found their voice yet, or fear that they may have lost it all together. However, in acknowledging this, I have discovered something that’s been in my pocket for a long time. In worrying about not finding your voice, or not finding your words, you allow doubt to take over. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration, afterall.

Full disclosure, I didn’t go to school for writing or blogging or business. What I have learned, I learned on my own through my own research and just sitting in front of a monitor every day while my fingers tap out a few thousand words, and, most importantly, allowing myself to make mistakes. I’m not an expert, but here’s my advice for whenever The Black Dog starts growling.

1. Ignore Just About Everyone.

“Okay, Google.”
blingityblink
“I’m drowning.”
[Seconds pass as the lifeboat sinks a little deeper.]
blink “Here are some websites to tell you what to do in case of drowning.”
“Not very helpful, Googleblubblublblub…”
blink “Sorry. I didn’t quite catch that.”

Research should be second nature to you, right? Blog post, genre fiction, non-fiction, book report, burrito recipe, doesn’t matter. We used to spend hours raiding the shelves of our local library, now everything you need can be held in a few tabs worth of Google searches. You put the time and effort into researching everything before submitting anything which is the way it should be. However, I think the byproduct of living in the age of Google is that we have become too dependent on it. We rely on it for everything we need to know. Unfortunately, Google can only tell you so much. Case in point, in terms of advice, Google is really good at telling you who said what and when, it’s not so good at telling you whose to follow.

“Okay, Google.”
blingityblink
“Tell me I’m pretty.”
[Seconds pass as the mascara runs further down your face.]
blink “…errrrrrmmmm… Can we just be friends?”

There comes a time when you can only absorb so much advice before you realize that you haven’t put any of it into action. Are you honestly looking for advice because you’re stuck, or are you looking for someone to validate the exact same thing you’ve been thinking about for the past week? Have you painted your manuscript into a corner, or are you licking your wounds from a really bad review and in need a virtual drinking buddy? Taking advice is fine, just remember that most of it shouldn’t be taken as gospel. If you want to write, get writing.

2. But, Be Careful With the Advice You Seek.

The biggest pet peeve I have with blogging/writing advice is the presumption that it should be done with full intention of getting views/clicks and generating an income. Every post on the subject is a “Top 10 ways to blahblahblah,” or “The Most Obvious Thing That Your Blog is Missing,” or any other form of  flashy, deep-fried clickbait that gets you to read the same regurgitated information that’s been shared a thousand times before. It gets to the point with me that I figure the most guaranteed way to get more clicks, is to title my blog post “How To Get More Clicks” and give away a FREE BOOK on the subject that’s worth $100’s of DOLLARS and FILLED WITH VALUABLE INFORMATION that someone else wrote, but you can NEVER FIND EVERYWHERE ELSE if you don’t know how the internet works and BE SURE TO GET ON MY MAILING LIST because YOU’LL GET HERPES IF YOU DON’T!!1! FUCK YOU, SHUT UP AND CONSUME!!

Nothing against you guys doing what late night infomercials have been doing for years before the internet was born, but I’m looking for writing advice, not the P.T. Barnum Playbook with a foreword by Zig Ziglar.

34713-rantclosed

Anyway, getting back on subject…

According to many pro-bloggers, blogging is solely designed to facilitate sales. That’s it. Not the exchange of ideas, and certainly not to be used for any artistic or abstract expression.To paraphrase from  Halt And Catch Fire, “Writing isn’t the thing…it’s the thing that gets the thing…” Nope, it’s all about the almighty dollar, y’all. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that (I mean, c’mon. It’s the way I’ve chosen to pay my bills coughcoughCheckOutTheDonationButtoncough), it has very little to do with what I’m seeking help for.

What gets me so bummed whenever I think I lost my voice and I go out to find it, is that I’m not careful with whose advice I follow. After taking into consideration the wisdom that some gurus dispense, I tend to think that what I’m presently doing is wrong. Simply because I’m writing fiction and entertaining readers, rather than to just knuckle down and write some drab, emotionless fluff piece for the corporate interests of others while utilizing the tried and true Carrot-On-A-Stick Method.  My intentions with this blog is to entertain because I want to, inform when I can, and yes, sell things that I’ve made (coughRandomMerchPagecough…sorry, allergy season). That’s the way that works for me. What works for you might be completely different, and that’s okay. Just don’t do one thing that’s disguised as another in order to make a buck.

Writing is fine. Self-Publishing is fine. Making a buck is fine. However, there is a difference between the three. And meaning and intention tends to get blurred in the ye olde Google search.

This is something I obviously struggle with on a regular basis. I hate to break it to ya, but nobody is going to tell you what’s going to work for you as a writer. Seeking wisdom from our heroes is always good for perspective, but if you really want sage advice on how to find your voice, keep reading.

3. Realize That We All Start Somewhere.

So, you lost your voice. The manuscript you’re working on has stopped making sense by the second act , your characters have all walked away from you while flipping you off and giving you the side-eye, and the fear of “not being good as your heroes” that you’ve shoved to the back of your nervous, flop-sweaty little mind, is now front and center wearing a Boater, a candy striped blazer and twirling a cane in his fingers singing, “HELLO MY BABY, HELLO MY HONEY, HELLO MY RAGTIME GAAAAALL…” Before you pack it in, consider this…

This fear is a good thing.

This fear means that you are on the right path.

Because, let’s face it. If you didn’t want to be a writer, you’d be doing something else by now like repairing lobster traps, or learning how to be a spreadsheet whiz-kid, or whatever you kids are into nowadays… with your Facebooks and your smartphones [shakes fist].

I’m presuming that since you are not any of these people, or have no intention on becoming one, that you have a story inside you that no one else can tell.

Great authors, like great football players, actors, surgeons and sandwiches, aren’t born. They’re made. Anyone can deliver a plot. Plot is nothing. Plot is the barest of minimums. But, you’re looking for something with a little more meat on its bones, right? You’re a storyteller, Harry. If you want to deliver your plot on something other than an a styrofoam plate, you need nuance and foresight and planning and grace and other words that aren’t coming to mind at the moment. All of which takes a lot of trial and error. All of which takes…

4. Practice.

That is all. Practice. It doesn’t get any simpler or any more obvious than that. There is no magic pill, no secret that only a few know about, that is free with purchase if you order within the next 20 minutes. Nope. That’s really all there is to it. Practice.

If you want to write, write.

“But…”
But, what?
“But, I still lost my voice.”
Oh, that’s not true. You’d be amazed what could happen once you get going.
“…but…”
What now?
“I don’t sound like J.K. Rowling.”

A word about that.

Many writers will tell you, and I’m in full agreement with them, that there is something to modeling yourself after your heroes when you are first starting out. It helps with the process of writing the story as well as finding your own voice. Yes, we all want to be the next Rowling. Just like I want to be the next Robbins, Thompson, Gaiman etc. So, I study my idols. I dive into their works and study how they do it and with a little luck, I’ll come out on the other side with just the right colors in which to paint my own landscape.

We all want to be the next Rowling…

Have you ever considered being the first You?

There is a story inside you that no one else can give a voice to, but you. Your craft is to build worlds from nothing more than imagination. We’d all like to see it, but the only way we can see it, the only way that you can stop sounding like an octopus in a polyester polo shirt, the only way to bring The Black Dog to heel is to just keep writing.

You’ll see.

keepwritingnotposter2015bla
Find this and other items to inspire on my Random Merch page!

Lessons Learned From NaNoWriMo (in response to Chuck Wendig)

Lessons Learned From NaNoWriMo (in response to Chuck Wendig)

The water was warmer around the dock. lake-425029_1920

It was probably the only shallow part of the lake. The safest part. The part where a few dozen suburban Boy Scouts who have never experienced swimming in a natural body of water before splashed and thrashed and screamed and silently cataloged every moment to be saved for the time when they teach their own children. Against the serene and majestic backdrop of the Maine Wilderness, it was loud, it was chaotic. But, it’s what is supposed to happen in the middle of summer, and you were a pre-teen, and warm weather came at a premium. There was fun to be had.

Your feet ran across sharp, tiny pebbles all the way to the water’s edge. As they broke the surface of the lake, they slid across a frosted layer cake of algae to find themselves floating, while the rest of the body did all the work. This is where everyone splashed and played; an area of no further than 20 feet from the shoreline. It was warm. It was safe.

It was not where you were going today.

Today, you stopped focusing on the kiddie section, and put the rest of the scenery into context, as if you’ve spent the majority of the summer in blissful darkness, and suddenly remembered where you are. Today, you walked all the way to the edge of the dock and noticed that even though it was a warm summer’s day, the nearby mountain range sliced thick atmosphere that was rolling overhead. Undetected. Like sharp shears through Spring wool. Even though it didn’t hit you right away, but even with all the thrashing about in the warm, shallow end, the waters beyond the edge of the dock were fairly still.

This was the day you had to swim out to the platform, the one closer to the middle of the lake, swim three laps around it, and tread water for 10 minutes while trying not to pass out from exhaustion or panic. Which sounded easy enough on paper, but once you fill you lungs with air and dive in, you quickly find a new respect for mountain fed lakes, and just how deep and cold they are. The water is just a few degrees above forming ice crystals. It surrounds every inch of you, steals whatever air is left in your lungs, turns your blood into Hershey’s Syrup, and makes your feet long for the time when tiny rocks tenderized its soles. They wish they could feel something, anything. They need something flat to propel the body that is currently going into shock out of the water. Nothing is found. The body starts flailing, the mind goes into survival mode.

You start to sink.

You forgot how to swim.

The broomstick shoots below the surface. There’s a voice yelling at you to grab on to it.

Someone pulls you in.

Lesson failed.

Lesson learned.

Thirty days, hath September, April, June and November. Which means as of the first draft of this post, it will soon mean “pencils down”.

This is my first year in participating in NaNoWriMo. My approach in doing so was something akin to walking the labyrinthine floors of any given Vegas casino for the first time; Get the lay of the land. Get a feel for where the action is, where to start playing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll figure it out eventually the longer you acclimate yourself to this environment. Find a table, break out your chips, start playing.

I know how to write. I’ve been doing it for years. Just…not professionally. Writing 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days I figured would be challenging, but doable. “I can do this,” I thought to myself back in October when I had a spark of a plot and not much else. “I’m able to crank out about 200 words in 15 minutes. Which means that if I don’t get up to pee, eat, take care of a toddler, refill my coffee, acknowledge any other responsibility in the house, I can average 800 or so words an hour. Which means I can crank out 1667 words in a little over two. I can do this. This is going to be the yard stick by which I measure all future accomplishments.”

I didn’t take into consideration the occasional writer’s block, or the stretches of days where the icy grip of ennui and depression steal the last breath from you. I also didn’t take into consideration that I may have over-inflated myself in my research skills just a touch.

In as much as I’d want to admit to myself that I was prepared, I wasn’t. I just wasn’t. I suck, and that’s it.

Yes, I had notes and source material, but it didn’t matter squat if I kept finding more, and adding to it every day. Yes, I had a frame of reference that I found a little too late where I could craft the story much easier with a lot less headache. But, it doesn’t matter if I didn’t know what I was doing before I started. I mean, I thought I knew, nobody told me how cold and deep the water was.

A wing and a prayer. That’s it. That’s all I had. You see that guy waaaaay in the back of the pack of the Boston Marathon? The one that jogs a quarter mile, then ducks into a bar for a beer and a burger when no one’s watching? The guy whose boobs shake every time he plants his foot? Yeah, that’s me.

I suck, and that’s it.

This post was supposed to be shorter. It was, in fact, supposed to be a reply to a recent post on Chuck Wendig’s blog a few days ago. But, me being me, I thought it would be better to wildly thrash about on my own blog, vent a little in hopes that I can keep a little something going from the previous month while at the same time, answer his questions by not posting an epic tl;dr reply in his comments.af86b-tldr_longcat

Recently, he asked his followers, specifically the ones participating in NaNoWriMo this year, what their individual experiences were, and what they learned from it. This was my first year. I thought that I was better prepared for it, found out otherwise. Here’s my take-away from it…

How’d you do?

On One Hand…

The experience was exactly what I needed to get me out of a writing drought. While forging ahead at breakneck speed with a single spark of inspiration that I carried in my shirt pocket for a couple of days, I was secretly wishing that I would knock this project out of the park on my first time around, become the next J.K. Rowling, become insanely rich and tell every doubter and hater I know that they can all go stuff it.

On The Other Hand…

That moment when you’re scrubbing up in the shower, or you’re driving with the windows rolled down, and suddenly you’re belting out a tune that you haven’t heard in ages, but you forgot most of the words?

“It’s not the things that you do or the thing somethinsomethin doo doo…HOLD THE LINE! Nuhnuhnuhnuuuhnuuhhnuh TIME!…”

Like that. A nasty habit of mine I’d like to break is starting strong on any given project, and then fizzle out after a few pages. It’s not that I’m completely naïve and think that writing a book was a linear process and I could start on page one and not stop until I reach page two hundred and whatever.

Okay…maybe I was a little naïve.

I am easily distracted. And I’m not talking about your usual Jump-On-Facebook-And-Stay-There-For-Hours type of distracted. My level of distraction is hovering somewhere in the clinical range; the type where they have to give it a snappy acronym or a Latin moniker. The type where they have to give me a pretty little bottle filled with pretty little pills, that can pull in some decent coin on the street….

…what was I talking about?…

I start something, find a shiny object to play with for a while, and by the time I return to what I was doing, I had no idea why I started in the first place. This is the type of thing that slows me down, always. Like this post. It was supposed to go up days ago.

The end result being, I didn’t finish my novel. And, I’m okay with that, because above all else NaNo is a learning experience.

What Did You Learn?

Well, I learned that…

  • Planners and Pantsers are connected, even though all evidence leads to the contrary. I believe that all of us that are brave enough in the first place to grapple with this Word Beast for a month, that it’s probably a wise idea to adopt the attitudes of both. Making stuff up as you go along is fun and you’d be amazed at where you can go, but I believe that it can only take you so far before you have to stop and ask for directions. I believe that in order to finish your goal, you would need to have the mind of a Planner, and the soul of a Pantser.
  • However many notes you have, double them. Triple them if you have to. There’s no such thing as too much research.
  • I need to take time out and read more. Even if it’s just a few pages. Not Twitter, Not other blogs. An honest to goodness book. It does the body good.
  • Quiet and solitude are valuable commodities. Music is a good stimulus, but there’s only so much I can take before I get completely distracted and start making new Spotify stations. I must look into stealing myself away to write, which is impossible these days. My boy likes to get into trouble. I’d like a quiet space with blank walls and maybe a few windows, a laptop, access to wi-fi, blank notebooks, note cards, pencils, an area to make coffee, and a door with a lock on it. That’s about it. Distractions are a killer.
  • A proper 3 Act Structure is not necessarily the only way to craft a story, but it’s a sturdy framework, and it’s worked out pretty good for a lot of people so far. It’s a good place to start, don’t discount it, don’t deny it. Use it.
  • Using Scrivener will probably help out a lot. Yeah, it was very confusing at first, but so was Blender, and you figured that out eventually. Bite the bullet, buy a copy, and stick it on the above mentioned laptop.

Where Will You Go From Here?

Me from 2007 would have thrown in the towel weeks ago. I would have drowned in that icy lake of my own ambition, wept at my untimely demise for a few days, and started on something else that was a little less scary. Like, a Top 5 List about neckties or something.

Present Day Me would probably strangle 2007 me. No, we are not giving up. No, we are not wasting any more time writing blog posts that no one reads. No, we are not going to catch up on our Netflix cue. We are going to sit our ass down in front of the monitor, and we are going to finish this bastard.

By the end of the month, I made it to the halfway point; About 26,000 words. Personally, I would like to regard it as a benchmark. Not bad for a first timer, but compared to the people who have done this through the years, I barely showed up. I know I should regard other participant’s progress with little regard, but it’s kind of hard not to take a peek at what others are doing. The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was myself (turn off the cheesy music). I know I can do this. When faced with trying to write in a linear fashion, because I thought that’s how you do it for some reason, it slowed me down, it allowed doubt to take over, and stopped me dead in my tracks. Suddenly, getting ready for Thanksgiving was more important.

I will be continuing this. I will probably scrap everything and start over again, but I will be continuing this. NaNoWriMo has taught me self discipline, something that was rather lacking these days. I understand the nature of it now, and even though the usage of the month of November is a good measuring stick, I’m not going to let that hinder me now that we’re in December. I don’t have to use November. I could just as easily use April, June, or September…because all the rest of thirty-one. My novel, such as it is, is a mess. I will be spending however long it takes to get it into a cohesive work, and get it ready to publish. Because it means that much to me. I will finish this.

Present day me isn’t afraid of the water anymore.

Finishyours

Motivation Monday: Halloween Edition

Maybe it’s the time of the year.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t posted anything in over a week and I needed to stretch out and do something before I lose more followers.

Maybe it’s because I re-opened my t-shirt shop with a couple of new designs, and one of them was a design that I’ve been preparing for a couple of months, but it wasn’t completely finished until I found a technique that woke it up a little bit and I’m probably going to reapply this technique on future designs.

Like it? Buy it here.

Maybe it’s because I could stop saying to myself, “It’s only a matter of time before they reboot this” when I recently heard the news that they are finally remaking The Crow. My only hope is that they will be closer to the source material this time. Nothing against the movie, I had the movie adaptation on video. Watched it so much that the tape broke.

Maybe it’s all these things that prompted me to make today’s post, but since it the season for all things horrifying (Ebola hysteria notwithstanding), I thought this quote was particularly motivational.

“The Crow” was an independent comic produced in the late 80s. It’s a dark series involving darker characters and even darker story line that was inspired by truly unfortunate and even darker, real events. I’ll spare any spoilers for the one or two of you who haven’t read it yet. I will say that the antagonist of the story isn’t the most virtuous of souls. He is, however, one of the most tortured. Vengeance does that to a guy…especially for a guy that just came back from the dead to kill the people that killed him and his fiancé…

Anyway, today’s motivation quote appears at the end of the book, as the hero returns to the afterlife reunited with his beloved. This quote has always stuck with me. First, in a paint-my-fingernails-black-and-listen-to-The-Cure-while-I-lock-myself-in-my-room kind of way. But later, especially in these days of striking out on my own, I’ve reinterpreted it as a way of saying, “it ain’t over, till it’s over”.

Nothing is over until you say it is. Nothing. Not your life, your love, your wisdom, your empathy. Nothing. Yes they may come with bullets and crude weapons, they may come with a “cease and desist”, they may come and liquidate your entire department while promising you that if another position opens up, you’ll be the first in line and then 8 months later, advertise for that position in the want ads and “forget” to CALL YOU AND OFFER IT TO SOMEONE ELSE. ARE YA HAPPY, YA BASTARDS?!!!

….sorry….

While you still draw breath, you still have a chance. Poker players refer to this as “a chip and a chair“; so long as you have those two things, you still have a shot at the jackpot. It ain’t over till it’s over. Don’t give up. You still have a shot and so long as you are still walking and talking, you have a chance. You’re not dead yet.

It’s only death if you accept it…

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Motivation Monday: (Tuesday Edition) Paul Coelho

“So, you have how much experience in this field?” He made me wait in an uncomfortable meeting room for ten minutes. His assistant was in a rush for me to finish the five page, photocopied application. The application they had me fill out was something that I’ve never seen before. I was thoroughly convinced that it was set up specifically to deter…well…everyone. In the previous employer section, there was a part that I had to fill out entitled, “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?” Like, differences of opinion, unable to meet unobtainable sales numbers, or getting laid off weren’t good enough reasons? Is it really pertinent to this job I’m applying for? Should I remember the reasons you let me go in the future for the next company that doesn’t want to hire me to begin with?  “How much experience do you have in this field?” He said, barely interested in what he was reading.

The week before, I applied for several jobs in one day. Got calls back on all of them. This job that called me back, I had no (literally no) experience in. I never expected a call back from them, but that all changed when the phone rang and I answered like some college kid hung over from the night before, “Who are you again?” Things, suffice to say, didn’t go so well for the next 24 hours.

They called me into a job that I had no hope of ever getting hired in, the boss’ assistant had to tell me to hurry up and fill out a five page application that was written by Beelzebub. Nothing in my life has prepared me for this moment in time. The boss of the company was playing with me; filling the air with, “Oh. You went to University…not a trade college?” and, “you know, it is difficult to find a job in this area.” He said to the guy who’s unemployment just ran out and who’s been looking to no avail since January. “How much experience do you have in this field.”

Although I didn’t say it, my expression was doing all the talking. “Look pal, I don’t know how I got in here, but you and I both know that this is just a waste of time. Can you just hurry up and get to ‘no’?”

Waste of time.

What to do now?

Beat my head against a wall for another 8 months, or get up and move in another direction?

I’m studying Quickbooks. I don’t need an MBA or have to be certified by some board, all I need is experience and the will to know how to use it. And, since everywhere in this town is a Mom-and-Pop Venture and they don’t need CPA’s with a Harvard degree, it would behoove me to bone up on this skill and become a gun-for-hire.

In the meantime, I have bills. And they’re piling up.

I’ve been saying it for months. I’ve been dancing around the subject but never really pulling the trigger. I’ve been motivating myself every week, and I still have yet to take that initial step forward.
By the end of this week, I hope that I have some Freelancing gigs. Which is kind of a big deal, because I’ve never done this before. But considering the circumstances, I have very little choice.

I’ve been putting on my Bravado hat for months now. I’ve been saying that I will do this. I will do this. I will do this.

…so why haven’t I? (Excuse me while I talk to myself for a minute…)

Marilyn Allysum
  • I don’t have enough followers? No, that can’t be the case. You have a fraction of the readership any other blog would have, but you’re gaining interest every day, and you trust and love each of your followers. The numbers will grow. Just give it time.
  • I don’t think I’ll be able to reach the requirements? Well, considering you’ve just cranked out over 600 words in just under 30 minutes, I don’t think that will be much of an issue. You used to thrive under pressure. You also had a mild stroke at 35. Regardless, it’s in your nature to do this.
  • My research skills aren’t that great? Dude…I don’t wanna hear this. You were born in the Year of the Rooster, do you know what that means? That means you are a born detective. You were named after the Patron Saint who found things that couldn’t be found. As soon as one of your so-called jobs asked you to do research on a certain subject, you dove right in without thinking twice. This is what you do. Stop denying yourself this. You aren’t a numbers man. You’re a words man.
  • I’d run out of things to blog about? Okay, now you’re wasting my time…which is essentially YOUR time. I think you have run out of excuses…

So, why haven’t you done this?



There is nothing to fear because nothing has happened yet. And nothing will happen until you move forward. If you want to fear something, fear not moving forward. Fear not taking a chance. Fear not believing in yourself.



Fear giving up.



…It’s up to you…

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