Lani Diane Rich has a great entry worth reading today over at Re-Inventing Fabulous. I’m a writer; no matter what other roles I play in life — and I play a lot — I am, and always have been, someone whose mind turns to how to frame a story.
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This means an active imagination, which is great when it’s throwing out plot lines, visualizing a scene, or coming up with that perfect piece of dialogue. Not so great when I find the internal censor telling me why I’m crap or why I’m going to fail at what I’m doing, no matter what effort I make. Those voices can show up at almost any time, but they’ve been popping up over the last few days for me because I’ve had to perform that most dreaded of corporate rituals: writing my portion of my annual review.
I tie myself in knots writing that thing every year because I don’t remember the good things — and there are definitely some good things, but every flaw, every blemish, every stupid mistake comes rushing back. Why did they hire me? Why do they keep me around? And why would they want to give me more money/possibly promote me?
I’m sure most of us have been there at one point or another. That’s one of the reasons I look forward to the turn of the year; it’s a new start and a chance at a new beginning. Even with those voices beating at me until I finished the damn paperwork and submitted it, I’ve been making plans and moving forward. Lani writes:
But this isn’t about my body so much as it’s about my head. My body is a matter of changing habits; that’s easy. It’s my head that’s my major trouble.
So true. I know this already; I just need to be reminded of it from time to time. Much of taking care of ourselves is mechanics: eat right, get enough sleep, etc. But it’s the mind that makes the choices: not adding a sweet to lunch, getting up off the couch to go to bed instead of bringing up something new on Netflix — we have to decide to do those things.
New year, new decisions. I’ve got a number I’m working through right now, setting a course for the months ahead. What decisions are on your horizon?
“You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” — Oprah Winfrey
How’s NaNo going for the rest of you? I slept well after making my decision, and spent a good afternoon with my knitting and wallowing in the glorious schmaltz of the Judy Garland version of A Star is Born. The high point, naturally, is Garland’s rendition of “The Man Who Got Away.” Beautiful, iconic ballad about the one-man woman lookin’ for the man who got away. Letting the sound of Judy at her best wash over me, I couldn’t help thinking about one of my characters. As the story opens, that’s the position she’s in, thinking her one man has got away. But it turns out he’s the wrong man, that the man who walks into her life during the course of the story is that one man.
The thing is, that got me thinking about what her mindset is as the story opened. She’s putting on a brave face and she’s getting tired of people asking if she’s okay — but she’s also hurting inside. It’s the combination of those to factors that cause her to set in motion the events of the book. I knew it, but I didn’t know it. Now, I have to go think about that relationship a little more, why she was convinced he was the man for and why she’s wrong, and that may well change some things.
But that’s why they call it “discovery”, isn’t it?
I haven’t given up on this thing yet, though there have been enough things happening that I’ve seriously considered it. “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” John Lennon once sang, and it’s very true.
Home life has changed a lot. I know we talk about discipline in our writing and the need to show up at the page and put our butts in the chair, but we also need the wisdom to know that sometimes that just ain’t going to happen. This year has been one of those years.
My mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago, though I suspect she’d been suffering from the disease for some time before. A year ago, a situation arose where she was moved into her home and my husband had to take more responsibility for her medical care. As you might imagine, dealing with that and the attendant family dynamics caused a fair amount of stress. Then, shortly after the first of the year, she began to take a distinct downturn as the disease took its toll. By Mother’s Day, we seriously doubted she recognized any of us. In June, she began having difficulty swallowing. In July, she nearly choked because of that difficulty.
A month later, she was diagnosed with pneumonia, which is one of the leading causes of death in Alzheimer’s sufferers. Her husband of over fifty years made the difficult decision not to ask for heroic measures, and she was gone several days later. Her memorial was held a week and a half ago, the church filled with her friends and family.
So now we try to get back to the business of living, picking up pieces that were put on hold when things began to get bad, even if we didn’t realize they were on hold at the time. For the first time in months, the writing is actually coming easily for me, aided in no small part by my iPad (whose praises I shall sing in another post), and while many of the goals I made at the beginning of the year just aren’t going to happen, I can feel progress happening again. So, as the leaves begin to turn and summer slips into autumn, we begin again.
I keep running into folks who say, “You need to start with a sentence — preferably 25 words or less — that sums up your book.” Unless I’m going to write, “Boy meets girl, stuff happens, they live happily ever after,” I don’t think that’s going to work for me.
The idea is brilliant; you boil your story down to its essential elements and communicate that to the listener, who will hopefully be intrigued enough to ask for a full/buy the book. It is absolutely something a writer needs to do as they send their precious work out into the cold, cruel world. My argument isn’t with that. My argument is about when the writer needs to do that.