There are people who challenge you every day. They challenge you to be braver. They challenge you to be stronger. Nicer. Better. Kinder.
There are people who bring out the best in you. These people can take all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s your husband. Sometimes it’s your boss. Sometimes it’s your best friend. Sometimes it’s a total stranger next to you in line at the grocery store.
Then, there are people who give you the opportunity to learn who you are and who you can be. These people are the ones that makes you doubt yourself. These are the bullies, the naysayers, the haters. Just like the others, these people can be anyone. They can be a sibling. They can be a coworker. They can be that jackass in the next lane that cuts you off.
These people, the “good” and the “bad” shape who we are. How we react and how we change defines how the world sees us, and how we see ourselves.
Then, if you’re anything like me, there’s the scenes that play out in your head. The World of What If. What if I was kinder? What if I stopped and gave that homeless man I pass on my way to work my yogurt in the morning? What if I was braver? What if I told that coworker to go to Hell? What if I rammed that jerk in the bumper at the next red light?
I see these scenes play out so vividly in my mind. Mostly, I’m the hero. Other times, I’m the villain. All these people and all these choices to live in the World of What If are opportunities.
What people don’t know, is that for a writer, we live in the World of What If. Everyone we meet. Every person that makes an impression on us (good or bad) is free game. I might not be able to tell that creeper at the pharmacy what I really think about him, but in my writing I can. In the World of My Words, I can come in dressed in a cape, say something so clever and witty that ass won’t know what verbal onslaught just hit him, and then spray him with mace.
This is your warning, people in the Land of the Internet. Piss me off, I will slay you in my next short story. Give me strength and I will make you a hero in my next epic. For all those people out there, the ones that stick with me, are the ones that will become characters in my stories. Good or bad, you will be my inspiration.
I like the good, but the bad are just as fun to play with.
So, I dare you. Challenge me. Push me and see what happens. Support me and see yourself through another’s eyes. I’m always looking for more characters for my stories. Just ask yourself first, “Who do I want to be?”
You find me a wife. You find me a coworker. You find me a friend. You find me a daughter.
But, you might not find me a writer anymore.
It’s just hard now. It used to be that ideas and words just overflowed out of my brain. You’d find all kinds of pieces of paper in my wake covered in snippets of stories.
Now though… Now it’s hard. I go back and re-read things I wrote just a few years ago and wonder how I can tap back into that again. How do I get my brain back into a creative place? The writing prompts I find online just don’t seem to spark anything. I try and remember old assignments from my writing classes and I just come up short.
I used to define myself by my passion and my drive for writing, but now that that’s faded – who am I? There are all these labels and roles I fill, but… Can’t I be all those things and a writer too? I know I can, but how do I find that spark again?
I think I’m making steps. I have my book club. I’m blogging again. I’m trying to breathe more life into my thesis. But I want new ideas. New stories.
Any suggestions are welcome. I’ll keep trying and keep looking. I think this struggle is part of every writer’s journey. I’m glad to see what kind of writer I’ll be on the other side of this.
After all, like Dory says, “Just keep swimming!”
A few years ago, my one of my best friend’s from college, one of our English professors, and myself went on a 45-minute quest to see David Sedaris do a reading. We all loved his work and were completely fangirl-ing in line, waiting to get our books signed. I’ve never met a movie star, but I suppose it’s the same sort of nervous energy. I mean, you want to make an impression, right? Just there, in front of you, is someone famous. Now, I understand that not everyone knows who David Sedaris is, but that doesn’t matter when you’re a fangirl.
So, we’re standing in line, the sun is setting and he’s still there, signing books. He didn’t cut anyone off or decide that he was too tired to keep signing books. I mean, we shut the place down. This gives the three of us ample time to figure out how we’re going to be different from any other fangirl/fanboy in line that night or at any book signing; however, Sedaris had already set the bar pretty high during his reading. I can’t remember now if someone asked him to talk about the craziest fans he’d ever met, or it was part of some bigger story, but it was there. One story, and I’m not sure what it was might have involved someone’s big toe? Possibly their toenail? I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember the challenge. Different ideas were tossed around, and then it was our turn.
I think in your memories, you tend to make yourself the star of the story – especially if it’s an epic one. I’m not saying this is how it happened EXACTLY but it’s how I remember it.
I stand there and tell him that I’m majoring in creative writing. He politely asks appropriate questions and signs my book, “To Caroline, I can’t wait to read your (underlined) book one day.” He then turns to my friend and they start talking. The time has ALMOST come to where we’re supposed to get the hint and leave, but I don’t. I pause.
“So – could I see your fatty tumor?” I ask.
This is not as completely random as it might sound at first.
In his reading, David Sedaris informed the entire audience of the existence of his fatty tumor. Is was a new thing to Sedaris – never having had one before. He mused on all the ways a fatty tumor might be use/useful. Again, it was years ago and the details are fuzzy, but he did mention using it to fry food in.
See? Are the pieces coming together yet? I mean, he’d already laid the groundwork – I just had to accept the challenge.
David Sedaris looked up at me from his sport behind the folding table he was using as a desk with a look somewhere between confusion and disgust.
My confidence began to falter, and I started to think my fangirl moment would be one of ridicule down the line and not one of the epic-good ones.
“You want see it?” He asked.
“Y-yes…” I stammered out.
“Ew, no. You can’t see it.” My balloon was deflating and that sunburn of embarrassment was starting to creep up my neck. “But!” he shouted as he jumped to his feet and turned his afflicted side towards me. “You can touch it!”
Now it was my turn to flash him the look that was somewhere between disgust and confusion, but I’d made it this far…
“Sure,” I said as my finger started slowly to close the space between it’s tip and his fatty tumor that covered by his white and blue stripped button-down shirt.
“No, not like that.” David Sedaris grabbed my wrist and pulled me forward. “You really got to get in there and grab it.” So I did. I grabbed David Sedaris’ fatty tumor and gave it a few light squeezes.
“Can I touch it too?” My friend asks.
“Sure!” And I stood there, in slightly stunned silence and watched as my roomie/best-friend proceeded to give David Sedaris’ tumor a squeeze or two of her own.
As we made our way out of the venue and back to our car, our professor was beside herself with what we’d done.
I haven’t had a chance to see David Sedaris again since then, but I like to think that every -once-in-awhile when he’s at a reading he’ll tell the story of the two girls that felt-up his fatty tumor.
I can’t believe it’s been OVER A YEAR AND A HALF since I’ve posted anything. I mean, I knew it’d been a while, but….
Life tends to get in the way, doesn’t it?
I’ve had a lot going on personally, but things have settled down now. Husband’s lovely sister had a baby boy a few months ago, so I’m an Aunt! I’m an only child so little Nephew Nugget is so awesome to me on so many levels.
Work has been work. I stare at a computer monitor all day, so the LAST thing I want to do in my free time is blog. I think that much time staring at the computer might burn my retinas – or possibly cause them to mutate into the next stage of eye evolution.
The biggest thing going on in my life, is that I’m finally NOT burnt out on writing. I want to work on my novel/thesis more. I actually have plans for the follow-up books! But – I really want to revamp the thesis and start getting that out to agents.
I’m reading again too. It’s been amazing. I’m even in a book club. Look at me, getting social and everything.
But – I do need to have more creativity in my life. Hence the return to the blog.
I’m working on a non-fiction piece I want to post here, so be on the look out in the next few days or more.
Stay tuned – I promise, I’ll be back.
I’m one of those people that likes to troll Facebook in order to see the funny articles, videos, and occasional updates from my friends. I don’t really pause to examine your dinner in full detail nor do I feel compelled to read every status update on your new born. Don’t get me wrong, I like babies, but I don’t need to know what color his/her snot is.
However, the other day I saw an article that made me stop and read the whole thing through. It was a link to a blog post about 7 Cultural Concepts We don’t Have in the US. The concept that spoke to me the most was this one called wabi-sabi. From the blog post and a small bit of other research, I discovered that the wabi-sabi way of looking at life might be something that all artist should adopt. Basically it’s a Japanese idea of finding beauty in something that is imperfect and/or worn. One web site defined it as ignoring perfect and embracing the worn and asymmetrical, and proposes that doing this can change the way you see the world.
It’s already helped me accept my knitting mistakes. Each time I purl instead of knit and each time I knit instead of purl I’m making a mistake that (while annoying) adds a since of humanity and beauty to the scarf. A machine can knit tons of scarfs in a day with no imperfections, but it won’t do it with love. It won’t come home from work and think of that special person each time it adds a row.
But this is a writing blog.
So what does this have to do with writing?
That first draft of anything you write should be full of grammar mistakes and plot holes. You should work hard on it and love those imperfections as you write. If another writer hard the same plot and characters and everything, they wouldn’t make the same mistakes that you do. And maybe something that looks like a mistake (a character turns out a bit differently than you intended) might be that thing that pulls the story together later on in other drafts. You need to make those mistakes to see what your story is just as much as you need them to see what your story isn’t.
Well, what about the last draft? The story will never be “perfect.” Each time you read it you’ll think, “Oh, I should have changed that phrasing…” So – just love the story for what it is. Sure, you’ll need to fine tune those rough edges, but by the time you are done that story will be well worn. It will be full of little quirks that is all you. Quirks that you might not even notice. Quirks that make up your own unique writing style.
Maybe its just me, but I think that sounds like a good way to go about writing. This concept of wabi-sabi is what finally got this idea of being okay with your sh*tty first draft. And, the cowl I’ve been trying to knit since October.
Since my last post, I’ve been thinking about New Year’s resolutions.
I think I was a bit negative about the whole thing. I suppose at the end of the New Year, it’s easier to get distracted by all you haven’t done and not all that you have done.
I did have some pretty awesome moments in 2014.
I had a short story published (with other stories by fellow and former students from my grad school) by the Peace Corp in Ethiopia. Schools all over the country will now have the books with our stories, my story, in them to help the students learn to read English.
I got promoted at work and now have a Big Girl Job.
Husband and I have never been stronger and never been better.
And plenty of other small victories.
I don’t need to focus on that fact that I didn’t write as much as I wanted, or that I didn’t submit to as many agents as I should have, or that I didn’t read as many books as I had wanted to.
Goals are important. I can’t believe that I forgot that lesson from one of my classes at school. We made a goal board that was a visual representation of our goals for the year. Then, I posted a list of all my goals all over my house in places that I would see every day. And, it seemed without even trying, I completed most of those goals.
So this year I vow to…
- Write more
- Read more
- Loose some weight (yep… I’m at that lovely stage of life now. I even joined WeightWatcher this weekend. Exercise just wasn’t doing enough)
- Be better about staying on top of the laundry
- Submit to at least TWO agents (Setting the bar kinda low, but with the rate I’ve been going it’s better than two in a year and a half)
- Submit at least one story to a contest
Right. I think that’s a good start. This blog post is probably the one that best reflects the “life and times of a former English grad student trying to make her way in the world.”
Well, the holidays are over and “real life” starts back bright and early in the morning. Here’s to making these resolutions stick.