HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Today is traditionally a time for feeling and displaying gratitude for the abundance in our lives,  and so in the spirit of tradition I have internally  acknowledged all the things for which I am deeply thankful.  Sometimes we humans repeat by them by rote, as if it’s a ritualistic duty.  I’m as guilty as the next person and seeing as I’m of a cynical bent anyway, I need to nudge myself a couple of times to look beneath the surface for the true gems buried under the layer of stress that blankets my life.   Some are more obvious because they are the big ones:  Our health and safety as a family and most especially our daughter’s well being, food for our bellies and our minds, and work which continues to provide us with everything we need.   

This year, I’m also thinking about the women in the domestic violence shelters all across the United States and Canada.  I’ve a special tender place in my heart for them, because I was one of them just six short years ago.   This is the ‘biggie’ on my list of blessings.  At holidays,  the strife a woman feels is that much worse when she faces the horror of not being able to feed or clothe her child/children adequately.  Therefore, if you find yourself with a surplus of extra toys or clothes please don’t forget these women and their children and donate to your local domestic violence shelter.  To you it is a neater closet, but to them it is a reminder that they are not alone and a lightened load.  

I’m also thankful for sunsets, specifically the blazing display in this photo.  My daughter and I were out one evening not long ago and snapped this picture.   Happy Thanksgiving!

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WORK, WORK, WORK AND THEN WORK SOME MORE

 

WRITING AND THE WEIGHT OF SURVIVAL
WRITING AND THE WEIGHT OF SURVIVAL

 

Today while I was up to my elbows in someone else’s dirt and grime, I thought of how much I would rather be sitting at my laptop pounding out another chapter of my book.   Then, just as I was feeling sorry for myself and adjusting my knees on the floor to get at the baseboard, I realized that very few of the people I clean for actually see me as a person, let alone a being with a mind that works.   In fact, I bet they would be completely shocked if they knew that in addition to my polishing and sanitizing I was writing.   For example, when I’m dusting the shelves and bookcases,  I’m reworking a character’s dialogue.   When I’m gazing intently at their toilet bowl, giving it a good scrub around the rim I am in actuality trimming the ending of a chapter.  When that mop glides across their floor, my arms may be mopping, but my mind is brimming with ideas for that new short story.   

Looking back, no matter what sort of job I’ve done I’ve been doing outlines, jotting down quick notes and essentially stealing bits of time here and there to do the work I really love:  writing.  One day I’ll make it to the shelves of that book store and perhaps I’ll see one of the people I now clean for buying it, not knowing the woman who folded their towels and made their beds wrote it.   

What sorts of jobs have you done to keep the meat on the table and wolves from the door?   Stephen King worked in a laundry.  What do you do?

SOMETIMES THERE IS NO TIME

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE  

My hands are cold, my muscles ache and I’m tired out from work but I’m determined to fight the good fight and write something!  At the moment I struggle with making time for working on my book and making   money at my meat and pototoes job to keep us afloat.  I’m between a rock and hard place with it all and because of that, I’ve decided to dedicate one day a week to my book:  Sunday.  No interruptions.   I figure, if I do it this way and I occasionally write something during the week on the fly, then out goes the guilt and in comes that feeling of achievement I’ve not had for eons.  One firm commitment and I’m no longer between that rock and hard place.   I’ve missed the solitude and regeneration I derive from spending time with my characters.  Some people meditate to get that calm and others work out at the gym.  I write.   It’s a peculiar irony that such an isolating profession inevitably leads to anything but aloneness.  Hmmm…now that’s something to think about.   One more thing to share:  It snowed here today!  They were just small melting little flakes that disappeared quickly, definitely not scream worthy.   Has anyone else got any snow to report?   Brrrr….baby it’s cold outside.

THE LEAKING OF THEN INTO NOW

Today while we were en route to a client’s home, a song  on the radio  filled the chambers of my heart with sadness and loss.  The song reminded me of another time and the feelings they evoked belonged to a much younger me.  It’s a tricky thing, that twisting turning path through the used to be and what once was. Occasionally, if you allow it, people, events and emotions can be brought back into the light, examined and culled for any worthwhile tidbit useful to a character  whose purpose in your story has you mystified.  The older I get, the more I find myself doing this regularly, mining for creative gold amid the debris of my youth.   I suppose it’s part of entering middle age, taking stock and looking back, sometimes with brevity, sometimes with a protracted sentimentality.  A week ago I reread a bunch of stories I’d written and I found it glaringly obvious that I’d pilfered nearly eveything from my own life!   I wasn’t creating as much as I was recreating parts of people and places and the gift or curse they left behind.   Eventually, they had made their way into the construction of each of my characters, every facet of their being already defined by each soul who has crossed my path or entered my life.  I’ve now come to the conclusion that without the leaking from then into now, I would have no stories to tell and no characters to introduce.    Without the leaking I wouldn’t be a writer.   Without my history, I wouldn’t have anything to say.

THE VAGUE IDEA AND THE EMPTY GUT

I’m a writer, and its occurred to me that my bloglessness has been an impediment to my ability to promote myself as such.  I’ve absolutely no idea whatsoever the tone it will take or the beast it will become.  At any rate, I’m holding my nose and jumping in the deep end!.

The struggle to be original amid so many talented people is an enormous challenge as a writer and it is always paramount in my thoughts.  Whether I’m developing a character’s temperament or creating a town out of nothing but my imagination, I am acutely aware that if I expect publication and sales success I need to be unique enough to pique the curiosity of an editor.  A difficult task, given the vast pool of talented people whose work lines the shelves at my local Chapters store.   I’ve come to the uncomfortable realization that I suffer from a chronic disorder called  ‘publicationitis’.  The only relief from this condition is a book tour and an appearance on The New York Times Best Seller list.  Until then, I’m relegated to writhe in the agony of rejection letters, aching hands,  burning ambition and  characters who won’t let me stop telling their stories. 

It’s not very romantic, this vision of the literary inkslinger sitting hunched on a corner of the couch surrounded by empty dorito bags, bubble gum wrappers and a water bottle.  It truly is that banal until the magic happens. At some point between the sighs and head scratching, the people who populate my imaginary towns and cities make their first appearances, rattling my laptop with the din of their chatter and the hum of their activity.   THIS is why I keep at it.  There is nothing like it.  When it flows, it flows like a river to the sea.   

Every story has at least one character that looks me straight in the eye and throws down the gauntlet, challenging me to try a new way of introducing them.   Not long ago I was inspired to attempt something daring, at least for me.  I wrote a short story called ‘Rat’.  It’s a children’s story, completely dialogue driven, detailing the emotional experiences of two brothers as they come to terms with growing up and  away from each other.   I entered a short story contest.  I didn’t win.  I didn’t care.    Because of ‘Rat’,  I successfully wrestled that paper tiger called doubt and trounced it once and for all.  I’ve written other things that have been rejected and it cheesed me off like you would’nt believe, I mean really brought out the gargantuan gorilla in full tilt tantrum mode.  This was different.  I knew it was good.  No, I knew it was great.  They didn’t.  So what?  So much of being judged in a contest is subjective anyway. To be completely candid,  I salivated for the prize money, not the notoriety or prestige because to me it’s rather like a lottery.  I didn’t win that lottery, but I did share that beautiful story with someone who read it and will remember those boys.

 As an aside, I entered this same contest last year with a story that I felt was fun and jolly, but devoid of anything meaningful.  It’s evolution began during a time of pain and uncertainty, as a gift of healing to my daughter, but it was written as a distraction for her.  Nothing deep, just frivolity and silliness. Ironically,   THIS story made it to the second round with a very positive critique, which just goes to show how ridiculous and unpredictable this business can be.  I suppose the message I’m trying to convey, is keep on keepin’ on no matter how daunting it all appears.     

I hope you trounce your paper tigers too and that you get much closer to your dreams of success, whether they be publication, posterity or both.  

Right now I feel a character tugging at my ear, telling me to put a nice big poplar tree in her front yard beside the fence she fell off two years ago, when she chipped her tooth. Also, if I don’t mind too terribly, could I make sure to  give her dimples and unruly hair…