Excellent post by Jane Friedman. Writers should subscribe.
I signed up for Sarah Selecky’s excellent Story is a state of Mind online course and I’m in the intensive mode, where we actually have to do the work and get in assignments and such.
This latest one is freaking me out a bit, especially in line with Nanowrimo. For both things, I’m doing what Sarah calls “drift” – holding my pen like it’s going to write independently, and then relaxing and letting my mind go, letting my subconscious find it’s own way, let things float by and pour out on the page.
I find this approach helpful for first drafts. I start with a sketch of a character and then let them explore their world, showing parts of themselves in every interaction.
The challenge is trying to do it with two very different stories simultaneously.
It’s like multitasking, and me poor wee MS brain doesn’t do that so well these days.
So, if you see me and my eyes are spinning in two different directions, bear with me. I’m following a hero and a demon. They aren’t drifting together….
Though maybe they could…hmmmmm.
Ever since I got this darn disease, I’ve been surrounded by people who want me to be careful, take it easy, look after myself, rest. I appreciate their looking out for me, and my friends have graciously supported me and saved me from errors, but it’s the general run of noise from strangers that makes me want to gnash my teeth.
You parents know what I’m talking about. One hint of a baby lump and immediately everyone on the planet knows how better to manage your life, your pregnancy, your parenting, heck, even your breathing.
But inside me, there’s a wild thing trying to get out. Occasionally I do silly things, like put in offers on cottages I well know I would be unable to maintain or afford. Other times I throw myself at projects and such and it all works out okay, even though it doesn’t look like a good thing at the start. I can never predict how things will go.
But if I stop throwing myself at these things (and throwing IS the operative word), I start to lose what makes me, me. A certain insouciance, a devil-may-care attitude, a cheerfulness, a bizarre sense of optimism.
I think a lot of writers share this mind-set – else how could we sit down day after day in a world filled with arguably excellent books and try to put our words together in some sort of way that says something different from what has already been said, a thousand times before? It’s a madness. It takes wilful blindness to the foolishness of our quest.
It takes our wild thing to come out and play.
And who’s to say we won’t write something brilliant and utterly inescapably an addition to the literary canon? Or maybe write an adventure that takes someone out of their nine-to-five lives for a moment and lifts their souls. Or thrills them and sets them off in a new direction? Or frightens the bejesus out of them?
Well, all those nay-sayers will say those things. They’ll tell us to do something else, rest, give up. “Why do you need to write?” they ask.
And that’s when we set our wild things on ’em…
I’m all grown up now, no kids to tow to rugby games or class performances , no parent-teacher lineups or other shared parental volunteer activities to set up friendships with other grown ups. It used to be easy to meet new folks – we were doing the same things at the same time, our kids hung out together, we got to know each other over backyard BBQs and such.
We could hide behind our kids to get us out of bad friendships or conversations or activities. We could meet people we wanted to without seeming creepy or forward. It was all so easy back then.
Now that’s all gone. I meet a few people through my kids but most of the time we travel in very different circles.
So I have to make new connections, and that’s tougher. I was blessed in that I was married to a military guy for years, whose modus operandi was to move me away from everyone I knew and then abandon me and go to work. It was the best thing to ever happen to a gal like me, who was able to fake it til I made it, but who spent a fair bit of her time humming “Whistle a Happy Tune” under her breath.
So I learned to get out there, talk to strangers (and even strangers), join things, keep busy. I took up strange interests – pottery, ukulele, volunteer stuff, writing – in the hope that I’d meet interesting people. I signed up for classes and pretended to study. I joined dating sites and chatted with many many strange men (and some lovely ones). I met people.
But often the connections are so happenstance they are unpredictable. One of my best gal pals I worked with years ago, only to find she’d moved to NS and was living a block away from where I’d moved to – I would never have found her save for a political event attended by her minister, where we got to chatting…
And my other BFF is a lass I met at a ukulele concert – we happened to sit beside one other, got talking about the Halifax Ukulele Gang, both decided we wanted to go, and we’ve been friends ever since.
It’s serendipitous and wonderful, miribilia, as Rob Brezsny would say.
And now threads fly out from me to all those places where I once was, where I have left friends and family, connecting me to people around the globe. Some of those threads are thin and worn, but so many of them hum brightly when I touch them, making me feel supported and part of that ineffable something bigger.
I still sing that song, though. But that’s a topic for another day.
It’s almost the end of February, and I have to say I’m glad – I’ve been participating in NaBloPoMo on the theme of love and relationships and my friends, reading the posts, call me to ask if I’m okay, check in about my mood, etc. I think they think I am heartbroken – but I’m not. In fact I am happy with things the way they are now – I’m free as a bird, able to meet new folks and get to know them, eager to learn new things and new people. Yep, still doing the dating thing and the associated hair tweezing and nostril hair trimming (honestly!) and searching for the perfect undergarment to make me look lithe and tall…(instead of the spherical current appearance), but overall, content.
I’ve enjoyed looking at the concepts of love and relationships, but, frankly, I’m more interested in other things. Friendship, purpose, life, music… Love is murky enough without having to come up with things for a blog post about it.
Next month’s theme is Risk. MUCH more exciting, and yet it also involves a bit about love and relationships, too. Because, really, entering a relationship involves taking a risk. Will you be able to stand each other long-term? Will they be able to stand you? How much time should you invest in figuring this out? As a friend said to me, there aren’t that many more moments left…how many should be spent with this person?
I don’t know that answer. I remember talking to another friend who discussed the concept of non-negotiables in a relationship – not a shopping list of what you want, cos that’s not realistic. Everyone at our age comes with lumps and bumps and oddities that you balance out in looking at the whole picture.
But it IS worth figuring out your non-negotiables, cos otherwise you can waste a lot of time rationalizing your choice and still come up uncomfortable.
Here’s my list, for your amusement, and in no particular order. Maybe it will help with your adventures:
1. No addictions – no alcoholism, drug abuse, exercise addictions, over-reliance on motorcycles for manhood, no workaholism or addiction to porn.
2. No history of violence. No incarcerated time. No lawsuits pending.
3. If he has kids, he’s gotta love them, even if they don’t love him back.
4. No married folks. Preferably has respect for his ex. Understands his contribution to any failed relationships. Tidies up his own life before he tries to enter mine.
5. Capable of self-entertainment, has friends other than me, understands the concept of personal space, doesn’t need to be plastered all over me all the time.
6. Capable of plastering himself all over me sometimes.
7. Good kisser. Some say it can be taught, but if you haven’t learned by age 50, it ain’t happening, man. Sorry.
8. Financially responsible.
9. Intelligent, well-read, motivated. Curious about life.
10. Able to see the foolishness in life and laugh about it, and cherish the glory in life and laugh about it, as well.
Hmm. Seems like a long list, doesn’t it? But over the past few years, I’ve met many a person who ALMOST passes muster and I spend time with them, only to realize that if even one chunk is missing, I can feel it, like a hole in my tooth. I’ll worry at it and worry at it and never feel right.
So, fussy I shall stay, I guess. In the meantime, I’m meeting a bundle of interesting people, and that is enough.
Whew. In the first pages excerpt of this book (available online from NetGalley) so much is told, so much is started. I am awash in books to read and yet I’ve put this one on my “to grab soon” list. Friedman can write, powerfully, and I’m dying to see if the rest of the book pans out.
Though I have to say I am building up a resistance to the following: Thrillers involving Nazis; anything involving autism; anything involving children being put in harm’s way; more stories about the Great Wars that focus only on the American/British side of things. Or the French Resistance. Or anything with the words “50 shades of …” in the title. Or female porn loosely written up as if it was a good, mind-nourishing tale of female submission and torture.
This book looks like it might have two of my resistance items. But it also has one of my favourite things – a crusty old main character, who isn’t any better than he should be, who is a bit selfish and crabby and still holds grudges. I love characters with grudges.
I’d have a lot of them, myself, except for the memory loss I’ve suffered with MS.
But grumpy I can do. So I want to hear what this fellah Buck Schatz (even love the name) gets up to. Must go round up the whole book.
What’s not to like about that?
It’s another one of those strategically located places that everyone wants to own. Maybe it’s the oil that hangs around there somewhere. Or maybe it’s the sheep. There are a lot of them. Sheep. And Islands. And places people want that aren’t theirs.
In any case, the Portuguese, Spanish, British and French have all had their hands in the pie there, and the US has put its thumb in, too. The Argentinians seem to have the best case for ownership, since these islands hover just off the coast of Argentina – 310 miles or so, and there are there are almost 800 islands all clustered together. That’s a lot to manage from way far away.
Well, except that the inhabitants are remorselessly British.
There aren’t many people – about 3000 or so, many of them military families. Around 400 of them are children, many not born on the islands but they get a special designation that lets them be born away but still citizens. They seem to be almost entirely British descent. No Argentinians need apply, perhaps?
They have a government of ten to manage things, which seems a goodly size. Mind you, managing air traffic must keep them busy – seven airports spot the islands. They must spend a fair amount of time in granting of fishing licenses to trawlers from other countries. We’re not going to mention responding to the polite requests from the Argentinians to give the islands back, please. (Since the War, they promised to not try to take the islands by force and so far they’ve stuck by their word, something some other countries might think about emulating)
According to the CIA fact book, a reindeer herd was introduced here some time ago to provide Venison for the Scandinavians and they stay the only reindeer herd not affected by the Chernobyl explosion, which I think is rather dear. Santa need look no further for his sturdy flying friends, and since he is likely considering a move to Antarctica due to the eroding ice at the North Pole, this will be very helpful for him.
There are no trees on the islands, no mammals except aquatic ones, and, apparently a heck of a lot of albatrosses (albatrossi?). Which of course makes me think of the Ancient Mariner and having to read that poem when I was far too young to understand it and now I want to read it again, but preferably on the Falklands, where I can read it to the albatross myself.
So here we are at the end of Nanowrimo (at which I failed miserably) and NaBloPoMo, where I missed three days out of the month, pretty good average, I’d say, since it’s been a crazy as usual month, filled with the usual sturm und drang, a phrase I’ve used ever since I absorbed it from my Norse-God-like boyfriend back in the 70’s. (Note: sponsor Wikipedia – we need it!)
So, what have I learned?
Well, I learned that setting a small goal, like writing a blog every day, is do-able for me and a lot less scary than the “take on a novel thing.” Whereas I can sit down and dash off fairly coherent thoughts here, forcing myself to write doesn’t work so well.
So maybe I should try to fool myself into thinking I am blogging my novel.
I learned that some search terms bring readers. Had an unusually high response to my reblog about porn., for example. One feels the occasional temptation to title everything “50 Shades of Grey” just to catch the traffic. (Click link to see Ellen DeGeneres trying to read it, with sound effects)
I learned I can write blogs and add photos on my iPod touch, which made me fall even more in love with this marvelous piece of electronics. Of course, it’s hard to do a blog entry when you are in the midst of a good game of Plague Inc. (dang that fungus level is hard) and ALMOST everyone is dead but the cure is at 95%.
I’ve learned that I will obsessively play Plague Inc. instead of writing.
I’ve learned that a lot of interesting people are out there blogging, and some of them visited my blog and said nice things and I am grateful for every like. It feels good if I can reach someone.
I’ve learned I should also be putting some more time into my MS blog, but primarily into my MS book.
And I realized that I need to take on this writing thing like a job and make it work for me.
Pretty good stuff for a month of slight introspection. Thanks for coming along with me.
So, where to now? Well, yesterday I was working with the developer of a monitoring system for a disease, reviewing the computer system they’d created. In the program, there was a list of countries people where people might have been born. To my shock, I hadn’t heard of a lot of these places. So, for the next month, I’ll investigate one place a day.
Hope you enjoy…
I’ve recently invited my long term male friend to come and live with me. He works, while I live the gentler life of a disabled person, with the needs for sleep and aggressive self-care that involves.
Unlike my former husband, who made every departure an event that left me wide awake in the dawn, my new fellah creeps out more silently than a whisper of air. I hear his alarm, and no more. I’m unused to such consideration. It’s lovely.
This morning, it’s my turn to creep out of bed early, heading as I am to day 3 of this course. My legs are more spastic than usual after sitting for two straight days, so I’m stumbling a bit, trying to be as silent as he is, to let him sleep.
What I want to do us turn on some loud, energizing rock and roll, in the hope my brain cells will wake up.
Wouldn’t be fair. So I’ll wait until the car ride, the torque of noise and a large coffee and the wind through the window.
Meanwhile I stare blearily at the overly cheerful shower curtain, waiting for my eyes to silently clear.
Shhhhhh. He’s sleeping.