Writing the victim

4 06 2015

Victim_role-300x239I’m battling with my story characters. They have spent a long time not dealing with things, and as such have made themselves victims. The family is destroyed, the relationships between members are severed, and at least one child is severely harmed, and all because the family jointly determined they were victims and pulled the horribleness into bed with them.

It’s not that I don’t sympathize. God knows I’ve been a sucky victimish-assuming type now and again. But it’s hard for me to get into the let’s not deal with things until they destroy ourselves mindset.

Nope, I’m more active. I push at things until disaster hits me full in the face. Why wait, I figure? Why not bring it right on immediately, and devil take the hindmost if other people aren’t ready to take it on at the same time…

Not that that’s any better, mind. In fact, it’s often worse. But it’s where my bull-in-a-china-shop mind takes me. So dealing with my more passive characters is a challenge. And it’s very instructive. The more I write them, the more I find it hard to write them.

In amongst this, I find myself less tolerant of victims in general.

Writing is SUCH a fascinating work. In the midst of this story, which I started writing because I was feeling victimized myself, I discover an intolerance I thought I didn’t have. And it’s making it hard to identify with my characters.

So what this tells me is that I’ve got to find additional depth in the characters I’ve written. It’s like finding that one good thing in an evil character that redeems him or her, makes the character believable and even likeable. I’ve got to find that strength in my characters that makes me like them, challenged as they are. Because we all do have that strength, the strength to choose the life we want.

Yeah, sometimes we get kicked to the curb, by circumstance, by illness, by lack of resources – but we can control the way we face those challenges. We can stop pulling that comfy blanket of denial and other-blame over our heads and step out into the chill, shake our arms and stomp our feet, and take steps in the direction we want to go. If nothing else, we can change our attitude to the life we are leading and make a positive corner in it.

We may never get to our goals, but we for sure won’t get there by blaming others for our shortcomings or bad choices. At least if we’re walking on our own, we know why we are taking small crooked steps.

Or, in the case of my characters, we can take responsibility for what we didn’t do, and make amends.

Sigh. So back I go….

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Mental Health Days

10 05 2012

Before I went back to work, when I was spending my days playing with my kids and doing seemingly endless piles of laundry and arbitrating fights and driving people all over the place, every once and awhile, I’d see that we were getting stressed to the max with school and other commitments. So I’d give us all a mental health day. I’d call the schools, tell them that the kids were sick, and we’d all lounge around in our pyjamas all day and watch Disney movies and eat popcorn and just be messy all day.
It was lovely, especially in the depths of winter when it was too much trouble to get dressed for the weather some days. It’d be -40 or something and the thought of wrapping all of us in the required 10 layers was too much.
Or we’d all be tired and grumpy and a holiday day was a welcome respite for all of us.
I loved those days. Mind you, I loved excuses to play hooky with the kids anytime.

My novel

I still like the playing hooky days, but they are creeping to an end. I have a novel to brush up for June 1st. It needs its hair done, some primping, a lot of education about tenses and structure and plot and characterizations and all that.
What I really want to do is tell it to play hooky with me, to just sit around with it and talk to it and have fun and share secrets. A lot of my writing happens this way.
Every once an awhile, though, I need to tell it to get tidied up and presentable. Like my kids, my novel isn’t all that keen to take to work. It likes being messy.
One of my sons used to live in a pile of his precious items. We argued over it, and I finally told him he needed to tidy it up one day a week so I could vacuum and such and thus prevent bug infestation. He grudgingly agreed. He’d tidy it all up, I’d whip the vacuum through, and within five minutes, it’d be all layered again, looking just the same as before, but less dusty.
It worked for us. He felt more comfortable in the clutter.
Maybe I can tell my novel this – tidy up now, just til June 1st, and then we can play-write again, wallow around in our mental pyjamas, vegetate. I don’t think it’s buying it, though. I think it knows now is the time to grow up.
No more mental health days, not for the moment.
Dang.
On the good side, I can dress in my writer clothes, which are designed to prevent me from being seen in public. Comfy, messy, unattractive. All good.
Time to get to work.
Now, I just need a little Queen to inspire me…





Monkeyminding

29 04 2012

ImageMy brain is busy. I went to a workshop at the excellent Writer’s federation this week and learned I should rewrite my novel from the beginning to make it sing. I’m blanking out a bit with horror at the thought as I’ve over 80,000 words invested already and I feel sad about sending them to perdition, a bit afraid that they may be insulted and never return.

I remember a story from my childhood where all the letters talked and had personalities. I still remember the illustrations, but can’t remember the title anymore. I even tried to poach it for a high school essay, but I’m sure mine wasn’t as mentally sticky as I can’t remember it at all. What I do recall is the idea that words had a life of their own, filled with opinions and prejudices and preferences. I wonder how they feel about the animosity toward adverbs, for example. Are adverbs the embarrassing relatives of the word family? Do they tell inappropriate jokes and pick their teeth at the table?

In any case, I think about them ganging up on me in my sleep and telling me off for wasting them. It’s a scary thought. Plus my fingers are already tired thinking about it, and my computer is in the shop.  

But, it has to be done. I need to wrestle the novel to the ground and minute revisions aren’t doing it. 

Meanwhile, in another portion of my brain, I’m revisiting an excellent book launch and having for the first time a wee fantasy about having one of my own.

But then my brain slides over to my trip to Newfoundland, and chatters about that for a bit. Or spring calls from outside the window. And time skitters away.

The letters are mumbling, though. They want me to get at them. Time to stop dreaming and get to work.





Monkeyminding

29 04 2012

ImageMy brain is busy. I went to a workshop at the excellent Writer’s federation this week and learned I should rewrite my novel from the beginning to make it sing. I’m blanking out a bit with horror at the thought as I’ve over 80,000 words invested already and I feel sad about sending them to perdition, a bit afraid that they may be insulted and never return.

I remember a story from my childhood where all the letters talked and had personalities. I still remember the illustrations, but can’t remember the title anymore. I even tried to poach it for a high school essay, but I’m sure mine wasn’t as mentally sticky as I can’t remember it at all. What I do recall is the idea that words had a life of their own, filled with opinions and prejudices and preferences. I wonder how they feel about the animosity toward adverbs, for example. Are adverbs the embarrassing relatives of the word family? Do they tell inappropriate jokes and pick their teeth at the table?

In any case, I think about them ganging up on me in my sleep and telling me off for wasting them. It’s a scary thought. Plus my fingers are already tired thinking about it, and my computer is in the shop.  

But, it has to be done. I need to wrestle the novel to the ground and minute revisions aren’t doing it. 

Meanwhile, in another portion of my brain, I’m revisiting an excellent book launch and having for the first time a wee fantasy about having one of my own.

But then my brain slides over to my trip to Newfoundland, and chatters about that for a bit. Or spring calls from outside the window. And time skitters away.

The letters are mumbling, though. They want me to get at them. Time to stop dreaming and get to work.





November 30, the end of Nanowrimo 2011

30 11 2011
“Write a little every day, without hope, without despair.” 
― Isak Dinesen
 When I started out this month, my aims were  small. Well, small-ish. I wanted to follow Dinesen’s advice, and work my way through a variety of writing projects, submit to a bunch of contests, finish my novel. I’ve done most, and have hopes for the latter (there are still a few hours left). I’d fallen out of the writing habit. Like exercise, writing takes regular application of self, and, like exercise, there are so many things that could be done instead.
Knitting for one.
I’ve done a LOT of knitting.
I never understood knitting until recently and now it is an addiction. A foolish one, perhaps, but at least it makes things.
It’s a lot like writing. Each stitch, or word, leads you towards the finished project. In both, as soon as you start to feel confident, you drop a stitch or lose the word or write drivel or knot the thread.
Which is why it’s important to do the “without hope, without despair” thing.
The other thing about Nanowrimo is that you become intimately aware of your procrastination techniques. In fact, you disgust yourself, as you dust the underside of shelving, iron your underwear, tweeze all the hairs from whatever part of your body you can reach, all simply to avoid the keyboard. You come to laugh at yourself, to understand that a lot of procrastination is that you don’t have a clear pathway to proceed and that if you take your little flashlight of creativity and head down that dark path, you might instead surprise yourself with something marvelous or scary or even totally grey and discardable, but still a step along the path to the finish.

Although it is embarrassing and painful, it is very healing to stop hiding from yourself. It is healing to know all the ways that you’re sneaky, all the ways that you hide out, all the ways that you shut down, deny, close off, criticize people, all your weird little ways. You can know all of that with some sense of humor and kindness. By knowing yourself, you’re coming to know humanness altogether. We are all up against these things. We are all in this together. (Pema Chodron: Start where you are: A guide to compassionate living)

Pema Chodron has another saying that initially drew me up short.

If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have  the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation.  This is the first step on the path.
It’s a good thought to have when writing. It is all uncertainty, this writing bag.  We are forming new ground, laying a new path, creating every step of the way. We uniquely form these stories – two people with the same map will come up with completely different trips. If we can relax and let the process take us, maybe we can achieve the goals we desire.
And, since it is the end of the month and the end of many people’s novels and the start of endless revision, and coincidentally as it is Mark Twain’s birthday, I think I’ll end with a quote from my favourite master:
Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.
and
The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.
– Mark Twain’s Notebook, 1902-1903
Ah, how right you are, Mr. Twain. And so I go, into the dark dark hole of revision…







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