On Craft, and this writer’s dilemma

[2018 update: This book still isn’t out, and it’s unlikely to be out anytime soon. I’m okay with that. But the post about Craft is still relevant, and speaks honestly about I felt in June 2017. Leaving it up in case it helps another artist who is drowning in rules and self-imposed limitations/expectations.]

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a third book for a trilogy I started a few years ago. My original intent was to have it out by Christmas 2016. Then I pushed back to Valentine’s Day 2017. Now it’s June, and I’m hoping to have it out by Christmas 2017. Which is a whole six months from now, and seems the slightest bit doable.

Here’s the problem. I still haven’t finished my manuscript. Oh, I’ve looked at it, read through a couple bits and pieces, submitted what I have for critique and help… and here’s where I stand on it right now.

I say to my manuscript, “I’m sorry. I am sorry I tried to edit you before you were finished. I’m sorry you were subjected to the ugliness of people (and me) telling you you aren’t good enough, smart enough, and you need to change everything about yourself to fit in. I am sorry I did that to you. Now I beg you to forgive me, to take me on again as your writer and friend, and let me show your story to the world.”

To Craft, I say, “Bite me. I successfully brought two books into the world before I really knew you, and all you have done since then is stifle me and my creativity. Your rules were made to be broken, your controlling ways meant to be flaunted. I don’t need you in my life right now. Wynnie and I were fine without you, and you have only torn us apart. I’m not listening to you and your toxic voice anymore. Go away.”

Now, I know that might seem to harsh to some of you. Anathema to others. But hear me out. There’s a method to my madness. I’m a special kind of writer. (and by special I mean crazy. 🙂 ) I have always simply written down what the characters show me, followed where the muse leads, discovered the story rather than plan it. We’re called in the writing world Pantsers. This is not to say I have no plotting, but for me, that plotting goes on in a different plane. Subconsciously, you might say. I write everything down and most of it is good, a lot of it is use-able, some of it is trash. Okay, maybe a lot of it is trash, but I have people to help me transform the trash into treasure. It’s like shabby chic.

I have, in the name of ‘learning my Craft’ (ugh … that uppercase C … but it’s for snarky emphasis when you read it–take it as such) subverted my muse. Killed my characters, destroyed my story. They have gone into hiding. (I rather imagine them all sitting around a table in a coffee shop waiting, and not speaking well of me while they bide.) Good for them. Better to go into hiding than for me to subject them to cookie-cutter pains. To make them into who they “should be” for a perfectly easy story. A perfectly planned and ordered story, which in my hands would be boring and un-freaking-read-able. Because that’s what I have tried to do…

Not intentionally, of course! Who would do that?! (probably lots of people, but that’s another post) But by not allowing them to live their messy lives, not relishing every crazy or mundane or confusing moment with them, by not letting them tell their story in their own way, in their own time, I am crushing them. OH, how awful I have been! I’m sorry, my friends! 

So I’m publicly pledging (for that’s the best way for me to not back out on something) to ditch Craft. To write messy and ugly and brilliantly. To let the characters and my muse be who they are, without me telling them they’re going about the business of creating this book all wrong.

My muse likes quiet. She likes solitary spaces with no one around. She likes finger-paints and mud pies and dandelions. She likes day-dreaming and gazing endlessly into space. She likes noticing people and things and staring too long at whatever catches her fancy.

She does not like being told what to do–especially when the end message is Change, you’re not doing it right. Who is to say what is right for her? She is to say. She is the genius. I’m only along for the ride.


Before you get all up-in-arms about “knowing your craft” and “that’s why there are so many crappy books–don’t tell people craft doesn’t matter” et cetera, yeah, I know. I know! And that’s why I hire an editor when the manuscript is finished. My point is, for me, that the rules and regulations are ingrained in me. I already know ‘how to write’. And I also know that I break many of the rules as I go along. I don’t do it on purpose, but I do it in service to the story. And the story is always paramount. I have been trying so hard for the past year to impose rules on top of the rules, and not break these silly dumb rules, that I stopped writing out of fear, paralysis, and just plain rebellion. I can’t do that any more. I can’t. I won’t. So–no more reading about how to write; no more talking about it. I’m just going to do it. And to those who try to say, “but, [Craft]!” … yeah, Bite me.


I will probably regret this post–but I’m publishing it anyway, sans tags and categories to hurry it along. It’s about time I wrote something honest anyway. And this is how I feel this morning.

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Quiet

I’ve been silent for a while. Not for lack of things to share but for lack of confidence in my voice.

I’m a quiet soul. I like silence, I like being in the background, I like obscurity.

I read all these wonderful blogger writers who are or seem to be the opposite of me. I began to compare myself–the death-knell to creativity. I couldn’t be them, so I settled for nothing.  So sad. I am ready to get over myself tho. I’m ready to be myself. Just little me with my little voice and affinity for obscurity. Don’t confuse that for someone who has no thought though. I have much and many, deeply held and fervently believed.  And it is time to share, whether a deeply-held-fervently-believed post or a light-and-airy frivolity, or somewhere in between.

Look for me–once or twice a month, which seems little, but is a marked improvement over the past year. I’ll be looking for you.


Because you’ve been so patient with me, and to keep you amused: an old post of mine (I just noticed I celebrated 5 whole years on WordPress last week!) and a newer one, both of which are quiet bits of reading.

Multi-faceted Personality Disorder (?)

While trying to sleep very early this morning I realized how very like Winnie the Pooh I am. And Piglet, but also Eeyore, Tigger, Roo and Kanga, and even, much to my chagrin, Rabbit.

Brilliant–A.A. Milne created a world where I (and I bet each one of us) identifies with all the characters at some point. Perhaps you’re like me–I might identify as Tigger one moment and Piglet the next, as the wind in my bravado-sails gets taken out.

Kanga is my favorite. I wish I could be like her most all the time. I think I am like her most of the time, even though I forget and think I’m more like eeyore or piglet or pooh… you know, the popular ones. She is the one generally in the background quietly taking care of the others. I like that. It is my most comfortable role.

Pooh is simple, though sometimes he says some mighty profound things. Pooh thinks a lot about food, honey in particular, and in that regard, I am Pooh. I love food, and a part of my mind is always thinking, “How about lunch?” Or dinner. Or tea, elevensies, and breakfast. Bears love honey, and I’m a Pooh-Bear…time for something sweet to eat!

There is Tigger-April. Bold and confident, knowing with bright certainty that I am made for great things. Writing? That’s what April does best! Singing? That’s what April does best! Running? That’s what April does best! and the most wonderful thing about April? I’m the only one!

Tigger-April is often trounced by tall trees and morphs into Piglet-April, timid, shy, afraid of my shadow. Quiet and shy he might be, yet with a heart big as all outdoors, it’s not too bad a trade-off–Piglet will give you the shirt off his back, the scarf from around his neck, or even his home if you need it more. Sweet little piglet…

Oh, but there are times–times when I am selfish and proud and superior–a regular Rabbit! How I hate when Pooh comes for lunch; he eats all my food–my food! When Tigger bounces me or my garden, and ruins my perfectly arranged things…oh how dreadful! Silly, know-nothing, obnoxious Tigger… Rabbits never get lost, know everything, and are an authority on practically everything. Just ask! Yet Rabbits will (reluctantly) admit when we’re wrong, and apologize, too.

And Eeyore! Oh don’t mind me…I’m just spending time with the flowers…and looking optimistically at all the disasters that might fall. Sure, it’s raining and gloomy, and there’s a chance for flooding, but on the bright side, we haven’t had an earthquake lately. [in my neck of the woods, anyhow].

Wasn’t it wonderful of Mr. Milne to dream up these wonderful characters? To teach our children and us a little of the best and worst of ourselves. Each person has strengths and weaknesses, none are entirely good nor entirely bad, and we all are love-able. Sure, we may have to dig a little under the surface to love the one who annoys us, as Tigger does Rabbit, or as Rabbit does me, nonetheless… There is a creature deserving of grace and understanding, which we extend to each other, not forgetting to extend it also to oneself.

Who are you today? Whoever you are, you are loved.

Now, I believe it’s lunch time; I’m off to find honey.

Things I do, or don’t.

I read on Facebook that a friend I haven’t talked to in a long time is hurting. Going through a really rough time. Well today it’s this one friend, but it’s not only one friend, it’s many friends. Many friends, because this happens all the time.

But today, this one friend is hurting. And I want so much to reach out and say something kind, encouraging, helpful.

But I don’t.

Words are not enough–so many times they are only words, trite and oft-repeated. Perhaps, even, unwelcome. Because people always say the same thing. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m thinking of you; I’m praying for you. It’s not that it’s insincere–I’m sure it isn’t! It’s just… I don’t want to add to the din. I don’t want my words to get lost in the crowd.

But…

Dearheart,

I know you hurt. And I see that your life is in tumult. I hurt for you. I hurt with you. My chest is tight, and my brain can’t think straight. I want to cry, but I don’t even know why, because I’m not sad. Except that I am. Because you, my friend, are grieving. I am praying for you, and I am thinking of you. Even though I am silent.

My silence is not a sign of indifference. It signals how deeply I feel for you, and how much I long for healing, for you and for your family. If I put it into words…well, I can’t, because words are not enough. They aren’t.

I hold you close to my heart, and I hope somehow you will know I care. And that if you were here, I would hug you so tight you’d have no doubt of my caring.

I wish I were the type who could say these things out in the open, join the dozens and dozens who comment on a Facebook post. But I’m not.

However, it doesn’t mean I don’t sincerely, profoundly empathize and sympathize. Just so you know. If ever you hurt, and I don’t say anything. And you wonder why…

Surrender

When we think surrender, we often think ‘giving up’, or perhaps of a cartoon character waving a white flag, or maybe we think of surrendering as losing. But I propose something radically different. Not original–I’m only re-articulating for myself ideas I’ve gathered over the years from others–but still different.

What if, instead of thinking of surrender as loss, we think of it as gain?

Gaining freedom, gaining peace, gaining release.

In the summer, the idea of surrender haunted me. (I almost started a post on it in late May/early June. But I put it off, until it waved at me again in July. July was very busy. I was successfully able to put it off until today. But today, I can no longer put it off.)

It all started with the words of a friend, who had called after a trying week. A trying week in a trying month in a trying season of her life. She said, “I give up. The universe [and here I must paraphrase because I can’t remember her exact words] hates me, and it keeps throwing shite at me, and I just can’t take it anymore. I give up.” I didn’t have anything to say that would make things better. I might have said things that made her feel worse–but I tried to listen, to be there for her, and to love her and hug her from hundreds of miles away. And the threads of thought began to knit themselves together in my mind. I thought, though I couldn’t articulate it yet, that perhaps “I give up” was precisely the right response. Stop fighting, stop trying to control, stop trying to be the boss of everything. We are only human. We cannot control everything, and trying only drives us crazy. “I give up” might actually put us on a road back to sanity.

What does Surrender mean? The dictionary is helpful, but even that–those few sentences–have negative connotations. Basically, it is to give up to someone or something else because one must. As if one has no choice in the matter. It is a forced action. Yet… Yet it doesn’t have to be.

Consider for a moment, if trust is involved. I suppose I am idealistic, and I suppose I’m more submissive in nature for to consider a trusting surrender to the ‘universe’ at all. But hear me out. If one (let us for the sake of clarity go with “I” instead)–If I trust someone, I suppose it means I think they are good. Perhaps I think they have good ideas, and have my best interests at heart. Perhaps I even think their ideas are better than mine for my own well-being. And so I will trust them to know what is good and in my best interest. I will surrender my own need for control in order to have my best interests looked after. This is not easy–I don’t for a minute pretend it is simple–not at first, anyway. Though with practice, and with the positive reinforcement of positive outcomes, it becomes easier.

I surrender to my family. At first I surrendered to my parents. They love me, and they had years more experience than I, and I trusted that they had my best in mind. (Yes, I know, toddlers aren’t great at this, and neither are teens. I was no exception. That’s not really my point.) Oddly enough, they were almost always right. In the course of time, I got married. My husband loves me (he also has years’ more experience than me, but only a few), wants the best for me, and I trust him to make decisions for me. No, he doesn’t make all my decisions, and no, I don’t ask him what my opinions should be on all things, but if I am struggling with a decision, I will ask him what to do. I weigh his opinion carefully, and will quite often take his advice. Because I know he wants what is best for me. I know he has my best interests in mind as he offers solutions.

And I surrender to my God (my friend calls this higher power The Universe but to me, He is God). I know He loves me, I know He has my best interests at heart, and I know He has blessings beyond counting in store for me. To be completely honest, I don’t surrender here as much as I want to, or know I should. I mean, I trust Him to know what’s best, but…too often I forget to listen for Him, more often think I know better. I am still human, remember, and we are nothing if not stubborn. Oh, but when I surrender, that’s when amazing things happen!

When I surrender, when I let go of my stubborn need for control, is when circumstances ‘miraculously’ fall into order. I find that the hectic schedule somehow becomes manageable. The impossible situation resolves…or at the very least, I come to terms with the impossibility. And not having to have all the answers to impossible questions is incredibly freeing.

Have you tried it? Do you practice the art of surrender, or is it anathema to your very being? If you haven’t, might I challenge you to do so? Allow yourself the freedom of not having all the answers, of not knowing what happens next–of not being in control of every little thing. Try it. For a week. One can do anything for a week. 🙂 Who knows, you might find you’ve gained a whole new perspective.

 

Calendars

img_6237I love calendars. partly out of necessity, partly because they help me feel organized (which I’m not) and partly because if I didn’t have one, my life would be a complete mess of missed appointments. Wait, I think I stated the same thing three ways. I guess I love calendars because they are necessary to keep my life in order and keep me from missing appointments. Also, it means a trip to the office supply store, and YAY–office supplies!!

Since I’ve been married, every year in December I have joyfully purchased my new wall calendar, which hangs not on the wall but on the refrigerator, and flipped through the current year to add birthdays and anniversaries, planned vacations and other special dates to the next. And while I write, even as I eagerly look ahead to the new year, I’m reminded of the year just past. I will quite often pause in copying to reminisce.

With my stack of calendars, much like one does with journals, I can look back and see a snapshot of my life. What I was doing, or my kids were doing, or what big family/life events happened. More often, what small life events happened. Big or small, they are the things that created memories, things that made our lives what they are. I can see when my daughter’s first tooth emerged. See when my son lost his first tooth. Or when it was that they had a belt test or meet, field trip or recital or concert. Oh, I remember that day! It was so warm–stifling hot in the gym–but the music was wonderful! The kids did such a lovely job.

img_6235
Twenty-three years of life, as documented in calendars.

img_6232Last year, I had had enough of the messy stack of calendars that inhabits a shelf in my basement. I bought a box to store them–still on the shelf, but much neater to look at.

img_6236I need to do the same for my agendas/planners, the calendars I carried with me. They are still strewn about the shelf (along with other books and cards and miscellany), or they were until I moved them upstairs to take pictures of them all today. Perhaps I’ll put them neatly back as part of my de-cluttering project. Or more likely, I’ll toss them willy-nilly as I rush into something else and promise to get to it. Later.

I noticed that somehow I’ve lost 1997, and quite a few of my planners. Probably because I tossed them somewhere willy-nilly and promised to put them away. Later…

I didn’t buy a wall/fridge calendar for 2017. Last year, we hardly looked at it and it was seldom used. It’s only been a month. I still miss it. I could buy one yet–but I don’t think we would look at a great deal. We are all grown up and self-sufficient (my kids, that is) and I don’t have to keep track of four schedules anymore. Hubs has always kept track of his own schedule, though I liked to have all our family things and his business trips on the calendar anyway. Kid 1 doesn’t even live in this house anymore, and Kid 2 is probably more organized than I am (which, looking back at my initial statement, isn’t very hard). I only have to keep track of myself.

I still have my daily planner (I tried to go without a while ago. I missed my paper book too much). And I’m trying something new–a bullet journal*. A planner and list-keeper and memory holder all in one.

img_6238Carrying both is heavy, but I hope eventually to drop the planner. Not yet, though! I like the way my planner is set up; I like, too, the idea of complete customization for the bullet journal. I’ll start a new one in August. Since forever, my wall calendar is yearly (2015, 2016…) and my purse planner is academic, coinciding with the school year. It has always worked best both because of the kids’ school schedules and because arts organizations usually run September through May or thereabouts. And I liked having the two mesh–I wasn’t starting over with both at the same time.

Someday, I know my poor kids are going to have to throw away decades’ worth of calendars. But I can’t do it–at least not now. What if I need to remember when it was that we went skiing back in 1994 (I have no idea–can’t find that calendar either)? Or the day we brought our rescue dog home (Aug. 19, 2008)? Or when we took a trip to Texas in 2016 (January 20-25)? Sure, it’s fresh in my memory now, but in twenty years, I’ll need to look it up. One never knows.


*I’ll do a post on bullet journals soon, once I have a few more weeks under my belt.

Analog 

Over a week ago, while I was perusing my WordPress Reader, I saw a challenge to post something ‘analog’ –a picture of a handwritten page, for instance. I didn’t get around to that right away. Yesterday was National Handwriting Day–didn’t get around to that, either. Because I enjoy being fashionably late to things I decided to wait until today to publish. Lucky for me, they go together rather nicely today. Hence, below is a picture of my handwriting. The words to a hymn that I am even now singing in my mind. I’m sure it will be with me the rest of today.

I don’t know much, but I know this:

I know Whom I have believed. And neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord. (my own paraphrase based on 2 Tim. 1:12b and Rom. 8:38-39)

Hymn text by Daniel W. Whittle, based on 2 Timothy 1:12b.