Past Self vs. Future Self

We look to our past to get a sense of who we are. Where we come from. Our genes, our ancestors. But why don’t we look at our present and ask who we want to be. Who are we in this moment? Are we thrill seekers, the introvert gamer, the 9-5er? Or are we somewhere in between? What experiences and how do we react to things make us more of who we are than any family hierarchy.

My friend is addicted to solving the mysteries of her family tree and recently found out her background isn’t what she’s been told for thirty plus years. When she told me, I was stunned. It was like our giant pink balloon had popped and we were left with broken pieces. Until I realized that this piece of knowledge doesn’t change one thing about her or our friendship. She’s still my best friend, she’s still the most beautiful soul you will ever meet.

While I’m not saying it isn’t great to identify with your heritage–because it totally is. Own it! But you shouldn’t let it define you. Let your current actions and your future dreams define you. Who are you today? Who do you want to be tomorrow? And finally, what will you DO right now to be the person you are meant to be?

What I’m reading now: Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach

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The Social of Social Media

The realization began when a friend reached out on Facebook to thank me for something that hadn’t considered a big deal. But to her it was. She thanked me for coming up to her–a complete stranger at the time–and talking to her. I remember the moment from approximately three years ago, but not in the same way she remembers it.

She sat at a table by herself, new to our MFA residency, an adult beverage in front of her. Me being the lush I am, sat with her so that I wouldn’t be drinking alone. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, other than my circle of friends didn’t drink and I didn’t want to feel awkward (I don’t know why I try to not be awkward–I’ll always be that girl). It’s something I’ve always done. I flit from group to group, never really establishing deep roots.

Then, years after that brief moment, through social media, she publicly thanked me. Without realizing it, she had returned the favor full-fold. My own struggles and self-doubt had taken a toll on me and I felt alone. With her words, not only did she remind me that I am a decent human being, but she affirmed that I do have true friends despite not belonging to one particular “group.”

I think we sometimes forget that social media and our “friends” can not replace the those real moments of what makes us human: those moments of raw connection that illicit a genuine feeling. Because without these complex emotions, what really separates us from artificial intelligence or a pet?

While social media is a wonderful avenue for so many ventures, this year I am going to step out from behind the screen. I am going to make more physical memories, more human connections, so that I have more stories to tell.

Rekindling the Fire

Anyone who tells you that being rejected is no big deal is full of shit. I was one of those people who spouted that garbage to others and to myself. Until the rejections for my manuscript started rolling in.

The first few it was easy to brush off and reason that the story wasn’t a good fit for that agent. “I didn’t want that agency anyway,” I told myself. Then I received more rejections and one in particular that really hurt: I love the premise, it’s right up my alley, but I’m going to have to say no. Ouch!

Add to this the rejection any normal human being faces each day, each week. My non-writing job is based on sales in which I hear “no” (or crickets) all too often. My dog would rather play than to cuddle. My husband, even though he meant well, never managed to say the right thing. It’s summer in the Arizona desert and way too hot to enjoy the outdoors (think a freezing cold winter, but opposite). And on and on and on…let me just say that rejection was getting me down and turning me into a person I didn’t recognize.

Instead of what I should have been doing, like CHANGING, I was content to be in a spiral of misery. At this point my dog didn’t even want to play with me, let alone cuddle. That’s when you know it’s bad!

Rejection should light a fire within you. Borges said, “Art = fire + algebra.” I’m not great at math (and we’re not talking about the structure of art here), but I do know that you need the fire if the art is going to mean something.

So, after I was done with my pity party of one, I pulled up my big girl panties and reread a few of those rejection letters. I reread the opening pages of my manuscript. I did a little soul searching. I figured out what my story was missing. Writing it is another blog subject for another day, but the point is– these rejections ultimately rekindled the fire in my art.

Be that lone flower on a desert cactus that refuses to die despite the heat.

It’s not that you are being rejected, but how are you going to proceed after being rejected? I think that speaks volumes to a person’s character, much more than if they were to never be rejected. And who has never in their life been rejected for something or by someone? Seriously. They must be pretty boring.

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Lone flower on a desert cactus at the base of the Superstition Mountains, Arizona.

A Hiker’s Peace

I climbed to the top of Camelback Mountain. People do it every day, no big deal. Except that it was a HUGE deal for me. I’ve never done something like that (and probably won’t be back to Camelback in the near future), but I reached the summit. I stood at the top and spread my arms wide as gusts of wind bit at my face. Adrenaline coursed through my body and I breathed heavy from the climb (and a little bit of residual panic attack), and I thanked myself for believing in ME.

Above the noise from the city, the smog that hung in the air like low clouds, and away from my phone I found a peace that is hard to come by. The solitude (but camaraderie) at the top was something so unique that only fellow hikers probably know what I’m talking about. Yes, there were other people at the summit, but for a moment we all shared a bond. We smiled at one another, silently congratulating the other for making it to the top.  We were giddy, taking pictures to remember. Remember what, though? For me, it was to prove to myself that I did it. I set my mind to a goal and my body followed through.

When I feel like stopping a project because it is too difficult, or I am metaphorically stuck, I can look at this picture and remember there were moments where I was stuck on the side of a mountain, hyperventilating “I can’t” until I made up my mind that I was going to reach the top. And I did.

 

Currently reading: Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff

The Funk

Things are going great. The birds are chirping, you have a bounce to your step, there might even be theme music playing in your head because you are THAT content with how life is going.

Then everything is thrown off course. All of a sudden what you were writing reads like crap. Those cute little birds have disappeared, taking their melodies (and maybe even your own special theme song) with them. Life just doesn’t have the same uplifting vibe it had only yesterday. Nothing in particular is wrong, but nothing exactly feels right, either.

That is how I have felt for too many months to count. Before you think this is a pity party, it isn’t. I am still chugging along, and finished my manuscript. In fact, it’s back from a dear editor friend and I’m putting the final touches on it; the plan being to query agents very shortly.

I also have read some amazing (and not so amazing) books. I have a wonderful business that has both ups and downs. Oh, and I am getting paid (just a little) to write! On paper, these accomplishments are HUGE! So why don’t I feel like it’s enough?

You know what I’ve been lacking for so many months? ME. Yep. That’s right, I’ve neglected myself in my push to succeed and check things off my to-do list. I’ve neglected my blog. I sorta forgot why I talk to my best friend every single day: because she makes me laugh. I mean a true, gut-busting belly laugh. I became to wrapped up in my own head that I forgot to take moments to savor my cat high on catnip somersaulting after a toy. Yes, I still went to the gym, but I pushed yoga off the schedule.

So, how does one pull oneself out of a funk? Today, I’m taking time to celebrate my successes AND my failures! I’m going to get a bit philosophical for a moment… People fail when they TRY to do something. You can’t fail if you don’t try. The act of failing is still the act of trying. Hence, I’m going to celebrate my failures because at least I tried. Am I right?

 

Currently reading: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

My Version of the Truth

Someone asked me last night if I tell the truth. What a loaded question. This person referred to a specific event in our lives, but their question got me thinking about my writing. What truth is in my writing?

“Write what you know” is common advice for writers. Does that mean that fiction books represent real events? Maybe, probably, no way in hell. But a real event can be construed so many ways by the “what if this happens?” question that writers ask themselves as they place their characters in the middle of a huge shit storm.

A seed of a truth can be taken, used, morphed, rewritten so many times that the original seed is no longer visible. Does this make something any less true?

While writing, I take an incident– or several incidents– and blend them into a story. The only truth that matters to me while I write is the question I ask myself every day: did I tell this story to the best of my ability? This is one of the hardest questions to answer truthfully, but also one of the most important instances for me to be honest.

So, truth in writing only matters at the end of the day, once the words are on the page. Is this my best work to date? Did I pour my soul into these words? If the answer is yes, then it is the only truth that matters.

Currently reading: Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

Wrestling the Muse

Writing is a job. There are good days, and there are bad days. Bad days are those days where I seem to get nowhere, the days my Muse has decided to stay buried.

More often than not, I stare at a blank page, or a blinking cursor, and wait for my Muse to show itself. It’s not always like that, but sometimes my brain is just stuck. And that’s when I realize that using my brain is the problem.

For me, writing is about discovering hidden parts about myself. In order to do that, I must turn off my brain– that left-sided pesky thinker– and turn on the inner voice. Sometimes I refer to that inner voice as the Muse.

Sometimes it is easier for me to wait until the story bubbles to the surface, bursting at the barriers, threatening to break walls. When I write those stories, the words flow easily, images come quickly, my fingers barely keep up.

But because of deadlines, I can’t always wait until that voice comes through my fingers. I have to go searching for it instead. Yoga, going to the gym, taking the dogs for a walk all help to quiet the left side of my brain.

Sometimes I can write 1000 words, then BAM! I’m stuck. And remain stuck. I have to let go of outside pressures, influences, and turn off the internet. I recently started what I hope to be the final rewrite of my work-in-progress.

And here I am, delaying the writing.

The ass-to-chair method is failing me. I show up each day for the Muse to appear, but all I receive is quiet. So I just begin writing. I write terrible sentences, beginning at a place where I know deep down the story would never begin. But I am writing. And soon 250 words turns into 1000. And I can feel the Muse beginning to poke through the dense clouds of my brain. But I keep writing, knowing most of the words I will cut. For now, though, these words are bringing me closer to the real story that needs to be told.

Wrestling the inner Muse can take up much of a writer’s time. Word sprints, object focus, and other tricks can get a writer writing. Anything to get that Muse out and onto the page is considered successful. Even if that method is procrastination by writing an blog entry 🙂

Currently reading: The Stones of Mourning Creek by Diane Les Becquets
Just finished reading: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls & Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson