Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Place I Am.

Right about now I should be grabbing a quick bite to eat, lugging my backpack full of textbooks (whilst pondering scoliosis prophylaxis, no doubt) to the student center and flopping down into a slightly padded chair that somehow treads the line between inviting and don’t-get-too-comfortable. I’d eat too many carbs and probably chase it down with some candy, because I’m a champion stress-eater and I have 3 tests this week. I’d finish eating and hustle to my next class, likely ruing the fact I forgot a spare set of scrubs. I have anatomy and physiology lab that afternoon and the smell of formalin clings for hours and makes my nose itch.

I’d finish the day and drive home. Maybe the mister would already be there, or perhaps he’d be working late. I’d wander hopelessly around the kitchen and pray he got home soon because no matter how hypothetical the situation, I have no idea how to formulate a meal that covers more than two food groups and/or doesn’t include M&M’s and popcorn as an entrĂ©e. I’d eat. Study. Write. Sleep. Repeat for another 30 or so months until I had both a highly employable degree (for real this time, parents!) and perhaps a couple marketable novels. I sometimes even get extra fanciful and imagine I'd have an agent. Maybe a book deal.
That was the plan.

I spent more than two years working to get into that program. Fittingly, the last semester was the most hellacious: a 16 week period of one full time day job, one part time night job, a 200-mile weekly commute for an 8 AM class, and job shadowing every spare second I could. Writing every rare moment I wasn’t drooling down the side of my pillow. Or face. While at Starbucks. Again.
In reality, it’s noon-thirty. I’m slumped in my recliner, still in the shorts and t-shirt I slept in, the latter plus one mysterious damp spot on my left shoulder that I’m trying to ignore out of my current reality. I’m watching a really bad movie just because it happens to be on and drinking on the same cup of coffee that within the last 3 hours I’ve reheated more times than I can remember. (It’s cold again now.)

My deviation from the plan is (finally) asleep in my lap. He has his daddy’s hair, the same faint dimple. Chubby little block feet and big brown eyes. Since his arrival a month ago I’ve stared at him for hours trying to see something of me in him; the best I’ve come up with is his pouty bottom lip and the face he gets when the milk wench is slow and life generally isn’t going quite to plan. (I pray my attitude doesn’t manifest in him, but I know better than to hold my breath.) He’s wrapped up in one of his daddy’s old baby blankets--an odd combination of red and white checkerboard and panda bears holding yellow cups (?)—and his mouth is hanging wide open (wait--maybe he gets that from me too). He’s perfect and healthy and beautiful (no matter how rugged and not beautiful his father claims him to be).
It's all perfect.

That's not to say I don't wish some things were different. Little things, mostly. I wish I could get my crap together so both my kid and I could be appropriately dressed for the public’s consumption at the same time of any given day. I wish it wasn’t a gazillion degrees outside so I could use the gorgeous woven wrap given to me by a friend without both me and the gremlin becoming howling, sweaty messes. I wish that earlier, instead of falling asleep sitting straight up, I stayed awake and did those lunges I’ve been planning. Or that to-do list that gets longer every day. That Scrivener would develop the IOS platform so I could maybe get some writing done at 0400 when I have a screaming baby in one hand and my phone in the other.

I’ve learned a lot in the past month, mostly about how to struggle, because Lord, am I struggling. I thought I knew how. I couldn’t fill a thimble with the things I thought I knew prior to having a baby. I’m struggling with my faith. With the fact my mind is too fuzzy to come up with words for those novels I’ve been trying to finish. Between them and the baby, I feel like everything is crying for attention and I don’t know what any of it needs. I’m struggling with time. With being needed constantly. I never realized how often every 2 hours rolls around until my life became dictated by such increments. I’m struggling with my patience when I find yet another little balled up red string that my mother-in-law says will cure the kid’s hiccups if it’s placed on his forehead. Thus far I’ve got a shit-ton of red strings and pretty much the same amount of hiccups. I never realized how traveling with a kid makes every single outing seems like a transatlantic journey by steamer. I struggle making sure I have everything I need for my five block trip to the gas station for a snack, never mind packing for this small creature who requires more accessories than Malibu Barbie on Spring Break. This deviation from the plan seems to have caused a tsunami of improvisation to hit my life, and I'm doing my best to keep my head above the waves.

 
I’ll start school next August, after fighting tooth and nail for a one year deferment. I’ll lug those books, eat poorly, smell of formalin, still be a culinary imbecile. I’ll surely also still be covered in various bodily fluids, sleep deprived and passing as much time as possible in my recliner. I’ll finish those novels, because dammit, what little part of my soul that isn’t now housed in this ten pound lap gremlin has a story to tell. Things will go to plan.

The cat meows in my face and I jerk to attention. I’ve moved now from my recliner to the couch. Baby is awake (again) and whenever he’s not glaring my general direction, he stares out at this world with a wide-eyed wonder.  I know he can barely see beyond his own nose at this point, but he finds everything enthralling nonetheless.

I change his diaper and he pees on me. Again. He’s got this big smile on his little face that makes me melt into a ridiculous puddle of joy and satisfaction. I go on ignoring yet another damp spot on my clothes. We go through life in yet another 120 minute increment that is both simultaneously exhausting and precious. I marvel at the wonderment in his eyes and feel a sense of loss for my own--where did that go? I ponder how I go about recapturing it, then it realize it's happening. Right now. The past month has proven to me I don’t know much. But I know where I am, right here, right now, is right where I’m supposed to be.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Word of the Day.

As someone who masquerades as a writer, I think it's important to have a decent vocabulary. Not because your work needs to be a freaking SAT study guide, but because using the right word is crucial. And sometimes the right word, the most concise word, isn't something that's used when you're pumping gas or buying groceries. (Here's the part where I let it be known I am completely and perfectly content with simple prose. In fact, I usually prefer it. I hate it when writers try and prove how smart they are.)

But lately I've felt like my vocab is somewhat lacking, so as a mini resolution I'm trying to learn a new word every day this year (even though I doubt ANY that I've learned thus far will end up in my writing). Basically what I do is open the dictionary on my Kindle, close my eyes and flip through the pages 'til I feel like stopping, then I point to a word. So far it's been going well, but today's word came from an article written by Lee Child on how to create suspense in novels. And I giggled because I never realized there was a word for that. (Because I'm secretly 12, okay?) From the fountain of information that is Merriam-Webster:

Meretricious
Mer·e·tri·cious

1: of or relating to a prostitute : having the nature of prostitution <meretricious relationships>
2a: tawdrily and falsely attractive <the paradise they found was a piece of     
     meretricious trash — Carolyn See>
  b: superficially significant : pretentious <scholarly names to provide fig-leaves
     of respectability for meretricious but stylish books — Times Literary
     Supplement>
 
mer·e·tri·cious·ly adverb
mer·e·tri·cious·ness noun

So, yeah. The things you learn.

Currently Listening to If You Want It That Much by Austin Allsup.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Procrastinating? No, Not Us.

Hi there, pardna'.

Firstly. If any of your New Year's resolutions involve writing more and/or procrastinating less, I'd suggest you clicky exit on this post really really fast-like.

Oh. Still here?

*Flattered*

Behold, I give thee http://title2come.tumblr.com/ .

Read it and weep procrastinate enjoy, lovelies. Read and enjoy. And if you can't find at least one .gif that applies to you, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG. (Edit: Actually, you're probably the only one doing it right--bless your little pointy head.)

As for me, well I won't tell you how far back in the archives I went today, but I will say I'm in serious edit mode on FML Forget-Me-Nots  and have to get back to work to now.

All the best, folks.

Currently Listening to Little Things by One Direction. Don't judge, dammit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Courage.

Courage in writing comes in many forms. It's in taking that tiny idea and putting the words to paper. It's in finishing that draft, editing that draft. Sending it out to beta readers, critique groups, and then swallowing your pride to edit some more. In querying, no matter how many rejections you rack up, no matter how discouraged you might get, it's sending out one more.
 
Those are all courageous things, it's true. But there's another kind of courage in writing, and that's writing with reckless abandon. It's telling the story how it's meant to be told, not how society thinks it should be told. It's laying your soul bare on every page for everyone to see, to feel. To experience. To tell a story in all its truth and beauty and horror, to hold nothing back even when it feels like you should. When others say you should. Sometimes it's telling that story no one thinks they want to hear, but in fact so desperately need.
 
That is courage in writing, and I only hope one day  to be so brave.
 
"I wanted you to see what real courage is,
instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.
It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.
You rarely win, but sometimes you do."
 --Atticus Finch 
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Monday, December 10, 2012

Writing, in 12 Words

 
 
 Ever tried.
 
 
Ever failed.
 
 
No matter.
 
 
Try again.
 
 
Fail again.
 
 
Fail better.
 
--Samuel Beckett's Worstward Ho

Friday, December 7, 2012

Perspective//New Problems Are Good Problems

It's amazing how time and distance can grant perspective, especially when you're trying to revise a manuscript that's Just Not Working.

I'm the kind of person who struggles to accept anything that's Just Not Working. Call it hardheadedness, a stubborn streak several miles wide, whatever, but I'm a grit-my-teeth-til-it-gets-done sorta person. And for the most part, it's worked well for me.

But not lately. Not in my writing. I've been trying to get a choke-hold on some perspective for months now.

But the thing about perspective is you can't tackle it, pin it, make it tap. It yields to no one, no matter how ugly a face you make at it or what names you call its momma.

Lately the feelings of impatience and behindness (today a word) have been suffocating. Why can't I finish this manuscript? Why does this thing still stink to high heaven? Why can't I query yet? Why why why why followed by a thousand general internal boo-hoos and lamentations. My cousin's a psychologist, and after a very general Hi-how-are-you?-oh-I'm-frustrated conversation, she encouraged me to write down exactly what I thought my problem was in hopes it would spark a solution. It didn't take me long to come up with the following:

My problem is me and my manuscript that refuses to go all Handyman Dan and fix itself already.

Stubborn as I may be, actually writing and reading those words made me realized what was necessary. I needed perspective, and the only way to get that was through some time and distance. Both of which I hate. There's nothing worse than idle hands when you're trying to be productive. But then I finally realized something. Trying to fix my manuscript without knowing what, exactly the problem was (or which new direction to take) was about as productive as repeatedly running into the same wall. So I gave in. Stuck the story, which in a fit of temper frustration got renamed THAT DAMN BOOK, in the proverbial drawer and didn't even open the file for two months. Did my best to forget about the thing and anything associated with it. Piddled around and wrote something else for NaNo that hasn't really gone anywhere but that's okay.

A few days ago, I reopened THAT DAMN BOOK. Read a little, made a some notes. Realized where I went wrong, developed a couple potential solutions and decided to just start over from a clean slate. I'm about 10k in now and I can already see the improvement. I'll run into new problems I'm sure, but I can guarantee I won't have the same issues as I did with the first version. And that's learning for me: not screwing up the same way twice.

All it took was a lot of patience, a bit of time and some damned old perspective.

#

How's everybody else doing? How'd NaNo go? Hope it's all bueno :)


Currently listening to The Perishers//My Heart