24 November 2013

dr. wordlove: or, how i learned to stop worrying and love my writing

i.
Well, folks, I reckon this is it ... writerly combat toe to toe with the urge to quit. Now look, folks, I ain't much of a hand at making speeches, but I got a pretty fair idea that something doggone important is going on right here. 

Writing can make us all a little ... erm ... loopy. Don't worry:
we're all in this wild word war together.
Anybody who's a fan of cinema knows that this is a pretty direct (and poorly done) rewrite of Major Kong's speech from Dr. Strangelove. And you may be wondering why I'm doing it. Well, it's simple ... this month is chop full of writing challenges (writing combat, if you will ... which I will). Some of us are going strong. Some of us are floundering. Some of us have pretty much given up. This post is a pep rally. A last minute, last ditch effort, pulling up the boot straps and charging the hill rally. Because I'm right there with you ... I'm writing there with you.

It might not be going great ... but I'm doing it.

ii.
And I got a fair idea of the kinda personal emotions that some of you writers may be thinkin' this month. Heck, I reckon you wouldn't even be human beings if you didn't have some pretty strong personal feelings about writer combat. I want you to remember one thing ... the words in your head are a-countin' on you, and by golly, we ain't about to let 'em down. 

Anyone who's been following either this site or my Facebook page over the past 24 days knows that at the beginning of the month I took on three different writing challenges: NaNoWriMo, NaBloPoMo, and the November PAD Challenge. Let me tell you, briefly, how those are going:

NaNoWriMo: Behind Enemy Lines
NaBloPoMo: DOA
NovPAD: Missing in Action

Yep, I'm about three days behind in my novel word count. I basically quit NaBloPoMo (though I think I did that for good reason). And my plan for my "poems a day" is to basically sit down between now and the 30th and write poems ... because so far I think I've written one, and I didn't particularly care for it.

Many writers this month are thinking of themselves as failures because they're in a similar--or maybe even more flooded--boat. Maybe you started a novel, then stopped, and haven't picked up a pen since. Maybe you started the PAD challenge and ran out of steam halfway through. Maybe you meant to take on a challenge and didn't, or forgot, or quit before you even got started. Maybe you think you let your words down. I'm here to tell you that you didn't. Every writing victory is a writing victory.

Maybe that sounds circular. And, in a way, it is. But I think many writers think, "If I don't write 50,000 words of my novel in November, I'm a failure." Or, "If I don't write 30 poems, I'm a failure." Or, "If I run out of steam with my blog, I'm a failure." But writing 50,000 words or 30 poems or a blog post every day isn't the only way to be a victorious writer. Did you write 50 words today? That's a victory. Did you think about a poem you've been wanting to write but don't know where to begin? That's a victory. Did you make plans to pick up your blog posts next month, or in the new year? That's a victory, too. Writing is a war filled with many small battles. You win one small victory at a time. Stop trying to win the war in one fell swoop. It can't be done. We're picking our way across a battlefield. So ... pick.

iii.
I tell you somethin' else ... If this thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I'd say that you're all in line for some important "promotions" and personal "citations" when this month's over with. That goes for every last one of you, regardless of your race, color, creed, or genre. 

Here's a personal citation for you: You're a writer, and you're awesome. Whatever you're working on this month, it's important. Whether you finish or not, you started, and that's important. Whether you write 50,000 or 75,000 or 250 or 10 words this month, that's important, too. You're doing important work. You're winning small battles. You're piecemealing your way to a won war. So you're awesome.

Here's why I stopped NaBloPoMo: It wasn't productive for me. In fact, it was draining, and the more I tried to do it, the more it hurt. After thinking about it, I don't even know why I said I'd do it! Those who have followed this site for a while know that I'm big on not biting off more than you can chew when it comes to your writing, blogging, or website. When it comes to an editorial calendar in particular, I'm as much for writing once a week as I am for writing three or four or seven times a week. I'm for it as long as it works for you. And you know what? I know that writing 7 days a week, and 30 days a month, doesn't work for me. I know I have to have time to think about posts and develop a schedule and work with it and be flexible. I need to be able to postpone a post if I need to. NaBloPoMo is about giving love to your blog, and getting in the habit of writing. But you know what? I've already established that habit. And I do love the Jungle ... but I hate writing a post for it every day. So I stopped. And that, for me, was a victory.

So stop trying to force yourself to be something you're not. If you're a poet who doesn't quite get novels but thought you'd give NaNoWriMo a shot, stop banging your head against the wall if it's not working out! It doesn't make you a horrible person, or a terrible writer ... it might just mean NaNoWriMo isn't for you! If you're a novelist who thought, "I should be writing more poetry," stop tearing your hair out if you can't come up with anything you like! Maybe you're better at noveling than you are at poeming. That's okay! That doesn't make you a horrible person, or a terrible writer ... it might just mean poetry isn't for you!

November is a crazy month for writers. We all bite off a lot, and for some it might be more than we can chew. Guess what? The plate is still there. You can spit it back out and save it for later. (A little gross image-wise, but still ... you can do it.) That doesn't make you a failure, or a horrible person, or a terrible writer ... it makes you human. We're all writing warriors. But sometimes even warriors need to take a rest. So take a rest. Pick it up tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month. Or next June. Whatever. Stop beating yourself up. Remember, we're picking our way. Pick. Stop chomping, and chew. Stop running, and learn to crawl. Slow it down. Or put it on the shelf. Pick. Win. One little battle at a time.

Now let's get this thing on the hump ... we got some writin' to do.

*****

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***** 

09 November 2013

first thought, best thought: nov 9

"You'll have to get used to that ..."
From Hoozoni, Chapter 7: "You'll have to get used to that, Sweet 'n 'Lo. You'll have to get used to the fact that there are plenty of things you can't control."

*****

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***** 

08 November 2013

first thought, best thought: nov 8

Happy Birthday, Hermann Rorschach!
From a bad poem written after learning it is Hermann Rorschach's 129th Birthday: "I am the Rorschach. Tell me what you see." (Cliches are so awesome.)

*****

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***** 

07 November 2013

first thought, best thought: nov 7

Giving Up is Hard to Do ...
From Facebook: "I quit. (Not really.)"

*****

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***** 

06 November 2013

first thought, best thought: nov 6

"That won't stop what's coming."
From Hoozoni, Chapter 6: "My foosa told me I would go to Hoozoni," Lola said stubbornly. Aunt Mae sighed. "And maybe you will, olufe," she said. "But that won't stop what's coming."

*****

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***** 

05 November 2013

first thought, best thought: nov 5

"I can't be at two places at once."
From Hoozoni, Chapter 5: "I drew you," Lola said. "In my class. But you disappeared." "You called me," said Kro. "And so I came. I can't be at two places at once."

*****

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***** 

04 November 2013

first thought, best thought: nov 4

"Lola would laugh ..."
From Hoozoni, Chapter 3: "Lola would laugh at her parents' playfulness, always surprised that people so old could still seem to have so much fun."

*****

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***** 

03 November 2013

a cure for pain

"A Cure for Pain"
Scientists today unveiled a discovery that will change the face of modern medicine forever: a cure for pain.

The cure, they said at a closed press conference in an undisclosed location, was simply "So simple we just hadn't really thought about it." But now, following the discovery and the conclusion of a small-scale human trial, these doctors and researchers are sure that the cure is not only 100% effective, but also "Completely pain free."

"It's really quite simple," one of the lead researchers stated during the conference. "To stop pain, all one must do is stop the heart from recognizing those sensations which result in the brain producing the reaction that leads to a pain conclusion."

As testing continues and research is presented to leading national authorities for approval of the cure as a packable, retail-based drug--including presentations currently underway to the FDA, DHHS, and WHO--all research seems to point to complete effectiveness of the cure for those willing to undergo treatment. It has been noted that some who were approached to participate in the drug trials were hesitant, or even refused, to serve as test subjects. However, among those who were treated and cured by this new pain cure were the following:
  • Persons who recently underwent major life changes including break-ups, job loss, etc.
  • Recent divorcees, widows/widowers, etc.
  • Persons suffering from extreme empathy and those phobic to bad news  
  • ... and so forth
The treatment, doctors say, is simple enough to administer and acts permanently without the need for a second dose.

"All it takes," said one doctor present at the conference, "is to stop the heart."

Among the list of possible side effects are: apathy, heart failure, and in some cases, death.

"But," it was noted at the press conference, "when you weight the options--pain, or no pain--isn't a life without pain worth the risk?"

*****

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***** 

02 November 2013

i'm tired of fighting ...

"I'm Tired of Fighting": A Letter to My Heart
I'm tired of fighting. So I quit.

Before I get too far ahead of myself ... I'm talking to you, heart. I'm tired of fighting with you all the time. I'm tired of being the go-between for you and my head and my soul. The three of you have simply never been able to get along. "The heart wants what the heart wants," you insist, and you say it over and over. But, "Everything within reason," the head argues back. And, "What about me?" whines the soul, the spirit, the part of me that wants to be eternal. You three are at war. And I'm stuck in the middle.

And I'm sick of it.

Now, don't get me wrong. We've had a twenty-seven year relationship, and I'm not about to give it up. I love you, and I'm not just saying that. I really mean it. I love you, heart. You're part of what keeps me alive. And when the stars are shining in a night sky and I look up with wonder and feel something in me swell up ... I know it's you, right there with me, like your finger grip crushing my own trembling palm.

But here's the thing: I've had a twenty-seven year relationship with my head, too. It's seen me through a lot. And let's face it: it's a lot more reliable than you. When people die, if you had your way I'd just fall apart. When things go wrong, too. When a movie makes me so happy and so sad, your answer is to send me into a fit of dehydrating condensation. But my head? She's the reasonable one. She helps me step back from my situations and analyze, and deal, and move on. You? You're not so helpful there.

And my soul ... what do you have to say for yourself, for the way you've dealt with my soul? I know you think he's so restrictive, so prim and proper, but here's the thing: you're thinking of you, and he's thinking of me. You're so ... you're so now. But him? He's forever. Besides, when I worry, or when I'm afraid, my soul doesn't skip beats. He never lays me out on the floor. You've been known to do that from time to time, heart.

But I digress. What I'm really trying to say is: there's a war going on inside me, and you're a big part of it. You've known me all my life ... you had to know this was coming. You had to have seen the signs. This isn't a break up.

It's a truce.

Here's what I need from you: I need you to be flexible. I need you to understand that I love you, and I need you, but I love and need my head and soul, too. I need you three to work together. And I need you to stop taking it so personal when I skip your advice and go with what my head says or my spirit needs. It's nothing personal. It's strictly business. We're partners, heart, and I need you to play as part of the team.

When you don't, it kills me.


*****

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***** 

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01 November 2013

eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow ...

Daily Prompt 11/1. "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry ..."
One thing that haunts me about my mother's death is the lingering spirit of good foods.

I come from a family of what could probably be described as culinary geniuses. My father could heap a pile of seemingly incongruous ingredients on the kitchen counters one minute and present the most deliciously unique meal you've ever tasted an hour later. My mother, on the other hand, was a queen of staples. You might dine and break the fast and lunch for almost a month before you realized that ever single meal involved some new twist on chicken. I grew up in a home that always smelled of good food. A hot meal spelled love.

So perhaps this is why, in this season of unrelenting reminiscences of my mother, my memories are often triggered by foods.

the twist

Not long ago I found myself suffering from an overwhelming hankering for Philadelphia soft pretzels. Of course, my mind now hits the obvious: my mom grew up in Philadelphia, and my year spent there was full of snapshots of her youth, including the warm salty-sweetness of that twisty doughy treat. But this isn't really the memory I drift to--it only halts me for awhile before the real memory spill. No, what I really remember is the night in Washington, DC during a writers' conference that my mother called me while I was on my way to a restaurant with friends and told me that she had left my father. I remember how the story changed in a matter of seconds--first that he had kicked her out, then that she had left, then that she was staying with friends, then that I should tell her where I was (two states away from her at the time) so she could come and see me. It was all so ... twisted. It wasn't long after that I got a call from my brother, asking what I knew, and telling what he'd heard. It was the most time I had ever spent on my cellphone, ever. The more I talked to family, the more jumbled things became. Stories overlapped to unveil a stomach twisting truth: my mom was in a manic state, and was gone, both mentally and physically, to a place where no one in our immediate family could find her. I remember sitting at dinner that night with friends, smoothly twisting the story into nonchalance, mild family drama, staring at a shared bowl of pretzel appetizers with various mustard toppings and thinking, "It's not the same. They're wrong. Why is everything suddenly so wrong?" I had my first full drink (the first drink, anyway, that wasn't a compilation of stolen sips of other friends' grown-up beverages) that night, too, a cosmo ordered for me by a friend who knew me well enough to know a simple sweet drink was all I needed. It wasn't enough. Later that night I let a waiter order for me, a drink called a menage a trois, something lovely and twisted and dizzying to my senses and a drink I have never found again.

eat, drink, and be merry ...

I don't enjoy food as much anymore. I've grown accustomed to a diet of ramen noodles and pizza, an occasional home cooked meal that usually tastes too dry and too the-same-as-last-time. I don't possess the culinary touches of my parents. The other week I made baked macaroni and cheese, a House family delicacy, and almost wept with each bite. It was a dual almost weeping. One part joy over the sweet taste of so much cheese and reminiscing over shared meals with deeply missed family. One part sorrow over the realization that even in following a recipe to the letter from my dad, it just ... wasn't the same. It was like his touch--or my mother's--was missing. And then I began to miss her. Just like that. That's how quickly the triggering switch is pulled. Baked macaroni. Buried mother. The bitter and the sweet.

... for tomorrow we die

There are things that scare me now that my mother is dead. I used to love the rain. Now it terrifies me. It's a torture to walk through a rainstorm, or to hear the splash of water rising on the sidewalk. I used to fall asleep to the sound of rainstorms or ocean waves crashing. Now they only make me think of drowning. I'm afraid of the dark. I sometimes think it can swallow me whole. I'm afraid of choking. I think too often of the coroner's words explaining how it was probably a quick rush of water through my mother that drowned her, that it can happen that fast: the water rushes in, and you faint, and you drown. I think, if drowning can be that easy, dining alone should be terrifying. And it wouldn't be so quick. Those choking gasps would hurt. And I keep planning meals in her memory. I never make them. I'm not good enough to touch her culinary shoes. And I'm afraid if I have those things, the corned chipped beef or cabbage or other Rosita favorites, I'll weep, and choke, and die drowning and suffocating.

I miss rich, good meals. I miss my mom. I miss my dad. I miss the feeling of home that comes from knowing a meal was prepared with love. You don't get that with ramen. I suppose mourning is like the communion of a good meal. You just can't do either alone.

*****

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***** 

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