I read a book with my son lately titled “Ralph Tells a Story”. It’s about a little boy looking for inspiration to write a story. It reminded me of something I already know: inspiration is everywhere.
One of my goals for 2014 is to be more consistent with this blog. Scapegoats and Sacred Cows is my sounding board, and kind of like therapy for me. For some reason, I pretend it’s a safe place where I won’t be judged. I know that’s not true, but I do know if someone doesn’t like the words they can stop reading.
The blog comes in last place among my writing priorities, even though it requires the least effort. I struggle to find subject matter when inspiration is everywhere. But this year will be different. Once a week, my friends, there will be some popping prose from this blog for you to devour. That may require more guest posts, but I promise to select my guests carefully.
Also, in my reader stats from wordpress I’ve noticed that I get the most traffic if the words “naked” or “boobs” are in the title. You guys are pervs. Have I told you lately that I love you?
Digging deeper to string my thoughts into coherent words. Sculpting a statue I can’t touch, my fingertips keeping moving. A flare for the dramatic and a need for privacy. I don’t want you to look too closely, but I want you to pay attention.
I’ll say everything and reveal nothing. Everyone knows a part of my story, but nobody knows it all. My life in breadcrumbs, spread out in prose. Because that’s the way I do it.
“It’s been that kind of day around here,” she says. “You’re lucky you showed up today.”
“What kind of a day?” I ask, staring at my beat-up Converse and thinking that I should wear a better pair of shoes the next time I show up to life.
“A day of confession. A day of epiphany. A day of relief.” She rubs lipstick on her lips, puckers and smiles broadly for an invisible camera.
“I should have dressed better for this. Worn make-up, brushed my hair.”
“But you did.” She presses a compact into my hand. “Look.”
Pinky-peach powder crumbles over my palm as I open the compact. The woman I see in the mirror is not me, but a woman I used to know. Face painted like a mask, yes. Long hair, freshly highlighted, yes. Wrinkles, no. But not me. She was someone I shed in order to grow.
“But you don’t shed yourself like skin.”
“Did I say that or did you?” I ask, or does she? The words have already evaporated.
“You can have this back.” The compact passes from my hand to hers.
“You’ll want it again soon. And I’ll keep it safe until then.”
Her high heels walk away. Click, clack, click, clack. A private conversation they’re having with the floor. And my beat-up Converse remain silent.
The experience of writing a book is different for each person during each manuscript. I am currently working on my fourth novel-length manuscript. The common thread I have found in each experience for me is a tendency to become so submersed that I don’t lose touch with reality, but I try to detach from it. My brain functions in the novel world at the same time as the real world, how much in each one depends on the circumstances of each world. I have to decide who needs me the most.
If I get stuck in my writing, I become depressed. If I become depressed, I get stuck in my writing. When I’m stuck I imagine my characters exactly where I left them (standing in a kitchen, asleep in a stranger’s bed, lying in a pool of blood, etc.) until I get back.
A lot of people obsess over their work, though. I’m sure we writers aren’t as special as we like to think we are.
Writers are easily distracted, self-centered, impulsive messes. We can’t help it. Please be patient. Some writer you know might have some serious shit going down in their other world.
The year was 2007. My first child had just been born. For the first time in my life I didn’t feel any pressure to figure out what I had to do next. I spent my days loving him, tending his needs, and I was happy. It wasn’t perfect or simple, mind you. New babies are scary. Plus we moved from Arkansas to Michigan right after our son was born, and that wasn’t easy for me, but I am extremely adaptable. Maybe I had the opposite of post partum depression. I remember talking happiness with my cousin Chris and telling him that true happiness was indeed contentment. This contentment lasted for probably about three or four months. I am so wise.
My mom used to accuse me of wishing my life away. I’ve noticed my son does it, too. He told me lately he couldn’t wait to be big. I remember feeling that way. It makes me sad for him.
Even at this stage in my life, I’m constantly pushing myself do more, look for something else, accomplish something, because honey, it ain’t enough like it is.
I’m working on a writing project that keeps providing roadblocks. I take it as a sign that my skill is lacking, though overall it is a good piece of work. My confidence is on a precarious perch.
I decided to start writing again during my brief spell of contentment. I decided it was a good time to give my life-long dream a try. Why not? Now as I bang my head repeatedly against the wall, I only wonder why.
I’m pushing myself toward success and my goals aren’t realistic. But I wasted so much of my life afraid of failure.
My worry is how my discontent and the pressure I put on myself affects my family. But if I don’t apply the pressure, who will?
How do people find it within themselves to just be? I had it once, but it slipped away.
I grab at the words
As they giggle and give chase
Constant silent scream
Is that a gray hair?
I squint though my eyesight’s fine
Whose idea was this?
Blood on the pages
I’m waiting for approval
Of all I’ve laid bare.
There is screaming in my brain. Stories and prose that are trying to get out. Sometimes I can’t figure out how to put them down. I can’t make the screaming go away. But I don’t want to. It’s my home.
I need validation, a visceral reaction from you. Without it I don’t exist. But maybe that’s all right. Because sometimes I’m tired of me. Exhausted from the endless tales and always, always needing someone to tell me ‘well done’.
If I can’t make you laugh, can’t make you cry, can’t make you react, I have wasted my time. And yours. And for that, I am sorry.
1. If I decide to be a stripper instead, I’ll be allocated to the daytime shift. Since I have small boobs and a C-section scar, I won’t qualify for primetime. I’ll have to work during the lunch buffet, while business men gorge on all-you-can eat roast beef. Not only will I suffer the humiliation of being a stripper, I’ll have to deal with men who patronize strip clubs during the day.
2. Every time I consider quitting, encouraging words come through from an industry professional. It’s a strange phenomenon.
3. I’ve been at this almost six years without turning a profit. Some folks might see this as a reason to stop, but it just makes me want to dig my heels in. I have to be on the verge of a financial break-through, right? Such a massive time investment requires a few more years anyway.
4. I’m fairly certain I lost a Facebook friend over my Taylor Swift blog post. That’s the most amusing thing that’s happened to me in the last six months. It also means my writing affected someone on a visceral level, even if it was a bullshit blog post.
5. I’m too old to become a ballerina. I think. Maybe I’m not. I should really check into that. If I’m not too old, then I’m out of here.
I owe an apology to several of my dear friends for the crazy voicemails, e-mails, texts, poorly wrapped packages on doorsteps, and maybe one partially assembled IKEA dog food dispenser for that friend who has a baby but no dog. You see, I had a few nights without sleep.
It’s not often that I suffer from insomnia. Occasionally, however, a goblin lands his antiquated treadmill in the middle of my brain and runs on that rusty bastard all night. Then I get a little crazy.
If I run errands on day four of goblin-induced cracked-outedness, it goes a little something like this: I decide it’s a good idea to go to K-Mart. There’s a young man there wearing a wolf t-shirt, skinny jeans, a bondage belt and Birkenstocks (that part is completely true). I wait in line for fifteen minutes to buy eight items. The cashier doesn’t apologize for removing five years from my life. I’m certain it’s a conspiracy between corporate America and patriarchal society to hold women down. I’m tempted to take off my bra and catch it on fire, but I realize I forgot to put on a bra before I left the house.
I think I see that the chick from Clarissa Explains it All in the parking lot. Holy crap, she has a lot of kids. Oh, that’s not Clarissa unless she’s suddenly become Asian. I spend five minutes thinking about TV shows that aren’t on anymore. Two full minutes are devoted to Rocko’s Modern Life.
My car is hot. I drive to Plum Market. I walk in and shout “I’ll never be what you are to me and what I am to you is a lie!” Someone in an apron offers me a cool glass of water and a strawberry. John Cleese steals my water. I kick him in the shins because that is how I deal with hurt feelings. I am asked to leave Plum Market for kicking John Cleese in the shins. I discuss the merits of low-residency MFA programs with the security guard who removes me from the store. We agree that I am not in a good place to make any life-altering decisions.
Next I go to Kroger. They have a Starbucks there. I suggest someone open a Chipotle within the Starbucks. The barista doesn’t seem interested. I’m certain my idea would change the path of his life. Is this what it is to be an ineffectual intellectual?
Long story short: I need to sleep more and there may or may not be a homeless man in my trunk. I’m afraid to look.
Here’s how Deadly 777 works: when you’re tagged, you post seven lines from your current WIP’s page seven, and then tag seven other authors to do the same. I was tagged by my indie hero PJ Jones. She’s not me, by the way. My indie hero is not myself. That would be narcissistic and weird.
I’m not sure why this is called deadly, feels rather harmless.
I’m currently working on my very first YA novel, Assassin Z. It’s about a teenaged assassin (who is deadly) named Zoey, who’s recently been released from training and returned to normal high school.
Brandon was last spotted outside of a known drug-den. It’s up to me to find out if he’s still there, and then kill him. I have ten days to complete my mission. After I finish high school, my mission completion time will be reduced to two days. The Judicious Termination Agency gives students extra time so we can focus on our homework. It’s both condescending and considerate.
It’s real now.
Hopefully all of Assassin Z will be ready to share late this year.
Time to torture seven of my writing friends: Lisa Ann Hayes, Pete Magsig, Deedee Ulintz, Jeanne Adwani, Darian Wilk, Rachel Shurig, and Peter Joseph Lewis. Is this the deadly part? Do you guys want to kill me for tagging you?