Thursday, February 22, 2007

Checking In

I'm not officially back, still got personal life stuff to take care of - looking like mid-March before things settle down. But it's my birthday, and I've been thinking (yes, I do occasionally use the ol' noggin for something other than banging my head against the monitor).

Sometimes people really piss me off. I'm not talking about the mentally ill or straight up criminal types, I'm talkin' about the regular folks. This is not exactly an earth shatteringly new insight, but it is one that comes back and demands attention every now and then. It breaks my heart and frankly confuses the hell out of me. For those of you who are thinking "oh crap, another Pollyanna moment," think again. I spent several years working with the truly screwed up in our fab society, so I mostly get what that's about. Nine times out of ten, when someone shakes their head and says "I don't understand how anyone could do 'x' to 'y'," I do understand. I'm not saying it's right or justifiable, just that I get where the behavior came from.

What I don't get is the rest of it. What's up with the "normies," people who are generally nice folks, getting all weird and often downright mean? I've seen it happen so many times & I've done it too. I'm not proud of it, but it's true. I was thinking about one of my old jobs while working on the novel and remembered the random cruelty that came about because someone felt jealous, inferior, threatened on some basic level that generally had nothing to do with the situation at hand. Rumors got started, cruel and disparaging remarks were made, nasty looks and nastier attitudes. And yeah, there are some straight up bastards running around, but for the most part it's just regular folks doing dirt to each other. What a waste of time and energy.

What's the big about owning your crap instead of projecting it onto those around you and making him/her the baddie? Is it so hard to just deal and maybe remember that everybody else on this planet has their own closet full of guilt and fear monsters? I dunno. Guess so. When I left the behavioral health biz, I confess to being pretty much empty in terms of caring about anyone else's crap. The accepted term is "compassion fatigue." In my case it was more like "compassion extinction." You know what? It's still easier for me to feel compassion for the addict, the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled than the "normies." We know better. We just don't choose to act better.

Makes for good writing fodder, but sometimes makes getting on with the life thing way harder than it needs to be. On the writing front, I've worked in a sub-plot that's pretty much centered on this notion. It's working well with the story line, but it still makes me wonder. Dude, I need to go read some Tom Robbins...maybe another dose of Skinny Legs and All. He always reminds me of the humor and beauty of being stupidly petty and human. A great reminder of the flip side. Plus, I love Can o' Beans and the whole turning the Airstream trailer into a giant silver turkey. Boomer and Ellen Cherry Charles are such great characters. Yep. Just what the doctor ordered for the mean people suck blues. Bjork helps a little too!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Temporarily Shut

Life has a way of stepping forward & demanding immediate attention. I'll be back once I've taken care of a few things. Hopefully no more than a few weeks.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

That Valentine Thing

It's that day again - the one I loved until I hit 11 or 12, hated from 13 until my early twenties & have learned to love again. When I was a kid, I always got an enormous box of chocolates from my dad and an even more enormous card - usually a Peanuts cartoon one. A few years ago, my mom found an old Valentine's Day card my dad had gotten for me and sent it to me. Brought back some great memories.

Starting in junior high, the whole Valentine's Day thing got ugly. I think it was those damn carnations. You know the ones meant "I love you," white ones for "I like you" and the ubiquitous yellow ones for "friends." Delivered in one of the early morning classes, it was a walk of wonder for the cutie girls and the walk of shame for the less popular kids. Awful to the point that even a dreaded yellow carnation was preferable to nothing. Horrible, horrible.

As I hit high school and moved into college, I started seeing Valentine's Day as a total farce, cooked up by florists, chocolatiers, jewelry stores and Hallmark. I'm not saying I didn't get some lovely gifts, I'm just saying I felt manipulated and really hated the holiday. I'm sure junior high had something to do with it, but it all felt like some bizarre fake contest to see who had the bestest boyfriend or girlfriend based on the cost of the loot obtained. Did I mention I was a bit of a cynic?

And yet...I feel a little differently today. Valentine's Day doesn't have to be a commercialized freak show unless we let it. What's wrong with letting your sweetie know that you love him or her madly? What's wrong with letting your friends and family know that they hold a special place in your heart? Really, what's so funny about peace, love and...well, hopefully you know the rest of the Costello line or you're more messed up than I can offer help for!

I don't care at all about hearts, flowers, or jewelry (though chocolate is ALWAYS nice!), but I dig having a whole day dedicated to showing love through words and actions. That's tres coolio and no damn card company is going to stop me from enjoying it. Here's wishing you all lots of love in all its varied forms this Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Done Bitchin'...Sort of

I've not been a happy camper on the writing front for ages. As in months. And more months. I've been on the blacker side of blue for about the same amount of time. Know what? I'm done. With the angry depressive crap anyway. Mostly.

I'm not a big fan of publicly moaning and groaning. Frankly, I tend to keep my process on the down-low because it's weirdly personal and I just don't feel like sharing. What the hell is anybody going to do/say besides offer (frequently good) advice, cheerleading, or poor babies? Yes, we all need a good poor baby every now and then, but it just gets old after a while.

Here's my oh-so-pithy conclusion: it's just words on the freakin' page. The novel is not the sum/total of who I am intellectually, emotionally, creatively, or any other "ly" you want to throw in. The world will not end if it is not perfect. The world will not end if I write it, or don't write it. I, however, may well implode if I continue to put all this insane-o pressure on myself to live up to ridiculous expectations. It is paralyzing and the end result will inevitably be a beautiful, still-born novel if I continue in this vein. So I quit.

No, I'm not quitting writing in general or the novel in particular. I quit with the whole crazy-making fear and insecurity. Thank you very much, but I really want to get back to having a little fun with words instead of incessant worry. So I'm letting go of bitch mode (okay, except for creepy-crawlers & other non-writing junk). My plan on implementing this? Go play when I'm truly stuck, stick it out if I'm just scared and stop with the angry depressive shit. It's just wasted energy and time and let's face it, we all have a limited supply of both.

I'm planning on entering the Debut Dagger thingie, and have been going nuts over how to write a synopsis for the reverse chronology of the novel. I'm letting go of that, too. I'll still enter, and do my best, but damned if I'm gonna get all flippy over it. Won't make the book any better or the work any more fun, so screw it. It's just words on the page, dammit!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Evilosity of Spiders

The eight-legged freaks struck again tonight. As I was settling in to eat dinner & watch an iTunes download, a spider literally fell onto my plate. Yep, smack into the broccoli. Naturally, I screamed like the girl that I am and almost broke my neck leaping up out of my chair. Nearly gave the poor hubster a heart attack. After retreating in a rapid manner to the kitchen and throwing my silverware in the sink, the hubster came in bearing my dinner and insisting that the creepy-crawly was nowhere to be found on my food. Little bastard was hanging out on the desk, though. Just chillin' in front of the keyboard. After a successful squishing mission, my husband looked at me and said, "maybe you should go back to painting - they seem a little too interested in you when you're writing." Damn creepy ass arachnids. I'm writing, I'm writing. Now leave me the hell alone!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fresh Eyes

Amazing what you learn from fresh eyes. I sent the first 3 chapters of the novel to a friend a few days ago, asking for feedback. The good news is that she didn't have trouble following the story as it leaps back, and kept turning the (virtual) pages. The better news is that she pointed out a big problem that I was able to fix fairly painlessly. The protag is a teenage girl, but the story is told in first person so it's not likely she's going to blurt out her age. My friend thought it was a young woman in her early twenties! A little back and forth, a few word changes, and I think I've fixed it so that it's clear in the first chapter that she's a teenager, not a grownup. I'm so glad to have had someone point this out at this stage of the game. The opening is key to setting the scene, and having confusion about this would have caused major problems as the story progresses. This is exactly why it's important to have multiple readers. Whew! Bullet dodged.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ho-hum, Tippity Tap

Not much to say. Writing diligently, if not joyfully. Working on that last part. Pulled an all-nighter for no good reason and am tired, a little cranky, but still in there pounding the keys. So I guess that's all right.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Vision and Revision

Hadn't planned on putting up any pics of my paintings (you can click on it to see a closer view...and the rotten cropping job), but I had one of those head smacking revelations a few days ago. Kind of like in physics when I'd stare and stare at a formula (hours, days sometimes) in complete incomprehension, and then something would make those little grey cells click & I'd "get" it. A friend of mine recently completed a first draft of a novel (first completion for him - Yay, Christian!), and talked about moving from the "vision" stage to the "revision" stage. For whatever reason, hearing it put this way made the little grey cells click & I've been able to get some writing done. Not a ton, but a lot more than the hundred words or so I was managing to eke out before.

Everybody talks about the first draft being messy, long, etc., etc. I kept hearing "don't worry about getting it right, just get it done," and other pithy bits of good advice that made me pretty much nuts. I'm a perfectionist, and a fairly lean writer and I couldn't freakin' do it. Now I get it, though.

Writing really has to be like painting for me. I started off as a figurative painter - it wasn't until my Painting III class that I had a teacher encourage me to stop painting people & focus on the abstract work I was doing in the background. Flipped me out entirely, but he was right. With my abstract work, I would literally make a mess on the canvas - this painting was no exception. Basically, I got the colors, general composition, and feeling - not just the emotional shit, but that sense of core concept - down, and it was (usually) really fast work. And I almost always had a lot of fun in this part of the process.

Then came what I called the push 'n pull. I'd rotate the canvas until I found the right view and begin taking the threads in the piece I wanted to push back or pull forward. Sometimes I added new elements, but mostly it was all about the push 'n pull. Bring this line forward, paint over this space, draw with charcoal or pastel onto wet oil, blur this edge, sharpen that one. Here's where the real joy of painting came in. When I finally "got" the piece, the act of painting felt as though I was just part of a conduit for what wanted to come into being. That critical part of my mind wasn't absent, but relegated to a different space in the act of creating, kind of floating on the periphery. The critical mind was always making comments, but wasn't screaming in my head stopping my hand from moving or making a decision. I'm not trying to sound all woo-woo, I just don't know how to explain it better than that.

This is exactly what I need to do (and have started doing) with the novel. Work fast, make sure all the elements are present and then worry about what needs to be sharpened, blurred, written over, moved. The vision has to be allowed to come into being first, though. How the hell do I expect to be able to do the push 'n pull when I don't have the elements on the canvas (page) first?!

Okay, okay. Captain Obvious is shaking his head, but I'm just grateful that I think I finally "get" this whole vision/revision thing. It's a no-brainer. As in, I can't let the ol' brain get out of control, because that just stops the vision before it has a chance to come out and be. So, y'know, that's where I'm at.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Not Much

Y'know, I've pretty much got nothin' going on. The writing is...well, it is what it is. The weather is still cold & kinda gross - got a little snow over the past few days, but not enough to get excited about. Basically it's just cold and wet. A load of firewood arrived just in time for it to get good and drenched. Makes starting up the wood stove a little more challenging than I'd like, but it's too cold not to have it going. So, much cursing as I haul in sopping wood and try to get the damn fire going. Not to mention the bits of bark and the muddy doggie footprints all over the carpet. Grumble, grumble.

On the good news front, one of my musical heroes (heroines?!) is coming to Tucson in March. I love Lucinda Williams and I'm thinking tickets to the show would make an excellent birthday present. I'm getting the impression my hubby thinks so, too, as he was the one who texted me to let me know about the concert. It's still a way off, but Tucson in early March with Lucinda may just be what the winter blah specialist ordered. Her music is a mix of country, blues, rock, but all mixed up to make a sound that's just Lucinda. I'm just so excited she's coming to AZ - especially since I missed her show in Flagstaff last April.

Still working on Sandra Ruttan's Suspicious Circumstances, just started Bruen's The Killing of the Tinkers, and then it's on to Richard Lewis' The Killing Sea. Or that's the current plan. Who knows? I've been so wishy-washy, blah, etc., etc., that I may end up watching lots of dumb movies instead. Or not.