on writing, life, time, symbols, and getting it all done

I’ve been meaning to write for so long, and haven’t found (made) the time. Forgive me in advance for the odd mind dump that’s sure to follow. I’m finally sitting down with some tea.

It’s been strange, leading two lives – my “average American” life, and my writer’s life, which gets just a sliver of dedicated time in my mornings but is lived in snatches throughout the day whenever I find myself unoccupied – eating lunch, for example. Lately, though, I’ve been riding a closed loop on the Writers’ Block Express.

Right around the time I reached the 40,000 word mark of my first draft, I was exalted – halfway there! – and at the same time, I was stagnating. The words that had come like a game, like a wind from between the worlds, had been reduced to blowing angrily through cracks, trying to get in where once it had lived so fully. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I should be happy, right? Energized!

And of course, I was. But I was afraid, too. Afraid that I would never finish the draft, that I’d spent too long with my idea. My character had gotten to a certain point, now she just had this one thing to do, right? And all I had to do was write it, right?

But it felt wrong. Pat. Contrived. Deus ex machina. Flat.

FLAT! THE DREADED FLAT!

But I didn’t know what to do to fix it. I was scared that after all the time and effort and love and discovery I’d spent on the story, that it was dead. But it kept whispering, kept shoving me. I forced myself to write something, anything, on most days, but I’ll admit that some mornings I decided I could use the sleep instead.

And then it dawned on me: I’m not irresponsible. I pay bills on time, I get work done when it needs to be done and often ahead of time, I’m very good with being THE RESPONSIBLE ONE. And it’s that way with my storytelling, too. I hadn’t considered the second half of the story up until that point, partly because I didn’t really think I’d make it this far, but mostly because I knew how I wanted it to end, I had the beginning – but that was it. I knew where I was, and where I was going, but not the way to get there. I didn’t want to take the shortcut littered with cardboard cutouts, but aside from that, the map was a puzzle to me.

And then I realized that my problem was a lack of humanity in my villain. I FELL VICTIM TO ONE OF THE CLASSIC BLUNDERS! The villain (who, if you’re my facebook friend, you know I LOVE to write) has a story, we know his past – but he’s lived long enough by the point Our Heroine meets him that he can’t be the same person he was when his past is established. He has to grow. You know, like you do. The fundamentals of a person remain the same – in some ways, I’m very much the same person I was at fifteen – but other things change, adapt, build, or break down.

Plus, who doesn’t love a villain who leaves an opening for a heroine to wrap her arms around? Who doesn’t want to long a little for the bad guy?

I made a note in my book: I MUST DO PSYCHOLOGY!

The revelation slapped me in the face during a lunch break last week, and I’ve been back on track since. It’s still a little slow – lots of elements to draw together, to shuffle and rethink – but I have a much better understanding of who these people are and how they’re going to interact. And once I realized that my villain needed a healthy dose of humanity, the characters pretty much told me what’s going to happen.

I love it when that happens.

 

If only the rest of life would explode into clarity like that! Right now I’m struggling to find the time to do everything I want to do. I write in the mornings before work, I work a full time corporate job (that right now is making me want to pull my hair out through my eyeballs), and that’s all a decent working schedule. It’s going to get a little more hectic when I have to drive 50 minutes to work instead of 15 (starting around June, I think, they haven’t told us yet), but if those were the only things I had to shuffle, I’d be fine.

But. Winter has added some extra lovin’ on me that doesn’t need to be there. I used to be able to go to the gym at work for an hour in the middle of the day, spending my lunch time working out, staying healthy – and even though my workplace said they wanted us to get fitter, they certainly didn’t want us doing it by combining a couple of breaks to hit the gym during “work time.” And so, metrics defeated even the chronic overachiever. Way to be flexible, guys. So I don’t do that anymore. I probably could in my new building, but the gym there is small and crappy and the classes, which I get my best workouts out of, just seemed very exclusive and I felt very out of place. It was hugely different from my previous gym, at which I was friends with the trainers.

So, it leaves me with the problem of how exactly to work in a workout. Thursdays and Saturdays  I do Zumba at a dance studio – not the hardest workout I’ve ever had, but not a sloucher – and that will be upped soon to three times a week when I join a great teacher for an ass-kicking good time on Wednesday nights.  I got an intro subscription to a yoga studio down the road from me, but yoga just…meh…isn’t for me. I’ve done it, and it’s fine, but I don’t get a lot out of it. I know that for some people it’s a physical/spiritual/emotional powerhouse outlet, and I’m jealous of them because yoga seems so nice. But every time I do it…meh. I’m not good at channeling my huge energy into physical tranquility and focus – I already do it mentally with my writing.

But anyway, the exercise I’m getting now just isn’t cutting it. I need to do more, but mornings are out, at work is a probably not, and after work, either I’m exhausted, or Matt wants to spend time together, or both.

I mean, how do people DO it all?! How do people have kids?! I can barely fit in my whole life now, let alone think about having a child to care for before I see to my own needs. I know that some people thrive with kids, that they aren’t complete without them. Good for them. Unfortunately for my potential offspring, my favorite pursuits are solitary ones, and adding a 100% needy human being into the mix – ain’t nobody got time for that, as the meme says.

So that’s a work in progress, finding the time and the motivation to get my ass in gear. It gets more and more important as spring approaches – for real this time. It was over 40 degrees all day today.  That means bathing suit season is just around the corner. So that’s a little bit of a dread. Though I will say I’m looking forward to the warmth, no matter what my ass might look like when it comes.

Warm weather also means bare shoulders, which means I get to show off my single tattoo again, which is always a pleasure. The seven-pointed star has been so meaningful in my life, to the point that the symbol figures heavily in my book – it’s everywhere; if a person could be said to have a symbol they were born to, this is definitely mine.

I’m thinking of getting another tattoo, probably on the opposite shoulder – this one in text. I’ve asked my designer/printer cousin to design it for me. I figured, if you want a pretty text tattoo, ask someone who’s an artist and print designer, amirite? So I’m excited to see what she comes up with. The text will be “omnia mutantur, nihil interit,” which I first read in Neil Gamian’s Sandman comics and have carried with me since all those years ago. It translates to “everything changes, nothing dies.”

And how completely true is that?! Plus, I’m bffs with a dead language, so even though Latin isn’t that language, I feel like it’s a nice little nod to my oddball interests.

(And wow, I just put my hair up with a pencil. First time in about 8 years for me on that one. Growing out fine hair is so weird, especially since mine grows SO SLOW that I don’t notice it’s growing until it’s very different. I keep thinking I want to cut it, then keep reminding myself that every time I cut it I go into spasms of shock and horror at what I just did to all that growing time. Side note.)

Next month is Poetry Month, and my group, the Faxon Poets, will be having our publication party and poetry reading and open mic to celebrate the release of our annual anthology. My photography is on the cover this year, and my two poems are in the dead middle, so the stapled binding opens naturally to my work. Kind of accidentally all about me this year. I’m really looking forward to reading this year, though; the poem I’ve chosen is, I think, a really good one, and will read well. Plus, I’m a born performer with a trained (and naturally awesome) voice –if I want you to have feels while I’m reading, by god you will!

This weekend will be a long one – my new company actually gives Good Friday off as a for-real-you-guys holiday. So I’m looking forward to relaxing, getting extra writing done, having some MUCH needed time to get in touch with my greater self, and, come Sunday night, gear up for the completion of this first crazy phase of an outrageously huge project. And so it goes, the cycle of my days.

Okay, I think I’m done rambling for now. If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. 😉 I promise the next post will be shorter and not as scatterbrained.

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