After meeting with my critique group, I’m tweaking some plot lines and revising my opening chapters. I’m struggling today because I’m not 100% confident about how to change one plot line. I keep telling myself to make a decision and write it out, and that if it doesn’t work, I can write it again another way. But I want to be “right” the first time; I don’t want to write it again.
Tenacious wildflowers in Uncompahre National Forest. July 30, 2019.
And so I sit, paralyzed by indecision.
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. ~ Amelia Earhart
This is my public statement: I’m going to act. I will make a plot decision and keep writing. And I will prevail in these revisions because there’s one thing I can say with 100% confidence: I am tenacious.
How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold? Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root, and in that freedom bold. ~ William Wordsworth
So it’s after 5:00 pm here in Colorado and I haven’t yet added one single word to my work-in-progress. Why? In part, I had much to do today. But in greater part? I’ve reached the point in which I need to write BIG climatic scenes and I’m intimidated. It was easier to tend to other business today.
I need to make like a Meadow flower and feel free to try and fail, all the way down to my roots. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Today is cold and icy. Again. Unlike two weeks ago, I am not venturing outside because I very much do not want to slip and fall again. Instead, I went in search of an appropriate quotation for this ice-encrusted day. I found the following . It speaks to me, despite never having directed a film. I read it as “Writing a novel is mystifying…”
Directing is mystifying. It’s a long, long, skid on an icy road, and you do the best you can trying to stay on the road… If you’re still here when you come out of the spin, it’s a relief. But you’ve got to have the terror if you’re going to do anything worthwhile.
~ Mike Nichols
Happy to report I survived this morning’s visit to the dentist without throwing any punches. Woot! However, the whole thing got off to a rocky start when my sandal strap broke as I walked across the parking lot. I somehow kept the shoe on my foot as the strap slapped against the ground. But then the front desk woman asked for my insurance card and I emptied out my purse searching for my wallet that wasn’t there. The good news is Zippy located it at home.
So here’s the score: Teeth cleaned without me breaking into tears (yes, this has happened before).
Sandal broken but fixable, I believe.
Wallet back in purse and the bill’s in the mail.
Mondays gonna Monday. All I can do is keep my head down and push ahead. Wishing the same for you.
I’m nowhere near ready for Monday, in large part because I’m dreading tomorrow morning’s dentist appointment. But it doesn’t seem likely I can sprout wings between then and now, so I guess flight is out. Which leaves fight.
It’s Day Eleven of NaNoWriMo and while I’ve managed to achieve my word count each day (a minimum of 1700 words), I’m still susceptible to panic and overwhelm. For example, yesterday as I drove home from my solo writing retreat in Estes Park I wasn’t congratulating myself on the progress I’d made. Instead, I worried that I hadn’t yet found my narrator’s true voice. Then I switched to agonizing over my “too many plot lines” I’d never be able to connect, followed by the certainty that my first draft was such an irredeemable mess it would take years to revise the manuscript into anything coherent.
I felt like a poser. I wanted to run away from the whole thing.
Those feelings mirror what it’s like when I stand in the ocean and watch a huge wave come my way. I experience a slew of emotions. Panic. Exhilaration. Awe. Fear. An urge to run for shore.
While I frequently do run from big waves, I don’t like to run from my writing commitments. So this morning when I woke with those same angsty feelings, I looked for some online support and wisdom to help me reel in negative thoughts about my first draft. I found this: 7 Things NOT to Worry About During Your First Draft
All my worries are addressed in that article which makes me think I’m not the first writer in history to freak out about her shitty first draft. Newsflash, huh?
Today I continue working on my NaNo project. And as the words add up I have those same big-wave feelings I experience when I choose to dive into the wave and then come out the other side. Exhilaration. Pride. Awe.
I’m afraid of heights and frequently have dreams in which I’m waaay too far from the ground. My fear is a known quantity in my household. So when I announced before leaving for Crested Butte a couple weeks ago that I was going to ride the ski-lift, Zebu’s response was a skeptical/worried “Really?”
Then I arrived and watched the lift from our rental balcony. My heart picked up the pace and my chest got tight. Zippy suggested we check it out and then I could decide, assuring me it was okay to back out. We walked to the lift-line filled with people in helmets, body armor, and mountain bikes. Turns out Wednesday evenings allow unlimited lifts up the mountain for bikers wanting to ride the trails to the bottom. I was in line next to little girls not only brave enough to ride the chair lift but to bomb down the mountain on bikes! Those two young sisters listened politely as their dad reassured this grown-ass woman I’d be fine on the lift.
And I was.
On the ride down the mountain (which was much easier and more relaxing for me, to the extent I released my death grips on the lap bar and Zippy’s shirt), we passed the biker girls and their dad riding up the mountain again. We all waved and one of the girls shouted, “Enjoy your ride!”
Thanks in no small part to their example. Girl power!
Today is Zebu’s birthday and I’m feeling especially grateful. He (and our other son) spent their entire childhoods with Zippy and me and while those years certainly held challenges, we remained intact as a family. The four of us were never forced to seek asylum, we were never denied refuge, and our children weren’t ripped from their parents’ arms. That kind of unspeakable trauma was never part of our lives. Not because we’re exceptional or more deserving, but because we were fortunate enough to be born in the United States. That’s it. Sheer luck.
Today is Zebu’s birthday and I get to hug my son. I’m weeping for those who can’t.
I’ve gone back to a project I haven’t looked at in 18 months, a project that hasn’t been shopped at all so should still have a brand-new shiny feel. Instead, this project that’s given me fits over the years continues to make me nervous. I think the nerves are a result of the MANY hours I’ve put into this book without an end in sight. I read it through in one sitting yesterday and while I admired much about the manuscript, I’m still not confident the story structure is correct.
Last week I found out I have a tiny cavity. I suffer enormous dental anxiety and so it was with a pounding heart that I scheduled an appointment for May 21st. The office manager called this morning to offer me a cancellation slot this afternoon, saying she thought I might appreciate getting the work done sooner. She was correct. I took today’s appointment.
I decided to document my act of bravery here, on what is essentially my online diary, and went to Pixabay for an appropriate dentist image. There, in a sea of dental images including masked professionals, sharp implements, and reclining chairs, I found a picture of a duck.
image by katja
I realize it’s counter-intuitive, but I’d be much less frightened if my dentist looked like this.
Zippy and I just returned from a city council candidates’ forum. We heard from the three candidates running for one of the two seats in our ward. It was my first time attending a ward function.
Ugh. Our neighborhood ward is essentially run by a cabal of older, reactionary people.
Know what? After fifteen minutes trying to arrange my thoughts in a coherent manner for this post, I give up. I can’t bring myself to rehash their disrespectful, clique-ish behavior or the dog whistle language they use to work everyone into a fear-based lather. It pissses me off too much.
Instead, I’m going to escape into my fiction. Some of the characters in my novel are also horrible people, but I ultimately have power over their lives. If I want to load them all on a bus and drive them over a cliff, I can do that. In real life, not so much.
I woke this morning to a long to-do list. The bad news is that I haven’t checked everything off the list. Not even close. (I ran, I walked Emma, I figured out some characterization and plotting stuff for my work-in-progress while walking with my dog, I vacuumed one room, I scrapbooked a whole bunch of photos and then cleared off the dining room table that’s been covered with photos and scrapbooking materials for the past couple months, I took advantage of our recent rainstorms and weeded for 30 minutes, and I put out clean towels for Wildebeest who will be back home tonight. YES, IT’S HUGELY GRATIFYING TO LIST THE CHECKED-OFF ITEMS HERE!) So, while I didn’t accomplish all I’d hoped to accomplish, I kept very busy today.
Being busy kept me offline. That’s really good news. Because the one time I took a breather and checked Twitter, I discovered that Agent Orange has been swinging his tiny manhood at North Korea.
Who cares about an unfinished to-do list when a psychopath is threatening nuclear war??
So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds,
but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it.
Lord, let your laughter ring forth.
Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats,
rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce.
~ Molly Ivins (1944 – 2007)
Just really missing ol’ Molly today. She’d show us the way through all the dumb and ugly raining down on us. She knew the cost of fear.
If you presume to love something,
you must love the process of it much more than you love the finished product. ~ John Irving
Right now I’m not entirely sure I love the fiction-writing process. As I revise this young adult novel, I’m starting to question whether I have any business trying to get published. I received some feedback on another manuscript that has me questioning my talent, and today I’m more wobbly than I’ve been in some time.
So. The bad news is I’m scared and exhausted and wishing someone could cut out this obsessive writer part of me so I’d never have to feel this way again.
The good news? My experience tells me that this ugly fog will eventually lift and then fade to a very faint memory. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I might not always love the process, but I trust it.
I dislike having my picture taken.
I dislike seeing photographs of myself.
I would much rather I didn’t care one way or the other.
I just used my old phone to take a few pics of myself
and I’m posting them here.
Call it photographic immersion therapy.
A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks.
~ Richard Avedon
I’m a writer and I’m supposed to be able to express myself.
But for the past two days I’ve struggled to put down words about the stark contrast between my experience as a white female in this society and all the black women who can never, ever take for granted that any of the males in their lives–sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, nephews–will walk back through the door at the end of the day.
I’m heartbroken. For all of us.
Nineteen months and a whole bunch more dead black men later, and I still don’t know how to write about what’s happening in this country. It’s seriously fucked up what’s going on here. I’m sad and angry and exhausted by the seemingly never-ending supply of fear and ignorance behind all this police brutality. It must end.
My heart goes out to those who, every single day, worry whether their boys and men will make it home.
Public domain image.
EQUAL RIGHTS by Peter Tosh
Everyone is crying out for peace, yes None is crying out for justice Everyone is crying out for peace, yes None is crying out for justice
I don’t want no peace I need equal rights and justice I need equal rights and justice I need equal rights and justice Got to get it, equal rights and justice
Herman Melville was always using the image of the artist as diver. He loved that word. Having to dive from some height, meaning, of course, taking a serious risk. Because if you dive and you're lucky, you'll come up with gold from the bottom of yourself. You dive deep into the self. But you can also drown, you can smash your head upon the rocks — there are terrible risks in diving from a great height. But if you didn't dive, then you were not an artist in his terms. Without risk you were just a middle-of-the-road type guy.
~ Maurice Sendak from Writers Dreaming by Naomi Epel
I'm afraid of heights and sometimes I'm afraid to dive deep into myself. However, I never want to be a middle-of-the-road type guy.
Inviting all my creative friends to join me in taking the plunge today and every day.
There I was in my bra, surrounded by strangers, while a man hit me repeatedly in the head with his hat…
I drove my brother’s pickup to the Rooney Valley Recycling Center to unload the juniper branches and sod I’d removed from my yard. I paid $10 at the gate and the woman told me I needed to separate the materials so she directed me to the very back of the area where there was a huge mound of sod. Right across from it was the enormous pile of branches. She thought it’d be most convenient for me to unload both back there.
I drove past one other truck on my way to the sod mound, weaving around materials piled so high you can’t see anyone or anything else. I parked the truck next to the mound and started grabbing sod and flinging it into the pile. It was a nice morning, not too warm, not too windy. Not bad at all, I thought as I flung a huge piece of sod.
Suddenly an annoying fly was buzzing around my head. Quite aggressively. I told the damned fly to shoo, but then there was another. And another.
Except they weren’t damned flies. They were damned bees. A swarm of them. All around me but especially around my head.
In my hair.
I took off my ball cap and waved it around my head. Frantically. As I screamed.
The bees kept buzzing. My whole head vibrated.
I tried to be calm, to stand still so they’d leave me alone.
They were too pissed. I felt a sting.
So I screamed some more And ran a bit toward the entrance.
The woman from the other truck saw me and yelled, “Run, honey! Run!”
I ran past her and the man with her said for me to run to the shack at the gate. (Not clear on why I’d want to bring bees to the woman in the shack, but at least it was a plan!)
But before I got there, the woman screamed for me to take off my shirt because bees were flying out of it.
The woman from the shack came out while the other woman helped me unbutton my shirt. She shook it out while the man yelled for me to stand still.
Then he hit me in the head with his hat, over and over. Really hard.
I was so grateful.
He knocked all but two bees off my head. I got the second-to-the-last one and the woman brushed off the last.
I was bee-free but full of adrenaline.
And there was my brother’s truck, keys in the ignition, way back there surrounded by an angry swarm of bees.
The man and woman drove me back there in their truck. We watched while bees swarmed near the truck and around the stump that probably held their nest.
The one I’d inadvertently hit with a huge piece of sod.
We strategized. I walked slowly to the truck, got in the passenger side and slammed the door. The man slowly walked to the back of my truck, grabbed the broom and rake leaning there, and threw them in my truck before getting back in his own.
I unloaded the rest of my materials in stump-free areas and was remarkably calm the entire time, if I do say so myself.
On the drive home, though, a fly buzzed in the truck cab and I panicked. And screamed.
I’ve got a ways to go before letting go of the bee panic. But I’d be much worse off without Good Samaritans, Phyllis and Jeff, there to help me.
Next time I go to the drop-off, I think I’ll wear one of these: