I think I sprained my brain. Woke up with a bizarre throbbing headache that I was certain would be visible to someone other than myself. Cranking out 2 short stories in 2 days left me breathless, exhausted, and tied up in knots.
Oh come on you wussy, you may say, what is so hard about that? It is if you think like me, that every little thing you do is an excuse to pick apart everything other thing you did or said in excruciating detail back to the moment of your birth. It’s a vicious circle. But, I learned some things about myself the past few days. If you are an experienced writer maybe you’ll chuckle and think back to that time when you ripped five hairs out of your head for every word you wrote. And I’d bet money you’re glad you past all that. Please don’t tell me that you never got past it or I might have aneurism.
One thing I learned is yes I can change something I’ve written after declaring it finished. This fear dates back to when hitting the send button on an email that someone took offense to could cost me my job. In the corporate nightmare you can recall a message, but you know everyone read it anyway and are already planning what they are going to salvage from your desk after you are walked out the door by security. That never happened to me, but I imagined it many times. And fear is fear whether justifiable or not.
Another thing I learned is, do not, under any circumstances, read a book like “38 Common Mistakes Fiction Writers Make – And How to Avoid Them, immediately after trying something new. I’m been torturing myself for days reading this damned infernal book from hell. It would better and less painful if I just smashed my thumb with a hammer and got it over with quick. Kind of like ripping off a band-aid. I do have to give myself some credit. Some of the 38 things I got right.
Maybe I remember more from that creative writing class in college than I thought. One of the criticisms I received was “your writing is too flowery.” Say what? What the hell does that mean? Turns out flowery meant, to this professor, that I referred to ladies as ladies instead of women. Excuuuuuuse me, but I’m from the south and there is a huge difference here between women and ladies. Women just happen, being a lady takes effort. But, thinking about it, I guess that is not obvious out of the south and unless I aim all my written efforts at the combination ladies cotillion, rummage sale, and church social, I need to weed that phrase out.
Another thing I learned is that, out of self-preservation and a strong desire to not be hauled away in straight jacket, is to let it lie for a while. Don’t sit there and reread your work 85 thousand times. All it did for me was turn me cross-eyed and question my sanity, although I question my sanity at least once a day anyway. I suppose that is OK really, but if it leads to others questioning my sanity as well, maybe I better calm down. Steven King mentioned the give your work a break for while bit in his book “On Writing” But did I take his word for it? NoooOOoo. I absolutely insist on making all the mistakes myself.
While writing this post my headache went away. Oh my God, what if I’m addicted to writing? Will I start burgling the neighbor’s houses in search of pen and paper?
I would while away the hours
Conversing with the flowers and talking to the trees
Oh the thoughts I’d be thinking I would be another Lincoln
If I only had a brain
Oh I would wonder why the ocean touched the shore
I would think of things I’ve never thought before
And then I’d sit….and think some more.
Strawman – Wizard of Oz
Well folks I’ve been using my newly regained powers of reason to think. It turned out to be rather time-consuming. I decided to read Atlas Shrugged. It’s been on my reading list for about 50 years or the first time I heard Mom proclaiming that it was the worst collection of evil, selfish, thoughtless drivel ever committed to print.
So I read it and now I’m even more confused than ever. Ok confused is the wrong word. White hot furiously outraged may be a better description. It seems that Rand’s main point is that we are responsible not only for our own actions but the lack thereof. Furthermore, penalizing the people who do work and achieve is not a benefit for those who chose not to. And I agree with that! Being I child of the 50’s I believed in the “American Dream” that you can do whatever you want and reach whatever height you wanted if you put your mind, and your back to it.
What’s been bothering me in the back of my mind is that when I do achieve what I want I am supposed to feel guilty about my achievement. Because, after all, I only got there on the backs of others…right? None of my fruits of my achievement belongs to me and are for my own enjoyment, unless I’m selfish and greedy.
Now wait just a cotton picking minute! I never asked anyone for a free lunch, a free ride or anything else I didn’t earn and now I’m supposed to feel guilty and selfish and give it all away. I just don’t see it that way.
Parts of the book made my hair stand on end. It’s way scarier than any Steven King or H.P. Lovecraft story. Some of the characters in the novel said lines that word for word matched encounters in my life with my own family. I’ve heard “you’re just cold-hearted, you never think of anyone but yourself” in response to requests to borrow my car. Never mind that the last few times they did, they either wrecked it or parked it in a no parking zone so it got towed away and impounded, leaving me to pay for the fines, repairs, etc.
Incidents like this I’ve confronted my entire life. I used to refer to myself as the white sheep of my family. I was called a “stick in the mud” for doing boring things like having a job for more than a month at a time or having insurance, an unexpired driver’s license, an apartment and so on. I have a few siblings and descendants who think that the coincidence that we were born of the same mother or that I gave birth to them means that I am supposed to fund their entire life including drug and alcohol abuse related expenses.
Now I’m retired and it brings a whole new set of weirdness. My “friends” from work say “it must be nice” when I talk about my life now. The trouble is they say it in a sarcastic manner. People automatically assume that I should now fill my days running around volunteering and slaving away for some cause or other, even if I don’t believe in and it doesn’t matter what cause it is. The point is I should not be wasting my time doing “nothing.” Reading and writing has become nothing, evidently.
Well if it is nothing, I’m going to revel in my nothingness. Pass the bon bons, please.
I’ve fantasized about owning a Roomba from time to time. What could be better? A little mechanical vacuum friend to work silently and clean your floors. Then a friend told me about her son and his new wife’s experience with one of those demon gadgets.
They thought they wanted one too. So they put it on their wedding wish registry list at good ole Bed Bath & Beyond. The Wedding came and went without a hitch. Then the marriage began. The happy couple set up their handy-dandy Roomba and away it goes. It worked great for a while and they loved it.
Until the night from hell. They woke up one morning to discover an interesting and rather bizarre gigantic brown star pattern on the living room rug. The rug was white or some other light color as I recall. Oh and did I mention they had pets? There is a reason pets and poop both start with the letter “P“. P stands for “oh Please, not this again.”
But this innocent couple had no earthly idea what was in store for them. Who other than Steven King could think up a scenario as yucky as this? One of their dogs, and they would only know which one by doing DNA testing on the brown stain, had an accident on the rug during the night. Why do we call pooping on the rug an accident? It’s not like the dog doesn’t know what it’s doing. It’s more like “I have something to say, but I can’t talk because I don’t have the right vocal cords, so here it is…gruunnnt! Ah, it feels good to get that said.” I am almost but not quite ashamed to say that there have been a few extremely unacceptable situations in my life where I wished that was an option, but I can talk so I have no excuse.
So, anyway the Roomba, on its nocturnal sojourn, discovers the offending mess and dutifully attempts to vacuum it up. But it failed on the first attempt. So it made another attempt, and another. It must have spent the majority of the night scooting back and forth and back and forth and back and forth……. but that darn lump of mess just wouldn’t come up. The Roomba finally scooted off in a corner somewhere and crapped out. Pardon the pun, but it’s just too good to pass up.
So the bride and groom faced the grizzly task of cleaning the carpet and the Roomba in marital solidarity. This is one of the “for worse” parts of the marriage vows. It has to be. They are no longer married unfortunately. Perhaps this early test of their resolve was so traumatic that they didn’t make it through to the other side.
I won’t be getting a Roomba anytime soon because I have the “Oh Please”, I mean pets.
Discredit Your Inner Idiot. Go on you know you wanna! I’m fixinta do it right now. (In case you haven’t noticed I’m experimenting with made up words today.)
It’s rainy day, so my decision to leave the house will just have to wait. Instead I’ve decided to find a pair of pliers and a hammer to go to work on my inner critic.
Inner Idiot: Why start a blog? You know you never finish anything?
Real Me: Shaddup! Been blogging for almost a year now. The only thing I’ve done this consistently in my life is travel and drink beer. OK, I also read Sci Fi and tend to scare myself to death reading Steven King books when I’m home alone.
Inner Idiot: Sooo you want to be a writer. Who do you think you are?
Real Me: Uh…me? Been writing all my life, just didn’t share it that often. Actually I’m a published writer. A story I wrote got published in a national magazine for kids when I was in the 5th grade. God, I wish I could remember what the name was. Also wrote stories for the school newspaper in high school. There has just been a brief 40 year dry spell. Now that I think of it, during the corporate years, I wrote entire books. They were non-fiction. Scintillating subjects like – User Manuals, Standard Operating Procedures, Employee policy, history of a company, successful proposals to fund projects, business plans, etc. Not edge of your chair, nail-biting, stay up all night kind of stuff, but hey! I AM a writer. So bite me!
Inner Idiot: Oh come on! Every time you fire up your Kindle you are confronted with pictures of fossilized great writers from days of yore. What makes you think you can stand on the shoulders of greatness?
Real Me: Seriously? Can’t those Kindle people put a picture in there of a person is has not been in the ground for 50 years? Why do you have to be dead to be considered creative? And further more, I’ll bet cash money that I’m every bit as weird as Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein), just in different kinda way.
Inner Idiot: *Sigh, and rolls eyes* Everyone wants to be a writer. It’s an easy way to explain inactivity, if all you do is stay up late at night and stare at paper.
Real Me: Well…No, actually not everyone wants to be a writer. Percentage wise, not that many do. Come to think of it, I’ve never met anyone, in person, who wants to do this. And I’ve met a lot of people.
Inner Idiot: Well, maybe I’m beating a dead horse here.
Real me: Yea, you are. I shall sashay forth and do my thang. Nice talking to you, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
NaNoWriMo update: Fell a little behind the last day or 2, but I was ahead already so I have plenty of wiggle room.