People complain about pain, but pain helps us grow. It tests our boundaries and lets us know what we like and don’t like. It helps us feel when we’ve had enough. Pain shows us what we can handle and what we have to change.
Change is inevitable. Sometimes I hate change, but it has to be. I mean, nothing changes if nothing changes. Sometimes I wish it was still 1986 and I could get a ‘do over’ but then my life might be different right now. We can talk about fate, journeys, and predetermined destinations in another post.
I watched the miniseries on Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) and I felt sad. I felt sad because he was a man who was a genius who had been through a lot. He could have helped so many people but he chose to hurt people. He could have used his knowledge and pain to help others and make a difference. Instead, he used his gifts for malice. He lived in a hunting cabin in the middle of nowhere and that frightened me because I would love to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Does that make me a psychopath?
I went to the park Saturday to take a walk and reconnect with nature and also with myself. I’m still weeding out stuff to write this memoir (which I already started) that is really a rough draft. I have gone through every event in my life so far.
I have been through hell.
But I am still here.
So my story needs to be told – not with homemade bombs but with powerful words.
I used to be ashamed of my scars, but now I am proud. Why should I be ashamed of things that have shaped me? I shouldn’t and neither should you.
Never be ashamed of your scars. They are a part of who you are.
Fashionable. Ha! What a riot. I have always been two seasons behind on fashion. My grandmother tried desperately to keep me up with the times when I was a kid and a teenager. “Oh, Darlene, it’s the latest fashion. Don’t you want to be in style and fashionable like all the other girls?”
I guess after seeing how much dirt I played in and clothes I ripped, she decided I was a mini version of her and gave up. I tried to get ‘back into it’ when I got older; but, after a while, I gave up because it was just too much work. How the hell do you women keep it together getting all dressed up, doing your hair, full face makeup, and ill-fitting shoes every single effing day? Do you love it? Does it make you happy? Do you even think about it when you are spending countless minutes, sometimes hours in the mirror prepping yourself for the world? Could you leave your house and feel just as confident without makeup and fashionable clothes as you do with them? I am not asking as a smartass… these are legitimate questions I have because…
To me, it is exhausting. The most effort I ever put into getting dressed up and looking nice was the first four months of my sophomore year of high school. By January? I was wearing ripped jeans, flannel shirts and going to school with wet hair and no makeup.
I am not knocking the women who do it… I just know the whole time Iwas doing it, I felt false. Like I wasn’t really being me. I was just being the version of a woman that society wanted me to be. And as long as I pretended to be the ‘woman I wanted didn’t want to be’ I would like myself.
As much as I admire all you ladies for your hard work, I also wonder about these things for myself. There was another time in my life when I couldn’t leave the house without makeup, hair styled, cleavage aglow, and the highest heels I could find, because me being 5’10” just wasn’t tall enough when I was in my twenties and thirties. I did this because I hated ‘the me’ inside and I felt like if I could fake the outside, the inside would merge.
I played that part for a while, but every day when I was getting ready for work, school, to go to the bar, whatever… I was annoyed the whole time. And at first, I was seriously judgemental about women who I saw often and were dressed and spiffed to the tee. I said awful things about you in my head and now, as I reflect on that part of me, I know that I was as envious as I was jealous. I felt like it was your fault that I had to dress like that.
I wanted to be like you! I wanted to get excited about picking out an outfit and putting on makeup and going to the nail salon for a pedicure. I wanted to get excited about styling and/or getting my hair colored. But now I am in my mid-forties and I just give up. It is too much effing work and in the end, I feel like everyone can see through my facade of falseness.
These days, I do get dressed up (a little) for holidays or maybe if my husband and I go to a concert or something, but even still, when we go out, I am not really dressed up compared to most of the other women I see. I’ve accepted this part of me at this point in my life. I am as comfortable not getting dressed up as some women are getting dressed up.
Carmine Carmichael smoked his last cigarette twenty minutes ago. The sun rose above the row homes on Sutter Street as he sat down on the marble steps at the corner. He hadn’t slept in three days, hadn’t eaten in two days and hallucinations had begun. His four-week-old blue jeans felt crunchy as he ran his hands up his shins, to his knees and then his thighs.
A dead leaf blew down the sidewalk, past his battered sneakers and he thought of how peaceful the dead leaf must have felt. It was, after all, devoid of all feeling. The leaf had lived its life on a tree somewhere as people passed it by without a thought.
Carmine knew exactly how that little leaf felt. Another leaf blew past and Carmine reached his filthy hand down and scooped it up with care. The weak stem felt dry in his fingers as he twirled it around, looking at the rips in the body of the little leaf.
“I’ll bet you were once so beautiful, little leaf, just like me. I was a strong man once, little leaf.”
The little leaf stood lifeless in his fingers and Carmine felt his eyes well up as he clutched the leaf to his chest. Little leaf pieces fell to the ground as Carmine sobbed.
Footsteps echoed in the distance and Carmine put his filthy hands back on his thighs and watched the leaf blow away in a dozen pieces. Carmine watched as shiny, pristine shoes stepped on and over the leaf.
As a kid, I loved the idea of telling stories and evoking emotions in people. As I got older, my life had such crazy, insane, ‘did that really just f**king happen’ events, I didn’t need to delve deep into my childish imagination to dish out juicy prose.
Come on, clown pajamas for a Halloween costume, throwing up in my reading book (in front of the whole class), and milk in my Puff the Magic Dragon Thermos were so traumatic I thought there was no way I could continue. And all that was in second grade.
Had I known my life would be a major story every year, I would have kept a better diary. I mean, all that and more happened before I turned eight years old. What was next?
Fantasy monsters, spaceships, and candy eating aliens are cool (and could happen) but I love a real life story because I can relate.
Right now I am writing a memoir and a novel based on events in my real life. I have a friend who is a psychic who gave me a free reading after my husband tattooed her. She told me my life would change after I told my story. I swear, there were no animal feet or blood used in the reading.
So why am I dragging my feet like a kid in a dentist office?
Fear of success.
It is a thing.
I have written the first half of my memoir (the juicy good part with all my screw ups) and then I just stopped. WTF?! Yes, stopped and moved on to something else. I do this often.
But, I always come back. Always… I use real life in a lot of my writing. I think we all do, right?
I was talking to a co-worker the other day and he was telling me a story about how once he had to hand out church flyers when he was about eight years old. Of course, he had better things to do than hand out flyers… so how could he get rid of these pesky papers? Well, wouldn’t you know, he passed a farm every day and at the fence of the farm were goats. He couldn’t believe it when he jokingly put a flyer in front of the goat that the goat started eating it!
Handing Out Flyers problem: solved.
I used this story as a scene in my latest novel. It fit so well, I couldn’t pass it up.
Take a trip through your memory and pluck out those moments from yesteryear that you might think were no big deal, or maybe you thought you forgot about them. But you didn’t. Write about it.
…Then write about it from another point of view and embellish it a little. Or a lot.
I am doing the 2017 Book Reading Challenge hosted by GoodReads. Feel free to go over to the site and hop in on the fun. I was going to try for 100 books, but then I realized I have things to do like work and sleep and eat and maybe pet my cat once in a while, and oh yeah, write my own book, so I went with fifty books.
So far, I have read thirteen and am really proud that I picked an underachievers number to keep my self-esteem higher than that of an eel in a snakepit.
So far, some of the titles I have read include ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and ‘The Girl on the Train’ and ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ along with some other swell reads. I usually only read true crime. However, as a writer trying to get her first book published this year, I have to read other genres.
I was reading Me and the Devil by Nick Tosches… but the main character yammered on too much and I got bored. I just put that one down and am now reading The Girl in the Icewhich is listed as a gripping thriller. The writing is decent, and it is just now getting into some back story, but the POV is a flawed (it jumps back and forth in the same chapter at times). As far as the MC, she is screwed up which is good, because we’re all screwed up in some way. No one wants to read about a perfect person.
So my question is: Do you do a basic character sketch or a full detailed chart and backstory for them before you start bleeding at your desk writing? Or maybe you wing it and just feel them out as you go? I have always done a basic character sketch, but this time… this time I did sketches in more detail and it helps.
Sketches help because as I write, I know which character would stop to let a squirrel cross the road and which character would run it over. I have tons of character sketch worksheets at home, but mostly use Scrivener, and I use real people.
Not like that! I use real people I see every day. I ate lunch at a grocery store today (they have a lunch area, which is nice) and there were two employees sitting and talking at another table as I ate my salad, and skimmed my WIP for the second time this week. I listened to their conversation and peeked over at the woman real quick to see how she set her table for her lunch, her mannerisms, etc. You can read all the books you want about character traits, but the best way to get the real dirt is to go be among the people.
I finished my second National Novel Writing Month project last November. My first one was in 2011 and no, I have no idea why I waited five years to write another 50,000 words in thirty measly days. I did, however, write a lot of other stuff in those five years.
That first NaNoWriMo novel is still sitting on my laptop, slightly edited but otherwise untouched as a stark reminder of everything to NOT DO when writing a novel. And some reminders of what TO DO.
One thing you really want to do is work with an outline.
Outlines are good because they keep you on track. You might be writing a gun fight scene and suddenly you are going off on the layout of a cemetery for four pages and then ten pages after that a horse is duking it out with the town mayor (who is also a cat) and your plot line is buried right along with the bodies in the cemetery.
So, to keep yourself on the path of ‘write-eousness’ outlines help.
My outline for “Pendulum Rose” (my working title for my current WIP) started out simple and as I went I added more detail. Starting simple just so you have a gist of where you are headed is a huge time saver.
Jane wakes up in a field of marshmallow bunnies
She meets a strange man
he lives on a stick in a cookie field
he is directionally challenged
They walk down a crunchy road
They meet a large frog who wants to eat them
the frog is deeply insecure
strange man pocketed some cookies while taking to the frog
This is just an idea of how I outline (subject material is only an example). Jotting down ideas works because, if you are anything like me, your memory isn’t what it used to be (we don’t need to go into the why of it) and you’re lying to yourself if you think you are going to remember what you wanted to remember.
Outlines are different than character sketches because outlines are a briefly listed detail where character sketches are detailed write-ups of the beings in your story. And yes, writing up a character sketch in an outline format is perfectly acceptable.
The only thing I write without an outline is flash fiction. Flash fiction is such a short, compact story that writing an outline for it would take more time than the actual writing of the story.
There are a few ways you can outline. One way is hardcore pencil and paper because hey, that’s just how you roll. Two is Microsoft Word or another word processing program. Three is Scrivener. I bought Scrivener last year because I got a discount through the NaNoWriMo website and while I am still getting a handle on it, the handles I am grasping firmly, are amazing.
Scrivener makes things easy because you can have multiple projects and inside each project you can have tabs, post-it notes and chapters. To make sure you aren’t committing to something you might not like or need, you can download and try it free for thirty days. Check it out here.
However you outline, I am interested. Do you use details? Bare Bones?
Don’t forget to sign up for updates and if you need inspiration, check out my free writing prompts download here.
Alright… While I work on my novel, I made an executive decision to continue pursuing a writing career in other ways and help out other writers.
This brings me to BAD WRITING.
Bad writing is all around us, my friends. Click on any content mill website and immerse yourself in the whimsical ways of writers who know not what they do (or maybe they know and don’t care) and get paid very little – if anything – to do it.
I am not good at selling or pimping myself (I am a writer after all) so my hopes of this self-petting not being painful are pretty vain.
I am already feeling uncomfortable and icky inside while I sit here trying to tell you why you need me in your life. *Excuse me while I bathe in bathroom wipes*
You need me because I am honest; I am reasonable; I won’t string you along. I won’t tell you it took two hours to do a job when it only took one.
Sharing my story openly and honestly about living, surviving and thriving with Bipolar 1 Disorder and PTSD to increase awareness, educate, reduce stigma, prevent suicide, inspire, give hope and let God's love shine through me and touch you...