Sometimes you are fighting you.

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I like to think we all strive to be better. I do. But there are days, weeks and even months where I’m stuck in a rut. Everyone gets stuck — if you say you don’t, go do 90 minutes of hot yoga. Your perseverance will be questioned in that class, and if you get through it, even with breaks and a lie-down or two, you have persevered.

 

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Muses of Greek Mythology

Writing a novel is a mind game for me, a hot yoga class of creativity and work. Negativity flutters around the room like little winged demons as I begin to write. Inspiration is the trickster, the coyote tempting me toward the dark path of YouTube videos, Facebook memes and true crime stories. The real work is in front of me, words waiting to be written, to come from my mind to the page. I sit and I begin — it’s that simple. I turn on music, sometimes, and zero in on the partially written scene that was left for me the day before. When I begin, the demons’ screams fade, the coyote runs away, and if all goes well the muse arrives. I have persevered.

I had another story rejected recently. It stings, but I don’t let it sting for long. It becomes a scar, another slice from a sword in a battle that I fight every day. Some battles I win and some I lose, but my focus, my through-line is the big picture — The Novel. I will persevere.

Happy writing.

 

 

 

 

historybook

Every character has a past.

I’ve spent a lot of time on creating the history of my characters — some professionals might say too much time. I’d say my novel started through the eyes of a character.

Building backstory for your characters brings them to life.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++— A barf cliché that’s true

The person reading your book wants to be lost in the story you have written. When each character in the story has his or her own history, even if their history doesn’t have a single line in the book, that character’s authenticity will show and the book will be better. If the book is better, the reader will be lost in the world you have created. As a writer, this is the ultimate goal.

samll_bigTreeThe thing about backstory is that I can get lost in it while writing. What I have learned is that too much backstory takes the reader out of the story. That’s death for a novel. Once the reader is out the novelist has failed. I try to remember this and not think too much about it at the same time — Ugh. What I do is pepper in the backstory that is written somewhere else, maybe on a character file that I have created. Peppering, in my humble opinion, is using a line, a word, maybe some dialogue or nonverbal cue to get some of the backstory in. If done correctly the character has more depth and the story does too. No matter the role, every character in my novel has a past.

Let’s be clear, I haven’t published this novel, so I’m relating to you what I have learned from other writers, agents and publishers as well as my own experience. Some novelists write seamless back story into their novels. Maybe someday that will be me. For now, I’m sticking with the plan. Pepper in the back story, keep the gems and all the rest falls into the rhythm of a story I’d like to get lost in.

Rejection

A necessity that invites pain.

rejection_shakespearI need it, thrive off of it. It might be a sickness, but it works.

It’s fuel. With writing comes rejection. A friend of mine actually said something a couple of weeks ago that has stuck with me, “Managing expectations is important.” There are very few truer words.

It’s important to remember that with rejection comes acceptance. It make take one hundred rejections, but when that acceptance comes knocking there is no better feeling. I read the letter/email (only email really), dance the jig on top of my roof, smile and think nothing in life can go wrong. It’s Glorious. This lasts about a day, and then I fall into managing my expectations again.

cofeepotI expect to win, be successful and take the literary world by storm… someday. Right now, I manage my expectations, take rejection on the chin like a champ and push forward. Another friend called me a mensch. I’ll take it.

Rejection is just an obstacle on the course of life. I put it to writing because that is the path I have chosen, but whenever we put ourselves out there we are open to the demon of rejection. Either live with it and push forward or fear it and do nothing. In the end, you’ll know what worked for you and what didn’t.

Go out there and get rejected. You’ll survive and feel stronger for it.

This post is for a story I wrote called, Big Fish. You can read it here or just click on the picture below. It’s a peek into the world of two contract killers who decide to use an unconventional method for the disposal of a body — a big body.

I hope you enjoy the read.  If you do, please like, comment and share.  It helps tremendously. If you don’t like it, do the same thing!

Big-Fish

The Adult Bully

Authority makes this villain dangerous.shutterstock_515170831

shutterstock_632121335You know who I’m talking about. There is one in everybody’s life. For the most part, these people were bullied as kids. They are angry, sad people.  So, in part I feel bad for them — but that’s as far as it goes. I waste no calories with concern for their wellbeing.

Hating this person, attacking this person or trying to help this person is more than a waste of time, it will hurt you, take time from your precious day. This person is an emotional vampire who wants nothing more than to rule the roost. They make everyone who they interact with miserable and afraid.

f334bd67d6762f55955703d2f0a2a112They abuse authority, contribute nothing of importance to society and create struggle for everyone else. Life is already full of struggle, so the adult bully can go extinct for all I care. Which I think can happen. With the access to information we have now, I think that people will evolve out of being like this. Regardless, these are fools we must suffer sometimes. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. There are just awful people in the world. Maybe they just need a hug — I probably won’t be the one to give it to them.

Some insight on how to deal.

Inspiration

A honey trap.

renderedIt’s helpful, wild and wonderful when the sparks of inspiration fly. Creativity and motivation move through you with elegant perfection. The feeling can be transcendent. Lean back, absorb the endorphin rush and hopefully be inspired again.

shutterstock_417467353What about after the dust settles and the haze of inspiration is gone? The work still needs to happen. Whether it’s a creative endeavor, exercise or a work project, if you don’t do the work the inspiration that got you there means nothing. Inspiration comes when it comes. You can’t depend on it.

I used to depend on it, until I got serious. I’d like to say I can push through the tough times without wishing for inspiration, but I’m not there yet. I missed a blog post last week, I didn’t work on my novel and no short stories were submitted. Life got complicated and I let it get in the way of what I love to do. What happened my mind and my spirit was interesting, maybe even inspirational. I got depressed. Not severely, but life had no vigor, greens were less green and reds were less red. If I’m sticking with the color metaphor, I was blue.

Creativity needs inspiration, but can’t live on such a fleeting concept. Work is the purveyor, and part of what work means is getting through the many uninspired moments. It’s bleak, I know, but it’s reality. I try to recognize inspiration and ration it, use small amounts until it wears off. For example, after a writer’s retreat or conference, I used to come home and blast off with wild abandon; but the rush of being inspired wore off quick.  Now, I try to recognize the inspiration and use the tools I have acquired to control the drip. I know it’s nuts, but that’s how I view it.

 

 

Resistance

“That voice in our heads is not us. It is Resistance.”          

                                                        –Steven Pressfield

shutterstock_407496973Blind faith in my creative process gets me through the rough patches. Sometimes my fingers feel like anvils, and each attempt at a keystroke is mentally excruciating. I look at the words on the page, my characters, the story, and I hate it. A not so quiet voice in my head tells me its crap, it’ll take too long, I won’t succeed, blah, blah. It’s noise — a construction zone of chaos in my dome, looking for excuses to stop working, get angry and quit.

I’m too persistent. I don’t know how to quit. If this were easy I wouldn’t be doing it, so I relax, step back and see the big picture.

To say a novel is difficult to write is silly because, to me, it’s seemingly impossible. If the novel were a mountain and the process were the climb, then I’ve been climbing for years without seeing the top. I just have to believe the top is there. It’s that simple and that difficult. I might be nuts, yeah, I know.  But, so what. We are all nuts in some way. If you think you aren’t nuts then you are probably crazier than most, and that’s okay too.

In times like this, I tell myself to settle down, take a step back and appreciate other things. Family, the sun, the ocean.  Awareness of the simple things helps me reset. I like to look at life in the present and let the good soak in, but it ain’t easy.

 

A persistent villain.

shutterstock_337825361When it comes to writing, I’ve been called a grinder. Talent lurks in the shadows, but mainly I work my ass off. I’m persistent, I take criticism on the chin and push forward. I’m teachable and determined to succeed. This hasn’t come easy. I’m not known for self-discipline.

I learned late in life that I can’t just snowboard, surf, party, go to work and all will be right with the world. I didn’t party so much, but man did I get good at surfing and snowboarding. To this day I stave off the adolescent who wants to stay up late, eat cheesecake, binge watch an awesome show, leave my dishes in the sink and still have life be awesome. It’s sad but true. Now, I self-parent.

I work from home. No one is putting me on a deadline, telling me what to do or checking in on my progress. It’s all me. I’m getting better at it, but I know I can get good at it. When I keep that in mind, I persist. Small accompliments, like publishing a short story, are victories — a positive feedback loop telling my subconscious that the discipline I have self inflicted is working.

Waking up every day to grind out a story, not knowing where it will lead, is Sisyphean. Although Sisyphus’s chore was a punishment from The Gods, it fits in the metaphor of what I do every day. Wake up, feed kids, get kids to school, come home, write, exercise (sometimes), pick up from school, make dinner, go to bed, repeat. At the end of the day I can say that life is pretty good, discipline is just a part of it.

 

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Death

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My father died on March 18, 2014.

His friends created a book of poems and tributes for him.

ExtraordinaryPleasure

The following is a forward I wrote for the book.

A Restless Farewell

March 13, 2014, 6:00pm

It’s quite possibly happening, the death of my father. I’ve thought of this many times. I’ve been close with him and the dance of death more than once. It never changes, this feeling of fear for the finite fact of life.

March 16, 2014, 10:00pm

Audio hallucinations started last night. He’s dying. Slowly. Respiratory failure. Those of us on the outside equate it to drowning. Lungs fill with fluid, inflammation causes interstitial tissue damage and  his body can’t fight it much longer. With the help of morphine his brain will not think it’s lacking oxygen. He will hallucinate much like the climbers of K2. The high-flow oxygen that’s gently forcing his airway to stay open keeps him alive.

I was the one who had to explain this to him earlier in the day.

“Your lungs are filling with scar tissue. The oxygen… The amount of oxygen you need to stay alive is only available in the hospital.”

He stared at me, I could see confusion behind his thick glasses. He said, “Right. I can stay here forever. Unless it’s money. If it’s money, I won’t stay alive. I won’t bankrupt you two.”

My sister, stoic with a patience perfect and elegant, nodded and smiled. She had done so much already. It was my turn to put on a face.

“When the steroid treatment is over then we will know,” I said.

“But if they don’t work, I stay here. Like I said. In the hospital. I like this room. I’m comfortable.”

My sister started to cry.

Memories of our trips to Mexico and Canada flashed before me as the words, “The doctors aren’t hopeful”, passed across my lips. He might have cried at that moment.

March 18, 2014, Sunrise.

The waiting room looks out over the city of San Francisco. A Heron cuts the skyline as the sun rises. The tragic beauty of this moment gives me the courage to face a decision every son who loves his father fears most.

My two sisters, my cousin and I held hands in a circle around his bed when the oxygen was turned off. We cried over him while he took his last breaths. I can’t remember who closed his eyes for him.

I read once that a son truly becomes a man only when he loses his father. Maybe. I feel different, more alone in the world but not more manly.

At the time of death there is no fault. All of us will cross that threshold one way or another.  I held his hand, told him he was not alone and that I loved him.  For that I’m grateful.

The day a loved one dies — especially one who was close — is heart wrenching. We must come to terms with death at some point in our lives. Thinking that my father is somewhere other than where I am at this moment provides comfort. However, in the words of Iris DeMent, I think I’ll just let the mystery be.