52 Pieces of Me

52 Pieces

Resolutions, intentions, goals… whatever you might want to call it. For me, I decided to pick one word for 2019. And the word I picked was clarity. I had it engraved on a ring and placed it on my finger before the new year began. I was wearing it at a retreat over the weekend; a retreat where we focused on “Finding Your Life’s Deep Current.”  I was always curious when I drove by the place called Spirit Rock, but perhaps a little fearful of what might be behind the gate.

A friend of mine told me about this retreat at Spirit Rock. “It’s a writing retreat,” she said. Always looking for the next step in my writing world, I leaped at the opportunity.  Okay, let’s be honest. I studied the website. I tried to read between the lines. I probably read through the entire program at least six times before I found the courage to click on the registration button.

We breathed. We meditated. We listened. We wrote freely at several prompts. And then… we shared our writing with a complete stranger. Not just one stranger. Each prompt was to be shared with a new stranger. Journal writing an be a powerful thing. Standing up to what you have written, sharing with another human being whose path has never crossed yours is emotionally draining yet liberating.

But here’s the thing. As I read my piece to the last stranger, I noticed she was leaning in just a little closer, truly listening to each word. It was her turn. I listened to her read her words and found myself leaning in a little closer absorbing every word. We looked into each others eyes and it was as if we were looking into a mirror. It wasn’t just that we were close in age and our outward appearance was similar – we shared the same inner truths.  But that’s not all. I asked her name. “Marge,” she said. “But that’s my name,” I said.

So what does that have to do with “52 Pieces of Me?” I’m not so sure but I have a feeling if I share 52 pieces of me, I might just find some more “Marge’s” out there.

And about the ring… I have abandoned the idea of having only one word for the year. I wore this ring for only a couple of weeks and I can see more clearly now. I could wear a stack of words on my fingers (and I might) but the truth always comes from within.

 

What I Learned About #NaNoWriMo

Nano word chart

First, the rules: One must write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, an average of 1,667 words each day.

My rules: Forget everything you know about POV, character development, including five senses in every scene, dialogue, punctuation and what your middle grade English teacher taught you. Just write. Have fun.

My result: All of my characters have multiple personalities, they love to dye their hair and own a rainbow of contact lenses, their scars (physical and mental) move across or up and down their bodies, it’s 90 degrees one day and snowing the next, none of the characters eat but they drink a lot of coffee, no one wears clothes, one of them marries his sister, one dies but appears perfectly healthy in the next chapter and not one of them resembles me or anyone else in my family.  One more thing: I forgot to Save the Cat. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You'll Ever Need by [Brody, Jessica]

 

National Novel Writing Month

#nanowrimoAnother challenge begins. The month of October went by in a flurry of planning for #NaNoWriMo. Some random thoughts:

I expected to be a “Planner” (one who outlines, creates characters, maps out settings, etc). I did some of that. Every day when I turn on my desktop I see a wallpaper of characters. My iPad screensaver is the setting, a map of a gentrified neighborhood. The loose outline in my Scrivener file suggests I may be more of a “Panster” (one who writes by the seat of their pants) this time around… again. Accountability has landed in my November bullet journal/calendar. My wall is plastered with “what if” post it notes. I’ll be taunted into complying.

Tomorrow I turn the page. The To Do list becomes a Must Do list, limited to only what is absolutely necessary during the next 30 days. The calendar side of things is scant. Somehow I’ll fit in 1,667 words each day (including Thanksgiving) and voila! The novel will be done. Make that, the DRAFT will be done. Or perhaps I should state the reality… the sh*tty draft will be done.

There’s a lot of talk in the NaNoWriMo forums about preparation and, much of it about survival. It’s as if we will be stranded in one of those freaky would-you-spend-30-days-here-for-a-million dollars houses posted on social media lately. Or maybe locked in a room like writer Paul Sheldon in Misery. Reminder: purchase forty-two flavors of Oreo cookies, six giant bags of dark chocolate M&Ms, a case of Doritos, and a sixty day supply of extra strong coffee.

Then there’s the “what ifs.” What if my computer dies? What if my online cloud erases my files? What if the cat won’t get off my keyboard? What if the cat hits the delete key? What if the power goes out? What if the internet goes out? (Actually that could be a good thing to keep away distractions). What if we haven’t prepared any “What Ifs” for our main character if she/he decides to stray from the plot? What if I put a back up plan in motion: save to the cloud, email a copy to myself each day, save another copy on my desktop, print out another copy (never mind – wouldn’t want anyone to discover just how sh*tty my writing is) and keep pen and paper on hand for when the power goes out.

Bottom line: My imperfect self will not judge, criticize, or punish if my “what ifs” turn into “what nots.”

Good luck to all the incredible writers joining me in this adventure.  See you in December… or sooner depending on the what ifs.

 

NaNoWriMo – Preptober

Nanowrimo 2018
#NaNoWriMo #Preptober

Most writers are aware that National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner. I’ve known about it for years having officially “won” the challenge four out of the six times I participated. Of course none of these novels were publishable – I must unabashedly admit I did plan each one as a leap towards that great American novel. I’ll also admit three out of the four completed projects still exist on my hard drive. They will stay there until I finish the memoir.

What memoir? The one I said I was writing? The one I mentioned earlier this month as having completed the first draft? Yes, that memoir. So why would I consider writing novel number five when my memoir sits there waiting for revising, editing, submitting, and publishing? Am I simply procrastinating… again? Nope. I’ve come up with a viable reason to set it aside. I heard that it’s a good idea to let your first draft sit on the back burner for a while. Let it simmer there for a few months (maybe years). Then go back to it with fresh eyes. I’ll do that. Someday. It might look better with blurred vision so the longer I wait the better it will be.

It’s been a while since I last participated in “NaNoWriMo and some things seem to have changed. I remember way back in 2002 when I first discovered this challenge that the goal was to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I may be wrong but I think the rules back then declared we begin the novel on November 1st, we write 1,667 words per day, we skip Thanksgiving dinner, and we turn in our final word count on November 30th. I followed each rule, as I interpreted it, to a “T” – no planning ahead, no outlining, no character profiling, no plotting – just writing exactly 1,667 words each day including Thanksgiving. (Maybe that’s why attempt #1 was deleted from my hard drive).

Nowadays we have #Pretober. I think that means we begin to plot, plan, and develop our characters starting on October 1st. I’ve already cheated. It’s still September and I spent the entire morning on my iPad in GoodNotes, mapping out the novel. Study the picture. Every little piece of clipart (thank you kisspng.com) could be plucked out of my memoir. “Write what you know,” they say. Obviously I know a lot so this one’s sure to be the best seller. Careful what your next move is – you too could be a piece of clipart.

 

Letter to Myself

Journals
Journals

Dear Margie,

You have made a lot of progress in the last few years. Remember that stack of journals when things first started to happen? But it goes back farther than that. What about that 5 year journal with scattered entries, the one with the tiny lock you kept in your nightstand during your early teens? Last time you looked at it you wondered what all the abbreviations meant. M.A.M. for one. It might have meant “mad at mom,” or perhaps “mad at Marilyn.” You did remember the first M stood for mad. Most of the entries were short sentences, “I finished my book report,” “We had a pajama party at Vickie’s,” “I babysat for the neighbors last night.” More a calendar of life with little emotion.

There was a break from journaling for a few years, the need to write fixed in letters to Carol. You have the ones she sent to you. Does she still have yours? Probably not but you have a dozen years of response to your letters to her, each one dropping a small clue as to what was going on. They begin with happy memories but evolve into “come and visit me so we can talk about it” messages.

The journal writing began again in the mid-seventies, after the boys were born. Reflections of being a mother, trying to make things work, a few essays mixed in from that advanced English class at DVC. Another break and then the Tarot phase journal, followed by an AA step journal. You scanned them all a couple of years ago and threw away the actual papers not wanting anyone to find them. At least you had the sense to keep them in digital format. Safely tucked away in case you ever wanted to write a memoir.

The time has arrived. It’s been a tedious process to put those missives in chronological order and make some sense of it. Reading through the work brings mostly tears but a few healthy bouts of laughter. How minor the problems were in the beginning. Remember how many times you packed your bags thinking you would head back to Michigan and life would be easier? Learning about Jason’s addiction? Dealing with your own drinking, trying to decide – am I an alcoholic? “Fake it until you make it,” they said in AA. They meant for you to fake your sobriety but you turned it around, deciding if you faked your drinking experience, the program would work, a twisted attempt at denial of the real problem.

But when you sat down to write the book, it seemed to be all about Jason. Then the focus shifted to Chris. And then there was Eric. And now JJ. You told their secrets. That’s okay, it was a shitty first draft. You’re supposed to write it all out and no one needs to read it. But this is a memoir. It’s about you. You are the narrator. You told their story and now it’s time to make it yours.

Remember when you said, there is no resolution? And then someone in your tribe suggested resolution may come with the writing. Or, it’s possible that there may be no resolution. How disappointing that felt. You wanted that lightning bolt to zap straight into the manuscript, erase the past and manifest into a miraculous new life, what you thought would be a normal life.

Sifting through those first 90,000 words the patterns began to emerge. When you began this re-write, you were at a turning point of sorts. You began to feel like the hub of a shredded wheel, picking up the pieces in the freeway of life, trying to glue it back together. Were you the common denominator, and therefore the source of everyone’s misery? Did you lay out those spikes of disaster? Or were you drawn to the center of all adversities, never having to look at yourself? You think: It’s not you. It’s them. Why write that?

Dig a little deeper. Keep digging. The answer will come. You are getting closer. So close the theme is right there, within your reach. Just a little more energy, one chapter at a time, you can do it. Listen to the sages in your life. Follow their path. Forget about the results for now. It’s not a marathon that will end at the finish line. Growth continues, published or not. Write for yourself. Give yourself permission to self-publish that first shitty draft – just for yourself. Hold it in your hand knowing how far you have travelled. Accept what was and turn it into something powerful. Put it out there to make a difference for someone who still struggles.

You’ve got this. Push that inner critic aside (that would be me, you know).