Chasing Inspiration

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When It Gets Scary

 I'm a writer. I'm not published but I do write. And I've reached something of an impasse with my self-esteem. I'll be brutally honest - this story scares me.

I know why. I don't think I'm a talented enough writer to pull this story off. The complexity of this story shakes me to my core. It always has. I've attempted to write in various incarnations. In one I had the motivation wrong and threw in characters who didn't need to be there. In another draft, I attempted to downplay the portions of the story that truly frighten me. In a fast draft, I actually hit The End only to realize the story doesn't really end at this point and is likely a trilogy, I'm still not clear on motivation and my characterization falls flat.

I am now taking Discovering Story Magic with Laura Baker and wish the class was longer or my work life was less busy or I could be on vacation while attempting to get to the heart of this story. I went into the class willing to change everything. Every. Last. Word. Heck, I was willing to change my characters as well. Which is a good thing, because things, they are a changing. I'm still scared. Scared shitless that I will never be the skilled author I need to be to tell this story. But I'm working through the fear and not letting it get to me.

It would be really easy to walk away from this story and move on to something else. In fact, I may write another story while I continue to work on this one. I may have skills I need to develop before I can truly tell this tale. That's okay. I want to identify those skills and work on them. I think about authors I admire and I have to remember they all had a learning curve. Heck, Nora Roberts wrote shorter category romance before tackling Eve and Roarke or her more complex single titles. JR Ward started in single title and category romance before she started writing her Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Jill Shalvis wrote for many, many years before her latest series (which I love with a capital L).

What I'm trying to remind myself is this - writing is a learned skill. Every mistake, every misstep, every solid plot line and every completed book allows me to learn more about the craft and what it takes for me to write a book. I'm not my favorite authors. And I'm not where they are on their writing journeys. I'm me and I am where I am.

Yes, this story scares me. Does that make me a horrible writer? Only if I let the fear win.

I haven't forgotten to think about what I'm grateful for. This week, it's easy.
  1. Laura Baker for her insight in plotting and brainstorming and her ability to understand what's in my head and verbalize it in a way that makes sense
  2. Farrah Rochon and Cynthia Justlin for their enouragement as we all walk this road called writing
  3. My favorite authors who continue to show me it can be done 
  4. My mom, who has a birthday today! I'm so thankful she's a reader and taught me to love stories

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Of Mice and Migraines

I'm not sure what triggered it, but I was down for the count Tuesday with a migraine. I can't take medication to help assuage the pain and suffering that comes on with a migraine. All I can do is lay still in a room devoid of stimuli and pray for the pain the stop. Fortunately, I don't get these very often.

As I was coming out of my migraine hell I was suddenly grateful for the pain. yes, this sounds really masochistic, but the pain in my head and the inability to do anything, anything at all, reminded me how blessed I am to be a relatively healthy human being. It also reminded my how thankful I am that I work somewhere that won't fire me for a periodic unplanned absence. And that I have the sick/vacation time to cover such incidents without financial implications. I have a quiet dog that will sleep through the day when he senses I'm in pain. I have a husband who encourages me to take care of myself.

I didn't feel so grateful while under the influence of the knife digging it's way through my eye or the searing pain that occurred whenever I moved my head. It was after the experience that I was able to look back and be thankful.

This got me thinking a little about failure and gratitude and how some of the most impactful lessons I've learned have been spawned from failure. How I wouldn't be the person I am today without those experiences. I would rather not have to go through the pain to find the gift, but I have a feeling that's part of the human experience. So after I'm through the pain of failure, I can be thankful. Not for the pain, that's crazy talk. No, thankful for the gift I found on the other side.

Which brings me to the mice. No, they don't really have anything to do with my migraines but they did offer me another opportunity to find a gift in a shitty situation. We had mice in our house years ago and would not have been aware of their presence if one of them hadn't decided to nest in my make-up bag. I'm not the most fashionable of women and I rarely wear make-up on a daily basis. One this morning, I had decided some of my feminine armor was imperative and I opened the drawer in the vanity only to find my make-up brushes had been desecrated and my make-up was now the foundation for some rodent's defecation. Disgusting did not cover it.

We cleaned out the drawer, set traps and Mountain Man searched the foundation for cracks or holes to plug. We eradicated the mutant rodent threat within the week, but that didn't fix the fact that on a day I felt I had needed it most, my urban camouflage had been gunned down by the enemy.

It took me a couple of weeks to figure out the gift in the situation. It wasn't the trip to MAC for the first time in my life to get big girl cosmetics. It wasn't the fact Mountain Man figured out how to keep malevolent mutant rodents from entering our house ever again. It was how I handled myself in the situation I thought I had needed my cosmetic armor for in the first place.

Without going into detail, I had a meeting with a woman who always looked chic and pulled together where I always felt dumpy. I was going to at least try to play to her level in an attempt to even out the field, but the mutant mice thwarted my plans. I was an emotional mess as I anticipated this meeting, angry at the mice, angry at the timing, angry, anxious, frustrated in general that it had to all coalesce on this one day where I desperately wanted everything to go right.

The meeting was about to start when I decided it wasn't worth it. If I couldn't persuade this woman that my ideas to more efficiently organize the volunteer program were brilliant, then she was just to narrow minded to see good ideas that weren't dressed up in designer clothing , expensive make-up and perfect hair. I pulled on my big girl panties and walked into that meeting with my charts and outlines and presentation. And she took one look at me with my pasty face, Target dress, and sneered. I pushed through, knowing I was right and I had a good idea and attempted to persuade her with reason.

My documentation was fantastic and when she stopped looking at me and looked at the numbers, she started to listen. Sure, she offered me the same snide comments about my appearance as she usually did, but she actually took me seriously and allowed me to implement some of my ideas.

Those mice, they started off the perfect storm that led to my realization that good ideas should, and can stand on their own. Would I want to live through the emotional roller coaster again? Hell, no! But what I learned after that experience has been invaluable to me.

Gratitude is easy when you're grateful for things that bring you joy or feed your passion. Gratitude amid the shit storms that occur in life is so much more difficult but is often even more powerful.

Monday, February 13, 2012

2012 In A Word

In January, a couple of fellow bloggers posted theme words for 2012. I loved the idea and set out on a month long journey to find my word for 2012. I wanted a word that would sum up what I want to focus on this year. A word that would both challenge and inspire me.

After much thought and reflection, my word for 2012 found me. It felt like this word, gratitude, was chasing me around the internet, popping up in blog posts, on websites, in the news. Gratitude even had the audacity to show up in books I was reading and be the topic of a podcast or two. I was looking for something flashier, something that appeared more of a challenge, so I ignored gratitude. It's concept is deceptively simple, surely this wasn't the word for me.

But gratitude would not be ignored. I did what I usually do when a concept niggles at me long enough - I take a good, hard look at it. And at myself.

I was challenged several times in 2011 to remember all the things in my life that I am truly grateful for instead of focusing on the things in my life that aren't quite so...wonderful. It's not that I lived under a dismal cloud or was faced with overwhelming hardships. It's more that over the year sI tend to find that negative headspace, hang pictures on the walls, dust off the furniture , and move on in.

It's one thing to be realistic. It's another to focus so completely on the thorns you forget the beauty of the rose. That was me - focusing so intently on each individual thorn and how I was going to attack it that I forgot just how amazing the roses of my life really are. Yes, as corny as it sounds, I stopped smelling the roses.

This weekend I stopped fighting it. Gratitude is my word for 2012. Gratitude is as much a discipline as it is a mindset. I'm not all that great with discipline (if you work with me, ignore that sentence. I'm wonderful with discipline at work!). As gratitude was pursuing me, I ran across this blog post  and zeroed in on the happiness equation.

Chip Conley encourages readers to do two key things:
  • show your gratitude daily in a manner that is meaningful to the recipeint
  • write a gratitude journal and/or have a gratitude buddy and answer thse two questions: "What gifts do you have in your life that are easy to take for granted?" "What was a recent gift that may have been wrapped up as a pain or punishment?"
I don't know if I'll go so far as to answer those questions every day on my blog, but my blog is a quasi-public way for me to chronicle my journey toward gratitude. My goal, since I need goals to keep focused, is to blog daily for the remainder of February if for no other reason than to record my gratitudes. I did this a little last year, but I wasn't committed to the journey. This time, I am.

Gratitude is my word for 2012. I wonder what changes I'll see when 2013 arrives.