Thursday, May 17, 2012

Survival by Association

To remain healthy as individuals, achieving balance in our lives is essential.  As writers, it's easy to become so immersed in our craft, we don't even know what day it is.  Our last meal could linger forgotten on the kitchen counter because our main just did something unexpected in our minds, and if we don't get it out, it's gone.  We'll forget to do the laundry, to feed the bird, or to call our mothers every week so they know we haven't thrown ourselves off a bridge.  The only thing we almost never forget is to purchase coffee.  Never.  Okay, almost never.  Regardless, to keep ourselves lively and mentally stimulated, we need human contact to shake things up from time to time.

In order to balance the inevitable solitude and mind-numbing minutia that the writing vocation demands, I strongly suggest that writers seek out other writers to play with, and include them in their established social circles.  It's not that challenging an effort, really.  After all, we do have an innate tendency to recognize and gravitate toward each other in a crowd.  If crowds aren't your thing, there are myriad resources available to assist with arranging writerly meetups and play dates.  Online groups and social media are also available for the quintessentially detached who fear they will commit a breach of the literary code to actually, you know, venture out into the light of day on occasion.

Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula

My friend and fellow writer, Christian Klaver, is one of those freakishly dedicated writers who funnels every available moment of the day into his craft - while working another full-time job.  Every. Single. Day.  He also maintains a family and a social life.  I did mention the word freak, yes?  I seriously admire this guy.  Aside from being a talented voice in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror genres, Christian is also a very good friend...and a great influence that keeps me both on track and enthusiastic about my work.  He's that rare someone I can spend countless hours with, both debating and agreeing on a variety of literary topics, including more than one lengthy exchange on the merits (or lack thereof, according to Christian) of semicolon use.  Yes, we are unapologetic geeks.  And we've found each other.  Joy is a good word to insert here.

If you are fortunate enough to have a friend like this, hang onto him or her. Such a friend will escort you safely through the throes of writer's block, the wide-eyed panic of your first book-signing, and the most gut-wrenching breakup imaginable.  Keenly aware that experience is the greatest teacher, they will advise you against - but not necessarily prevent you from - walking straight off any craggy relationship cliff.  Even if it is the second time you walked off this particular one.  However, they will stand at the bottom and wait for you to land.  When you do, they'll help you brush yourself off, tossing out affectionate pearls like, "You done yet?  I mean, no judgement if you aren't, but done yet?"  Then they'll take you off and buy you a drink.  And talk shop with you for hours to keep your mind off the bozo who broke your heart.  They won't even chide you for slipping in a few wandering laments about said bozo and why you were stupid enough to try it with him (or her) a second time.  But don't get too crazy, because they're perfectly comfortable calling you on it.  It's what friends are for.

I imagine this is true for other vocations, but if you're a writer, other writers get you.  They get that when something interests you, no barrier is strong enough to prevent you from satisfying your obsessive curiosity.  They know that once sated, you'll write about it.  They get that when your muse kneels on your chest at three a.m. and thunks you on the noggin, you have no choice but to comply.  They also get that when they don't hear from you for weeks or even months, you're most likely engaged in the act of writing something epic.  Either that, or you're wrestling around with another potential bozo who may or may not break your heart.  If that's the case, they know you'll write about that, too.

I could be way off base here, but, while I am passionate about having other writers as friends, I'm not completely sold on the idea of co-habitating with one.  Friends with benefits or lovers; no problem.  But actually marrying one is, I imagine, probably not the best idea in the hat.  Now, selecting another creative type for a mate is likely a good idea; you'll understand each others quirky natures enough to relax into it and enjoy the ride.  Two writers might just prove to be too much of a good thing, however.  Writers need contrast to stimulate the creative edge that is essential for us to foster.  There's also that whole competitive factor that can challenge even the most devoted couple.  I know there are exceptions, such as Stephen and Tabitha King, but I stand on my earlier opinion until I prove myself wrong.

So, if you're a writer, write your fool head off.  Live, breathe and eat your craft with a spoon.  Obsess over plot holes, story arcs and character sketches.  Piss off your eighth grade math teacher by making him the grisly villain in your latest story - that is serious fun, by the way.  But through it all, get yourself some compatriots to bounce off of once in awhile.  You'll thank me later.

'Til next time, Ciao.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

In Gratitude...

As I sip the morning elixir - I chose fresh-ground Italian Roast for this morning's favorite - I've a quiet moment to reflect on the significance of this day. Well, every day, really. I've been a mother for 29 years, and the idea that these two fine men decided to choose me as their mom still amazes me and fills my heart with gratitude.

It's been quite a romp. From the moment I held
Doug in my arms,looked into that sweet little, pissed-off face and murmured, "I hope you know what you're doing, baby...because I'm not so sure that I do," to holding Dylan's little hand as he skipped along beside me and filled me in on the daily meanderings of his 5-year-old mind, to the privilege I have of gazing into both of their beautiful, now-masculine faces, I can honestly say what a blessing it's all been. A crazy, overwhelming, deeply astonishing, absolutely frightening, heart-melting, love-filled romp...and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

I love you, my babies. Thank you so very, very much for showing up. ♥

Happy Mother's Day, everyone.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Let's Get this Party Started...

A recent encounter with a very active member of the entertainment industry has inspired me to take my work, and life for that matter, to a whole new level.  Have you ever had a chance meeting with someone whose quirks rub up so nicely alongside yours that something within you begins to glow?  Or is that just me?  It's not necessarily a sexual thing - although that's often how these things start with me - but it's a quietly powerful impulse to become more...something.  More productive.  More inspired.  Just more me, somehow.  Hard to say what it is, really.  There's just something about these individuals that activates the hamster wheel in my head and ideas begin to flow.  (I love it when this happens.)

It's amazing how Spirit works.  It's come to me with increasing clarity that Divine Order exists in all things, and this is no exception.  I felt listless the other night and decided to spurn my work in favor of a rare night on the couch watching films.  I scanned the options on Netflix, landed on a couple that didn't quite make the cut, and then found a film with an Amish storyline that appealed to me. A nice interlude with simplicity felt like just the ticket, so I settled in.  I enjoyed the film, and became intrigued with one of the male lead actors.  It wasn't an attraction so much as it was the recognition of something exceptional.  Anything that intrigues me sends me straight into research mode, and so off I went.  I'm so very glad I did.

The gentleman I mention is Bill Oberst Jr., and he approaches his work with an intensity of passion that rattles me to the point that I stand in awe.  And gratitude.  I looked the other way for a moment, and he just eased right into my experience, made himself comfortable, and activated a bevy of synapse sparks in me noggin.  I feel like making him dinner.  Or at least writing him a sonnet.  One thing is certain; he has become the inspiration of my new fiction book.  And very likely a non-fiction article or two.

What Mr. Oberst has made glaringly clear to me - without even attempting to - is that in order to actualize my fullest potential, I have to genuinely step up.  You participate.  I think I just heard an audible "duh" coming from the back of the room.  Yep.  Sometimes I slide into these realizations from the side.  In other words, I tend to take the long way home.  I do hope you can find it within yourself to cut me some slack; however, because it has truly been a long, strange trip to here.

Just a brief, pleasant conversation with Bill the other night via Facebook performed CPR on that fire inside me that's been choking for air all this time.  From the example his life provides, I realized that, with all my passion and good intention, I've been merely toying with my craft; dipping a toe in on occasion, liking what it produced, but not quite committing to getting completely naked and soaked to the bone.

Comfort zones - disguised as cowardice, low self-esteem, fear, lethargy, or any other excuse for not really stepping up in life and grabbing it with both hands - are a real bitch to break free from.

I think I just got shoved into the deep end of the pool, naked, and I don't mind a bit.