A Slow Corrupting Poison of the Mind

Fear is an insidious thing.  It sneaks into your mind and warps your reality, albeit slowly. It infiltrates your body when your guard is down, posing as a troubling concern or a bothersome worry.  It worms its way through your sub-conscious, never alerting you to its presence until it has become firmly rooted.

Then it attacks.

Fear arrests our initiative and dampens our enthusiasm.  It amplifies our doubts, turning us into our own worst enemies.  That goal isn’t physically possible, we say.  We were fools to harbor those dreams.  Our obstacles become monumental and our tasks impossible.

We all suffer from fear.  Each and everyone one of us.

I know I do.

I suffer from fear as a writer.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of disinterest.  Fear of someone other than myself being the right person to tell this story, and fear of not doing it justice.

I suffer from fear as a father.  Fear of being irresponsible.  Fear of not being a good role model.  Fear of raising girls in a world I fear won’t value what they have to offer.

I suffer from fear as a Black man.  Fear of speaking up too often.  Fear of not speaking up enough.  Fear of disappointing my father, who’s revolutionary ideals were instilled in me at a young age.  Fear of loving a country that I’m not quite sure loves me back, and fear of speaking about that fear in public.

So what’s the antidote to this slow corrupting poison of the mind?

Belief.

 

It starts with yourself of course.  Nothing is possible if you don’t take that first step forward.  Learn to recognize your fear and take steps to cut that poisonous abscess from your life.  Accept encouragement but don’t rely on it.  Encouragement is lovely, but it amounts to meaningless drivel if you don’t commit to action.

Speaking of encouragement, the belief of others in you is invaluable.  Cherish that.  Never take it for granted.  It speaks to some quality or trait you possess that you have – willingly or unwillingly – chosen not to see because of the fear that blinds you.

Fear is a weapon we allow others and ourselves to use against us.  That can only happen if we let it.  So recognize your fear, believe in yourself, and take action.

After all, what are you afraid of?

 

Lazy Efficient Writing

I had nearly finished writing a pretend grocery list for my daughter when I realized I’d been bamboozled.  Hoodwinked.  Flummoxed.  I’d been had.  (Thanks Malcolm)  What had started as an example of proper vegetable descriptions had turned into me writing almost the whole list instead. As she took the 98% complete list and skipped away, I wondered how could I replicate her trickery to fool myself into writing more.

See, I’m lazy.  Not in a bad way, but a decent sort of lazy.

Let me explain.

I have perfected the art form of squeezing the maximum amount of productivity out of minimal effort.  It’s not because I don’t want to accomplish one of these totally feasible goals/resolutions I set at the beginning of the year.  Quite the opposite.  It’s because I want to accomplish all of them.

That’s right.  I’m lazy because I’m ambitious.

(Am I losing you yet?)

So how do I accomplish this?  How can I use my daughter’s innocent bedazzlement as an example to create a tool for my success?

Answer:  Look at this Cat – (credit to Kittens, Puppies, and Cupcakes)

Cat inpsires writing by glorping down the stairs
A Glorping Cat

See how it accomplishes its goal with minimal effort?  Now it has more energy to spend batting at your feet as you walk by, shedding on your sweaters, and meowing incessantly when you’re just nodding off.

Brilliant!

How does this translate to my writing?  Easy!  One trick is to end the previous day’s writing session midway through an obvious sentence.  That way when I pick back up where I left off the next day, I’ve got an easy start.  For example:

Ray stared into the bowl of thin, watery gruel, disgusted despite his hunger. He reached for the –

He reached for the what?  A spoon?  A napkin?  Either work, and as a pantser it still gives me the freedom to create right off the bat.  As a lazy pantser, half the sentence has been done already, thanks to Yesterday’s Me. (I love that guy.)

Try this trick the next time you feel as if you’ve been struggling to reach your writing goals.  Trick your inner writer into doing less work, and you’ll coast to the end of that session like a cat glorping down the stairs.

(Yes I know that’s not a word, but come on – doesn’t that cat look like it glorped?)

 

 

Why should you notice me?

Why should you notice me?

I need help, but who are you to care? I’m just another faceless body frozen in the crowd when you’re driving on the streets or shopping in the stores. My voice is just a moan in the sea of voices, splashing against your island of self as you tune me out. Is it necessary that you recognize me as someone deserving of empathy? Why expend that effort? My life only intersects with yours at random junctures, and even then we only make eye contact to determine who has the right of way.

You. You always have the right of way.

But does it matter? It’s trivial, right? You have your own issues to deal with. Why bother carrying someone else’s struggle when your hands clutch your own burdens?

I’ve been standing over here trying to get your attention. I cleared my throat and offered “Excuse Me” and “Pardon Me” and “Could I have a moment?” while you looked the other way. Turned up your headphones. Flipped to the next page in the finance section. Got on a call. Made your power moves.

Why should you notice me?

Is a problem shared a problem doubled, or a problem halved? They didn’t teach that in any algebra class I took, but I find myself wrestling with that problem more than any transitive property of equality.

And You and I are not equal – but is that any reason to notice me? I would hope that it is.

Because since you ignored my pleas, my cries for help, the subtle signs that aid was welcome, encouraged, and even desired, I can’t help but feel my methods of communication leave something to be desired.

So I gotta show out.

I gotta switch up my vernacular and patterns of speech to disrupt your flow. Your evening drive is now a traffic jam of verbalized frustration. Your serene island is swamped by winds of change. The floor is mine, and you a prisoner of my spectacle. My slang is grating to your ears, my rhythm alien to your notions of conformity.

You ain’t notice me before, but you gonna bear witness now.

Normalcy

There’s a subtle difference between disappointment and betrayal. Disappointment results from the hope against hope that the normal will be altered to the abnormal, when in fact the normal has no intention of being disrupted, and that desperate wish that burned bright and hot gets extinguished with no hope of resurrection. Maybe it was a long shot, or maybe it nearly came to fruition, but in either case at some point it was rejected and you returned to your normal life to continue on.

Betrayal harbors something more insidious. It is the realization that something or someone you expected and trusted to behave in a manner of normalcy that you’d become accustomed to alters that behavior when you most needed their reliability. It is a soul-crushing heart-clenching act that robs your lungs of air and your mouth of words. It pumps blood through your veins at a rate unsustainable for any length of time but the immediate present, pushing and clamoring and demanding you do something, anything, to expend the upswell of energy. So you start smashing and gnashing and stomping and beating and clawing and yelling and screaming until you’re hoarse in the throat and the corners of your eyes burn with unspent tears of condensed futility and you’re mentally, physically, and emotionally drained of any will to continue existing in your present state.

Sometimes that entire escapade takes place solely in your mind.

On the outside you nod and accept the reversal of this world and everything you thought you understood about it. You try and catch the offender’s eye in the hopes that there exists a glimmer of regret, a tinge of understanding that what they did/are doing/will do is a disemboweling of your ability to function coherently at the moment. And when it’s not there, what then?

Do you ask why? Do they respond? Is there confusion on their part, and maybe you misread a snapshot of their aberrant actions as their version of normalcy? Did you assume too much with too little to support your assumptions?

Or do you just move on? Do you accept their actions and allow their prismatic fracturing of your reality to resettle into a new arrangement, beliefs altered and the rules by which you existed massaged to accommodate their addendums? Do you swallow the bitter pill of acknowledgment that perhaps you were too naive in the way the world operated, digesting and absorbing what once was toxic anathema until you become familiar and tolerant of the pain resulting from that betrayal?

What do you do? What should I do? What can I do?

I can live with disappointment….

So Many Stories, So Little Time…

My day job – the one that feeds the kids, pays the bills, and provides us all with blessed insurance – involves a lot of time spent on the road. I can’t begin to tell you the places my mind soars to while I’m stuck behind the wheel. Sometimes it’s there for an hour, sometimes three, but the one consistency no matter the duration is that it returns with that magical Idea.

You know the one.

You might know it as the one that strikes just before you pull up the comforter at night and sends you scuttling around the bedroom at 11pm for a pen and scrap of paper.

Or the one that ambushes you in the shower with such force that you splash shampoo into your eyes as you frantically breathe on the shower glass to scribble notes with your index finger.

That one.

Now, if you’ve been wracking your brain for weeks trying to come up with an idea for a story, congratulations! You’ve got it! Go forth and meld that masterpiece.

But, if you’re like me and you already have a project you’ve been grinding on for [insert the age of your toddler here] years, what now? You can’t stop in the middle of your WIP to try this new thing…that’s Penfidelity (totally just made that up but I’m trademarking it so hands off!)

Should I sigh and let the idea fall away like seeds fleeing from the grasp of the trees looming over them?

Should I write an opening chapter and then shove it into my Drawer of Forgotten Projects? (Don’t look at me like that, we all have one…)

Lately I’ve been trying to capture those seedling ideas as fragments of a story in media res…a character struggling against something, or dialogue revealing a complication – something that captures the gist of what my mind created and brought to my attention. So far it’s been working, and some have even made it into my current WIP.

Who knows…whenever I’m finished with this book, maybe one of those seeds will flourish into my next project.

Thoughts?

What’s the plan?

Don’t worry, I’m not treating this blog like a one night stand at a seedy motel off of I-95. I do plan on visiting, and frequently. In fact, let’s make it official.

I promise to post significant content every Sunday.

Does this post count as significant content? Let’s pretend it does.

With all seriousness, I’m going to start putting up segments of my short stories as I write them and shorter pieces that I complete for competitions. Feel free to tell me what you think, positive or negative, as my intent is to become a better writer, not to feel warm and fuzzy.

Because, to be honest, warm and fuzzy feelings usually indicate a nerve condition. At least that’s my assumption.

So stick around, poke about, and allow me to entertain you with a story or two. Maybe we’ll both have a bit of fun.

Psst…I need your help

Look – I don’t have much time.  There’s no telling when they’ll strike again.  I’ve been running and hiding and writing for 18 months now.  My luck can’t hold out forever.

I need topics.  Ideas.  Concepts.  Something to write about to keep them from guessing about what I’m researching.  You feed me the faint dreams you think could make a great story, and I’ll work on writing it up.  Look for the clues in the plots, the threads of continuity that tie everything together, and maybe we can finally get out from under their thumb.

Got a partially fleshed out character you think could carry a tale?  Pass it to me.

Have a pulse-pounding plot you think would keep readers on the edge of their seat?  Feed me.

Whatever you do, keep reading, and don’t let them guess what you’re going to do next.  I’ll keep checking this post and will reply if I need to talk to you.

Good luck.  And thanks for the help.