Thursday, February 11, 2016

This time of year always gets me thinking about life... and death.

In a few short days, it'll make four years since my dad died. To say I was close to my dad is an understatement. I truly was Daddy's girl. (I'm sure my sisters were, too, but we won't talk about that!)

Not only did I love my dad, I looked up to him, respected him, and though I didn't always agree with him, thought he was the smartest man I knew. There is a void in my life that will never be filled though as the years go on, I'm happy to say that the edges are a bit less jagged. The pain I've felt in the past has mellowed into longing. Longing to hear his voice one more time, feel his arms around me, or cheer over the phone long distance while we watch the Triple Crown races 'together'.

Okay... this isn't supposed to be a sad post, and I've gotten a bit off topic. Back to my original statement. Losing my dad sharpened my perspective on a few things, the brevity of life being one of them. I don't think any age will be young enough for me to declare that I don't want one more year, one more month, one more day, one more second. That I don't want to enjoy and savor every moment that comes my way. Which is why I try, really try, not to waste what I have this very moment. Life.

I do, though... waste it, that is. Sometimes. Not with deliberate intent. More like a passive 'I feel icky today so I'm going to mope around and feel sorry for myself' carelessness. And, honestly, I'm not certain it is possible to live every moment to the fullest. Maybe for some people. Not for me. I came equipped with a lackadaisical attitude that boots up every now and again. And, yes, maybe I've been known to indulge it a little, too. But I'm starting to see the end of the road. It's a long ways away, at least I hope it is. But it's there. That glimmer on the horizon that says 48 isn't quite as old as it seemed when I was 20.

So, I'm making a vow. The same vow I've made every year for the past four when this date rolls around. I'm not going to waste my life. I'm going to stop being so restrictive with myself. Break out of the steel cage that I've erected around my soul. Enjoy more and worry less. Take care of my health. (Whew, that's a big one!) I am making progress. It's not an overnight project. It took me years to get where I am and it'll probably take a few more to get to where I want to be. But I have faith I'll get there. Because no matter how many mopey days I have, I keep coming back to the productive ones. It's a choice. One I'm honored I still have the chance to make. And here's hoping I get to make more of them in the decades to come.

You taught me a lot about life, Dad, but in death you've taught me the most important lesson. Don't take life for granted.

p.s. - I love you and miss you like crazy!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Do you want to know what it means to be a writer?

I’ll tell you…

An idea pops into your head. It can come from anywhere – a song you heard on the radio, that lady standing next to you in the checkout line at the grocery store, a dream you dreamt the night before. You hurriedly scribble it down on a piece of paper so you won’t forget it, adding as much detail as you can, as names and places and descriptions start forming.

All of a sudden, you have a story to tell. One that’s burning a hole inside of you, one you just HAVE to get out, if for no other reason than to make room for the next one that’s already infringing on your consciousness.

Now you’re ready to start. You sit down and type the title. Page one done! Your fingers begin to fly over the keyboard, adding more and more words as they stream out of your brain. You can’t type fast enough and then, uh oh, you can’t type at all! The words have stopped, like a clog in a drain. You can see the rest of the story behind it but you just can’t seem to get past that blockage. So you sit, and stare, and curse, and cry, and decide you’re done with this, you’re never writing another book much less finishing the one in front of you, and you shut down your computer, grab a handful of cookies, and turn on Netflix. Or maybe that’s just me.

But the story’s still there, nagging at you to come and play, begging you to write it, so you try again, this time pushing against the blockage, typing whatever words come to mind even if they don’t make sense and suddenly, you’re writing again. And it feels great! Better than that, the story sounds great. So you keep writing, adding dimension to your characters until you’re not writing them, they’re writing themselves. Your word count climbs higher and higher, the chapters begin piling up, and miraculously, you’re halfway there. Now you kick it into high gear.

For three days straight, you do nothing but write. You live, eat, breathe the words. Twelve, fourteen, sixteen hours a day, you sit and you write and you hate that entire paragraph and erase it, only to decide you like it, and you pray your undo button works, and voilĂ , there it is and it’s brilliant. And - oh my god, how could I have forgotten to hit save? I’ll never be able to remember that paragraph - so you write a new one, and hey, you like this one even better. And it goes on and on and on, and you lose track of time – how can it be 1:30 already? I just looked at the clock and it was 11:00 - and you forget to eat until that part of your brain that understands why you’re suddenly bitchy screams at you, and you get up and grab the simplest thing you can because you don’t want to lose your train of thought, and you might as well pee while you’re up so you don’t have to stop again. And you finally drag yourself to bed because the words you’re typing make no sense at all, and you’re exhausted, and your head hurts, and you know the moment you hit the pillow, you’ll be unconscious, and instead you lay there for two hours, wide awake, trying desperately to forget about the story for five or six hours, and instead you come up with the PERFECT line but you’re too tired to get out of bed, so you scribble it on a piece of paper – in the dark, of course, so you don’t wake your husband by turning on the light – and then you try to sleep, only to have another sentence pop into you head, and you beg for someone to shut it all off, and...

The next morning you wake up, groggy, crabby, exhausted from lack of sleep but you bypass everything and head straight for your desk, running back to your room to grab that slip of paper with the finest sentence ever written, only to find that you can’t make sense of what it says because you were too damn tired to spell correctly.

But you don’t care because this is the day you’ll get it done and you sit and the words are flowing like Niagara Falls but they’re not flowing fast enough because it took you an hour to write that paragraph because you’re too picky about which adjective you want to use, and the only resource you seem to utilize is the thesaurus, and oh no, another hour has gone by, and you’re never going to finish because the story JUST WILL NOT END, let’s wrap it up already, and oh, yeah, you try to breathe.

You ignore everything around you as you push to get it all down. The housework, your friends, your husband, even the dog. Okay, maybe not the dog. You resent any and every interruption and turn your phone to silent, berating yourself for reading the message that just popped up, resisting the lure of Candy Crush Soda, urging yourself to finish the damn book!

That’s it! You’re so close now, you can taste it. Only one more chapter to go and the epilogue, and you’re home free. A couple of more hours... wait, did I say hours? Well, okay, I guess technically a day counts as hours – 24 OF THEM!!!! So you push and you tell yourself you are NOT going to bed until it is finished, and you save time where you can (how much do adult diapers cost?), and you get to the last paragraph, and you decide the entire thing’s a piece of crap, and then you type the final words (I don't mean "The End"),and you smile because you absolutely love it! And a weird sense of peace envelopes you.

You did it! You completed something you set out to do. No matter whether anyone likes it or not – who wouldn’t like it? It’s awesome! – it doesn’t matter because you did it! Well, maybe it matters a little bit. Wait… maybe it matters a lot! Oh no! What if nobody likes it? What if I’ve just spent the past two weeks killing myself, metaphorically, of course, but physically, mentally, emotionally draining myself, ignoring everyone around me, and nobody likes it??

You take a deep breath, calm your nerves, blame your outburst on the fact that you’ve had little to no sleep in the past week, and begin reading. From the beginning. And you smile because you really, really like it. And you know that moment you hit publish, every tear, every knot in your stomach, every curse word, every sleepless night will be worth it.

Because you’re a writer.