Posted in Life, Writing

…Or Die Trying

So, my New Year’s Resolution was that this would be my best writing year yet…or something of the sort. I think I was rather exhausted after a drama-filled fall and didn’t put a lot of effort into creating a gleaming vision for 2018.

I used to believe in New Year’s Resolutions. There was a streak of about three or four years, that I made one solid resolution each year, and amazingly enough, I kept it, and came out better and stronger the next year. Then, I got cocky and started making too many, or making them too ambitious and the magic failed me, and my resolutions stopped working.

So, then I got discouraged and made my resolutions vague and half-hearted. Now, my only resolution this year was that I would try as hard as I could with my writing, with the afterthought that it would be my best writing year yet.

So far this year, my novel was rejected by yet another publisher, and the web company I was writing for folded and laid me off. It’s only February and already I’m off to a great a start on my best writing year yet.

As I scan the want ads for yet another writing job, I had this sinking feeling in my gut. What if I’m still doing this when I’m 50? Already my 20’s are gone in a flurry of college, temping and failed freelancing. What if this–blogging, writing novels that don’t sell, and chasing an endless chain of short-lived staff-writer jobs—is all my writing will ever be? i’ve sworn deep in my heart, that I will make it as a writer or die trying. What if that’s what happens? What if I die trying to make it as a writer?

There’s the cliche, “Find the joy in the journey.” I am enjoying the journey. But, what if the journey is all I’ll ever have? What if I never arrive? Will it have been worth it?

I guess every artist has to ask themselves that question. If I never “make it,” will it have all been worth it? I don’t have an answer. But, it’s an intriguing question.

…And I have to believe in my heart, that is this is that liberating crossroads, one must come to, right before that “big break.” Because I don’t think I could handle any other answer.

Advertisements
Posted in Writing

the runner

with rapid, vacant blasts the runner moves, the landscape zooming by, b-roll footage in panoramic peripheral, with no end goal, no finish line, just raw, pure movement…movement…movement…movement…movement…just…keep moving…just…keep…moving…muscles…pounding…pavement…movement…movement…just keep moving…brain switches off…don’t think…don’t think…don’t think… just move…just move…just move…and the muscles are independent now, soulless, dead, movement…until it is not.

The runner collapses in a heap, and against all will, strength, desire…begins to feel.

Posted in Writing

Novel Prequel Scene

***This is a scene from the novel, set about ten years before the book begins. Ethan is a spoiled 17 year old who spent his whole life in Paris. Then, his mother died, and he had to move to rural Virginia with his estranged grandparents. In this scene, he is supposed to fly back to Virginia, but he refused to leave France. He finally shows up on the plane at the last second, shocking his grandparents.***

Ethan stumbled down the jetway, dark shades hiding his eyes and a large leather bag over his shoulder. He entered the craft, one of the last to board, and scanned the seat numbers, finally finding row 32 where Thomas and Cheyenne sat. They were primly buckled in, with a perplexed look over their faces. Ethan tossed his bag in the open overhead bin, the noise startling the couple. Ethan leaned in, his palms resting against the overhead bin. He reeked of booze and marijuana. He snidely smirked.

“So, tell me, is it cold in Virginia?” his tone was asinine.
“It can be, yeah,” Cheyenne was still dumbstruck.

Ethan raised his eyebrows over his shades, and cocked his head in resignation. Then he plopped into the empty seat next to them and instantly signaled to the flight attendant.

“Can I get a drink?”

She declined and told him they would be available after take off. He sighed, removed his jacket, threw it over his face, and leaned back to nap.

Thomas and Cheyenne eyed each other. Thomas raised his palm in a gesture meaning to leave Ethan’s behavior alone.

“There will be time,” he whispered to her.

Row 32 was silent during takeoff, neither adult daring to upset the precarious balance achieved with the drunk teenager in the aisle seat.

With the gentle ding of the unfasten seatbelt sign, Ethan jerked himself out of the seat.

Twenty minutes later, he still had not returned. Cheyenne eyed Thomas who briefly glanced in the direction of the lavatory.

“Is he…” Cheyenne’s unfinished thought involving Ethan, the airplane restroom, and some sort of controlled substance, sent Thomas on a search.

He finally found Ethan sprawled out in an empty row, asleep with his jacket over his head. Ethan remained that way for the duration of the transatlantic flight.

He reappeared some nineteen hours later for landing, sitting upright in his seat, disheveled and silent.

________

They landed in Richmond, and Thomas casually informed Ethan it would be a two hour drive to the house. Ethan just raised an eyebrow. Cheyenne waited with Ethan outside by baggage claim while Thomas brought the car around.

Ethan silently sprawled out on a concrete bench, wadding up his jacket for a pillow. He lit a cigarette, while Cheyenne watched him with a mixture of concern, pity and helplessness. She didn’t say anything. Finally, Thomas arrived with a red Land Rover, and Ethan helped himself to the generous backseat, his ever present jacket pillow and sleep.

Cheyenne and Thomas quietly talked of lunch as the airport complex began to give way to somewhat more familiar territory. They stopped at an IHOP and Cheyenne gently tried to wake Ethan. He irritably stirred, and then closed his eyes again.

“Are you hungry?” she asked gently.

He groaned and rolled over. Thomas stepped in.

“Ethan,” his voice was sharp. “Get out of the car, now.”

Ethan groggily sat up, and caught Thomas stern gaze. Ethan shrugged and exited the car, Thomas and Cheyenne behind him.

The trio of travelers entered the restaurant and Ethan plopped himself sideways into a booth bench. His long legs in black skinny jeans filled the orange booth. and his matted long blond hair was cleanly smashed against the side wall. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep.

Thomas’ agitation was growing. The waitress came to take the order. Ethan didn’t touch his menu. He barely opened his eyes, and ignored everyone. The waitress asked him for his order and he barely shook his head.

Thomas stepped in. “Ethan, you haven’t eaten anything since Paris. Order something, or I will order for you, and none of us will leave this table until you have eaten every last bite.”

Ethan’s eyes popped open, and they flashed cold, dark and blue at Thomas. Thomas met his gaze, and they stared at each other for a moment, while Cheyenne and the waitress looked awkwardly on.

Finally, Ethan cleared his throat, and held up one of the promotional flyers without so much as a glance at it.

“I’ll have this,” his voice was hoarse.

“Certainly,” the waitress said.

Once she was gone, Ethan excused himself, a pack of cigarettes in his hand.

“Was that necessary?” Cheyenne asked Thomas.

Out the window, they could see Ethan standing outside smoking his long blond hair blowing in the cool wind. He looked small and alone. Thomas shot Cheyenne a look.

“This one is going to be a handful.”

Cheyenne rose from the table and stepped out into the October air. She approached him and he acknowledged her with a simple eye movement.

“Hey,” she said.

He said nothing. She stood awkwardly with him for a moment.

“I know you don’t think so now,” she said finally. “But you’re going to make it through this.”

His gaze popped up, and he really looked at her for the first time. She saw something in his eyes she had never seen before. Vulnerability.

“How do you know that?” he whispered and stared off, drawing a long drag.

“Because that was the hardest part,” she said. “It’s all downhill from here.”.

He made a face, and nodded slowly.

“You know,” she continued. “We’ve all lost her. We all need each other to get through this.”

He rolled his eyes, and sighed his walls coming back up.

She continued. “Back in Paris, you said that we didn’t even know you. That’s true, we don’t. But, the truth is, you don’t know us either. Why don’t you give us a chance?”

He stopped as if he hadn’t given the idea a thought.

“Come inside. It’s cold out here. Eat something,” she suggested gently.

He shrugged, threw the cigarette on the ground, and followed her.

Posted in Writing

Hurry Up and Wait

Today I had a publisher interested in my manuscript. You know, that one novel I wrote once upon a time. I had sent it to every major agent in the business, and received a resounding chorus of, “It’s definitely good, but not excellent.” To which, I inwardly responded with, “Isn’t that a better state than half of the books published out there?”

Eventually, I ran out of names of all the top agents in publishing. With nowhere to go, I shelved the project until I could think of a new plan. Or at least find the time, energy and focus to do yet another rewrite to achieve that illusive, “excellent.”

Then, one ordinary day, I inadvertently stumbled across a small, independent publishing house. Having fallen prey over the years to the scams that guise themselves as “vanity publishing,” I was all the wiser, and did some research. Overall, they seemed they might be a good fit.

So, I dusted off my marketing materials, and put together a proposal. I sent it off, and then I waited. And waited. And waited. I went through a break-up. I got a new job. I almost lost my apartment. I saved my apartment. I had Thanksgiving….Then, yesterday, I heard back. They wanted to see the full manuscript.

My heart fluttered. I dashed home, and pulled out the files. I reformatted. I changed a few verbs here and there. I decided the book sucked and needed a complete overhaul. I started the overhaul. I thought about changing the names of all the characters. I had a panic attack because it was two a.m. and I somehow felt I needed to get the manuscript to the publisher by the morning or they would forget who I am. (Irrational thinking, I know, but we writers are sensitive, melodramatic bunch).

So, this morning, I refused to read another word of the manuscript. I dashed it off to the publisher, took a deep breath and said, “Well, that was that.” Then, I slept off the adrenaline rush, woke up, and refreshed my e-mail about every ten minutes for an hour. More irrational thinking.

Realistically, it should be close to a month before I hear anything back. Publishing is a hurry up and wait business. I know this–it’s an industry cliche. Based on my brief forays into it over the years, I know this is true. But, it sure is excruciating.

Posted in Life, Writing

The Cycle of the In-Between.

I think I chose a bad profession. There’s just not a lot of room in our world for writers. That is–unless you go into scriptwriting, which is all plot and dialogue and leaves little room for playing with the beauty of language–my favorite part of writing.

But, writing is the talent God has given me, and I’ve at times felt he was rather adamant about it…in a tender, beautiful sort of way. There is nothing more touching in the world to feel the Almighty God demands you do the one thing in the world that makes you the happiest. I hope every one of you gets to know that feeling. It’s exquisitely, heartbreakingly beautiful and freeing.

So, God gave me this passion, but in our world, there is little lucrative use for it. So the pattern my writing career has followed thus far, goes something like this. I get a job as a staff writer somewhere, usually working from home. I work at it for a while, bursting out of my skin because I actually get paid to write. Then, eventually, the powers that be realize that having writers on staff is a waste of money, because writing just flat out doesn’t sell. Then, the job gets “restructured,” or the company folds, yada yada yada…I’m out of a job.

So, then I do the only other thing I know how to do–work retail. I get some even lower paying retail gig for a few months, until I can find another low-paying writer job that pays a little more than the last one, leading me to believe that I am climbing some sort of ladder. So goes my professional life.

I am aware of this cycle, and I have often wondered if I should go back to school and be retrained to use my talent in a new way. Perhaps my undergraduate education is outdated, and I need new, updated skills to survive in this market. Then I scoff. That might be true if I were in a technology field. But, in English? I doubt sitting around in stuffy classrooms, analyzing Charles Dickens would do much for my professional marketability.

My only other option would be to do something radically different, like move to the Cayman Islands and teach Scuba Diving or something. Given that I have a debilitating fear of fish in their natural habitat, I guess I have to make it as a writer.

So, this week I finish out another cycle of the retail phase. I spent two months at Office Depot (Want a printer, anyone?)–and now I will start another full-time writing job. I am optimistic about this one, I’m making more than I’ve ever made, and the company seems to be a good one, a lot of good energy. So, I’m happy. But, I really would like to break free of this pattern. This sort of “in-between.”

A couple years back, I met with a business consultant about my writing career. He said my writing was all over the place, and I needed to focus my vision to build a consistent brand. I know he’s right.

But, whenever I start thinking about all of that business stuff, my head starts to hurt, and I feel like that guy in Jerry Maguire. He was the top draft pick, and all the agents were fighting over him, and he picked up his hotel phone to another sales pitch, and he interrupts them and says, “I just want to play football,” and hands the phone to someone else. I relate to that guy sometimes.

Posted in Life

Playing With Fire

I have a confession to make. I like to burn paper. It’s a weird nervous habit I have. Sometimes, I see a lighter, or a box of matches sitting on a counter, I’ll just sit there and burn the edges of any paper that may be around. It could be a piece of junk mail. It could be an envelope, a grocery list. Whatever, I just somehow feel the need to set it on fire.

Now, I don’t set it ablaze, mind you. I simply light the edge, and I get an odd satisfaction out of watching the fire eat the paper. And, just before the fire gets going, I hastily put it out. Then, I start again. There’s some kind of thrill of watching the destructive power of fire, I think. And there’s an even bigger thrill, in seeing how far I can let the fire go, before I know it’s time to put it out. I love to think about the phenomenal energy of fire, and how it’s all at my whim. That the power of my inevitable breath, will trump the fire and stop it dead. I am greater than fire.

I think there’s some sort of psychological principle at work here. Maybe there’s basic spiritual human instinct. I have a God given authority over nature, and I am not afraid to use it. Maybe it’s a control thing, and the power of control over destructive forces. Or maybe my sin nature gets off on the ability to destroy. Maybe it’s some kind of rebellion against childhood rules about playing with fire. As an adult, I can play with fire if I damn well please. (Real mature thought process, I must say).

Maybe I think too much. Maybe I just think fire is interesting. And really, if you think about it, if God created fire, then wouldn’t appreciating the complexities of it, in fact be a form of worship? I would like to think so. Beyond that, I don’t know why I do the things I do sometimes. And, you know what? That’s okay.