Writing Your Life

I’ve been thinking about how our lives will one day become stories. Stories are wonderful things. I love hearing them and telling them. I love different perspectives on the same story.

My life is my story. I think it’s important to journal our thoughts and feelings and the way we view the seasons of our lives. Those who come after us can learn about the today that we live in. They can see how things were viewed and learn about how different our current situation is to how theirs will be. I wonder all the time how my grandparents and great aunts and uncles viewed the world they lived in. I wish I knew more about the things they experienced.

I made several pointers for myself in writing my life. I thought I might share them with you.

Plotting: What I’ve recently come to understand about plotting is that you may decide how you think things will go, but it’s never set in stone. Be prepared for changes and scenes that don’t quite fit. In this, I see that writing is a lot like living.

Writing: The crux of everything. The living of your life is the writing of it. You must live it to write it. What are you doing today that is living your life? Would it be enjoyable for someone to read it later? Live a life of adventure and joy. Make your story colorful with experience and vibrant characters. Let the people you surround yourself with be interesting.

Editing: Edit often. Cut out what doesn’t fit, doesn’t enhance your story, or doesn’t make sense. Your story, your life, is too short for things that don’t benefit it. You are the only one with the power to change or edit your circumstances. You hold the pen, and history shows that it truly can be mightier than the sword.

I’ve been telling myself that I need to start journaling. I need to start making note of the story my life will tell. I will make more of an effort to turn it into something worth reading. I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

I’ve Got Something to Say

I’ve been doing more writing than reading.

I type this with a sigh, a good sigh. It feels good. Reading is and always will be my first love, but it is essentially admiring the world another person has created. That’s wonderful, and I love it. However, there’s something about stepping into a world of your own making. Seeing life stories play out in your head and pouring them out on paper for someone else to admire is something I’ve always wanted to do. Getting to know my characters has been my favorite part. It’s like sitting down with an old friend and hearing how their life has been going up until now. Characters can certainly be demanding. I might have a touch of schizophrenia, but there have been several times that I’ve felt a character nudge me and say, “Nope. That’s not me. Fix it.”

I’ve written stories before that have started out strong but fizzled out before I really got to the meat of it. This one, though, has kept me on my toes. It’s in my head, in my dreams, and is taking over. I don’t know if the difference is that I have a friend reading it as I write or if it’s just time.

I’m hoping for good. I’ve used the backspace button as much as any other key on my keyboard. This story has me writing everyday. I’ve been reflecting most days as I write on the lessons I learned from On Writing by Stephen King.  One of the things I have struggled with, he addresses in his book. He noted that:

“Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation, Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sort of writing as ‘good’ and other sorts as ‘bad’, is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.”

Overcoming fears has been a lifelong endeavor. Fearing being adventurous with what I’m writing has been dragging me down as a writer. The other day I wrote my first intimate scene between a couple. While to most this doesn’t seem like a step outside the box, for me, it absolutely was. When I, blushing furiously, sent it to my friend, I got good feedback. She assured me it wasn’t cheap or tasteless. I’m pretty pleased with the review.

Another pointer I’ve been pulling from the King is writing what you like is as important as writing what you know. In the King’s book, this quote is one of my favorites:

“Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex and work.”

A point my reader made was that writers tend to over describe characters and settings. I make a conscious effort not to do that so that I don’t do all the work for readers. I want them to form their own view. My job is to define my characters and settings, not completely describe them.

This dream has been accumulating in my heart. Now, it’s up to my mind to bring it to fruition.

I’m enjoying stretching my writing legs and hope to one day run marathons. All in all, I’m learning that what my characters say is all to do with them, but what my writing comes down to is what I have to say.

 

 

 

 

Leap of Faith

I’ve been writing a story. That’s really no surprise to anyone. I’m usually writing a story all the time. What makes this story different is that I’m letting a friend read it. It’s about 20,000 words worth of me so far.

For full disclosure, it is a romance. Well, more like life with a healthy dose of romance. Since I knew that was her thing, I sent her a message. Actually,  I typed it, deleted it, typed it again, read it twelve times, and finally sent it. She replied within minutes.

I emailed her the first few chapters of my story and waited. I can be pretty patient. However, when you’re waiting on judgement, minutes stretch themselves indefinitely.

When she told me she loved it, I got emotional. I know that she’s honest and has no problem telling anyone what she thinks. This made her perfect for honest feedback but also very scary. She said it definitely needs some editing, but it’s good.

I’ve invested hours into this story. I’m not sure what will come of it. That’s the part that’s exciting but also terrifying. This has me thinking that I may want to put myself out there soon. My inner introvert is shaking her head and looking at me disapprovingly over her glasses.

I was brave when I started this blog a few years ago. I was a nervous wreck when I published the first post. When my most popular post hit 5000 views, I jumped up and down and then plopped back down in fear. I’m doing much the same with someone reading my story.

I am learning to be open and put myself out there. I’m understanding that my words might mean something to someone even if it’s just one person.

Tony has been pushing me. I hear almost every other day that I need to get on my novel. He’s got this steady, unshakable faith in me that has been a solid rock in rough seas. Now, my friend has read what I have of my story and has the same faith. I’m honestly a bit shaken.

My mind is telling me to not get my hopes up. My heart says we’re due for a leap of faith.

Where Were You?

Every year on the anniversary of the worst act of terrorism our country has ever seen, possibly thousands of people answer the question, “Where were you?”

Where were you when life for an entire nation changed so drastically on what seemed to be an ordinary Tuesday morning?

I woke up that beautiful morning, had breakfast, and got on the school bus. I imagine I chatted with my friends on the bus and then at school. I imagine people in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia did much the same; got up, talked to loved ones, commuted, started their day.

I was in Ms. Sherman’s class when someone ran in and told Ms. Sherman that we needed to watch the news. When the TV illuminated, we saw the first Tower in flames. It was startling. I remember this cold feeling running through my body as if I had ice water in my blood. I was a week away from turning fifteen and had no idea at the loss of life or how many people were even in a building of that size. I’d hardly been out of Mississippi.

The second plane hit the Tower’s twin a few minutes later. That’s when it began to be clear that this was not a random accident. This was an attack.

By the time the news announced that the Pentagon had also been hit as well as a plane going down in a field in Pennsylvania, I was trembling. I remember students being all around, laughing, talking, and going about their day. I didn’t know what this would bring about, but I knew it was incredibly horrific and sad. The newscasters talked about the loss of the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people. My teenage mind couldn’t comprehend.

When the Towers fell, I remember watching the TV in horror with my heart pounding. Surely, I thought, anyone left alive in the buildings were able to evacuate. At fourteen, you still see the world as a movie. You hold out the hope that there’s always a hero to save the day. Many lives were saved that day by brave souls in uniforms as well as civilian clothing.

When I got home from school, I spent the evening hours on the phone with Tony. He was my best friend at the time. We hadn’t yet started dating. We watched the news and talked about the horrific the events of the day. Hundreds of people were missing. Their loved ones begged for any word of their fate and showed pictures of the missing on the news. Those photos showed people smiling during happy times. They were hearts and souls with dreams and hopes. They were gone in what seemed like an instant.
I searched the internet that night for information about the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The sheer size of the buildings left me reeling. I think that was when it began to register for me just how many people would have been inside, around, and involved with the Towers that morning. The Pentagon was left with a gaping, burning hole.
Ground Zero was still burning that night and would for the next 100 days. Videos of those who threw themselves to their death to escape the heat and flames haunted me. The thought of those trapped terrified me. What they must have experienced still makes me ache to think of it. Over the next months, I read the stories online. I read of people lost, those who were lost saving lives, and those who lived because someone saved them. I heard of people who heard last moments over the phone. I was shaken to my core.

Last night, I was thinking of the final count of the lives lost on that day.

2800+

I was living and going to school in a very small town on September 11, 2001. The town population was a little less than 2500. On that sad September day, there were more lives lost than there were lives in the town I lived in. That absolutely astounds me.

The losses continue after that day. There are those who can’t live with survivor’s guilt and those who develop illnesses from dust and chemicals.

Those who were lost lived, loved, were different races, genders, and lifestyles. They had children, were someone’s children, and left a staggering void in the hearts of those who knew and loved them. I hope they know the flood of love and unity our nation experienced after their losses. I hope they know that people like me who never knew them, have read their names, said a prayer for them, and remember their stories. After all, at the end of our lives, we all become stories. As long as I live, I’ll remember their stories.

The Storyteller’s Secret

The Storyteller's Secret

No spoilers. Read on.

I love stories. That was my favorite part of playing pretend as a child. Creating an entirely different life for myself in a different place was wonderful. I still play pretend in my mind while reading.

For most of this book, the setting is India. I was transported there as I listened to the audio book. In my mind, I was there for the Holi festival with the smells of spicy food and children’s laughter coloring the air. I felt the emotions of the characters.

The story is sad and lovely. It is emotional and left me holding my breath on several occasions. Although there is some romance, the majority of the story is about life, it’s struggles, the precious moments, and how unfair it can be.

The story begins with Jaya, a writer, who goes to India to “find herself” and explore her heritage. She finds Ravi. He was a servant to her grandmother. He tells her the story of Amisha, her grandmother. Amisha lives both upholding India’s traditions as well as pushing against them. As she goes through life and wades through all it’s seasons, she lives, loves, fails, and perseveres.

The story that Ravi tells Jaya is the best kind of story: one that has love, trial, and triumph. This story will be with me for a while.

I hope to read more by this author. Her writing is very descriptive and makes you feel what she is trying to convey. It has been some time since a story has captivated me in the way that this one did.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“My power became dependent on the height of my achievements.”

“When we reach, we always chance a fall.”

“But laws are slow to change what is in people’s hearts.”

 

 

Spoilers ahead.

 

 

 

 

I identified with the two women in this book in different ways.

Jaya stuggled with infertility. After three miscarriages, she needed to figure out who she was outside of being a mother. She went to India for her mother, to see her childhood home in hopes that it would explain her mother’s reserved nature and sometimes odd behavior. In finding out the truths of her mother’s life, I think it helped to heal Jaya. She explored destiny versus decision.

Amisha was a weaver of words. She invented a different life for herself in her imagination and spun stories to teach and entertain. She spoke to my heart and reminded me what a good character can be. She made the best of a not so great life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

 

Books of August

This summer I wanted to read more. I wanted to open physical books and feel their pages, listen to them and what they had to say, or see their words on my phone and tablet. I got my first free Audible book and remembered what I love about listening. Since, I’ve spent hours engulfed in audio. Realizing that my Kindle Unlimited allowed me to listen to audio books of several of the books in my list has upped my game.

I’ve had a craving for stories. Not just fiction but nonfiction and stories in all their forms. I’ve started a few books only to determine that now is not their time for me or they don’t catch my interest. I’ve set them aside for later. However, as far as reading goes, August has been successful.

Jurassic Park

I finally finished Jurassic Park in August even though I started in July. In my humble opinion, it was so good. I finished the last fifteen chapters in two days. I enjoyed it so much and found the movie to be lacking afterward. Every reader knows that the book is always better.

I loved the kids in the book. I loved that Ellie was so fearless. I would have liked to have seen her have a little more adventure. The descriptions of the dinosaurs were great. I did have to Google a few names to get a better visual in my mind.

Jurassic Park is the first movie I remember seeing in theaters. I remember clutching my popcorn and being on the edge of my seat, pointing and exclaiming. I was 6 or 7 at the time. Once my brother was a little older, I passed on my love of dinosaurs to him. He got his dinosaur fix with the Land Before Time movies. I still like watching Jurassic Park from time to time. It was innovative at the time of its release. It “spared no expense.”

 

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler cover

 

I also finished listening to The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms. It was good, and I liked it. However my fears of it being very chick lit were confirmed, I still enjoyed it. I love the idea of an overworked mom getting a #momspringa.  I appreciated the relationships. I liked how the main character, Amy, dealt with things and her children. I loved that she was a librarian, teacher, and bibliophile. There was just something about the book that I couldn’t love even though I wanted to. I would still recommend it to my chick lit loving friends.

 

 

 

 

I listened to the audio book of I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan. This one I also almost loved, but not quite. I enjoyed it, liked it, and would recommend it to ladies I know like this kind of book. Life is the bad guy and stomps around making life miserable for the protagonist. It had one twist that I didn’t see coming, but after that is pretty predictable. It also came across as very chick lit as well. It reminded me a lot of  The Overdue Life of Amy Byler in that there was a New York trip and was also narrated by Amy McFadden.

 

 

I’m currently listening to The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani. I’m not quite half way through and am already sure this is one I’m going to love. The story is flowing well, the narrator does a nice job, and I’m really getting attached to the characters. The story is looking to be one that is both sad and sweet. Set in India, it is about a woman who travels there to find out more about her heritage. It has a “finding myself” as well as “self healing” feel. The writing is beautifully descriptive. I’ve had to stop several times to highlight a line that really jumped out at me. I’ll update more when I finish.

I’m also just starting to read The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson on Kindle Unlimited. One of my all time favorite books is Gods in Alabama. This book is already very Joshilyn Jackson. Her characters always have certain quirks that makes them more believable. That’s one reason she’s a great author.

I could learn a lot from her, I think.

I’m reading more and feeling more like my old self. I’m going hardcore with my nutrition so that helps. Life has been flowing these past few weeks. I’m just riding the current.

Happy Reading.

 

Where the Crawdads Sing

Read on. No spoilers.

I’m rediscovering audiobooks. My first true experience with them was in 2013 when I listened to The Hunger Games series. I enjoyed it so much because I was driving a good bit. It’s definitely different than just sitting down with a book and easier to manage on the go. Then, I drifted back to the wonderful world of bound pages and digital.

I listened to Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens this week. A friend told me it was terrific, one of my bookclub friends loved it, and Amazon kept recommending it to me. Finally, it was Audible that caused me to give in. WtCS became my first Audible book, and it was free.

It took me about a week to finish. I listened in the shower, quiet mornings at home, on the drive to work and home again, and even during the slower moments at work. I sat at my desk with one earbud perched in my ear, the other ear listening for the phone or customers.

I was captivated by Ms. Owens’ descriptions of the marsh land where the book is set as well as her explanation of the local animals. I love a good story, but I love it even more when I learn something.

The main character, Kya, really touched me. Her circumstances were so undeserved with her kind, tender heart. She reminded me of myself in ways. It brought back my childhood spent running through pastures, playing in the garden, and wading in the creek. She liked being alone and on her own. I get it completely.

The book begins with her childhood in the 1940’s. The characters are well thought out. The story is mountains and valleys of highs and lows. This quiet, outcast girl educates herself and lives a life that the rest of her town does not comprehend. I loved that about this book.

The narrator, Cassandra Campbell, does such a great job. I love that her voice changes for each character. I love that she conveys the emotions and reactions so well. I was pleased to find that she does a lot of narrating. I’ll for sure be listening to more from her.

I would recommend this book. It was an easy read although the conflicts in Kya’s life had me holding my breath. The coming of age aspect of this book is broken and beautiful. Kya’s story is imperfect and kept me absorbed from beginning to end.

I’m Sorry, Writing

I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you. I’m sorry I’ve pushed my notebooks into the corner. I’m sorry I’ve let my laptop sit unused. I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long. I’m sorry I left the words swirling around in my head until my emotions get the best of me.

I’m sorry I’ve kept all my words to myself. I’m sorry I’ve let shame, pain, anger, and confusion keep me prisoner. I’m sorry I’ve been letting myself get overwhelmed without coming to you and using you to cope. I always have and haven’t been lately. The last few months of my life have been proof.

I’m sorry my pens have been sitting in cups without so much as being used for a signature. I’m sorry I’ve let myself get to a sorry state of not being as consistent. I’m sorry I’ve let life dictate what my writing hours are used for and letting it steal them away.

I’m sorry I’ve let unimportant things take your time.

I’m sorry I’ve been unavailable.

I’m sorry, writing.

The Avett Brothers

Toward the end of 2012, someone recommended that I read a book by this new author, Colleen Hoover. She was becoming very popular on her debut novel. It was a romance, and at first, I winced. It was called Slammed. I imagined an E. L. James scenario. It was a YA romance. Before I could tell her that it wasn’t for me, she simply said, “I know you like poetry. It’s about a couple with slam (or spoken word) poetry woven into their relationship. Trust me.” I gave it some thought and put it off. She asked repeatedly if I’d started it and what did I think. I think it’s a bad idea is what I didn’t say.

I finally gave in one day when I was sick and at home.

The first thing I read in this book was a quote from The Avett Brothers. It read,

 

“…I’m as nowhere as I can be,

Could you add some somewhere to me?”

-The Avett Brothers, Salina

I have to admit, by this point, I was intrigued. Early on the main character describes her love for the band. She bonded with her father through their music. Her description of them sounded terrific.

My father and I would stay up at night and sing some of the songs together as he attempted to work the chords out on his guitar. He described them to me once. He said, “Lake, you know a band has true talent when their imperfections define perfection.”

I eventually understood what he meant when I started really listening to them. Broken banjo strings, momentary passionate lapses of harmony, voices that go from smooth to gravelling to all out screaming in a single verse. All these things add substance, character and believability to their music.
-Slammed, Colleen Hoover

As I read, I found more and more of their quotes at the beginning of the chapters. Another character is a poetry teacher and describes them as poets. I found this to be true with every quote I read. I finished the book in no time and loved it. A quick Google lead me to an amazing discovery. They were a real band. I read through lyric after lyric. I pulled up one of their songs on YouTube and only listened for a moment. It didn’t sound like something I’d be interested in.

I asked my good friend, who also happened to be my boss at the time, if she had heard of The Avett Brothers. I hadn’t heard their name out loud, and mispronounced it. She said, “If you mean The Avett Brothers, then yes. They’re great!”

We sat down at her computer, she pulled up a song and played it for me. It was The Ballad of Love and Hate. It was sad. It was sweet. It was a story. It made me love The Avett Brothers. We listened to a few more songs. I was hooked.

That night I listened to everything I could find. Some songs, I didn’t know if I could get into. The first listen just wouldn’t catch me. Then, I would listen again and find what it was I needed from it. I read about them, their beginnings, their lives.

I listened over and over to all their songs. The forums I read said that their live shows were something to behold. They danced, jumped, celebrated, got emotional, and everything between. A friend of mine’s husband got to see them live and said it was the best live show he’s ever been to.

A few months ago, I found out that they were doing a show in Brandon, MS. So close.

I talked about going for a solid month. Tony being Tony, just said, “Well, let’s do it.” I had to do my normal process for what I consider a big decision. I had to overthink, analyze all angles, and doubt every detail. I finally gave in and got tickets with the help of a friend. I was ecstatic.

The tickets were purchased on March 2. I couldn’t wait.

“Well I’ve been locking myself up in my house for some time now

Reading and writing and reading and thinking
and searching for reasons and missing the seasons
The Autumn, the Spring, the Summer, the snow
The record will stop and the record will go
Latches latched the windows down,
the dog coming in and the dog going out
Up with caffeine and down with the shot
Constantly worried about what I’ve got
Distracted by work but I can’t make it stop
and my confidence on and my confidence off
And I sink to the bottom I rise to the top
and I think to myself that I do this a lot”
-The Avett Brothers, Talk on Indolence

Saturday night, I got to see my favorite band perform some of my favorite songs live. I found that my husband also likes them. I was surprised when he wanted to go to the concert with me and my friend. I didn’t think they were his type of music but found him singing along to most of the songs.

The experience defied my expectations. From the moment they stepped onto the stage, the air was electric. The whole crowd went through ups and downs. The emotion that the entire band emitted was incredible.

We laughed with them, loved with them, hurt with them, mourned with them, and were joyful with them. It was an experience I’ll never forget, but one I mostly definitely want to repeat. My friend and I danced and sang at the top of our lungs. I screamed until my throat ached and clapped until my hands were sore. I can’t imagine a better performance. My only regret is that I didn’t find them sooner, but like all things in my life, a book lead me to something great. I’ve said it a thousand times, but I’ll repeat myself again. Words are my most favorite thing, and The Avett Brothers have a way with words.

My favorite quote from my favorite Avett Brothers song reads, “Decide what to be and go be it.”

Short, simple, and to the point.

They give good advice. They tell great stories. They teach me about life. They see a different perspective. They feel everything they sing. They weave magic into their words. They tell the truth. The Avett Brothers are wordsmiths of the first degree. That’s why they’re my favorite band.

November Blue by The Avett Brothers Brandon, MS

Writer’s Block

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I’ve been frustrated lately. Creatively frustrated. I’ve been mad at my computer for something it did not do. I’ve been angry about it’s blinking cursor and blank pages without words. I’ve felt dried up and uninspired. I thought maybe if  I went back to the fundamentals. You know, pen to paper. I put pen to paper and waited for something to happen. The only thing that happened was that I scribbled and scrabbled and got even more frustrated.

I’ve words and stories a-plenty in my brain, swirling about in a never ending vortex. I just can’t get a good connection between my brain and my fingers. I’ve tried all the usual suspects to no avail.

I’m discouraged with my inconsistency. My last blog did really well in terms of views and visitors. I think I’ve gotten intimidated by it. Doubts and insecurities can wreak havoc on one’s creativity. I came to the conclusion that I should write about being uninspired and insecure and all those things going on with me.

I’ve sat down numerous times with my computer and determination only to be let down. I’ve put on my game face, tightened my ponytail, and set my teeth only to give myself a headache. In this case, headache leads to heartache because I am disappointed in myself.

After searching WordPress, I’ve found I’m not alone. There are lots of creators out there with brains and hearts on hiatus. I found I’ve been more inspired these past few hours from the one thing that calms and helps always. Reading.

I wish that I could say I’ve been reading something new, but I can’t. I’ve discovered in recent years that I am a rereader. I’m not sure that’s a word. Microsoft Word says no, but I’m going with it. I’ve been reading something that I’ve already read and using it as a comfort. There’s no anxiety, no rush, no suspense. It’s just me and old friends I’ve known for a while taking a stroll down memory lane. It’s reading words that are familiar and seeing something new in the pages.

Stress is more than likely a factor in all this. I find the best stress relief is to go from cover to cover. It’s like a salve for achy head and heart.

I’ve been writing more fiction in private than things I wish to share on my blog. I love my blog. I’m proud of it. However, I’ve recently alienated myself from it. I’m not happy about this and intend to change it. Hitting a brick wall when you want to be on an open highway is frustrating to say the least. I’m slowly taking a pickaxe to it. Please be patient. I’m undertaking an uphill battle in my writing life. There is so much I want to say, and my brain is failing me.