Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world your beautiful self!

Posts tagged ‘learning’

February 5, 2015 Now the real work begins

Feeling Determined

Tonight I received the first set of notes critiquing “Sasha’s Journey”. As I’d only done one revision so far (aside from an ill-fated set of rewrites of the first chapter or prologue a couple of months ago), I expected a lot of issues and on that, I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, the first critiquer was incredibly kind in her summary notes. Even so, I’m feeling a little bit sick to my stomach. She found some positive, encouraging things to say, and for that, I’m very grateful. Still, I’m going to give myself a few days to digest (meaning I’ll re-read repeatedly) her summary before diving into the meat of it.

One thing she confirmed was that I have a long way to go when it comes to writing conflict. For the next few days, then, I will be scouring the internet and Amazon bookstore for tools to help me improve in this area. But it’s not just about writing conflict, I realize. It’s about developing clear strong needs and desires for the protagonist and antagonist, and ensuring that these needs and desires are strong enough to provide sufficient opposition between the two.

As I think about “Sasha’s Journey” it occurs to me that I started with what she wanted at the moment the story began when what I really need is to dig deeper to find in her what I’m still trying to find in me, and that’s her true purpose.

So, I ask myself, was novel number one just a waste of time?

I think about what I learned by committing myself to 50,000 words in a month. I consider what I learned during the first revision. I add what I’ve learned by reading the work of others and by participating in critique sessions. Then I look at the fact that I’m 60 some odd thousand words into novel number 2 and have rethought my approach to the book about healing from my parents’ suicides. Only then do I realize something so many people around me have already figured out.

Writing is just a line dance done with paper and pen or computer and keyboard.

You’re not going to get it right the first time, and probably not the second or third or even twentieth time. But repetition and constantly learning will eventually bring you to a place where you’ve brought all of those pieces you’ve been learning and practicing together and suddenly, it works!

I’m at the point right now where I’m still learning some of the basic steps. I’ve tripped and fallen but at no point have I even considered giving up. I know that as long as I keep moving forward, I’m successful. As long as I listen to what people have to offer in terms of suggestions, advice and resources it will have a cumulative effect towards improving my writing.

The one thing I cannot do is to stop. I need to keep writing those first drafts, then going back and fleshing out the second draft. By the third draft, it’s time to really pick the story apart and figure out what’s working and what’s not. I have to walk away from it for awhile and work on something else, then come back and look at it with eyes that don’t clearly remember the story so I can see where at least some of the holes might be. And most of all, I need to listen when others are critiqued and learn both from what is working in their stories and what is not. Learn what I, myself am lacking but can’t quite figure out.

Just as dancers are all at different levels; some have the line dances down cold, but struggle with two step. Some can follow two step pretty well, but lack the fluidity which makes West Coast Swing look amazing. We all have room to grow as dancers and can learn from watching others. We all have room to grow as writers and can learn from analyzing the techniques of others.

News Flash: We do not learn and grow by living in a vacuum.

If we want to improve whatever it is we are doing, we must learn from those who are farther along the learning curve than we. But we must also learn from those who have not progressed as far as we have if for no other reason than we see from reading the work of others that we truly have learned things others are still discovering.

But learning to write and write well is not exactly linear. I may learn something sooner in the process than one person and much later than someone else. Does it matter where in the process a particular concept is learned? Not really. As was pointed out to me recently, I am of the variety of non-linear thinkers. I am often accused of jumping from point A to point Q, skipping all of the steps in between while someone I’m talking to may really need all of those other steps in order to understand how I got from A to Q, and if it really is the best answer, everything considered. Yet, there are others who might wonder why I only got to step Q instead of jumping all the way to step Z or beyond? In the end, it’s not about how we got there, but that we got there with the skills to understand how and why we did, and the ability and knowledge to improve upon where we are and keep moving forward.

So I’ll take a few steps back, consider the messages for awhile before digging into the details. I will also consider some ideas which have been bouncing around in my head like corn in a popper. Ideas which, oddly enough, fit well with the comments I’ve read so far. Clearly, just being away from the manuscript for a few months has made me see things I couldn’t while I was immersed in it. It has made me agree with the first person to try to help me improve upon the book, at least on one level. The opening needs to be completely reworked if I want anyone to actually keep reading. The thoughts which have been bouncing around in my head need to be written down before they’re lost.

Most of all, I need to get into my character’s heads and really understand their purpose. I need to understand just how far they’ll go to achieve their goals. I need to feel the emotions, the conflict, the frustration and the jubilation. I need to feel the struggle of taking on adult responsibilities and leaving the insulation of childhood behind. More, I need to get into the head of someone who couldn’t care less about individual humans as long as they get what they want in the end.

Sure, it will be difficult at first, but if it were easy, there would be no challenge and where no challenge exists, there will be no sense of accomplishment, no victory. And I dearly want a victory!

Had I gone into this filled with confidence and the notion that every word that slipped from my fingers was golden, I’d probably be very humbled by the process of laying my work out before the eyes of others. But the truth is, I was already humble in the first place, and am pleased that the readers could find anything that worked. That, in and of itself is a small victory for me, and a huge dose of encouragement to go back to that drawing board and keep learning and improving and moving forward. Did I expect glowing reviews of my first effort? Certainly not. In fact, if I were asked, “Which do you think is most likely? That the readers will love it or hate it?” I’d have probably chosen the latter, but with the qualification that they’d find at least a moment or two which indicated that there was a glimmer of hope that I could eventually work out the kinks and bring to life the amazing stories which have filled my head since early childhood. Some might call those stories “dreams” but I’ve always known them for what they truly are.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for humility.
2. I am grateful for even the smallest glimmer of hope that my work will eventually be publishable.
3. I am grateful for the many opportunities to improve my skills.
4. I am grateful for dance nights which give me time to just be before getting back to the real work, the real purpose of my life.
5. I am grateful for abundance; opportunities to grow, learning, honesty, hope, joy, love, expansion, harmony, peace, health and prosperity (which, of course leads to philanthropy).

Blessed be

January 2, 2015 What is it about The Tower Tarot card that freaks people out?

I seem to be in the minority, but I always feel excited when I see The Tower in a spread.

So many people see The Tower in a spread and immediately turn into Poe’s Raven, calling “Doom! D49a1d-tower-card16oom!” and trying to find a way to soften impending disaster. I may be considered hopelessly positive, but I actually feel energized and challenged when this card shows up. I see it as a card which indicates a cleansing, either voluntary or involuntary, but from which the querent will arise with a strong foundation on which to build anew. A foundation which has been cleared of a whole bunch of baggage which was keeping them from realizing their true potential. In short, I see it as a card of tremendous opportunity. 

Sometimes, we get so comfortable where we’re at that we fail to realize we’re stagnating. Sure, we get clues all the time, but we can rationalize them away when we’re comfortable. That’s when I see the Tower coming into our lives, telling us that either we stir things up ourselves or something will happen to get us off of our butts and moving forward again. I’ve seen it time and time again in my life. Sometimes, I’d see it coming and take pre-emptive action, but others, I’d get blind sided.

Fortunately, I’ve never been much of a victim, and even when I was, it didn’t take long for me to see what I was doing and shake my own world until I saw the stupidity inherent to the path I trod. Even at my lowest point, I readily admitted that what, on the surface looked like a disaster really was the kick in the butt I needed to get out of a place that wasn’t in my best interests.

Honestly, which is easier: To shake your virtual fist at all of the bad luck, karma or juju you’ve suffered or learn from the life’s setbacks so the next one doesn’t knock you on your keester quite as hard?

I have a particularly hard spot for the “woe is me-ers” and the “doom and gloomers”. Listening to someone whine and complain about the same thing over and over, yet never taking it upon themselves to change it will set off my BS meter faster than anything. Unfortunately for the whiner, this also tries my already poorly contained patience and often means I unintentionally hurt their feelings. Frankly, if I were keeping score, I’d say that made us even: 1 for them for trying my patience, 1 for me for insensitivity to their tender feelings.

But my goal in life is not to misuse people, so I’ve learned to simply walk away when those red flags, bells and whistles warn me that I’m in the presence of a Negative Nellie; someone who wraps their negativity around them like a security blanket and for whom complaining is a way of life. There are people who can function well around these people. I admit it. I’m not one of them. More than once, I’ve failed to stop myself from saying rather rudely “Either do something about it or quitcherbitchin’!”

OK, so Social Worker is definitely not my calling. I just believe that we make our own way and even when the chips are down, we need to see it through because those tough times teach us a lot more than the easy ones. Universe, please note, I am not asking for more adversity. I’m simply acknowledging the fact that I learn something when I have to work for it!

At any rate, we all have “Tower moments” in our lives when it seems like the walls are tumbling down around our ears, whether it’s a marriage going to hell, a job loss, a death in the family or a million other things which make us batten down the hatches, ride out the storm and clean up the mess afterwards. Invariably, they happen because we need to move and are holding onto things which no longer serve us (yes, even family deaths). When my mother committed suicide, it really was a huge release for me. I had a ton on my plate at the time, and her overtly judgmental ways and, in hindsight, extra needy behavior were getting close to pushing me over the edge. Her death was just enough pressure release to allow me to keep moving forward. In the two years after her death, I was laid off from my job of seven years and finally saw the end of my lengthy divorce. In both cases, they were Tower moments and things changed and I had to adapt.

Where would the human race be if we had not been faced with adversity and forced to adapt or die? What kind of wimpy, useless race would we be? We certainly would not have outlived the dinosaurs, defeated Hitler or developed creatively the master vs. beginnerway we have. Sure, we’ve ignored things like preservation of our environment, but not forever. Who’s to say whether we’d have come this far had we worried about our world as much as we should have? Who’s to say that causing the damage then coming back and having to figure out how to repair it wasn’t part of the plan in the first place? The greatest people in the world made a ton of mistakes before they succeeded. I don’t have the audacity to believe that I get to avoid all of the pieces of the process they endured before I find my own success, whatever that might be. 

A couple of people shared this today, and I have to agree. The secret to success is no secret at all. You need to get up every morning, push those doubts to the side while you down that cup of coffee and put some effort in! If you just sit under a tree and wait, you’re just as likely to be hit by a bolt of lightening.  Failure is really a learning curve in disguise.

It is, however, time for me to step down from my soapbox and express my gratitudes.

1. I am grateful for my soapbox, and grateful that I know when it’s time to give it a rest.
2. I am grateful for the adversities which have made me stronger.
3. I am grateful for my lack of patience as it pushes me away from people who drain my battery.
4. I am grateful that the unplanned days of rest are making my back happier. I look forward to resuming my normal activities.
5. I am grateful for abundance: points of view, intelligence, inspiration, motivation, love, beauty, challenges, spirit, friendship, harmony, peace, joy, health and prosperity.

Blessed be.

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