Thursday, November 22, 2012

Behind Closed Doors: The Good from the Bad

Hello my lovelies. I will tell you, this was an EXTREMELY difficult article for me to write and post. So leaving me some kind words or just a smiley face will help me know you don't think the worst of me.

Remember that post about going behind the closed doors of writers? I promised to look behind closed doors and address things that would typically ruin a writer's platform. You know, air the dirty laundry. Until now I have not been really moved to write about it. But something happened to me yesterday that really knocked me off balance.

What could wound me so badly? Well... a letter from my maternal grandmother. If at any point this becomes uncomfortable for you to read, I encourage you to skip down to the "Here's what's important" section.

You see, I was abused as a child. I've suffered all the typical symptoms and signs that most who are abused do. I blamed myself, loathed myself, and all those nasty little things. For the past four years, I decided to face this issue head on. I decided it was time for me to learn how to deal with it. Considering where I was at when I started on this journey and where I am now is quite phenomenal. The fact that I'm sharing the tragedy that was my grandmother's letter is even more shocking.

Last night, I sat down to read a letter from my grandmother completely unprepared... a letter saying that the abuse was my fault. She said that I had provoked the abuse by seducing my abuser. I was probably 4-5 when this abuse happened the first time. I know, after much coaching and understanding that I've garnished from getting older, that I was not at fault. Children do not seduce. I logically know that. While that knowledge filled my head, in my heart, I felt all those rotten feelings come back.

My breath was caught in my chest and I struggled between anger and simply shattering while I fought for peace. Her words resonated with all the fears of those negative beliefs I'd held my entire life.

I believe when something horrible happens to someone, no matter how big or small, that a piece of darkness is in a way transplanted into them. I believe this because I believe that we were created to love and be happy. It's what we all seek. For me, I can't understand someone doing something so destructive to another person, so I rationalized that I brought it on myself.

While I understand this isn't true, that I didn't do anything to justify someone abusing me, I have had to find another way to understand that dark voice inside me that tells me it's my fault. It's a part of me, after all. And we all have it. I hate my abuser. My family says I should forgive, after all the abuser was relatively "young" as well. I've tried. I've tried for years, and I cannot do it. And when I have a flashback or (in this case) receive an antagonistic letter from my grandmother, I hear that dark voice wishing my abuser was no longer on planet earth, or a voice telling me that I deserved it, all the more spurring my hate for him. I hate him for having infected me with this darkness.

Here's what's important:
We all have a darkness inside us. It is not who we are. When we go through hard times or when darkness finds it's way into our lives it's like we get infected by it. Sometimes it's something small, like someone being rude. Sometimes it's bigger things like being bullied or excluded. No matter what it is, we've been faced with it, and it is our jobs to overcome it and choose not to pass it along.

As a writer, I've learned a few things from this experience. For one, I realized that the darkest and most painful villains are the ones that don't see evil as evil. They revel in what they see as justified or righteous morals. Take Hitler or Dolores Umbridge, for example.

I also have found myself asking myself questions that I can then apply to my writing to deepen the characters' development:
  1. What deep seeded evil resides in my own characters?
    • Where did this evil come from?
    • What have they done to try to eradicate it?
    • Where they able to eradicate it?
    • How does it physically manifest in their behavior?
    • What horrible thing happened to them and how would/does it twist their personality or view point on the world?
  2. Are my villains really as horrible as they could be?
    • Are they just power hungry?
    • What is a fitting "righteous blindness" that they could have?
    • How does this evil physically manifest itself in these characters?
  3. How do my protagonists handle the evil that is thrust upon them?
    • Is it an example that I stand behind?
    • Is it an accurate account of how a person really reacts? (I know I haven't written a scene that mirrors my meltdown last night.)
  4. And this is a big question, how do my characters handle the evil in others?
    • I come across as a very hard person. For those I've edited for, they know my standards. I'm a tough cookie to please because I'm always searching for the best. But, I also have a lot of compassion, and that is trait I don't think I really project quite so well. I know others who would read the same letter I read last night and go into a fit of rage. This is a normal reaction. It took me a while to fully understand how everyone has their own pain. There is no pain meter when it comes to emotion. (←I like that line, I might insert it in my MS.) 
    • Is it believable?
      • Have I developed the character so that their reaction to this evil person is believable and not some regular knee jerk reaction?
I have had a lot of time to come to terms with the way I am treated within my family. I am no martyr, and I'm not a victim. Maybe I was once. I like to think it was just something that happened in my own story arc. When anyone comes into your life to attack you, it's just a side effect of their own story arc. You have to figure out how you (or your characters) really feel about what happened. I don't believe what my grandmother wrote in that letter is true. I can, however, take the experience of last night and transpose it into my characters and how they feel and experience their hardships. I just have to stay true to what I have discovered about myself. And in doing that, I can more precisely make sure my characters are staying true to what they have discovered about themselves.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What's Wrong with Your Writer?: A Non-Writer's Guide

I am soundly convinced that people who don't write don't understand what it's like to be a writer. As I writer, I have a few confessions to make. You non-writers sometimes really don't understand me. I'm going to explain why. (After re-reading this article, I realized it came with a good bit of snark. Please, this is all said in love and adoration for my non-writer cohorts as some of them are my readers, too. ;) )

  1. When I enter into the world where my characters live and you try to engage me in any sort of conversation, you are interrupting me. You are literally interrupting me mid-sentence. I don't care if you can hear me talking or not. You've interrupted me. It's like waking someone up from the middle of a dream; it's not like I can just close my eyes and go straight back to what I've spent hours building myself up emotionally to be able to write. Thank you, you've just destroyed half a days work. 
  2. When you enter my zone... This is just wrong. My ideas sometimes escape my head and float all around me for me to admire and toy with. When you walk in, you scare them off. Sometimes you scare them off so horribly I get writer's block. This is a serious disorder. It can last for ages. Once again, you've just destroyed a days work and possibly put me out of work for several more days, and there is no unemployment check issued for writer's block.
  3. When you disregard when I'm getting "called back to the office". You may not get this, but my characters are one of my bosses. They are the story. If they decide I need to get back to the office then I have to get back to the office. Your attempts to derail this are not appreciated. Also, I am not crazy just because I answer the call of my ideas. I don't look at you weird when you take a work call in the middle of our luncheon, do I?
  4. When you treat my character discussions (whether they are to myself or to you non-writers) like I am being an insane housewife arguing over whether a certain throw pillow will tie my whole room together. It's not the same. Picking and choosing character traits is quintessential. It defines the plot, which is either engine or machine of the whole book. It's like using the wrong materials to build a bridge; if one thing is wrong, the whole thing will collapse.
  5. When you add anything to my mess. I don't care if my desk is a disaster, it's a mark of how I've moved forward in my work. If that mess is moved forward by someone else, it's all I can see. Sometimes I mark by progress by how many cups of coffee or Mountain Dew cans have accumulated around me. Screwing up that equilibrium is like screwing around with my alarm clock.
  6. When you assume my house should be clean because I work from home. What's wrong with you? I work full-time. In fact, because I work for myself I usually work more than the normal 40 you put in. It's actually statistical. Go ahead, check the facts. I'm pretty sure that's it's more like 60 hours that self employed people put into their work.
  7. When you enter my zone... this deserves more analogies. What if I just showed up at your office just to ask you a "quick question?" Wouldn't you be a bit embarrassed if I did this a lot? It depends entirely on my mood whether "I knocked" is a good enough excuse to bother me.
  8. When you think that my modes of inspiration seem like I'm procrastinating, wasting my time, or being lazy. If I watch a movie and you see tears, trust me, it's work. If I'm searching tirelessly for a certain version of a song just so I can listen to it a million times while I write a certain scene, it's work. It's like trying to drill in a tough screw with a screwdriver instead of a drill; without the proper tool to drive the screw home, it'll end up messy. Worst case scenario being that the screw is stripped entirely and everything is ruined. Everything ruined.
  9. When you think writing and all the parts of it aren't work. Just because I enjoy my work doesn't mean you get to treat me like it's not work. If you lived with me and actually saw how it torments me at times, you'd know, it's work. Also, just because I enjoy my work doesn't mean I don't get angry with it. Just because you love your kids doesn't mean that they can't annoy the living hell out of you sometimes and make you flippantly say, "What made me think I ever wanted to have kids?" You don't mean it, and when I say, "why would anyone want to be a writer?" I don't mean it either.
  10. When I scream or grumble or look utterly frustrated for no given reason and you think I'm angry with you. Like I've mentioned before, a lot of work for a writer happens in their heads long before it comes out on page. So if I feel like having a hissy fit and I'm just sitting there looking unprovoked, don't assume it's about you. You've once again entered in on a moment that does not involve you.
  11. When you cannot possibly understand that writers "take their work home" with them probably more than any professional out there, with the exception of health care professionals perhaps. We live and breath emotion. That's our job. Sometimes I get sunk so deep in my characters that if they just experienced heartbreak, I too am feeling heartbroken. If they are angry and ready to murder someone, I am seething as well. And if they feel like going out on an adventure, don't get irritated because all of a sudden I want to go have one myself.
  12. When you disregard "works been tough", "I've been having a lot of late nights in the office", or "I've been having long days at the office." This means the same to me as it does to you. Writing doesn't just mean make-believe. It means make-believe and then reconstruction. It is engineering something new and the process is just like a real world engineer. You start off with an idea and sketch it out. Then, you go back and figure out the components that it would take to build up this idea. You test it out, and when it comes back failing tons of tests, you have to figure out how to fix it so it passes. If you change one component, six others may need to then be readjusted. There are times when you want to pull your hair out. Remember how in math class your teacher told you that these precise calculations mattered because if you started building a bridge and was only one inch/centimeter off on one side that you could be several feet/meters off on the other side, resulting in a collapsed bridge? Yeah. So when I'm telling you that I just found a huge scene that was played off a scene that I ended up deleting in the redraft and I just now realized it, I'm telling you I've collapsed the bridge.
  13. When you think that chatting to my writing friends is the same as hanging out with my regular friends. It is not. Sure, we cut up and sometimes we don't talk about writing at all. But, last time I checked, when you're on your lunch break with your co-workers you aren't always talking about work. It's nice to just take a breather from writing with people who know what you're struggling through. These people are important to have good relationships with because when it comes time to have beta readers, they are the front line. It's basically like asking someone to pile hours onto their already encumbered workload. It's like asking your friends to volunteer to be crash dummies for a new car you've designed. This car just happens to be going on an intense outdoor test course, and you might have not put in the right shocks to prepare them for the ride. It could be painful for them, possibly excruciating. What's worse is I have to like them enough so that when they get off that ride and the hell fury comes from their lips and it hits my ears, I know that they say it all because they love me.
  14. When you don't get how blogging, formatting, and social media are part of my job. Hello, I'm trying to make sure my other "boss" knows I'm working. I'm smiling and giving progress reports to my boss. See, whereas most people have one boss and the upper management above them, I have thousands of bosses. They are called readers. They are who pay me. Don't get angry because I go out of my way to make sure they are happy. If you think this isn't the same, be absent from work for a few days without any good explanation and see if you still have a job tomorrow. You won't. If I don't put myself out there, I lose readers. Sure, I can get new ones, but you could get a new job, too, couldn't you? And see, when I get new readers, it's like getting a raise. So be happy when I'm happy about my progress.

 Thanks to all the non-writers in my life who tolerate what you assume is odd behavior. But, just so you know, in writer world I'm entirely normal.

Share this if you know some non-writers who need to see this or if you want proof that you are not the only writer who does these things.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why Do We Romanticize Tragedy?

So I know this is probably gonna rub a lot of people the wrong way... but have you ever noticed how we romanticize tragedy? Don't get me wrong, I love good stories, but seeing a pin recently on Pinterest made me wonder if in 100 years or so someone will write a romanticized story of 9/11. Subsequently, will a group of people create fake accounts for the people in that story?

Think about Vietnam War movies or World War II movies. My generation loves those highly played out and generally inaccurate accounts.  And maybe it is just because Titanic had such a romantic plotline that people have latched onto those characters. I haven’t gone searching for any memes or fake role playing accounts for other movies, but let’s think about this for a minute.

I wasn't around to hear of friends or family members dying in those wars. I didn’t deal with economic crises in those times or worry about the draft. Or, I didn’t hear about a tragedy killing 1,502 people.

I've been around for our "War on Terrorism", and I was devastated when I saw that the Pentagon had been hit. I remember bawling when I saw the side that had been hit was in my dad's department. But, as we all know, that side had been evacuated for remodeling. I certainly didn't know that then. These are tragedies of my country alone. In my generation, Hurricane Katrina took the lives of over 1,800 people. Compare that to the 1,502 that drowned, froze, or died in some other horrible way on the Titanic.

  •  85 years following the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio movie was released.
  • 54 years following World War II, Saving Private Ryan was released.
  • 29 years following the first troops setting foot in Vietnam, Forrest Gump was released.  
  • 19 years from the supposed time period of the movie (1968), Full Metal Jacket was released.

 So, I’m asking myself how long will it take for me to find Hurricane Katrina as a “moving” or an “emotionally intense” movie? Or what about 9/11? I know there were movies made about it, but I didn’t see them. I certainly wasn’t ready to relive it.

Is 85 years how long it takes for it to be okay to make fake accounts and joke around about people dying? They aren't alone, I mean there are plenty of fake Hitler accounts.
Have you given it much thought? I'd love to hear you guys weigh in. Seriously, I would like your input. Anonymous is cool as long as it's not hateful.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Another Epic AE Rant

So there are some general rules when it comes to blogging. Learn them now. And, as I say that, I'm going to break them utterly and without losing any sleep.

The United States recently had a presidential election. I, however, could care less. Because, in all honesty, it's one man. My FB feed has been completely blasted with political posts for a while now, and the aftermath of the ballots rolling in has people unfriending folks left and right. I just want to scream some very loud obscenities right now. No, I wasn't unfriended by anyone (because I'm not a politically involved person).

However, I have a much bigger point. And let's go ahead and bring Hurricane Sandy into the mix. Or maybe we should talk about 9/11 and Katrina, too?

During moments of crisis, I become very proud of my country. We seem to all want to rally together to help. Granted, I hate that it's that we all "text to donate." That's just a way to show what our country is; we all have smartphones and our way of helping involves 30 seconds of composing a text. But, it is still help, and I still am impressed by how people give...

But what about every other time?

No seriously.

Plenty of people have approached me for editing work and get a small package or even just a sample edit. They "love" my work and can attest to how I'm willing to work with them even after they can't afford it. Now, I have my business colleagues who are also self employed, and they tell me I'm crazy. My work is worth something, they tell me. My work is worth a lot actually. I spend a lot of time trying to make sure I understand what the author is aiming for. Practically every edit I do is a substantive. I work for the industry, but truth is, I don't make much money doing it.

I'm the haggler, and I'm the bargain hunter. I'm the price matcher. I don't have time to be a full-on couponer, but if I did, I would.

I saw someone's post today saying that he didn't know if he'd be able to pay his rent. And my first reaction was, "I wonder if he has a Paypal and we could do a small campaign to catch him up?" I know the stress that not having the money to pay bills causes.

So, back to the times of crisis. Most people at any given time are in some sort of crisis. I've been running for so hard and for so long just to make ends meet, but I'm still giving away free edits. There are plenty of good people who could use a leg up. Those are the people who need help. You know, your average everyday Joe who really is doing the best they can.

I give what I can when I can give it, and sometimes even more often than that. With my family, they know that whenever they need something, I will be there to deliver. I can't always guarantee a good mood, but I can guarantee I'll deliver. Namely, right now it's rides to work etc, but sometimes it's food out of my freezer or letting them come over to use my laundry machine.

I'm not in the middle of a hurricane, but that doesn't mean I couldn't use a break (haven't taken a vacation, even a small one, in over 3 years). Or how about that guy I mentioned earlier who doesn't know if he'll make rent?

While I am a bargain hunter, I don't try to haggle with people who are just trying to get by. The big auto chain price-matched the distributor I put in my car and got I $80 off. But, I try to buy locally, and I send every bit of business I can their way.

Here's my theory, everyone is in a crisis.

  1. I don't care if their crisis is worse than mine or menial compared to mine. There is a human being in stress.
  2. I don't care if they brought it on themselves; you live you learn. I'm not error free, and I've made bad choices, too. The idea is not to repeat them. But, getting bailed out of poor decisions you've made helps you realize how wonderful people are.
  3. I don't care if they are hateful people. They are that way for a reason. Something happened to them at some time to make them bitter, which means they've suffered plenty.
  4. I don't care if they have more money than me. Sometimes, this does irk me. But, I do my best to understand their problems anyway.
  5.  I do care if this is something ongoing that they refuse to face. Meaning, they know what the problem is and do nothing to attempt to rectify it. If you're dirty, take a shower. This concept works for the mind, body, and soul. We all backslide, the point is to keep moving forward.
  6. I do care if it's at the expense of someone else. Plain and simple: don't hurt others.
  7. I do care if all they're doing is sitting there with their hands out. Help yourself the best you can.
I give homeless folks money because they are usually sitting out in the heat or cold. I give street musicians money because they are working hard, and I almost always enjoy their music. Sometimes it's only fifty cents. Most of the time, fifty cents is all I have. Seriously. But, what if out of the 500 people that passed him by 100 of them gave him fifty cents? He'd have fifty bucks.

Or, if I hook you up with an edit, how about putting $5 in my Donate section? Or even asking for my Paypal email so they don't get a "cut" for giving me the button. Maybe that $5 would go to me treating myself to a Starbucks, which is quite uplifting for my spirits. One time I was donated $6, and that went into my gas tank. You never know. But, those donations made a huge difference to me, not just financially but to my mood and stress levels.

When I see Americans rallying around a crisis, I wonder how often those same people look or even see the crises that are happening everyday all around them?

I watch those video ads on small blogs because some of them get paid only when someone has watched the entire video. Chances are I'm not actually watching the whole video, but if it's playing on my computer the ad agency paying them doesn't know the difference. Sometimes, I just click on their ads.

Here's the deal, you help others get a leg up, chances are later on down the road, they will be in a better position to give someone else a leg up.

Isn't it Gandhi who said be the change you wish to see in the world? Why is everyone so concerned about the change of one man? (Do not in any way try to argue the merits or downfalls of the 2012 Presidential candidates, that's not the point. Your comment will be deleted if you do.)

Don't wait for the next disaster to happen to help, get plugged in to those around you, or do something nice. Sometimes a few cents goes a long, long way. I should know.