Still Kicking

Fear

It is a powerful motivator. . . or should that be de-motivator? Fear of the inevitable rejection that is part of being a writer. It happens and will happen and you can’t stop it. It is part of the writing process, not everything you write will be gold. Sometimes the things you think are best no one else ‘gets’ so they are rejected. Sometimes the things you are really, really unsure of hit the spot and people like them.

In most things there are benchmarks that if you strive for them you’ll fall within acceptable parameters. Things can be measured and calculated so that your efforts have a good certainty of success if you follow those guides. Ys, writing does have some rules but even if you follow them, it might still suck. Even if it doesn’t suck it might fall outside current trends or needs. Even if you hit the right time with the right idea inside the guidelines. . . sometimes the current trend is to color outside the lines. All of that uncertainty creates. . .you guessed it. . .

Fear

Then there is another kind of fear. It is a lack of faith. Sometimes you look at words you wrote the day before and though you were sure they were rock solid then, now you are not so sure. You second guess, worry, and that restricts further words. Lack of faith in your words is a huge fear.

Fear.

The worst fear though. . .at least for me. . .is being irrelevant. What if my best words at the best time about the best ideas are just. . . .nothing? That is the biggest and worst boogey-man in my writing closet. Irrelevance.

So I sent off several short stories to editors yesterday. They were sitting here and I had done nothing with them for over a year. I tweaked them and read them and I am pretty dang confident they were really good. I was also pretty confident that I am tired of fear. So if they are accepted, hooray for me in getting published. If they are not I will submit them someplace else and keep writing.

I am done letting fear guide my hand.

Ya. . .some stuff will suck but even if it does I will learn from it and move on. I used to tell students that the first hundred round-house kicks will be bad, the next thousand will be better but in the end, by the time they hit black belt they will have thrown an average of 25,000 roundhouse kicks. . . they’ll finally be doing good kicks. By the time they hit 4th dan and are a master they will have thrown over 100k and finally, they will be doing really good. If they ever hit 9th dan grand master, then they will be perfect. But each failure teaches a lesson. A slight modification of technique and timing that teaches us but only if we allow ourselves to throw them knowing they might fail. It is that willingness to be imperfect in our efforts that will guide us to achieving success.

So I threw a few kicks yesterday. I’ll throw some more today.

Some might hit.

Some might miss.

In the end. . .its ok either way.

Because at least I am still kicking.

Randomness and Rambling

I have, over the years, started many a blog. I have tried to be clever or introspective or informative. I don’t think I have ever just tried to be myself though. Thinking about it, I wonder about my reasoning behind the blogs I have started and then, eventually, abandoned. Was I seeking social connection? Was I trying to create a platform. . .? A writer’s platform. . .makes it sound like I might just tip over while writing doesn’t it? Like I need scaffolding to keep me upright. . . Oiy! Get some blocking under ‘im. . . he’s listing to the side again!

The writer’s platform. . . it is an odd concept to me. I get why it is needed in this day and age with the sheer volume of new fiction but, at the same time, I have a hard time planning one out for myself. I have a hard time thinking of “I should create this platform to attract that kind of reader to sell . . .” I know I should. I know it is stupid of me not to. I read other writer’s blogs, successful widely published writers and they seem to weave promotion so effortlessly into their blog. It is not pushy or too timid but just right. They slide the promotion in and do it in such a way that it is enjoyable and unobtrusive.

Me, on the other hand, well I always end up feeling like I put off the image of the neighbors horny dog that kept humping everyone’s legs when I try and do it. No matter how much I plan or don’t plan. . . .if I am spontaneous or operating on a thoughtful, systematic plan. . .I still get the feeling I come across like that horny puppy. It was a nice enough dog but once Rags got that sparkle in his eyes, you knew to steer clear of him cause someone or something was about to be dry humped.

 

Daily Progress

At 20,294 words now. Was up to 23k but deleted a bunch of stuff I really didn’t like. Finding it hard not to get lost into banter between the characters in the story. I periodically have to kick myself and remember “show, don’t tell” to get myself back on track. So I deleted about 4k worth of words and wrote back better stuff. Still fighting the urge to edit myself as I go along. . . but that section just went spiraling off into the “who gives a shit” area of playful banter. It had to go to get back to the meat of the story.

So back on track and moving forward.

The Archer

A long time ago when I learned martial arts my master used to use stories to teach me lessons. Some people might see it as sappy but, I loved them. More than that though, I remembered the lessons that each story was about. Years later when I taught martial arts I also told my students these stories. Now I will say that I most likely did not get them exactly, word for word the same and may have added a wee bit of flourish and my own style to them. The lessons though stayed the same.

So the other night I was going through and sorting some old documents on my system and I came across the lesson of the archer. It is a detailed account of all the work it takes to make a bow and then the work to make each arrow and fletch it. The point of it is to emphasize the amount of preparation so it is wordy and long and I will not rewrite it here so you don’t fall asleep on me. After all that preparation in making the bow and the arrows it talks about the process of shooting an arrow, the allowing the breath to escape as you aim until you are fully calm and steady and then you loose the arrow.  Then you don’t sit there and watch it go because there is nothing you can do once it is fired. You grab another arrow and shoot that or the enemy army will just run up and then you are kind of screwed cause, you know, you got a bow and not a sword.

The point was to teach students that once they throw a kick or a punch in a competition to not focus on it. If the kick sucked, it’s ok. If the punch failed, don’t worry about it, move on. The time you spend fussing over the botched kick or punch is the time that you should be continuing the fight and the time the opponent will use to beat your ass because you aren’t paying attention.

Then it hit me. This lesson that I was taught over 30 years ago and I had memorized to such a point that I was able to bore many sets of students with its retelling over and over, was a lesson I never thought to put outside the context of martial arts and yet, it is the exact lesson I needed to hear.

Sometimes when I write I get caught up in my own wordiness and try and get a turn of phrase just right or a description just perfect on the first draft. I can get bogged down on it and it just stops my flow of thought. That section consumes my thoughts and getting it perfect becomes more important than getting it down on paper. I need to let it go. I need to let the words fly and then grab the next handful of them and toss em at the screen and keep writing. Editing and second drafts are the times to fuss over exactness. First drafts are the fight, the kicks and punches you just keep throwing and striving to make the next better than the last. You get it done and worry about the clean up later.

It is humbling to realize that the solution was in my head and I never stood back far enough to see how it fit into other aspects of my life. I’ve known what I needed to do for over 30 years and I swear I could hear my master’s voice saying “duh” when I finally figured it out.

I can be kinda slow that way sometimes.

Morning Coffee

I was sitting outside today having a morning cup of coffee and I noticed something. It is the time of year when the spring eggs from the geckos and anoles and salamanders are hatching.  Most of the eggs look like tiny whitish-greenish balls stuck under leaves and blend in well (thanks Darwin). I happened to see one this morning just as the baby anole was starting to emerge. It was struggling, it’s egg tooth pushing and cutting and it was fighting with all its might to escape and be born.

You can’t help them. Even if you did have some technical way of actually providing assistance they would never understand and they’d just see this huge, overly hairy thing trying to mess with them and freak. So you just have to watch. You can only sit there and cheer them on, hope they make it, and witness it. That is all you can do.

Sometimes, when I am writing, I swear I see that same look from my girlfriend. That same pained “I wish I could help you through it but can’t” look I give the lizards. I know that at times when I am struggling with a passage or area or just with the writing in general she watches and wishes and hopes for me, but she can’t do anything. All she can do is witness it. That has to be hard to do for her. To watch someone she loves struggling and know that she can’t do anything to ease the struggle. The process is mine and I have to own it.

So I sat back and watched the lizard extricate itself in a long and arduous struggle and sipped my coffee. All the while I kept thinking, I bet she doesn’t know that I see those looks. . . that I don’t know she is watching, hoping, wishing she could help. Maybe I should find some way of telling her that I know.

The coffee, by the way, was Blue Mountain Blend from Fresh Market and was amazingly tasty today.