A Perfect Sky

blue sky

Arctic Sky from Picsora.com

I’ve been a little low key on social media lately. I lost my brother rather suddenly and tragically at the beginning of March and things just haven’t felt “right” since then. I wanted to put off Writing Wednesdays until I could write a beautiful and poetic blog post about my brother- how great he was, the circumstances of his death, and the lasting imprint he will have on the lives of the people he touched. I’m not there yet. I might not be there for a long time. I do want to write, though.

Tragedy throws our lives out of balance. I’ve done a lot of mind work in my life and have dealt with a fair amount of tragedy. It doesn’t make sudden loss or struggle easy, but it does help. When a tragedy like this strikes, it’s the difference between being thrown off balance while allowing yourself to break down, mourn, cry, etc. and being totally unable to function, submerging and sinking into a sea of depression and anger. Neither reaction will result in my brother coming back to me, but the second reaction is not where I want to be.

I allow myself to be sad, to lean into the emotion and let myself feel what I need to. Doing so actually keeps me from sinking. I try not to indulge in “what if” and “if only” thoughts or do too much superhero fantasizing about going back in time and changing it. I feel and then gently push myself to keep moving.

Whatever emotion we need to feel, we should allow ourselves to feel it. It is what it needs to be. There is no right way to be.

I had this insight when I was about 16: I was driving a friend in my car and she commented that the sky was “perfect.” She meant that there were no clouds in it. It was blue from horizon to horizon. I thought on that for a while. Is a cloudless sky perfect? What about a sky with puffy little white clouds? Or one streaked with a rainbow? Or one blazing from the colors of a sunset? What about a sky full of thunderclouds or fog?

rainbow tree

Is this not a perfect sky? (image- Dan Bush http://www.pbase.com/missouri_skies/portfolio)

The truth is, all of those are “perfect” skies. The sky is exactly as it needs to be. We are the ones who impose our definitions of “perfect” or even “acceptable” upon something we cannot control. The same can be said about us. If we wait until all of the things we believe make us “perfect” are in alignment, we will wait our entire lives. This is not to say that we shouldn’t strive to improve upon ourselves or our situations, just that we should soften our definition of “perfection” and give ourselves a break when we need to feel sad or we don’t get the job that we want. This is life. Sometimes it rains.

Test

This is a test of the emergency blogcasting network. Had this been an actual blog post, you would have been riddled with random thoughts and goofy images. This concludes our test.

Gotham Writers

Recently, I signed up for a course with Gotham Writers. Sadly, it did not involve blogging in the Batcave. I mean, what’s even the point? If you’re going to call yourself Gotham Writers…

Bah. I’m over it.

…not really.

Every week, we have assignments that address a certain aspect of writing. This particular class is helping me with my short story/novel writing. I have been focusing on screenwriting over the past two years. This focus became apparent when I participated in NaNoWriMo. I had become TOO economical with words. I had learned to leave out scene painting details because that is not the job of a screenplay. I had learned to leave out character thoughts and back story for the same reason. My “chapters” were averaging one to two pages and were hardly what I would call engrossing. This class is helping me find some balance.

The thing it is NOT helping me find, however, is an audience. At the start of the year, I had wanted to make that my focus. I’m not interested in driving up numbers on my social media or collecting legions of fans or anything. I just would like my writing to have a life outside of my own computer. Writing without an audience is basically journaling and I burned out on that in my Tori Amos-obsessed 90’s teendom.

Blogging was filling that hole for a while, but I don’t have the drive to keep up with it as much. Most of the things I enjoyed blogging about can be succinctly summarized in a tweet, a vine, or a tumblr post. Screenwriting is tricky to share because one kind of needs to learn how to read screenplays as much as how to write them. Novel writing is great, but let’s face it, it is going to take me a WHILE to get anything to the point of publication…

So that leaves me with short stories. The thing that is great about this writing workshop is that each week we have to write a short story and our assignments are limited to 500 words. That limit forces me to craft a beginning, middle and end and not amble on through a word forest with no end in sight.

So far in this class, I have five short stories. I think I will share them here. I will probably edit them and expand the ones that really pulled on me, but my hope is to get something narrative up on this blog for people to read.

Oh, and I have created an “in-between” theme for this blog so that it is easier to read than it was. I don’t mind the dark background throughout my site when I am trying to call attention to a video or an image, but for reading large blocks of text, it is a bad idea.

Facebook Freeze

As I stated yesterday, I am trying to get more of my writing actually out there in the world. To do so requires energy and time. These are two things that a single mom with a full time job doesn’t exactly have in spades. As I struggled to keep my eyes open getting my words in at 750words.com every night before midnight, I wondered if I had my priorities straight.

“I don’t have time to write.”

I find myself saying this too often. I still manage to get my daily writing in, but I know that’s the bare minimum if one really wants to be a writer. And to be honest, I need to write about more than what happened in my day and the things I am going to write, you know, when I have the time…

I also hear other people saying this. A lot. In fact, almost more than any other creative endeavor, I hear people referring to themselves as writers, but then admitting that they don’t actually write. I’ve had three such conversations this past month alone. What is going on here?

The simplest answer is that when people ask us what we do, many of us don’t want to give them the “day job” answer. We want to tell people who we are in our minds, what we WANT to do. I get that. I used to hold a grudge against my day job because it wasn’t film making. In my mind I was Steven Spielberg, not Mark Zuckerberg (how I learned to love my inner computer nerd and rule my code with pride is an entirely different blog post, but not quite in the scope of this one, so I will leave it). Not only that, but “I’m a writer” sounds so cool. It just makes a person sound smart, doesn’t it?

I’d wager there is something else going on with writing, and it’s kind of the biggest obstacle. Writing is hard. It is really hard. Most people don’t realize this until they actually sit down to maintain that blog or write that novel or screenplay. We all learn to “write” from a very young age, so we are under the impression that it is easy. Hell, if a SIX-YEAR-OLD can do it…

“Hey I know grammar! I can write! I’m going to move out to Hollywood and be a screenwriter! Easy money! All I have to do is write ninety little pages and I can get $100K for it, right?” Yeah!

BrianDoesHollywood2

No. I have met a lot of people who are “working on a screenplay” out here in Los Angeles. I have met a few who have actually finished one, fewer still who have done more than one draft of it and VERY few who have done anything with what they have finished. It’s not just because Hollywood is so tough, it’s because what they are trying to do- even before they go pitch it to a heartless executive- is actually really, really hard. Writing takes a lot of time and focus. I can write ninety pages of words with no problem. You won’t want to read them. I doubt anyone is going to want to make a movie out of them.

Focus is the hardest part. For me, anyway, “writer’s block” is just the inability to focus. Sometimes writing involves some research. Thankfully, we have the Internet and all of the information in the world is at our fingertips. Unfortunately, we have the Internet and all of the information in the world is at our fingertips. One harmless little search for flower metaphors can turn into me fantasizing about owning a vineyard in France. I will feel bad about the diversion and buy a book on writing from Amazon to alleviate the guilt, only to look at the clock and realize it’s time for bed.

Researching aside, nothing is a bigger focus stealer for me than social media.

“I was wondering when she was going to get to the point of this.”

Right. I enjoy clicking on the links my friends post on Google+. They are mostly of the geeky and informational variety. I can handle scanning my twitter feed a few times a day and sending out my own tweets. However, nothing is more time sucking than Facebook.

That girl I went to high school with who I haven’t spoken to since 1993 just had a baby. How cute! What else has she been up to? This one guy I met once at a party in Hollywood is posting some horrifically nasty political garbage and the comments are priceless. I will write my response. Wait, I will edit it before I post it because it might not be nice. I will delete it because I don’t even know any of these people. I haven’t been able to write anything, so I will go check out my writer friends’ profiles. Oh, look! They are on Facebook, too. Well, I feel better now. Look at this story about this heart-wrenching thing that everyone is rallying behind. Oh, wait, it’s fake. Now look at this story about how that story was fake and how anyone who believed it was stupid…

On and on it goes. I had been spending less and less time on Facebook. I had mostly been posting pictures of my baby for friends and family (and that dude I met at that party and that high school “friend” who… wait… we didn’t go to high school together at all! Who even IS that person with the new baby?) Lately, I started to notice that a lot of my real life conversations were revolving around things that had been posted on Facebook, either by me or by my “friends.” All 415 of them (yeah, I don’t actually have 415 friends).

So I wondered, what if I just quit facebook altogether? It’s taking up a lot of time that could be better spent finishing and publishing those writing projects I have (two novels, a screenplay and a pilot, to be exact). I should focus on being a better writer (or coder, but like I said, that’s a post for another day). After a couple of days of wondering how best to end my relationship with Facebook (should I warn people, should I just pull the plug, should I post my reasoning?), I just pulled the plug after the new year.

So far, so good! I am still alive. People still exist. I’m fine not knowing what football games people are going to be watching this weekend. I’m sure most people will be just fine not seeing my posts bragging about my mad home ice cream making skillz. A “like” on a post can give us the false sense that hundreds of other people care about our day-to-day lives just as much as we do. I

It’s been making me reevaluate how I might use Facebook, should I choose to come back (deactivations, unlike deletions, are temporary and can be undone anytime, just in case you were wanting to try the same experiment). There are a couple of friends I have thought about contacting, but have realized that the only way I was ever in touch with them was on Facebook. I should change that. Not only that, it can be a useful tool for writers! Before this week, I would have posted a link to this blog on Facebook. This writer does want readers, after all. I won’t be doing that for this post, however. Which makes me a little sad.

Though I also won’t be doing the subsequent infinite scroll down my news feed that will occupy my brain for an hour or so. Hmm. Maybe I will pull out my outline instead…

Inactivity Log

Okay, here is the thing. I am a web developer. I am also a writer. As such, I never work on my blog because these two personalities are always screaming conflicting things. When I get a blog post written, I hit publish, step back to take a look at my site… and am mortified by how bad it looks. A good sixty or so percent of the people reading this might think I’m being crazy, but I build web sites for a living. I know how they are supposed to look and this one violates so many of the rules and suggestions out there that it makes me irritated at myself.

“So redesign your web site,” you tell me. Of course! I would LOVE to. Here’s the thing about that, though. Web technologies are always changing. I learn the “best way” to do things, redesign my site and then take another contracting gig that shows me an even BETTER way to do things, and on and on it goes. It takes a lot of time to redesign a site. And when you are working on other people’s sites for eight hours a day, there is little time left for yours.

And because I have so little free time, I feel I should spend it writing. So, I am left with this constant battle going on in my head. Use my spare time to write or use my spare time to redesign my site?

Lately I have chosen to use my spare time to write. Looking at the timeline on this blog, you might not believe me. That’s because I don’t write where anyone can see it. I write at 750words.com daily and won NaNoWriMo this year, writing a 50,000+ word novel during the month of November. It feels so satisfying to get all of that writing done, but the major problem is that no one can see it.

In the case of my novel, that is a very good thing at the moment. The story changed about four times while I was writing and the whole thing is a jumbled mess. The hefty job of rewriting and editing is now upon me. In the case of my words at 750words.com, that is both a good and a bad thing. Much of that writing reads like journal entries and I don’t necessarily want to share (nor do you necessarily want to read about) the inner workings of my mind. A few of my entries have actually been short stories, thoughts about life in general, and “practice” blog posts, though. Those entries should be read.

Enter 2014. A new year. This year, I am trying a few things. I gave up facebook for one (so far, so good). Getting back in shape is another. The most important resolution for me this year is to get my writing “out there.” I will work on redesigning my site, but in the meantime, I am not going to be idle with the blog posts anymore. I still want to finish up my extras stories (I have a couple of really great ones). I have short stories that I want to publish and I now have two NaNoWriMo novels that are begging to be edited and distributed. It’s relatively easy to self-publish these days, so no more excuses!

Yes, my blog is a bit difficult to read. No, my site is not responsive yet. I will work on that when I can. When the site design updates, the blog posts will too (ah, the beauty of WordPress), so I am just not going to worry about it. Presentation is huge to me, but content is as well. Right now, I am focusing on content.

Now that I think about it, that is a lovely metaphor for why I put a hold on my Facebook account!