do the write thing

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I decided tonight would be the best night to get it over with; let my fingers meet the keys with no real intention at all, to figure out what the hell I’ve been doing, and where I’ve been for the last few months. It seemed like it was just March and I was making a mental note to write that short story about things I’ve read, make that one correction to a piece I started in February, draft that outline (a singular novel about my father.) And now here it is, middle of October, and I’ve done nothing. I’ve been avoiding this chair like the plague. Today, it caught up with me. This will make little to no sense at all, and without a doubt with serve no other purpose than to empty my thoughts of these thoughts, so please feel free to skip and scroll down to the song I’ve left you if that doesn’t sound alright.

I was antsy with the thought of how good it was going to feel to sit here and write something profound and well-stated for my mid-term paper, but those thoughts can’t come out until the rambling ones do.

The notion to write has been there, the inspiration and all that. I’ve got more characters in my head than I possibly know what to do with, each adding a little layer a day at a time, filling future books with all sorts of excellent nonsense. That’s if and when I give it much thought; it’s either all at once or nothing at all, and it drives me up the wall. It occurred to me that I may be dwindling my own craft by not putting pen to page, as it were. I saw another pen-plagued friend the other day, and it reminded me why we do what we do, and how well we do it when we finally decide. A decision not easily arrived.

It’s a heavy thing, this pen. The strength which it takes to pick it up is not a burden I’m inclined towards, some days. You have to sort and sift and bury and camouflage and that is so hard after you’ve been about the business of living all day. Other days, like today, I cannot get the words out fast enough, silencing the organized-chaotic around me.

I am shaking my head as I type this. I feel positively drowsy with inspiration sometimes, which makes me avoid it all the more. It’s a commitment I begrudge because I do love it so much, almost vainly.“If I start, I’ll never stop.” I wish I were kidding, but I think if I allowed myself to just sit and write all the pieces I wanted, I’d be in this chair for four years. FOUR. YEARS. I’m sure someone is sitting there, interpreting this as a humble brag, but I am really distressed at the thought of having to organize and manage these individual thoughts for longer than a minute. Hell, four minutes is agony, I can’t imagine more.

I’ve really missed the noisy corner of my mind, but the accidental quiet was a nice surprise. When you spend a certain amount of time with your characters, you sort of lose your wits a bit; much like when we get lost in a book we’re reading. – I just finished The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau and it was absolutely wonderful. If you haven’t, you should. – But the writing process is longer and so much more treacherous. Why did that character say that? Why did she phrase it that way? Does that sound feminist? Do I want it to sound feminist? Do I need to switch gears and go in a different direction? I hate this. I’m deleting the whole thing. I wonder if there’s coffee in the pot. I hate heating up old coffee. Caffeine. [walks to coffee pot] OH! I KNOW WHAT I CAN – [walks back to computer]SHIT! What was it I was going to say?! FCKKK!!! It really is annoying and wonderful and I have truly missed creating space with words.

I suppose the real issue I’m circling here is: what comes next? There are a few scary things I want a write, and I want to make a collection of those. I’d love to finish the follow-up to The Anchor but I don’t want to spend too much more time there, not now. I’ve been in Beulah for too long to want to visit so soon. But what next? The short stories, I feel, won’t be satisfactory and I have too much going on to write another novel, which seems twice as appealing because I can’t do that at this time. I’ve got the itch so bad and I am not allowed to scratch. So, what is this? Writer’s block or indecision? Or can I just not commit?

to the picture I had in my head: a letter.

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Dear Picture I had in My Head,
I would like to start by saying that this letter will be equal parts happy and sad. It will be a jumbled, rambling sort of letter, containing brutally honest statements and observations; probably a little profanity here and there, either for flair or because I’ve been cursed with a sailor’s tongue; maybe none at all, who knows. I implore you with my words for acceptance of this semi-apology for this last decade of my life.

So far this sounds more like an obituary than an apologetic thank-you letter. I suppose that’s typical.

I have had countless opportunity for self-reflection, especially within this last year, and several things have been laid out for me, extremely plainly. I now feel like it’s time to throw some of this back out in to the universe and see what happens.

I close my eyes and think about my high school graduation day. Was that when it all started? Was that the day I began subconsciously grasping for freedom I didn’t know I wanted? Freedom from expectation, obligation and necessity. Either way, I apologize for placing that pressure on you for precision. I have never, in the last decade of my life or to my limited knowledge ever, been capable of fitting anything in to its appropriate place, myself included. I am thankful for the life experiences I’ve come by, by trying to place a square inside of a circle inside of an octagon. Dearest Picture, I hope you know I wouldn’t trade where I am now for all of those mistakes, not even for a second; those mistakes have added character to my road.

I think those of us, that have been blessed beyond measure to see things differently, the ones that are left-of-center and unashamed to the labeled as such, are often viewed as society’s delinquents. We’re wired peculiarly and to many, we’re constantly throwing off the balance of an already upside down world. We’re responsible for what’s wrong with the world. Why can’t we leave well-enough alone? Well, I’ll tell you….

We’re told from day one that we have to think a certain way, fed copious amounts of, “Sunday school answers,” and expected to absorb, recite, rinse and repeat. I am so not okay with this, and it should be mentioned this isn’t how the real world works. Some stuff is learned, other things are ingrained. Us left-of-center kids are screwed here because we go against the grain, asking all the wrong questions and being too curious. I am making no religious attack here, by the way, it’s just the terminology that came to mind and best fit what I’m trying to say. All of that is not to say, that given the chance, I would go back and do certain things better: 

I’d have longer conversations with my dad and ask him all the shit that I ask myself now; I know he would have all the answers, and if he didn’t he’d at least be honest and say that he just made shit up as he went along.

I’d have more confidence in myself and my decisions long before age twenty-five. I never realized what second-guessing didn’t do for my self-esteem.

I wouldn’t have gone to college. I’d sell my car and most of my belongings and spend the rest of my days traveling, reading every piece of legit lit and writing all of my thoughts down as I went.

You see, I didn’t realize while I was graduating high school, living a gypsy life through my early college years, meandering through my mid-to-now-late twenties that the whole point is to grow, and take note of it. I have no shame in out-right apologizing for this. Every single part of my life was planned out for as far as I could see: graduate high school, graduate college, meet a man, get married, procreate, white picket fence, etc. the end. THAT’S JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME. I’ve always known that fitting in to that mold and mindset wasn’t right for me, I just didn’t know how to make myself a better counter-offer. I thought that just by making these larger than life declarations of change that I was changing. Surely by moving from city to city, back and forth from my hometown to some other city in Louisiana, learning things about the history and culture, influencing my musical and culinary tastes and making friends I will have for a lifetime were good enough to mark a woman’s change. These were, in fact, times in my life I’ll never, ever forget. I don’t think, until recently though, I looked back at those images and realized what they all really meant, and for that I am truly sorry.

Here’s a tiny list of other random crap I’d like to apologize for, in no particular order:

– for expecting everyone I come in to contact with to know what it is I’ve been through and to silently apologize for all the wrong I been done….that’s not their problem and I don’t know why we expect complete strangers, hell, even friends, to feel it necessary to apologize for someone else’s mistakes.

– for not ever having a vision for married life, and yet pursuing it to some extent any way. If this is the chance that I get to say this, however backhanded it may be, I guess I’m going to take the chance. my ex-husband was/is (I guess?) a good man. He so perfectly fit the idea of what the ideal husband should look like, I didn’t take in to consideration that specific idea might not be right for me….or for him. I’m sorry for trying to fit my unconventional ideas about monogamy, marriage and what a relationship means to me inside of a perfectly cut cookie marriage. I had no idea what I was thinking.

– for expecting the person that I committed my life to, to love me back, unconditionally. to accept me for all of my flaws and embracing that person, instead of turning away, questioning nothing and tossing any hope for our delicate relationship aside. I’m sorry I imagined grandeur.

– for anticipating all the men in the history of ever to act and treat me like my exes. this is asinine and I only do it subconsciously and I’m making a conscious effort not to do that.

– for reading total crap over the years, because I thought that’s what I was supposed to read. one day, I’ll write a grand toast to all of the banned books with bad language and provocative ideas, applauding them for pushing me to think. I’ll also write a toast to science fiction for making me realize that though Jane Austen had a brilliant mind, she laid it to waste, only trifling with matters of society…a master of painting a perfect picture. (though I will never, ever trade images of Darcy in my head.)

– for not saying what I’ve always wanted to say because it may or may not fck with the picture someone has of me in their head. I’m not here to fit in to your idea of what I should be like. That being said, I’m sorry for not knowing how to best use my words until recently. I used to throw them out at people, often times aggressively and without understanding of what it was I was trying to say.

– lastly, for expectation in general. yes, let me sit on my soap box and apologize for allllllllllllllllllll the nonsense I – along with everyone else in the world – subconsciously expect from everyone. decency, gratitude, courtesy…all of it.

I think of all the different times that I moved, the growing pains and the happiness that went along with them and now I realize that I was by-passing all of them, treating them as passing fancies on the way to the next thing I “had” to check off on my list to complete the picture in my head. What we don’t realize that the picture in your head is never going to be the picture that actually stands before you; that picture isn’t tangible. This brings me to my next point….

It is possible for you, Picture, to step up your game and be real, tangible and present. We manifest our own happiness, it’s as simple as that. Once we embrace this little gem of wisdom, that’s all there is to it. When you realize that there is no 5 x 7 frame for you to fit your life in to…well, things just get much easier.

Once I stopped thinking about what I was supposed to do and started focusing on what I wanted to do, my life shifted. While it is unfortunate that certain events had to take place and a certain amount of time had to pass before I woke up to this revelation, I’m so happy that it’s clear now. Everything about the way the world looks to me has changed. I had all the tools from a good upbringing, but now my life requires more from me. I had to take charge, I had to answer all the hard questions solo and re-evaluate everything without input from others. I had figure out how to be ballsy enough to make a mess and humble enough to realize that I would eventually have to clean it up.

I never pictured any of this. THIS LIFE WAS NOT WHAT I HAD IN MY HEAD. I didn’t picture my dad slipping away from me before I was finished with my first semester of college or what that meant for my mom. I didn’t picture getting married at twenty-three and I certainly didn’t imagine getting divorced by 27. I didn’t think of certain people falling out or back in to my life. Those things you just can’t plan. The picture in your head is honestly only good for destroying hope of what it is you really want. I feel as though, now, that if I live life without any true expectation, without a gorgeous filtered photo in my mind, that happiness can be obtained. And that’s the real picture of perfection.

I’m not saying go through life without a plan or without caring or being involved. I’m saying don’t beat yourself up when it doesn’t look quite like you planned. We cannot constantly mourn the loss of things that didn’t turn out…otherwise, we’d be sad and miserable all the time.

Maybe this thing is a eulogy?

…either way. Thank you, Picture in My Head, for pushing me to this place of non-attachment. For forcing me to find gratitude in the things I have learned up to this point and healthy anticipation for the things to come. For reminding me that the picture doesn’t have to add up, be perfect, fit in a frame, be in color or black&white and doesn’t under any circumstances have to be technically beautiful. For making it clear from now on I need only to appreciate the images as they pass by, moment to moment.

Thank you. I will miss having you in my head.

Sincerely,

The Girl Who Decided a Picture Isn’t Always Worth 1000 Words

coffee break

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today just wasn’t going to happen without a delicious, extra dirty chai. I needed an extra boost on this Monday morning, because I had such an exhausting weekend of relaxing with my friends. It’s a rough life.

I have been steadily drawing the conclusion that The Anchor just wasn’t right, that the story wasn’t finished, that I’d honestly left out a chunk of the story….even though I didn’t know what that meant. I felt like there was a person missing, a giant piece of history or a big event that was essential to pushing the story to greatness. I started writing the book last April (almost a year ago, which I can’t believe) and, “finished,” it in October. It’s been amazing to see the characters change and grow and become people who I genuinely love, and not just because I’m writing about them. Walter and Bridget speak to me on so many different levels, and though I created them, I feel like they’ve changed me more than I could have ever anticipated.

I was happy to take my usual stroll to the mail this morning, I felt like I needed a moment away from my desk to really get some clarity on what I want from today/ this week. I couldn’t handle passing my favorite coffee shop without stopping…so I did. Extra dirty chai, over ice since it’s warming up here and the sun is out. ALL I want to do lately is be outside in the sun. I suppose that’s because we had annoying, drizzly, gloomy weather for what seemed like weeks, without even a glimmer of sunshine. I think we take nature for granted, so I’ve added showing gratitude towards mother Earth to my list of resolutions.

I’m rambling, I realize. I’m only half-way through my chai though, so I have an excuse.

Thanks to my little morning endeavor to Tamp&Grind Coffee, I’m thrilled to officially announce that within the week, I should be done making the major changes to the manuscript. NAY! I will be done. AND I’M HOLDING EVERYONE ACCOUNTABLE. I’m going to push myself to write every day, for most of the day this week, even if that means just making notes and drawing maps. You know, when the story turned in to a book I made myself a schedule. I had pages due every Thursday so I could re-read and edit on Fridays; I had specific days for everything. I’m not sure when I stopped doing this. Maybe I got overwhelmed with all of the other things that were happening in my life, maybe I got lazy. I don’t know. What I do know is that my flame has been reignited and I cannot wait to share this amazing story with everyone. As soon as the actual, final draft edit is complete, I’m going to start sending out query letters. This makes me extremely nervous and over-the-moon happy. I’m not sure if I will self-publish, though I’ve been encouraged to do so. (any thoughts on this are more than welcomed.) Either way, I’m so interested and excited to see what’s next for my characters and their story. I can’t wait to share it!

here’s a song for Monday. enjoy over coffee/favorite beverage.

blurb, finally.

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I really wish I knew where inspiration comes from. Honestly, what drives us? Sometimes, I can I sit down and bang out five different blogs in two days; or a few chapters in my book, or do some thick editing to The Anchor. Other times, as much as I hate to admit it, I can go weeks, months even, without touching my work. I really haven’t put too much in to my first novel lately, except a mental list of all the things I’m going to change, “in the new year.” But why not now? What’s the catch? What stops us from going on? And what gives us just the right push to start-up again?

I go through these sorts of cycles all the time. Changes in my yoga practice, changes in my writing habits and I get it; our busy, daily lives are hard to manage, especially when it comes to things we really want to do. But I would loooooooooooove to know what it means when out of nowhere, in  drop-of-the-hat fashion, we can be struck with inspiration and start it again? Though I am currently plagued with the, “why,” of it all, I am pleased to announce that I have started on the second installment of Walter and Bridget’s story; a project I am currently calling The Bridge. I’m not sure if this title is going to stick but I’m trying it on; see if it fits as well as its sister novel. I am already beaming with excitement and pride over this portion of their story. I’m allowing myself to use Bridget’s voice in this book and I am thrilled. Writing The Anchor from Walter’s perspective was fun and obviously interesting considering I am in no way, shape or form a guy. Being able to tell this love story through the eyes of his beloved Bridget is going to be a privilege. I feel like Bridget and I are extremely different, though we share several similarities; so writing and using her voice is going to be fun (and hopefully quite funny.)

I was doing some lazy-girl Sunday reading and it suddenly hit me. I could see the book unfolding right before my eyes and I had to start writing. Now it’s a frenzy, just as before, of endless notes and researching. And jazz music. Walter and Bridget’s love story for some odd reason HAS to have a crooning, jazzy backdrop. I’m obsessed with the story already and I’m only twenty pages in. I can’t wait to see what these characters do.

I seriously adore the world I get to live in when I’m writing; sometimes I don’t even feel like me, and it’s awesome. Writing can take you to some seriously amazing, wild places.

I know I’ve mentioned it here before, but I have found it quite difficult to write an appropriate blurb for the first book. I hate having to answer, “what is your book about?” because my answer is extremely lackluster. “It’s a love story, told in male perspective.” Like…no-one wants to read that. I know. I’ve thought about it so many times in the shower, while doing my makeup, blow-drying my hair, in the car on the way to work, at work – okay, I think about it all the time. “What am I going to say to make people want to read this story?” (Notice I did not say sell this book, because let’s be honest, if it isn’t a story people won’t care about it’s not going to sell anyway.) Here’s what I’ve come up with; it’s about the most honest combination of words I’ve been able to contrive without giving everything away.

Walter and Bridget have always been more than best friends but less than lovers. She left him in their perfect Southern town of Beulah, South Caroline after he broke her heart. Bridget’s sudden absence shocked him to his core and forever changed him. Four years later and she’s back, and everything has changed – and will continue to do so as long as Walter and Bridget coexist; they are anchored to each other. Their story unfolds in Audrey J. Parks’ debut novel, so aptly named, The Anchor

(Yes, I will use a pen name.)

I feel like this is a sorry excuse for a blurb but it’s better than what I’d been telling people. Hell, anything was better than that. I’m just so afraid I’ll ruin it by describing it. – does that make sense? The story has turned out so wonderful and more special to me than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams and, ironically, I don’t want to tarnish it with incorrect words. Le sigh. What a lovely problem to have.

avalanche

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it’s a funny thing, heartbreak.

it happens when you least expect it. sometimes its self-inflicted pain and other times our precious loved ones are the cause of our insides spilling out on the floor. what happens when a block of salt is lodged in an already gaping, bleeding wound?

you stitch that shit up and keep going. that’s what.

I read about yoga a lot and practice as much as I can to not only test my limits physically and become stronger, but to open my heart. Through this practice and semi-inconsistent meditation, I’ve taken the words Rumi has offered and pondered.

“You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.” Rumi

It’s weird to say this since I’m generally perceived as as sweet, warm person, but I’m fairly certain it’s just a warm-hands/cold-heart situation. I didn’t realize until recently how shut off I’ve been emotionally, for years. Maybe I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in now had I self-actualized. Regardless….it’s all starting to snowball and I feel like it’s way out of my control. I really hope there isn’t any serious collateral damage, but I fear it’s too late.

I don’t know if circles and lines have been drawn already; I’m not sure I can rearrange this room again. I’m so afraid that if my heart breaks again or a little more, like even if it adds the tiniest crack, an avalanche is going to fall out. I already feel flooded with more emotion than I knew existed inside my soul, but an avalanche; that’s what coming if my heart breaks one more time before it’s healed again.

Heartbreak can be positive I suppose, but I’m worried I’m not going to be able to get it back in a shape that I recognize. Maybe this is a good thing…I’ve been going through so many changes lately, learning so much about who I am and how I deal with things. I am an eternal optimist; I fervently believe in silver linings and choose to see the upside to just about every situation. Unfortunately this leads to landslides of disappointed me and heartbreak and I need to get a grip on that. I feel like it makes me seem weak and that is a word  I am not remotely comfortable with at this point in my life.

At the end of the day though, I can’t beat myself up for having feelings and expressing them enough to meet my needs.  I don’t need anyone else to deem them acceptable because I feel them. Because I feel them. I don’t expect people to completely understand where I’m coming from, but I do expect respect. I don’t care if you accept how I feel and I don’t anticipate a reaction or a explanation or anything of the kind; I anticipate acknowledgement and decency. And Christ, sometimes kindness, even though I realize that’s a stretch.

I can feel the first bit of snow starting to rumble, so I’m going to cut this off before I’m completely covered in a mess I can’t get out of.

just in case you’re interested in this sort of stuff: http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/snow/science/avalanches.html

otherwise, here’s the usual –