On Being a Victim

If you want to hear from the victim of a crime that was committed years ago and think you are standing up for their rights by screaming about things through media posts and rants, you need to think again. As a person who has been a victim, I can say that no one should have to live as a victim for their entire life. No one should have to remain a victim because of public outcry against the actions of their offender.

A person is a victim only as long as they hang on to the hatred and violence that is committed against them. It is a hard road to walk. It is lonely and desolate and should not last for all eternity. They should be allowed to move on.

Continually posting and reposting and ranting and raving about some crime you read about in the media, no matter your intention, is not helping the victim of the crime in any way. You are perpetuating their status as a victim and keeping them in that lonely and desolate place, helpless and hopeless.

Given that none of us are God, none of us have the ability or need to forgive something that has happened to another person. Ever. If the victim can forgive and has moved on, then shut up. It’s none of your business.

We’ve become a world of busy bodies who build ourselves up by thinking we’re helping “victims” by screaming about what has been done to them, by making people take notice or stand up for their “rights”. Truth is, often times, it makes life worse for the victim, not better.

By failing to recognize how very human we all are, by continually replaying the evil that lurks in every soul, we damn anyone who has ever been a victim to a life of solitude, silence, and unforgiveness. The louder and longer we scream, the less chance the victim has to live a life as anything other than a victim.

I refused to be a victim forever. And I refuse to keep anyone else a victim by believing that I have some right to their pain and grief. We all have our own paths to walk and while we can feel compassion for other’s suffering we have no rights to claim it as our own.

Twitterilliterate and Other things I’ve learned this month

I started the month of May with a new twitter account and 13 followers. Happily zipped off to OWFI 2015, and returned home to a week long blitz of social media. A die-hard “I’m never using Twitter” person, I found myself having to eat my words.

Apparently, agents and publishers want you to have social media accounts that you actively use. This I did not know. I have rectified that situation and gained some 200 followers in the past three weeks. A mere drop in the bucket compared to the thousands and hundred of thousands other people have, but for me, nothing short of a miracle.

I also gained about 50 new FB friends which resulted in a barrage of notifications. I thought they would settle down relatively soon, but again I was wrong. I have merely had to adjust to a new level of normal. It’s okay. I seem to thrive on chaos.

Which was also somewhat of a revelation to me. I really should have known that about myself before now, but I guess I’d never really put it in words. I’d never spoken it into being. Me and chaos are best friends.

My grandmothers used to say she didn’t have an off switch. I don’t either. My mind wanders everywhere all at once. And when I have ten things to occupy it, somehow I’m able to concentrate on writing better. Focus amid the chaos. Hey, it works. For me, at least.

But this trend on twitter, gaining so many unknown sources of connection, has been a huge learning curve in itself. Humanity is, for the most part, clothed, genteel, organized, orderly. Twitter is none of those things. The perfect partner in crime for my chaotic mind it would seem.

The mass of authors promoting their work is astounding. The percentage of those with self-published tales I could have written in grade four is equally astounding.

Okay, maybe that’s not fair. I haven’t read all of them. I’ve sampled here and there. People claiming to be in the top 100 on Amazon and such, offering free reads, others. I’m honestly not sure what puts a book in the top 100 on Amazon. Downloads? purchases? number of views? Most that I’ve sampled I haven’t gotten far enough through to even have an opinion other than I don’t want to read more.

And yet, it goes against everything I believe in to say that.

Writing is a hard gig. Writers have to support other writers no matter what stage they are in. Other artistic industries support their own and it’s high time we did, too. So, I am all about promoting and encouraging other writers. Only another writer has any idea what we’re going through.

So where do we draw the line? Writing isn’t like architecture for example. A bad architectural design won’t work. It can be dangerous, even. Corrections have to be made without exception if we don’t want buildings that fall down on people’s heads.

But bad writing? I’m not sure what to do with it.

Probably my greatest joy with Twitter has been connecting with the Indie music people. I’ve always liked new and little known bands just beginning to make their mark on the world. There is something edgy and raw about their sound. Real. Not polished and popular.

And my greatest astonishment is the number of people who want to follow me that post half-nude photos for the world to see. Really? It’s a body. We all have one. Why do I need to see yours?

Good thing there’s a mute button.

I also learned this month that I can write a novel in less than a month, if need be. I don’t recommend doing so unless you have a smoothly functioning support team, a full time chef, a dog without a bladder, and a well thought out structure for what you are writing. But … it can be done.

And last, but not least, I’ve had to eat the words that I am, in fact, a bonafide panster. As opposed to people who rigorously outline everything, I am one. But to say that I write without any plan at all is not the case. I just didn’t realize that what I was doing was planning. Silly me. Another victim of my chaotic mind …

A Promise To Myself

When I started this journey toward being a published author, I was scared and uncertain. Ignorant of a lot of the things I needed to know to make this journey.

I could have let that fear stop me. I could have told myself “You’ll never be good enough.” “You’ll never get published, so why even try?”

But I didn’t.

I’ve never once thought that way, even when others were putting me down, telling me my writing was no good.

Instead, I made a promise to myself that I was just going to keep trying, keep doing what I knew how to do, keep trying new things, putting out the work, learning what I needed to learn however I could, and let everything happen as it would.

I knew I couldn’t force anyone to like what I wrote. I couldn’t predict what would sale or not. I couldn’t read anyone’s mind. I couldn’t control the “forces that be”.

All I could do is keep on writing. Words on the page. Story after story after story.

I had a professor in architecture school that made us come up with 50 ideas for a project inĀ  24 hours. We would stay up all night eeking out marginal ideas, trying not to repeat ourselves. The next day he would mark how many we got in his book by our name, throw everything in the trash, and ask for 25 ideas by the next day.

He repeated this exercise for the first week, lowering the number each day until by Friday we had to have 5 ideas presented. When we showed up for class on Friday, he carted us off to the union for a coke and chin-wag.

At the end of class he said, “Now that you all have all those crappy ideas out of the way, I want one good idea for Monday. Now go home and sleep.”

Now, obviously everything we did wasn’t crap. Somewhere in all those ideas we managed to meld together bits and pieces into something that was … better … workable.

And by Monday we all had our own unique ideas on how to meet the demands of the project.

Writing is the same way.

Put the words on the page. One story becomes two stories becomes three stories. Part of one works, part of another fails. And in time we figure out how to put it together into something that works.

But if you never do the work, you’ll never find that place.

Words on the page, no matter what.

Not Writing the Hard Stuff

I’m procrastinating today. Pure flat out avoiding the issue of putting words on the page.

Teenagers find dead body and don’t tell anyone is battshitcrazy stuff to write. My heart is pounding. I’m on the verge of bawling with every word. My jaw is clenched so tight my teeth hurt. I’m sick to my stomach.

So I’m here talking about it instead of doing it.

I’ve managed 300 words so far. Then I had to stop and do this. I wonder how many blog posts I’ll write today if this is going to be my strategy for completing the chapter???

Ha.

We all love to read those deep intense gritty scenes that leave us holding our breath, but how often do we stop to think about what it takes to write one that feels right. I never thought about it until I started doing it.

I’d heard of people who had a hard time while writing their novels because they got inside their character’s head. I’ve met writers who’ve done it.

And now here I am, doing it too.

And I have not one ounce of advice to make it easier. Plowing through it seems to be the only way, just like all the hard stuff in life we have to do. Plow through, head down, eyes covered, heart shielded, sword in hand until you come out the other side.

And breathe. Lots. (just don’t put that in your writing … lots of breaths that is … your editor will remove them anyway)

The Zoom of Writing Conferences

OWFI 2015 will forever be the writing conference that dreams are made of.

I’m still pinching myself, carrying around that one business card I never thought I’d ever get no matter how long I queried, wrote, begged, cried … you know the drill. It’s sitting beside my computer right now.

Yeah, I know, having an agent ask for a full manuscript doesn’t mean my novel will ever be published or if it is, it will sell well or any of that other stuff that “might” happen. But it’s still my first. It will still be enshrined as possibility.

Writing conferences zoom for me. I peel off my chrysalis, open my eyes, and flutter from one thing to the next. Last year was my first one full on. I didn’t know a soul but somehow I won several things in contest. I was so overwhelmed it’s hard to even remember details of anything that happened or that I did or didn’t do. One big blur.

This year I watched, my brain buzzing, soaking in all the sights and sounds and words. Glorious words. Amazing thoughts.

Thoughts that spun through my head so fast I couldn’t catch them. Others so heavy they embedded themselves in my skull.

Outlining not as a scaffold, but as the stack of lumber and nails.

Agents aren’t terrifying monsters out to eat us.

Writers share my soul.

The line between lying and story telling is finer than a whisper.

Voluptuous can describe a day.

People actually read and love horror stories.

Music can soothe the most ragged of nerves.

And yet, for all the buzz, all the zoom, all the excitement … it all boils down to moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other, day after day after day. Because if you stop, you die.

If you quit, it’s over.

Lives can be changed in a heartbeat at a writing conference but they aren’t life. In a way they aren’t even reality. A hotel full of story tellers at their best, or even their worst, is the greatest story ever told.

And then life goes on … ob-la-de ob-la-da

The Business of the Writing Conference

I’m a sucker.

Been one all my life.

Someone says please or you’ll be perfect at this and I’m there.

That’s how it all starts to unravel in my world. “will you please?” “please help”

“sure. what do you need?”

Sometimes there is an advantage to volunteering. Tonight one of the other volunteers offered to put in a good word for my writing with his publisher. Tomorrow I get to meet six agents while I control their schedules for a few hours. (Oh the power … hehe, haha … )

But really, being a volunteer in charge of something or other, usually means sooner or later crap will fall, feelings will get hurt, toes will be stepped on …

I learned long ago that pleasing everyone was impossible, so I please myself, act professionally, and give as much as I have to give. I embrace the mistakes and the successes. I never ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself. And I distribute the load.

I was the president of one organization I belonged to for two years. The biggest gripe I got about my leadership style …

… I didn’t micromanage and try to control everything.

Um, really?? That’s a problem how exactly? I expect adults to act like adults and do their jobs, take responsibility, put on their big girl panties. A true leader doesn’t tell people what to do. A true leader shows people what they are capable of doing and follows happily in their trail removing the dung.

So what does leadership have to do with volunteering?

Everything. Being a good volunteer means knowing how to serve others and the best way to learn service to others is by being a leader.

Not that I’m a leader here. Just a grunt, still. I paid for the privilege of doing all this work. Kind of like a vacation in reverse. I paid for the privilege of understanding what goes on behind the scenes.

It’s like having a back stage pass at a rock concert. Only not so much … drama … or noise.

Writers be mostly a quiet bunch … unless they are all in a room together. Then all bets are off. Talking will ensue. Stories will be told. And the one left standing takes everyone else home.

Good thing we’re all in one hotel.

When the Going Gets Tough, Everything Else Becomes Irrelevant

All those moments of big changes in life, successes, failures, moves, births, deaths, etc … are always bittersweet and somewhat depressing for me. Even the really really really good stuff can get me down.

No, I’m not a pessimist by nature. I don’t thrive on the macabre.

For a long time, the depression puzzled me. We’d sit there at Christmas, unwrap more gifts than some people get in a lifetime, and I’d be on the verge of tears. I win a writing contest and for a week I can’t write a thing and feel like destroying everything I’ve ever written before then.

Someone once told me I was afraid of success. I thought they were nuts. Then I thought about it some more and thought maybe they were right. Which just depressed me even more and made me quit trying. I figured I’d just sabotage myself.

But the older I’ve gotten, the more I realize that’s not it. For me, the depression is simply the normal reaction to a big change in life.

I mean, it would be great if we could sail on forever in the glory of our big successes and let them empower us to new heights. But, the reality is, when we have a big change of any kind in our lives, we momentarily become blind to everything else in our world. Whatever that moment is becomes so intense it occupies every thought, every action, every emotion and leaves us with nothing to give to anything else.

For whatever period of time we are engaged in that big change, all the little stuff of life that keeps us sane disappears making it impossible to transfer all the momentum.

And it’s a good thing too.

I’m sure somewhere in our psyche we installed a mechanism to help us cope with tragedy and not become overwhelmed by it. But our bodies can’t tell if that adrenaline rush is caused by fear or happiness, by utter disappointment or sheer joy, by losing a loved one or winning the lottery. Our bodies just know that we’ve had a rush of adrenaline and it needs to respond.

Sometimes I think that psychologists and counselors and doctors forget that our emotional self is based on our physical being. They like to complicate things. They like to explain everything in terms of their profession, by listing symptoms only or emotions only.

If only someone would see they are both part of one human being … and keep in mind that the easiest and best explanation for anything that happens, is usually the simplest as well.

When something big happens, the adrenaline rush shuts down everything except what I need to survive for that period of time. I become focused on a single task and everything else fades away.

But when the world comes crashing back in, I’m suddenly faced with ten or twenty or forty tasks again instead of just the one. I become overwhelmed, like a baby at a fireworks show. I need time to adjust to the new world around me.

And that’s okay. Because being human … is okay by me.