I don’t blog much anymore. Lol. Could you tell? The combination of my dad’s death and moving in to take care of my mom and buying a farm and now having my husband traveling for work and gone most of the time zapped my creativity along with my time. Writing in general has taken the biggest hit of everything. How do you keep putting words on the page when life is bigger than … well, life?
But I keep trying. I keep taking classes on writing, trying to improve, trying to prod myself onward, trying to explore new things. I’m reading stuff I never would have picked up five years ago – Bird Box by Josh Malerman, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, Come Closer by Sara Gran, The Wilding by Benjamin Percy, A Head Full of Ghosts and Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay, The Wind-up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami, All the Beautiful Sinners by Stephen Graham Jones, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – not my usual stuff.
I’ve always been a serial reader. Find an author I like and keep going with them and hope they have a hundred or so books so I don’t have to go find anyone else to read. , The more ancient and historic the author, the better as far as I’ve been concerned. Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, H.P. Lovecraft, P. G. Wodehouse … That’s been me. Forever. I don’t like change. I don’t like conflict. Or, maybe more accurately, I don’t like the conflict that comes with change. Sorting out the reality that I’ve used even my reading list as my cover all these years, is somewhat bewildering, though.
This week, one of my classmates sent me a review for a short story I wrote. In it they said, and I paraphrase, that my dislike of conflict comes out in my writing. Just as I start to develop tension, I pull back so the tension is never fully revealed. I’m not sure what they were eating this week, but that was an incredible insight. What to do with it, I’m not sure. I don’t know how one defies a constant in their own personality that is so innate. Or even if it’s possible to do so. Maybe, just maybe, if I could ever get over this damn grief I could focus and push through.
And then again, maybe I don’t have to.
You know those pictures with all the numbered dots on them that you have to connect? Dot-to-dots. When I was in first grade there was this kid named Brian. I don’t remember him after that year so maybe he moved away. But Brian and I were always paired up. I’m not sure why. Maybe our last names were alphabetically in line or something, because it had nothing to do with our academic prowess at that tender age. He was the kid who wet his pants during the math test, ate paste during art time, couldn’t make heads nor tails of rhyming words, and could not complete dot-to-dots. Even as a six-year-old this fact stumped me. How could someone not be able to move from 1 to 2 to 3 to etc….?
As I grew older other people stumped me just as much. Honestly, most people stump me still. For the longest time I assumed I was just weird and didn’t fit in. Then I went through a period of everyone else must be idiots because they don’t get me. But then I finally settled with I’m just weird and don’t fit in. And it’s all because of those stupid dot-to-dots.
Metaphorically we all connect the world dot-to-dot. We move from one point to another to another sometimes without knowing we’ve moved at all. I do it. You do it. Everyone does it. It’s just that some of us do it differently.
Going from 1 to 2 to 3 to etc… long ago bored me. Like by third grade I was getting in trouble for no longer completing the picture that was supposed to be there and making one of my own. I used to just look at the dots and decide what I wanted it to be and draw that. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it “right”, I just chose not to. And if I had to do it “right” for a grade, I would, just not happily.
Consistent with that mentality, I find myself connecting dots that seem random a lot of the time and feeling very out-of-place because of it. Where some people can read a story or book and analyze it from a set of guidelines (that I’ve never figured out) and share their thoughts cohesively and converse with others in a similar fashion along similar lines, I can’t.
Let me rephrase that … I could if I’d ever learned what those guidelines were … But I didn’t and haven’t and have the sneaking suspicion that they would bore me before I had the chance to master them.
So how do I connect random dots and make it seem cohesive then? Since that’s the way I view the world. How do I connect with people who have continued to do dot-to-dots in numerical order into adulthood? They have such linear, insightful conversations that my input seems like a meteor strike in the middle of it all … or perhaps a puppy piddling in the middle of the dinner party. Or do I even need to connect with them? If I’m simply building a toolbox for my writing, is it not more important that I connect the pieces together in a way that suits how I write? I mean, I’m not in this world to enlighten anyone.
And yet, that is what writing does for the reader. Good writing anyway. It enlightens them. Shows them something about the world that they didn’t know before. Changes their viewpoint just that little bit.
So maybe I’m just scared to enlighten anyone?
Stephen King says that writers who aren’t sure of themselves are timid writers (he doesn’t say it exactly like that) and are prone to being lazy with their words/grammar. The thought crossed my mind as I was reading On Writing by Stephen King that maybe my inability to push tension and conflict was simply that dot – uncertainty of my ability as a writer.
I’m not sure of myself. And frankly, right now, while I’m still grieving the loss of my dad, while I’m still adjusting to a new world with my mom, while nothing seems settled and everything seems hard, the last thing I can muster is a sense of certainty about anything. So what do I do with people who try to encourage me? Who tell me I have a strong voice? Who tell me to keep going? Who tell me they like what I write? Who say they enjoyed my story?
I push them away … and then hide under my shell again.
Connect the dots.