Define Yourself

The day before yesterday, news came that the actor Chadwick Boseman had died at the age of forty-three after a four-year battle with colon cancer. No one other than his family knew of his cancer diagnosis and in the last four years of his life, he made eight films, including the highest-grossing superhero film, ‘Black Panther’. Knowing he was battling cancer while making movies makes me think of him as a real-life superhero, and not just because of his strength and determination to perform so well, but not to let his illness define him. Because if he had gone public with his diagnosis, he probably wouldn’t have worked at all.

Now of course there are idiots in this world who are saying he should have been able to work and be public with his illness. We don’t live in a perfect world where people with illnesses are allowed to live a life while battling their illness. We have a seriously-misguided and totally fucked-up idea that someone who is ill is supposed to be defined by that and devote all their attention to it. This is why people keep their illnesses quiet and continue to live until the end. Chadwick Boseman was one of these people, and there have been others – David Bowie and Raul Julia are two people who come to mind as both worked through their illnesses until they passed away.

Twenty-plus years ago I was with my mother throughout her seven-year battle with cancer. I saw the horror of the surgeries, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, and it was why I tried to not let her live by that alone. One time I was outside on the back patio with her as she fussed with her plants and she asked me why I was outside with her instead of off doing something on my own. I in turn asked her, “Do I have to tell you why I’m out here with you?” She said no and we went back to our conversation and her plants. There was no need to for me to say I was spending time with her because I knew I wouldn’t have the time I wanted to with her, but also I wanted to treat her as she was, not defined by her damned illness.

This morning I’m thinking of how it feels to be defined by one thing when each and every one of us is so much more. I feel like we’re put into a box and told to stay there and that if we leave that box we’re either too fragile to be outside or that we’re breaking some rule that’s not a law.

To that I say: fuck that shit.

If you define people in this world by one thing and try to box them up, I don’t give a flying-fuck how good your intentions are. Take those good intentions and go to Hell and get roasted by Satan for an eternity.

We all have our good and bad days, some more than others. But that’s called life and we don’t have to be all or one way all the damn time. I don’t have to define myself as one thing, or to act a certain way all the time. And most of all, I’m allowed to fuck up, slip up, and even crack up once in a while. This feeling that you have to be one thing all the damn time is fucking hell, and totally fucking wrong. Yet this is what drives people into silence, and trust me, keeping shit to yourself isn’t easy. Because when you do, you take a lot of shit from people who are either just thoughtless assholes or casually cruel. Yet in order not to capsize your boat and go under, you stay silent and take their shit.

Most people don’t want to talk about the hard shit in life such as mortality and realizing to the core of your soul that your time on Earth is limited. You have to deal with huge waves of regret and guilt, most of which are total bullshit.

Chadwick Boseman knew he was on borrowed time, and he also knew the huge risks he was taking in working like he did because his illness could have taken a sudden turn for the worse. Yet he made the most of the time he was given, shared his gifts with the world, and will be remembered for those performances and for the life he led. He didn’t let one thing define him, and he sure as hell didn’t let anyone put him in a box. He shined, and always will even as he is with the Ancestors now.

Don’t define yourself by one thing, and don’t let anyone put you in a box and keep you there. Stay silent if you choose to, but know this: we are all so much stronger than some motherfucking assholes may say. Don’t listen to anyone who says you are weak and fragile, and don’t let that define you.

Don’t let anyone define your or your life. Live your life to the fullest no matter how much time you have on this Earth. Be strong.

#WakandaForever

Writing Through Grief

Many years ago, before my mother died, I heard I was too comfortable talking about death.

I wasn’t comfortable at all. I just learned to talk about it because I knew it was going to happen. There was no comfort in talking about it or what would have to be done when it came. In fact, the first time my mother and father sat down with me to talk about their deaths and what would need to be done… I got up and walked out of the room. They never held that against me but for many years, I felt enormous shame and guilt that I had done that. I was maybe twenty-one or twenty-two years old (I’m a bit hazy on the exact time frame), just a scared kid really and they knew that. But I knew I was being asked to put my fears aside and prepare for what was coming and I had to learn how to control my emotions and focus on the tasks at hand.

But there was no comfort in that and hearing that hurt me deeply. I tried to write it off as thoughtless bullshit or casual cruelty. But there is no justification for either one. Whether you’re thrust into the grieving process by sudden death or slowly pulled into it by a long, slow march to death, there is never any comfort in death. Yes, death takes away suffering from the person who died, but it leaves those behind with pain that only eases over time.

In the coming weeks and months, I will be writing about my grief. In October of this year it will be eighteen years since my mother died, and it’s been nine years since my father died. Both died after long and protracted illnesses I was there for every step of the way. Yet I was not given the opportunity to talk about my feelings while they were alive as I felt like people couldn’t handle what I was going through, or didn’t want to deal with me and my feelings. So I boxed those feelings up and put them away. Over the last couple of years, I opened those boxes and went through everything I put into them.

Writing about my grief is my grief-into-purpose moment. So many of us are grieving right now: for our loved ones who’ve gone before us, for those we’re watching on that final journey, for those we know who share our pain, and for a world that is changing, and for the fear and violence in our world now.

I have heard accusations in the past that I was trying to be a martyr for talking about my feelings, or that I was being a martyr for not talking about them at all. It was like if I tried to say something, I was only doing it for martyrdom. But if I said nothing I was also doing that for martyrdom.

I have never, ever, been comfortable with attention on myself. I experienced a lot of humiliation and pain whenever I did seek attention when I was young, so much so that I tried to run and hide and only step onto a stage in my imagination. Again, maybe it was just thoughtless bullshit and casual cruelty but there is no justification for either one. I want to say this to anyone who thinks a quiet person breaks their silence for attention or worse, some sort of martyrdom: no, that’s not what’s it about at all.

I think it’s good to see and hear people talking about grief and loss. It’s good to see it move past funerals and graveside services. It’s good that people are saying I understand your pain because I have felt pain, too. And most of all, I’m glad there is a man who is inspiring people to work for a better world by saying we have to turn grief into purpose (Joe Biden, 2020).

Cruelty to me is an absence of emotion, and not acceptable in any way, shape, or form. I will not absolve it, and my way of forgiveness for it is to describe it like this: forgiveness is when I remove razor-sharp talons from my heart and soul, wash the blood off, clean and stitch my wound close, then put a bandage over it. In time, I will learn to let go of the pain, and to know that I don’t have to let myself be hurt like that again.

Grief is not a razor-sharp talon in my flesh. It’s a shock to the heart, a body-blow that knocks the wind out of you. But you can recover from that, stand up straight, and breathe through the pain. And you learn to breathe again by feeling your emotions, and putting them into words. You don’t really breathe, or live in silence. Grief does not need to be silent, not in your mind, your heart, or your soul. Words and memories will always be there, even if you box them up and put them away.

When you’re ready, you’ll open those boxes and go through everything. And you’ll find the words for your feelings. And you’ll have a shield against cruelty, against those who would harm you for speaking your truth, and your feelings. I choose to write about my grief, and to break my silence over it.

Writing For Therapy, Knowledge, and Healing

Four years ago, I set out to use writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. This is what I call writing as therapy because I was working through mental and emotional shit to gain knowledge. I thought therapy and knowledge would be enough until this thought came into my mind: I need to heal.

Following that thought was this one:

Since when did the thought of healing become a radical and rebellious idea?

Right after I typed that out yesterday, I got up and stalked around my room with a serious urge to rant and rage. Why? Because healing meant I would be letting myself feel happy and letting go of pain and misery once and for all. That’s a radical and rebellious idea for me because all my life I have felt like I had no right to be happy, and especially no right to express my feelings of happiness.

Writing on the non-fiction triumvirate as I call it now is not easy at times. But I do gain satisfaction with myself for my writing even though it’s a lot of hard work. And that satisfaction does make me feel happy. It’s not shout-in-the-streets joy but a deep-seated feeling of happiness from doing what I want to do. Yet why does writing the word ‘happy’ itself and thinking about feeling it hurt so much?

The answer to that last question is a long and complicated story with a lot of chapters. But now that I know the end of that story, I can write it. Because to heal is to let go of what’s hurt you and held you back. My fear behind this is that someone won’t like that I’m moving on, feeling the way I do, and most of all, expressing those feelings. My first instinct used to be to retreat, and my newer instinct is to rant and rage on the page here. Now I know I don’t have to retreat, or rant and rage. I just need to write, to heal, and be happy.

But yesterday I also wrote this: I’m not responsible for someone else’s feelings, especially if I’m not doing anything wrong. I will tell myself this now: just because someone has come at me in the past with either raging bullshit or passive-aggressive good-intentions doesn’t mean I have to take that shit any more. Or be scared that I can’t deal with it.

Healing is telling myself I can do something, and that I’m a lot stronger than I have ever realized before in my life. And that writing, Uber driving, sleeping, watching stuff on my laptop, listening to music, or maybe someday having some sort of social life is not out of the realm of possibility for me. That old fears are not my present anymore. I know I can work through the times where I want to rant and rage, or run and hide. Working through those rant-and-rage or run-and-hide moments is what led to this piece now, which I am forever grateful for.

Four years ago, I had no idea what my journey would lead to. But then no one else would have known either. I’m glad I have reached the point I’m at now where I can begin to embrace healing. Healing is not a radical and rebellious idea to me now. It’s not just a need, but something I want to do.

I know we live in some seriously fucked-up times right now. But I also know this: the future isn’t written. We write it in the present. As a writer myself, I write it every time I sit down and put words onto a page. That’s a hard realization because looking at a blank slate and thinking what could go wrong is scary as hell. And it’s not easy to think of what can go right either because of the unknown. Hope to me is accepting that things can work out not just by thinking about it, but by doing something about it.

My ‘doing something about it’ is writing. And publishing here to start with.

And most of all, I want every reader here to know the most important thing I’ve learned over the last four years:

You have every right to your thoughts and feelings no matter what they are, good, bad, ugly, or anything in between. And you have every right to deal with them in whatever way you choose to.

And in my case, that includes writing about them.

I Am the Fire, the Fury, and The Cool of the Ocean

A few days ago I began working on a short piece I titled ‘Why I Write’. But I couldn’t get it to come together and instead, it opened up a box inside my mind I thought I had gone through but needed to go through again. I had a nice ranting piece ready to go but luckily I held it back then deleted it entirely. Why? I have no need to rant and rave and say ‘fuck off’. And I have quit worrying about someone not liking what I write and trying to make it all about them or some other passive-aggressive bullshit.

So instead, I want to talk about what a simple writing piece has led to. It led to a title change and an overhaul of a project that really needed it.

A couple of years ago, not long after I came up with the title ‘Breaking Radio Silence’,  I came up with a piece I titled ‘My Relationship With Writing Is Complicated’. I wanted to put that piece into the ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project but as I began to work on it, I realized it wouldn’t fit in with that project because it’s focus is pretty narrow. So I spun it off on its’ own and then sort of forgot about it until yesterday.

Yesterday I retitled my writing-book project and I’m in the process of overhauling it in terms of structure and outline. But I nailed the introduction and realize I’ve got another non-fiction hybrid project in the works. I call this book a hybrid because it’s a mix of memoire and writing how-to. My other two non-fiction books (Breaking Radio Silence and Intersections) are also hybrids mixing memoire with self-help and history and commentary. I don’t think I’m the first writer to do this but I may be the first one to put a label on it.

But I will admit here, I’ve been holding back on all three projects.

Why?

Because I thought I needed more time to be ready to write and post about them. But I realize that if I wait until I’m ready, I’ll never be ready. What that means is I have to stop waiting and start doing things. And most of all, I have to stop being afraid or worried about what someone might think. So I’ve revived the title ‘My Relationship With Writing Is Complicated’ and made that the introduction to my writing book. It’s a piece two years in the making and it’s a great introduction like the new introductions I’ve written to my two other non-fiction books.

These three books are deeply personal and will be hard to read at times because I know they will be hard to write at times. But I know now that I can write them. I know I can write them because all I have to do is what I did earlier: delete the shit in my mind that tells me to be scared and run and hide rather than risk pissing someone off with my writing. As you’ll read in the introduction to my writing book, which I’ve titled, “Writing Through Fear, Imagination, and Courage”, you’ll see where that fear comes from. Having written about it over the last day or so and realizing I can finally put it back in the box where it belongs, means I can move forward and just shut the fuck up and write.

Writing is sometimes easy for me, and sometimes it’s harder than hell. It’s harder than hell when I have to burn off a lot of shit to get to what I really need to write. I don’t need to justify my words or my ability to write them. I’m not a scared twenty-something kid anymore. I’m a pissed off middle-aged woman with a sarcastic sense of humor.

I am the Fire, and the Fury, and the Cool of the Ocean.

I wrote this phrase yesterday and it’s really resonated with me since then. What it means is I have the fire and the fury of wanting to write without hesitation or fear, but the cool of the ocean not to let fire, fury, and fear overtake me.

So starting tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the new introductions then other stuff, too. I hope I don’t find any more boxes I need to unpack and sort through again but now I know I don’t have to take days to do that.

Most of all, if I’ve got something ready to go, it’s going out into the world.

Living a Lifestyle, or Living a Life

A few days ago, I read an advice column on my Google news feed in which a woman wrote in wondering what to do about her husband. They’d been married for a long time and had raised a son together, built a small business, and spent a lot of time working on their house. But now that their son was grown and on his own and they no longer had their business, her husband didn’t want to do anything she wanted to do activity-wise. She said in her letter she wondered if they had stayed married for the ‘lifestyle’.

I thought this was interesting question because I had never really thought of the term ‘lifestyle’ for what she had described. But it got me thinking and finally a question has come to my mind:

Are you living a lifestyle, or living a life?

I think in this woman’s case here she was looking back and thinking they had spent so many years on a set path of childrearing, business, and home without anything else. I have a feeling if you looked further past the surface of what she described you might find a need to maintain a certain appearance or a certain way of living.

Many years ago after I went out on my own for the first time, I began to wonder if  a certain type of lifestyle would be for me. I wondered if I had ventured out and gotten married and had kids, would I have settled down as a stay-at-home mom or a working mom? Would I have gotten so caught up in that I would have put my own goals and dreams aside for everyone else?

Now please understand, I’m not knocking anyone’s life choices. I believe with all my heart and soul every single person has to figure things out for themselves. But I will say this in return: who are you living for and why?

I spent my twenties trying not to let my own life get in the way of my responsibilities though that didn’t work out too well. I will say this, if you ever feel you have no time to yourself then do whatever it takes to make that time and stand up for it, too. And to anyone who thinks someone is a selfish brat for doing what they want to do in their sometimes-limited free time, fuck you. In reality, no one should have to feel like they’re hoarding their own time and freedom and feel like they have to defend it.

Another question here then is this: do you feel like you have to live to someone else’s expectations and not your own? If so, why? To be honest, I really don’t think people give two shits about what other people are doing unless they’re exceptionally bored and stupid. So if you’re worried about what some bored and stupid person thinks and what they’ll say to you, I say this:

You do NOT have to respond to everyone who says something to you or about you and the life you live.

This is a radical concept to say the least because I’m sure the first reaction is how rude. But I don’t think it’s rude to a let a stupid comment or piece of advice lie on the table untouched like the turd it is. Why? Because your time is your own and unless you’re out destroying mailboxes or beating on people, you can do what you want in your own free time.

But this feeling that you have to respond or show someone that you’re doing what you’re supposed to just to keep them quiet is total fucking bullshit. Most people don’t advertise their every movement and there is no need to. I mean, if someone wants to sit on their sofa eating potato chips and vegging out to Netflix, more power to them. But this idea that people have to do certain things because of this or that or because of what someone might think, again, that’s total fucking bullshit.

And most of all, if you’re a crazy creative-type like I am, it’s a real battle sometimes to push all those stupid boring-ass people out of your mind. Of course I’m sure they would fire back and say what about this here? My response to that: this piece here isn’t about you. This piece is for anyone who needs to know it’s okay to live a life and not some ‘lifestyle’. For as I wrote the day before yesterday, there is no such thing as a sure thing and there never was in the first place. Don’t try to live your life like it’s a guaranteed path that won’t have any bumps or detours.

If you want my opinion on this: don’t live a lifestyle. Live a life. Sure life can be messy and unpredictable as hell sometimes. But unless you sit around boring yourself into a puddle of bullshit and destroying your brain cells, it won’t be so bad. You don’t have to numb yourself out to put up with people’s bullshit. You just have to shut the door on their bullshit and live your life the way you want to.

Running To Something That’s Not a Sure Thing (and never was)

A few days ago the word ‘running’ came into my mind and sat down in front of me. I sat down in front of it and said, “I’m listening.” In reply, I heard this:

  • You are running to something.
  • You are running from something.
  • You are running with something.

Before I the question could be asked as to which one I was doing, I replied with:

I’m running with something.

What am I running with, I asked myself.

My answer: knowledge, faith, hope

Knowledge is knowing what I’ve been through, where mistakes have been made, and why I have thought and felt the way I have.

Faith is in myself and my abilities, faith in the good in this world, and faith that I will persevere no matter what obstacles I have to overcome.

Hope is what I carry with me always, and especially as I go forward into an unknown future. Hope is what stands up to hate, fear, and cruelty.

Frankly, I was surprised by the thought that I’m running with these things. But as I thought about it over the last few days, I realize although I’m still prone to anxiety and fear I can keep them from taking over my life. I also realized the things I was running from, pain and fear, are things I have been working hard to deal with and put in their proper places and perspectives once and for all. And I’ve realized that as you run with the things you need, you are running to something you want.

What do I want?

Not just a career that’s driven by my work. I want to use my work and my words to help make this world a better place in my own tiny way.

I will admit right here and now that I still feel fear and anxiety over decisions I have to make big and small. I know the source of my fear and anxiety is from knowing that for so many years I lived with that at the forefront of my mind. I know in my past any confidence expressed or felt wasn’t really backed up in my mind with any real faith in myself.

But over the last few months, another thought has been kicking around in my head:

Everything that you thought was a sure thing wasn’t, and never was in the first place.

This thought actually came to me this past April on a morning run to downtown San Antonio at about five in the morning. I was driving by a strip bar that had been closed due to the initial lockdown because of Covid-19. In the past, places like bars and strip clubs could weather any economic downturn but Covid-19 has proven that’s not true.

I say there was no such thing as a sure thing because there wasn’t. Things like jobs were never guaranteed because I don’t know about anybody else, but I worked in a lot of places you could be fired pretty much for any bullshit they could come up with. Or worse, jobs where they would ‘manage you out the door’ (I actually heard that phrase one day in the last call-center I worked in).

I also know there was no such thing as a sure thing when my mother died of cancer at the age of fifty-three. She used to say she and my dad never saved for a rainy day because they didn’t think they would get one, and because you never knew what could happen in life. At times I’ve wondered if she was precognizant of the future she knew awaited her and my dad. In reality, I think she just knew there was no such thing as a sure thing.

So I’ve known there is no such thing as a sure thing for a long time. But I think I’m getting better at accepting that reality because I’ve stopped running from my past. I also know we are always in motion even when we might feel like we’re not. And though we may have a destination in mind, I think we need to try and realize that sometimes we’re going towards a destination that might not be on any map.

So You Want to Be a Writer…

I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how or where to start.

Yes, I’ve seen and heard this said by people for many years. And for anyone who has said that, I may have some answers for you. Though I do want to say right here and now, I didn’t say that at all when I started writing thirty-six years ago. I just picked up a spiral notebook and a pencil and began to write.

How did I know to do that? Simple. I knew what I wanted to write, which back then was poetry that I could turn into song lyrics. Sadly that dream didn’t come to fruition because I couldn’t find an Elton John to my Bernie Taupin. So I moved on and decided I wanted to be novelist then later on through my high school years, a screenwriter. After high school, I kept up with the screenwriting for a couple of years then went back to novel writing. Now I’m working on my novel, three book-length non-fiction projects, short article-essay type pieces like this one, the occasional poem, YouTube video, and short stories.

So now that you have my background let’s get back to the statement that started it all:

I want to be a writer.

Why? And I’m not being mean by asking that. I can understand if you’re not quite able to articulate your answer clearly just yet but you should have some idea as to what inspired you to want to be a writer. Because if it was just a thought out a thin air that sounded good, well you’ve got some work ahead of you here if you want to make that a reality.

I wanted to be a writer because I loved to read and I love words. I also have an overactive imagination and a brain full of thoughts and feeling. I discovered writing was a great way to get all that out of my head like other writers have done since the advent of writing.

But I don’t know how, or where to start.

This is actually doable though to get good at writing will take a lot of work. Some people are naturally gifted verbal storytellers but on paper, or in a digital format like most writers use today, not so much. But in order to know where to start, you do need to know why you want to in the first place. And also, you need to figure out what you want to write. Is it stories? Poems? Essays? You don’t have to stick to one thing and yes, you can do more than one thing at a time though I strongly encourage you to finish something before moving on to the next project. Whatever you decide to write should be something you want to do because if you’re making a conscious choice to write, you’re doing it for yourself first and foremost.

The ‘how’ part is just a lot of work. Basic writing should start with basic grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure, which hopefully you will learn in your basic education in school. You can also find lots of books, articles, and even YouTube videos on the many aspects of writing. But in addition to studying, you’ll have to write. And keep writing, and learn how to edit, revise, rewrite, and keep doing it until you find the flow as I call it. And know there will many times where your words won’t flow out of you. When that happens, you’ll have to figure out a way to work through that.

My advice is don’t write for attention, approval, fame, glory, or to get a date. Trust me, writing doesn’t work like that. Successful writers write because they want to, they believe in what they do and they’re willing to put in the work to get good at it.

Many years ago when I started writing, if I had announced with joyful abandon that I wanted to write people would have said this to me in total seriousness with absolutely no joy: “Great, kid. Now get to work.” Back in those days, if you wanted to be taken seriously you had to put in the work. You had to study, practice, and really keep at it. Today… not so much to my chagrin.

Frankly, I’ve always been puzzled by people who just think they can dash off words and expect instant gratitude and adulation. Legends in their own mind, I guess. But trust me, past a certain point, they won’t have the long and storied careers of best-selling authors. Whether or not I’ll ever hit a best-seller list remains to be seen but it won’t be because I didn’t work my tail off to try and hit it with the best work I can produce.

So you want to be a writer.

Great. Now get to work because in the end, it’s the writing itself that matters most, not the title of ‘writer’, or just wanting to be one.

Motivation Saturday – Writers Write

This two-word phrase came to me as I sat down to write a series of blog entries and got through three of them before a massive sinus attack hit me. But the phrase stayed in my mind and when that happens, I sit down and listen to it and figure out where it came from.

For the longest time, I have felt like when I sit down to write that I should be doing something else. What else should I be doing if it’s not urgent or can wait? That’s a good question and one I think involves the ever-present yet not-quite-real ‘someone’. Yes, the dreaded ‘someone’ who is so persistent in asking stupid questions like:

“Why are you writing? Shouldn’t you be doing something else?”

Now in the past I would have bent my head in shame and said, “Yes, I should be doing something else.” And then I would have found something else to do.

Now I stand tall and proud and say, “No. I am a writer and writers write.”

I know all too well there are a lot of people who call themselves writers yet don’t write, or write near as often as they should. They seem to love the idea of being a writer and being seen as a writer, but they’re not willing to put in the work. The problem with these wannabe’s as I call them is they are really good at projecting their perceived superiority over those of us who write and rewrite and edit until our brains turn to slime and slide out of our ears.

Don’t listen to these wannabe’s. You don’t have to in order to be polite and not hurt their feelings. They didn’t think twice about hurting yours by tearing you down so you don’t owe them anything in return for that. No, this is not being mean. This is about standing up for yourself and your work.

My late father once said to me: “Most people need to be told what to do and when to do it. You’re not one of them.”

You don’t have to be told what to do and when do it if that’s not the situation you’re in. Being a writer means being your own boss so be the boss you’ve always wanted to have. My inner boss would tell me right now to run with this idea and see where it goes. She’d tell me chores can wait (trust me, dust bunnies are the worst squatters around). And if you’ve eaten food, have something to drink, and you’ve been to the bathroom, you can sit down and write.

Writers write so they have words to revise because you can’t revise and edit a blank page. You can’t rewrite something if you haven’t something already. Writing, rewriting, editing, and revising are how word are polished to a shine and crafted to solid precision. But you can’t make something from nothing so you need to get the words down and if you have to, tell yourself no one is perfect. And not being perfect is more than okay. ‘Wannabe’s’ and ‘Someone’s’ will tell you in their own insidious ways that your work will never amount to anything, or that you should know better to begin with, or anything that makes them feel superior.

You don’t write for ‘wannabe’s’ or ‘someone’s’. You write for yourself first and foremost. You don’t write to anyone else’s expectations but your own. You have to take charge of your work and make it your own. Remember when it comes to your writing, you’re the boss of it. You write the words, not them. You edit and revise, not them. And since you’re a boss who does your own work, you can also do your own research and find the answers to your own questions.

Writers write.

If you have to, tell yourself this every time you can. Because if you hear this enough, you’ll start to believe it. And once you believe it, you’ll do it.

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Origin Stories – The De-Inspiration Behind My Novel ‘Not Enough Time’

My novel, ‘Not Enough Time’, a romantic suspense, was de-inspired as I say by the movie ‘Proof of Life’. ‘Proof of Life’ starred Russell Crowe as a former Special Forces soldier turned hostage negotiator who tries to negotiate the release of the husband played by Meg Ryan’s character. Now in real-life, hostage negotiations can take months, if not years. Also, in the movie Crowe and Ryan’s characters don’t get together but there’s an attraction there (in the novelization I read their characters did have a one-night stand but I don’t know if that scene was filmed or not).

I watched the movie with my mother when it came out on home video in 2001 and after the movie was over, my mother asked me what I thought of it. I said to her it wasn’t that bad but it could have been better. I said the story could have been much tighter and more emotionally engaging if Meg Ryan’s character had been the sister of the guy Crowe’s character was trying to rescue instead of his wife. Also, I thought if the kidnappers had a reason for kidnapping other than ransom then a rescue plot could worked so much better.

My mother’s first reaction was: “God I hate watching movies with you sometimes.” Then she said right after that, “But your ideas are so much better.”

I looked up in complete and total shock because I’d never, ever told her any story ideas I had or de-constructed a movie plot like I did and turned it into a story idea. If you read the origin story I did on my writing book, you’ll get a piece of that story. But because of her support and my strong reaction to this movie, an idea was born. The next day I hammered out what would become the first scene in the first attempt at writing this as a novel.

I’ve written several complete drafts of this book and I got two of them rejected outright by two different publishers. It’s gone through at least three title changes that I can remember and my hero Jake went through a name change. But the basic plot elements have remained the same.

Why haven’t I given up on this?

One, every time I’ve told people about this story they’ve reacted well. The rejections were because I didn’t have the skills to develop it like I needed to. I’ve gotten people hooked on the premise and I’ve just been working on the execution ever since.

Two, this story won’t let go of me. I’ve spent a lot of time away from it over the years but sooner or later, I come back to it. Usually it was because I had a new idea for the story and wanted to give it a go.

So if anyone asks me when to give up on a story I will not answer that question. Because if I haven’t given up on this damn story in close to twenty years, then I won’t tell anyone to give up on theirs. What I will say is if you have to, feel free to step back from it and let it simmer on its own for a while. I’ve written a lot of other stuff since then, including a few more novels that haven’t seen the light of day.

At present, I’m four chapters into this with the goal of having a working draft by the end of the year though if I maintain my current pace I could have something finished by Halloween or sooner maybe. I believe I’ve got what it takes to make this damn story work once and for all. And that is because I’ve done the emotional work on myself and in turn, on my characters. Also, I remember what I said all those years ago about keeping the plot tight.

But here’s some tidbits about a few things with this book:

My hero, Jake, got his name from a cat I had. I forgot what Jake’s original name was now but it just wasn’t working for me so one day I looked up from the computer and saw my beloved floof-ball of a cat looking at me. Then I turned back to my computer and made the name change and it’s stuck ever since.

My heroine, Laura, has kept her name and profession but her inner emotional struggles do mirror mine. I won’t say in exactly what ways but I started using her first to work through my emotional baggage long before I started my therapy book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’. The title, ‘Not Enough Time’, came from a song by the Australian band INXS. I was listening to their ‘Greatest Hits’ cd while washing dishes one night and as I listened to the song’s lyrics, I thought it was a perfect fit for the story. Now the title has worked its way into the story itself.

Origin Stories – The Origins of ‘Intersections’ (aka, my ‘political book’)

Warning: I am a flaming-liberal Progressive Democrat who never has, and never will have much use for conservative right-wing ideology. Here’s the short version of why.

After that awful night in November 2016 when the US Presidential Election was stolen via Russian election interference and that original vestige to slavery courtesy of our Founding Fathers, the Electoral College, I asked myself a question along with a few million other people:

How in the Hell did this happen?

Shortly after that, I created a file on my computer simply labeled, ‘Untitled Political Book’. Like my other project, “Breaking Radio Silence”, I had the idea of using writing to answer that question. It’s a big question because there’s a lot of stuff to sort through. And worst of all, I’ve had to live through the four years since then and I’ve watched any real good prior to 2016 ground down to almost nothing, and stacked up in morgue trucks, too.

Finally, back in March of this year I created an outline that’s stuck even after some revisions to it. It came to me after I decided to start looking for answers from the year 1992 onward. I used 1992 as a start because it’s the year I turned eighteen and voted for the first time. The 1992 Presidential Election was a changing of the guard and the first election set to a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. But that hope died in an impeachment that shouldn’t happened followed by eight years of war-mongering Republicans who put two wars on a credit card but didn’t set aside any money to pay the bill. The hope of the Obama administration was never fully realized due to a Republican opposition that took civility and partisanship and sold it along with their souls to the evils of white supremacy and Vladimir Putin.

Any tolerance I may have once had for racism, oligarchy, environmental destruction, and all-around greed has died and is buried six feet under the wreckage of our world now. And I’m not looking to resurrect that tolerance. Instead, I’ll fight like Buffy with her stake to keep it dead and buried forever. The last twenty-eight years has fully exposed conservative ideology for what it is: all about preserving the status quo for a chosen few no mater what. The term ‘compassionate conservative’ was, and is now a completely dead campaign slogan that never really came to life at all.

Growing up in the 1980’s, glitz and glamour was just what I saw on tv. My existence was a middle-class one my parents held on to by the skin of their teeth. For the most part, it was an illusion at best and one I saw through even at a very early age. Yet because I grew up in a dysfunctional way like so many of my generation, I learned not to talk about it. Because I was to made to feel like I had nothing to say and if I tried to speak at all, I was nailed to the ground with an MX missile straight down my throat.

I have been told to my face I have no ability to think or write about politics and nor should I even try to talk about politics at all. We’re all supposed to just get along, right? Not anymore. Not with people shitting all over science, common-sense, and worshiping at the altar of deflection, disinformation, and death.

History has a way of repeating itself time and time again but I want not only to see where the mistakes were made, but to see what we can learn from those mistakes. Most of all, I want to see if we can take that knowledge and build a real foundation for the future. Despite all the pain and suffering of the last thirty years, and the last few months, I still have hope. And despite seeing the values of hope, compassion, and kindness torn apart by people who say those values are dead, I still believe in the good of this world.

Will I be critical of the Left? Hell yes. I don’t do left-wing purity bullshit so I’ll hammer that at any opportunity I get to do so. I will also hammer at cynicism and getting bogged down in the past. Because as I’ve looked back, I’ve seen people lean in time and again, and in my definitely not-so-humble opinion here, anyone who just leans in needs to lean their ass right out the door. We have to go all-in today because there’s no time to do otherwise. If you want to throw in the towel and say to hell with it, this book might not be for you.

I used to get really scared at wanting to speak out against shit like injustice, poverty, environmental destruction, and all that’s terrible in this world. Now I know I can speak out and be exiled and shunned and live to tell the story. I’m not out to convince anyone that I’m right and they’re wrong. Most of all, I want people to pull their heads out of their asses and really look at things. I want people to tune out the rhetoric and bullshit and take nothing at face-value. And I want people to put it all on the line and think for themselves.