Can I Get a Prompt?

Pssst….

Hey there kid, want to do something different?

Well, if you read this blog I’m willing to bet that part of your time is spent on creative endeavors of some kind. And I thought it might be a good time to remind you about improvisation exercises as a healthy and fun part of your writing routine.

Whether you are a novelist, a poet, a technical writer, historical non-fiction guru or children’s phenom, everyone’s creativity waxes and wanes with the progression of our career and lives. It is, therefore, important that we spend some time practicing in different ways to jog the old idea factory into an efficient, work-producing machine.

This particular exercise is about improvising (on the fly you might say) with one sentence prompts. You may have had to do this at conferences or class and present your material after the allotted time. As an introvert it might have be akin to a claustrophobic getting stuck in the kiddie tube slide at the park (Breath, Sarah…breath…just keep squirming.)

So, in defense of all of those out there not wanting to share their words yet but in need of something that boosts their creativity, I’m going to give you some pointers on prompts and let you go to proverbial town on them.

The important things to remember with these kinds of exercises are:

  1. DO NOT (repeated it after me) DO NOT, censor yourself or edit. Let yourself run with the idea, no matter how stupid or silly.
  2. Stay true to the character you’re given to work with or the situation, this is not about what you’d do, it’s about what they do. And they’re crazy bastards. So let their freak flag fly.
  3. The funnier the better. The sadder the better. The more horrific, the better. Improvisation should be a lot of things but none of those is BORING. Make it snappy, or if it must be reserved, do it to build tension for a whiz bang ending.
  4. Emotion is important. The only time to pause in writing for a prompt is to ask yourself, what’s the most intense thing this person feels in this moment and how does that look on the outside. How do I make my reader jump into the character’s skin and feel that intensity?
  5. Challenge yourself with prompts that may not seem interesting or your ‘type’ of writing. You will surprise yourself at what comes out from behind those locked doors.

 

I’m going to give you three prompts. I could give you a length requirement, but we’re not middle schoolers here (though my humor sometimes digresses to such a level). Get dark, get dirty, get freaky, get sweet. Make it something that shocks you. Share it in the comments if you want to or in a private message to me.

At the end of this article I’ll link some really amazing references for doing more of these kinds of exercises on your own. If you are gripping your computer screen, shouting at me with spittle flying, that you “DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF TIME!!” calm your tits…this will take five minutes tops. You can do it while you wait at the doctor’s office for your appointment for excessive salivation. You can do it in the car while you wait for your kids to get out of school. You can do it over your first cup of coffee…

Think of it as the second-most-fun form of “quickie” you get in life.

(Come on…I warned you about the seventh-grade humor, don’t look shocked.)

Ok…. Here’s your prompts. Pick one, or two, or make it a trifecta. In a perfect world, quickies are not limited. (And, yes, I mean that in all the ways)

  1. A rancher comes across a mutilated cow in her field, and all of the organs have been replaced by…
  2. A man is dared by his friends to ask the next woman who walks through the bar’s door to marry him. The next woman who walks through the door is…
  3. A child finds an ordinary rock on the playground that begins to make his wishes, big and small, come true. He brings it home and his mom finds it in the wash and puts it in her pocket without thinking…

 

Go play.

Here’s some books you should read or apps (for you tech savvy geniuses) you can download to help bring a little fun and playfulness to your art.

 

“A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves

“Pocket Muse” (1 and 2) by Monica Wood

“The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice” Kelli Russell Agodon

Apps:

Prompts for Writing

The Brainstormer

WordPallette

 

 

Writer vs. Idioms

 

Biting the Dust and Chewing the Fat: A Word About Idioms

 

My daughter is learning about idioms in school. With new eyes on them, these expressions and figures of speech can range from all-out ridiculous to so over used that we barely notice them. Keep your eyes open, I’m about to idiom all over this place.

 

The conversation with my daughter got the ball rolling in my head, thinking about the idioms that pepper my own work. Writing coaches and how-to books tell you constantly to watch out for these little story killers, and with good reason. They dull your dialogues. They’re cliche, they’re drab, and boring and are the written word equivalent to a speaker saying ‘um’ and ‘uh’. Idioms are skipped over by the reader’s eye because they are so common as fixtures of language and culture. In other words, they’re time and space wasters.

bath-splashing-ducks-joy-162587.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now, I don’t want to steal someone’s thunder or throw the baby out with the bathwater because sometimes idioms can be useful. Occasionally a specific phrase used in dialogue can denote or solidify where your character comes from or give us insight into their personality.

 

Saying ‘that dog won’t hunt’ or that someone ‘doesn’t know shit from Shinola’ (oh, and ‘please excuse my French’) are phrases one expects from a certain region or even generation. But unless it is something your character is at home saying, or that paints them in more vibrant colors to the reader, avoid them like the plague. After all, do we really need to swing a cat in a room to see if it’s big enough to do so?

 

It’s hard to cull the herd of idioms in our language; to make our work more precise and original, but it is part of fighting the good fight. When editing, ask yourself if the line has a double meaning. Ask if it’s the best possible way to say what you mean. If it’s an obvious idiom, what could you use instead? Does it contribute to the scene and charm of the moment, or distract from it?

 

So don’t beat around the bush or cry over spilt milk. When the ball is in your court and you’re back to the drawing board, remember; although idioms can be a cloud with a rare silver lining, it is always better to hit the nail on the head and kick overused phrases to the curb.

 

Now, if I can get the use of the Oxford comma right and stop double spacing after periods, I may just level the playing field.

 

If it’s not one thing…it’s another.

 

What are some of your common (or favorite) over-used expressions?

 

VerseDay 12-27-18

For the last VerseDay of 2018 I wanted to give you something amazing and powerful. Alas, this is what you get instead. (Well? Laugh!)

 

Next week, dawning the New Year, I will once again be promoting my submissions to VerseDay for the anthology out next fall. If you want to see your poem in print, please feel free to email or contact me with your poetry and/or essays.

 

And now…the final poem of 2018’s VerseDay adventure…

 

Honey Bee

 

Sometimes,

I miss you.

Miss the sound of your voice,

And the slight buzz 

Dripping Carolina, Honey

 

sweet.

 

I miss your fire,

the uplifting energy; an element so unconfined

The rushing ideas,

The rebellious feeling and defiant

 

heart.

 

I miss you, and your hover,

The way you called my flower the sweetest,

The only, under this sun,

You’ve ever loved, and danced so delicately across my

 

petals.

 

I don’t miss the way

Your deluge engulfed me,

Suffocated and overran in conversation,

The sting of barrage, welting my heart over and over again

And feeling that I was never quite important enough

To stop and take a

 

breath.

 

I don’t miss the pain,

Of the aching guilt you pierced me with,

The weight of what I should be,

What you wanted me to be,

The ideal you set

A high ivory honeycomb of complex,

 

deception.

 

Life does this.

It educates us.

Sometimes in human form,

and one sweetly hovering honeybee

Hard and hurtful once lured by the beguiling warmth

We must choose the limb to chew off to spare our

 

freedom.

 

You were my lesson

To enjoy the drawl but not submit to the voice

To know the sweetness of honey, without succumbing to its

 

taste.

 

To stoke my own energy,

To comprehend that I don’t need yours.

Orbiting in the clouds of your unfathomable passion taught me

To look for the fire in

 

Myself.

 

The Human Genre

 

We’re not only defined by what we chose to do in our lives, but how we do it. We are categorized by outward and inward perceptions, each of us, akin to novels, and are thusly classified into genres.

 

Ah, she’s a romantic mystery with a dash of humor.

That guy over there is a political intrigue, with a splash of old school patriarchy.

Ah, she’s a pushy self-help, peppered with self-righteousness and a healthy pinch of praise-Jesus.

That lady over there is a bitter cozy mystery with a hint of post-menopausal lack of fucks to give.

 

We are defined by the things we do. We’re put into categories by people we know, and by companies that gather our data. Even when we don’t ask for it, we’re given a neat little label. And sometimes, when we’re overloaded and overworked, we start using that label as our only sense of self, as we desperately try to remember our purpose… And sometimes, we use those labels as a scapegoat for our less-than-desirable behaviors.

 

I’ve been trying to meditate every day and have been working through a series on my app (yeah, look at me, getting all tech-savvy with an app to help me reconnect with my humanness…seems oxymoronic) about acceptance, depression, letting go, and stress management.

 

One recurring phrase I hear is: You are not your thoughts or your feelings.

 

This is a hard concept to grasp.

Humans are this odd mishmash of biology and higher neuronic thought processes. I mean on one of our great ape-grasping hands we’re barely getting used to this hairless bipedal thing, on the other hand we’re philosophical, heavy in the head, braining entities who, when left to our own devices will overthink ourselves into a coma.

Maybe there’s a fear that if we disconnect to our thoughts then we won’t know who we are.

Maybe we fear we’ll lose the basis of our existence if we let go of the ideas and feelings tethering us down.

 

But this is not so.

 

You see, thoughts and emotions change. All the time. And the reason humans become so miserable is that we tie ourselves to them, try to define ourselves by them. Then we are less apt to let them go, especially when they hold the addictive qualities of self-spiraling sadness and anger. We feel sad. We are sadness. We feel anger. We’re angry humans.

Conversely, when we are happy or elated and the emotion passes, as it will with the natural ebb and flow of life, we cling to it desperately and feel like something’s gone wrong when its tying us down.

Should we let go of happiness. No. Should we reject sadness and admonish ourselves for anger? Absolutely not. Be in the moment, with the emotion, understand it is a feeling, acknowledge it and let it go. You’re all that’s left.

 

Just as we aren’t tied to labels; we are not one genre, we are all genres.

 

Why is it important that we understand this?

 

Two reasons:

 

If we are boxed in to what the world has categorized us as, to our labels, we won’t know we can change. We become stagnant and perpetuate behaviors that are detrimental to our happiness and the benefit of humanity.

 

Secondly: We will feel trapped. And trapped animals lose the will to live. Without will, without passion, we cannot create, we cannot solve, we cannot continue to thrive in the world.

 

So how do we escape?

 

Here’s the dirty little secret:

 

I’m not entirely sure.

 

I think it has something to do with opening your mind to new ideas, allowing yourself to be different, to change the things about your life you don’t want to be a part of anymore, without guilt or self blame, and to let go of the idea that you are the personification of your thoughts and feelings.

 

You can be anything. Or just some things.

 

Or nothing at all.

 

Cross genres. Explore. Maintain your free will. While those that seek to control will tell you, free will is our greatest vice as human beings, that it causes us to make decisions that don’t align with status-quo, religious concepts, or dictator-imposed law and thus brings about the downfall of society, this is not the case.

 

There’s a reason the Dark Ages happened.

 

Free will, your ability to change, to move, to think differently are vital to not just survival but your purpose in life.

 

So what genre are you today?

 

Distance

Distance. One word with a myriad of attached ideas. The space between two points, the play between perspectives, and how it can shift the way we see the world.

As a mom, wife, friend, co-worker, volunteer, writer, runner, kenpoist and all the other shit I personify in life, I get really bogged down in how the world sees me.

We all have responsibilities and I know that I talk about this a lot. But I think that part of the beauty of being human is trying to find a balance between what we have to do and what we want to do in terms of how we create artistically.

It’s generally agreed upon that the have-to’s rarely help out the want to’s. That is, when we are so embroiled in buying groceries and appeasing children, and working the hours, and mopping the floors, we have very little left of brain and body to contribute to our art.

wood fire hot glow
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Maybe some people don’t have this problem and the fire in their core burns bright enough to fuel all of their endeavors whether they are necessary or casual.

But I ain’t one of those people.

In our world today we’re seeing a startling trend of human beings snapping.

 

I think it’s the fast pace. I think it’s the constant technological interconnection and human disconnection. I think it’s the noise that barrages us, nonstop. I think it’s the expectations, and the anger, the powerlessness that often comes when we realize how fragile we are and how big the world’s problems can seem when they’re looming over our heads.

All. The. Time.

No wonder we medicate. No wonder we drink. No wonder we take out our aggression on innocent bystanders and make scapegoats out of whatever group we think could be the root of suffering.

It isn’t right, it isn’t just. But our poor little lizard brains can’t contemplate or find order under such constant distress. Most of us, aren’t self-aware enough to stop and gain perspective on it all.

 

And that brings me back to distance.

 

Distance and perspective are fraternal twins. Borne of the same womb but different in their nature. We need one to have the other. Both are vitally important to our survival as a species.

 

Distance as an artist can be hard to gain. It means dropping the roles we are pegged into, permanently or at least temporarily, in order to have hour proverbial hands free to create, to problem solve, and to ease the process of gaining proper perspective that will, eventually lead to healthier choices, lifestyles and hopefully communities at large.

 

So stop. For a day. For a week. Hell, for an hour. Disconnect.

woman looking at sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leave behind the have to’s and make it okay for yourself to let go.

Let your overactive, overachieving brain know that this is the time to not.

To not think too much, to not make lists or plans or organize the day. Let your brain know that there’s no shame in stillness. In staring out the window at the snow, or sleeping in. Or writing just to write, and not feeling obligated to anything else. To paint without interruption unless you feel like getting out for a walk.

How many of us have ever let our bodies and brains do just what they wanted, just when they wanted?

Not many. We always have too much shit to do.

So drop the shit. Let it go.

Be okay with just being.

 

You’d be surprised the calm that will find you. And a calm mind is a happy mind.

A creative mind

A forgiving mind.

An open and accepting mind.

It can become all of the things our world needs.

 

So go find some distance. Get out of town, get out of your cubicle, get out of your head.

 

So you can get back into your soul.

 

 

 

Half-Way To an Unknown Destination

Good morning fellow readers, writers, and friends. This morning marks nearly the half-way mark of NANOWRIMO.

In the month of November a gauntlet is thrown, where in writers of all types, genres, and experience levels attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. While this ain’t my first rodeo (fourth year participant) I’m quickly finding that every year is different.

Most notably this year’s project has been a study in what happens when I let my “pantser” out.

Before you call the authorities and request a restraining order, what I mean is that usually I have a rough idea of what my novel will be about, some basic plot points, a shady little arc where in I can fit most scenes with relative smoothness. I’m not an all-out “plotter” I don’t have graphs, or charts, or beat sheets. Usually later in my process I come up with something that formal if it helps me fill in the gaps.

But this year–

This year I just started writing about a girl who’d suffered a horrifying assault, ran away, and returns to her childhood home with no intention of staying past the point of handling her grandfather’s affairs.

That’s it.

That’s all I had.

Oh…and a murder has been committed.

And there’s this seasoned old detective who’s lovable but grouchy as shit.

Oooo, and lets make him a divorcee, trying to quit smoking while raising a curious 12-year old boy.

And let’s say he doesn’t deal well with horses. Or heights. And he’s got a paunch, because he’s over forty and can’t get rid of it no matter how many weeknights he plays rugby.

And she gets panic attacks. Bad ones.

And what happens when the lady in question has a panic attack while driving just ahead of the cop and his son on their way to rugby practice?

And her sisters hate each other, and are polar opposites hippie versus yuppie.

And I need to learn Greek. And I gotta start looking into regional varieties of grapes and how rare the Andravidas horse is…and what’s the shape and size of a typical head wound from a roncola…

See what I mean? I’m all over the place. And this book, ladies and gents, it might be the messiest first draft I’ve EVER written. I jump from scene to scene, character to character, out of time, out of place, sometimes contradicting myself within the same paragraph. I’ve never had such a mess of a project.

I’ve never worked on a book that I wasn’t sure I would absolutely finish and make into something better.

But this fella, he’s a different breed.

He’s a quirky little story and I’m sort of hopeful that all of the pants-ing going on here is going to produce some really raw and gritty emotion, boiled down description, some complex characters in tender situations that will amount, later and with a lot of elbow grease, to a decent and intriguing novel.

The point, (yep, there’s one–it’s coming. Wait for it–) is that by jamming out words, even in their flagrant misuse of proper grammar or form, even with complete disrespect for story arc, has allowed me to explore a genre I’ve never written in before without the halting self-doubt that might have stopped me before. I’ve discovered characters who are more than a little fucked up (*gasp* where’s the romance in that?) and may or may not find out the truth let alone a happily ever-after. And that might be okay this time around.

If you’re in the middle of it, and have a day that knocks you back, jump ahead, jump behind…write the characters ten years in the future or what their sixth-grade year was like. The words don’t have to be in order, they just have to be there.

Good skill writers. 16 more days, and you are all over this like a bunch of bacchantes on Dionysus.

Get to it.

 

On Creativity, Word Count Deadlines, and the Immortal Curse of Want-to-be Novelists

Hey ya’ll, listen up, I don’t have much time. I’m on a deadline, with not many words to spare.

 

So far, in this week, I’ve managed to keep up a hearty 2,000 a day word count on a new novel idea that sprung from my last trip to California and it’s vibrant rolling hills of vines and orchards. It’s been a trip of a different kind these last seven days. I’m dipping my toes into a new genre and, of course, committing any and all time in my day to getting the words on the page.

 

I haven’t had much time to spare a thought for much else, but I did want to share what I’ve discovered on this year’s NANOWRIMO journey, in the event that it could help you on your own craft.

 

Not all of us are reaching for 50,000 words in 30 days but I think we’re all striving to finish something and, in doing so, come across many of the same road blocks.

Here’s some bulleted info to keep you engaged.

 

  • Word counts help. They give you a goal. Goals are measurable, ensuring that you have a start, an end, and a way to track your success. Pick a word count and stick to it. Even after November is over, I plan to recommit to my pre-NANOWRIMO word count ambitions in order to keep myself in the thick of it. The inspiration of word count goals should do a lot to…

 

  • Unclog your creativity ducts (Okay, I’m not sure we actually have those but…) there’s definitely a correlation between writing without the time to edit and the uprising of new and unfettered ideas. You may start with a stupid sentence but one word of it, or phrase, or character trait will pop the top of the bottle and unleash a whole outpouring of possibilities.

 

 

  • FINAL THOUGHT—The Curse of The-Want-To-Be-Writer, the thing that stifles us most and keeps us from getting those word goals is the self-editor sitting on our shoulder EVERY TIME we sit down to write. He’s the jerk that points out the misspellings, the grammatical errors, and the plot holes. He whispers, “Oh no, go back and delete that, it’s not good. And take out that part, and fix that ‘they’re’ to ‘their’, and you forgot to use an ellipses, and is that name spelled right? Let’s make sure the spell check learns it. Now…that’s a pretty sentence…nope! Just kidding, it’s awful delete it! Ah…now, a nice fresh blank page to start…over…on.” Do you see what I’m getting at? Don’t do that shit.

 

JUST WRITE.

 

Leave all the grammatical errors, spelling mishaps, and mistaken names or plot holes where they lie.

 

Imagine someone excavating the tip of a gemstone. But instead of digging all the way down, seeing how big it is, what its natural shape is, picturing what can be crafted from it, they just dust off the tip, and begin carving it meticulously, polishing it to a shine. Then they uncover a little more, but that doesn’t look like the first bit so they hone it down even more. They uncover another bit and another but there’s no flow because each part of the gemstone is cut differently, polished oddly.

 

First drafts are made to give you raw material. So make it raw as hell.

 

So far I’m at about 16,000 words and I’ve typed things that I’ve regretted the second they’ve left my fingers. Mistakes. Glaring ones. Things that don’t fit, behaviors that don’t gel with my characters, point of view shifts.

 

Honey, I’ve seen it all in the first twenty pages.

 

But I also see a story. An interesting arc with characters that are starting to smile coyly in my direction with secrets I will only learn if I stop telling them to shush.

 

If you’re writing a novel this month—Keep at it and kick your nasty self-editor to the curb. You can go pick him up later (or send an uber for him if he won’t get in your car again)

 

If you’re just thinking about writing a novel sometime: stop thinking and do it…we ain’t getting any younger sweetheart.

 

Now, I’ve got to get back to my work in progress, because these 753 words don’t count on my dashboard and I’ve got words to go before I sleep.

 

Send me your word counts, send me your questions, send me your inspirations. Let’s keep this sprint going.

 

Happy Writing!

How Many Words?

Gentle readers, it has been a week.

Empathetic critters, such as myself have taken a hit. Not only from personal issues, but from the rising level of hurt, angry rhetoric, senseless killing, and crumbling ecosystems. So I’m stepping back. I’ve left my social media site for a very restful and cleansing week and have decided I’d like to get back to the other side of this website.

That is–Writing.

I’m not just here for flowery posts about helping your fellow humans, finding the light, being the better the world needs… I’m also here to inspire you in your artistic endeavors.

Now I don’t know much about all the arts, (Bob Ross, I ain’t), but I know a few things about the written word. What little I do know I want to share, because others shared it with me and boosted me up when I flailed for solid ground.

So today’s post is about writing. Specifically one of the greatest tools I have ever used to get my novels started, finished, and published.

Ladies and Gents, tomorrow begins the 2018 NANOWRIMO (NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth).

Nothing will test your writing muscle like being under a 50,000 word deadline in 30 days.

Impossible? Actually no. But it is a challenge.

Precious few of us have the luxury of spending our days with uninterrupted time to dedicate to our writing. Most of us have jobs, children, families, and obligations, which can make the 1700 words a day seem unattainable.

But I’m here to tell you it’s within your reach. And what’s more, it will help you cull the nasty, time-wasting habits that keep you from doing your job as a writer.

When your time is limited, and the word-count is great, three major things happen;

1.) You stop farting around on the internet. Yep. You heard me. (Actually, you just heard my mother speaking through me). When you only have thirty minutes here and twenty there, and maybe ten in the car, you no longer have the luxury of scrolling through the latest cat videos or Pintrest-ing the hell out of your meal plan for the week. Ten minutes, you will learn is enough to get a good few hundred words in if you focus.

2.) You stop self-editing. What’s more terrifying to the creative process than Facebook Life envy? Um…you’re sitting on its butt. It’s you. You are. You feckless human. You who judges the words and sentences while they’re barely hitting the page. We don’t have time for your inner critic. And what’s more and better, the word-count box doesn’t care. It doesn’t care what the words are, if they are grammatically correct, if they contain gaping plot holes, or confusing tense. It just cares that the words are there. Which is all you should care about anytime you write a first draft.

3.) You begin to believe in yourself as a writer, even when things get tough. Somewhere in the middle of the month, when the bar graph is starting to catch up to itself and you’re hitting the doldrums, you’ll start to wonder not just if you’ll finish, but if you’ll ever want to write again. Some days will be bad, and barely a thought will come. When you reach these places of stagnation you’ll somehow find the outright stubborness to keep moving, even if the plot goes a little wonky or you lose/gain characters that make no sense. You’ll get over humps and realize that you are capable. And that, as G.I. Joe used to say, if half the battle.

It’s just words, people. Just a lot of beautiful words.

And, kids, this is your time. Life doesn’t get any longer. If you really have a novel in you, a pile of papers on the back burner that you’ve put off for far too long, this is the time.

It is now.

Go to the website, and create an account, free of charge (though donations are always welcome and needed!)

NANOWRIMO

Hold yourself accountable to your writing.

I’ll be popping in for a few short blogs during November but most of my words will be playing on a different field for the month.

Good luck! I look forward to hearing from those of you participating and drop me a line if you need any warmth or encouragement.

This is the year you write your novel, I can feel it.

book book pages college education
Photo by Victor on Pexels.com

Letting Go of Illusion

“How often, you wonder, has the direction of your life been shaped by such misunderstandings? How many opportunities have you been denied–or, for that matter, awarded–because someone failed to see you properly? How many friends have you lost, how many have you gained, because they glimpsed some element of your personality that shone through for only an instant, and in circumstances you could never reproduce? An illusion of water shimmering at the far bend of a highway.” 
― Kevin Brockmeier

As a fiction writer, especially of the romantic persuasion, it’s often easy for me to get caught up in my own imagination. My writerly brain has been trained to play out scenarios and let them run wild. It’s part of the creative process and the free reign I give these thoughts allows me to write the scenes and stories that cause heart palpitations and fingers to eagerly turn to the next page.

woman reading a book
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But sometimes, the delicate barrier between the two halves of my brain is a bit too porous. Sometimes the barrier is permeated. Sometimes, the imagination bleeds over. And it begins to skew my reality. What is actually before me can be muddled with the over-active nature of my creative process. Instead of observing at a safe distance, I scoot in closer and start to ask…”and then what if…”

It’s taken me to some interesting and inspiring side roads, but it has also led me  this to some pretty dark and hurtful places. Places like paranoia, obsession, depression, and a loosening of the bonds of my reality. It can cause a false sense of what is real and, from that place, I have made poorly founded decisions.

I have been in situations where I lived in an heightened-aware but still fuzzier, reality. Lines get blurred and harmless words and actions became life altering. Sideways glances were sure signs of betrayal. Meaningless banter, the grounds for turning my back on people I loved. I’ve spent a lot of time hurting, in tears, wondering why the path I saw ahead felt so wrong to what my brain was telling me. I was at sea. Lost and drifting with no anchor to keep me grounded.

What’s the cure? What’s the fix? What can any of us do when our brains run away from us and our behaviors follow suit?

Sometimes the consequences of those misguided actions we take, in our obsessive/paranoia state, are severe enough to shake us back into reality. That may be the only way, when we are in too deep, to regain proper perspective.

But it is also the most damaging.

Occasionally it takes someone who can see your reality outside of yourself. Who cares enough about you to point out the cloud surrounding you and who can start asking the right questions. Like snapping spiritual fingers in front of your eyes, breaking through the rosy hue of illusion.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s easy. It’s often a long fall and a hard landing when you come down from your illusion. It’s painful. Reality isn’t usually a fun place to live in. But walking around, shrouded in falsehood, does nothing to better our humanity and the way we interact truthfully with one another.

Take a good look at your life. Be aware of the way you react to situations, be introspective with the perspective you use and step outside yourself to see what’s really going on. Because the further you go down the rabbit hole of the world you want to live in, the worse the consequence, the higher the risk, and the deeper the damage in the world you actually live in.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to keep my mouth shut and calm the creative-brain response, until I’m sure my words and actions are justified and are coming from a place that is true. It requires that I remove myself from being the central character in a story and take a moment to look at the setting, the other characters, their perspectives, the actual thread of what is going on.

Being a good human is hard. But if we truly love, when all illusions have been stripped away, then we owe it to our fellow humans to try to live the most honest, real life we can.

“Meanwhile, the trees were just as green as before; the birds sang and the sun shone as clearly now as ever. The familiar surroundings had not darkened because of her grief, nor sickened because of her pain.

She might have seen that what had bowed her head so profoundly -the thought of the world’s concern at her situation- was found on an illusion. She was not an existence, an experience, a passion, a structure of sensations, to anybody but herself.” 
― Thomas Hardy

Fate vs Free Will

Throughout history numerous wars have been waged between opposing forces. Dark and light. Good and Evil. Nature and Nurture. Life and death. Star Trek and Star Wars, Marvel and DC… TP rolled over the top or under. (Only savages prefer the latter.)

marvel vs deathstrokeOpposite ends of spectrums that often are viewed in our tiny human brains as opposing sides of a coin. The polar ends of a hard line. The divisiveness of the universe that plays out in a constant cosmic game of tug-o-war. One such spectrum is the dichotomy between Fate (Destiny if you will) and Free Will (Choice).

Do our choices determine the path of our lives, or are our “choices” merely preconceived steps towards a destination we’re meant to arrive at? Does the idea of free-will make us feel as though we have more power in our lives? Or does the idea of Destiny free us of the responsibility of how our lives pan out?

I’m honestly asking, because I don’t know the answer.

When I was young, I believed in fate. Because fate is more romantic, and epic, and dramatic. It made me feel like I was on the path to something amazing. It made me feel that one day I’d fall into the life that had been preordained and made especially for me. That it would all work out, because it was foreseen by some great hand of Destiny.

Then I grew up.

And I started to realize that every single choice I was making was branching me off in an ever complicated tree of life. Going to a party or not, where I may or may not talk to someone who would, unbeknownst to me, cause waves of change in my everyday life.

red trees
Photo by nien tran on Pexels.com

Stepping into a dojo on a trial basis, no intention of becoming involved. Even going so far as recognizing that one heated moment in a shower could lead to a phenomenal, empathetic, intelligent beautiful being who shares my house and riles my bassets up with her french horn practice.

Every single moment I was living, I was making choices and those choices made my path. There was no destiny, only the narrowing of options as I peeled away the possibilities with strokes of priority peppered with chance.

But some days, some cloudy Wednesday mornings, I swing back… back to the idea that maybe… maybe every choice I’ve made, in this ‘long and scattering set of tracks’ has led me exactly where I’m supposed to be.

blur bubbles clear close up
Photo by Ruatsanga Hmar on Pexels.com

And I like feeling that way, not because I feel it relieves me of responsibility, or that everything will work out to be something decided long ago, but because it helps me to know that every pain, every ill, every challenge and heartbreak I’ve suffered has built the scar tissue I needed to be where I am and to be the person I am.

Did the universe know I’d be this person? Did the universe need this person? Am I meant to be here for the fate of someone else, to be their lesson, their ill, their challenge. . . their heart break? Or am I here for something better? To be the hand in the darkness. To be the mender. To be the balm for broken hearts, and the gentle touch after life’s severity? I suppose that, too, is a choice.

Fate or Free Will?

I’m not sure it really matters. Except that you can’t let your life be decided for you. And if you wait around for your destiny to find you, it might not be the one you expect or want. Sometimes, in that glimmer of knowing what you’d like to see your life manifest as, you must weave through the murky waters and make the choices that lead you to the end you want.

Life’s not much more than a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel. There are about fifty ways to kill yourself prematurely, and only a few paths lead to success, but most importantly, it ends no matter what choices you make along the way.

So make the choices that bring you happiness, that bring you beauty. Make the choices that fill your cup.