I missed last week’s blog due to some conflicts with my reason to care, but I’m back again with a stirring edition of The Beautiful Stuff and today, I’m talking about kids. Particularly the three to eight crowd whom I typically work with in my karate classes. You see, this week is testing week.
It’s the exciting hours when those little bright-eyed darlings bound out on the floor (hopefully remembering to potty first and bow upon crossing the threshold) to ‘earn’ their brand new belt and no doubt bragging rights the next day.
Now heading the school’s instruction team is a stoic former Marine and a stalwart of rules and order on the floor. Absolutely excellent in the face of a rowdy teen or an unsure adult in need of the structure and control.
Absolutely useless and frustrated in the face of the giggling, juggling mass of pent up life force.
And testing time is rarely different.
Though the potential for their future of order and restraint is glimpsed (and I suppose that’s why they come to the school in part) some of the instructors will roll their eyes at the still inadequate control. While I stand in the back and lament the beauty of their childhood being chipped away.
I was told repeatedly that “the Dragons class will eat you alive”. Both male instructors said so, shaking their heads and trying to bury the horrors of war. I nodded, in that reassuring way you do when someone has no idea.
Son (I call them son because I’m grow’d up over them by a few good years), I’m a mom. And on top of that, I’m a mom that actually enjoyed the ages of my daughters when I had to staunch nose picking while watching them ping-pong off the couch and sing “Let It Go” at the top of their lungs. Every day. All day. Seven days a week, most nights, and EVERY vacation.
So when those little bouncy balls landed on line tonight, wiggling in their gis until their belts untied themselves, and the jaws of less-seasoned warriors clenched, I glowed. I smiled. I adored and dote on.
Want to know why?
One of the greatest beautiful moments in life is when the life in us cannot be contained in man-made illusions of order. It’s in the misdirection and distraction. It’s the exuberance and unconditional love. It’s all that we lose as we age, either by the weights of life tying us down, or from being told repeatedly to stand straight and stop wiggling.
Ok. I understand that order has to exist. Ask any of the poor souls on I-25 while the uninformed attempt to merge. We do have to learn order and self-control. Or everyone would just live on cake and would never go to work, and we’d get into fights and stray from our homes… I’m not saying that order isn’t important.
But order imposed on a mind still fluttering like a million startled butterflies in a sunny meadow, is like trying to…well catch a million startled butterflies in a sunny meadow. At some point. You need to just let go and enjoy the ride and the sunlit flash of pure color. Keep them safe, keep them engaged, and love every odd-ball story and uncontrolled giggle.
I hope you realize I’m not just talking about from kids here. From the people in your life. Encourage, especially the adults in your life (You TOO reader), to barrel through it all with a bit more frivolity and joy.
Sometimes we’ve been so long from it that we’ve forgotten how. It’s not so hard to find your way back. Here are some things that may help:
Go barefoot in the grass
Dig for worms, put them back in the garden.
On the way to your car from the grocery store, work up a good speed and hop on the back of your grocery cart…ride it all the way to the car.
Say no. To them. To yourself…to every “how to be perfect” blog or article you read.
Read the comics first and throw the rest of that shit away.
Go for a bike ride with your kids around the block and name your bike like the noble stead it is.
Tell a dirty joke.
Laugh at dirty joke.
Laugh at a fart.
Fart (and pull the covers over your spouse’s head so that they may truly enjoy it…if your marriage is really meant to last it won’t matter. If it matters well…then I’m going to let you think about that for awhile)
Belch in front of your kids, and follow it with a “Holy cow! That was awesome!”
Grab a bowl of lucky charms and watch some cartoons (Teen Titans is my fav these days).
Sing “Sweet Caroline” LOUDLY out your car window at the stop light. Those who don’t join in or at least smile are to be pitied.
Never say no when a child wants a hug.
Always kneel down to meet them, their perspective is so much better anyway.
Tell people you love them.
Tell them you love them without needing it to mean anything more than just what it is.
Someday, remember just the good bits, fondly.
You see, kids and older people get what we’ve forgotten. That the beauty of life comes from the dancing in chaos, not the standing still on line.
Still, go potty before you try the standing still…it does help the wiggles.
Belated is better than be-not-at-all-ed? Okay, I’m a little loopy from a day of summer kick offs and emotional rollercoasters from various areas of my life. Here’s what I got. They can’t all be pretty.
Don’t forget to send me your stuff…seriously. I will print it.
Hey friends. This week is a little hectic with projects, both nearing completion and those just getting started, so today’s blog will be short.
I just wanted to let you know about an awesome conference coming up in Laramie in June (the 7th-9th) hosted by Wyoming Writers, Inc.
Though I’m based in Fort Collins, Wyoming is my home state and I’m excited to be returning there next month to meet new friends and writers as well as attend some stellar classes.
Some of you have heard me talk about Jovan Mays and Angie Hodapp (Nelson Literary Agency), two of my favorite presenters. They will both be there and giving inspirational and technical advice for all levels of writers.
In addition to a seasoned and talented lineup of presenters, I have snuck in as a presenter on Saturday and will be giving a little intro on which publishing path is right for you. (Ahem…the official title is: “Out In The World: Publishing Your Novel in Today’s Market” Fancy, huh?)
Registration is still open and they have several options to choose from, depending on your budget and time. Local authors’ books will also be available for purchase (if you’re in the market for some steamy paranormal romance…along with I’m sure much higher-quality books).Here’s the link if you’d like to check out what they’ll be offering, from classes to the Keynote speaker (the talented Brad Watson).
John Lennon’s quote is the basis for my Tuesday soapbox.
Listen, I do write about writing. I do want to inspire your creativity and help you along with your craft. It’s integral to my purpose in life.
But part of inspiring creativity means reminding you of the massive computer sitting atop your shoulders and why we should neverforget to use it.
This week I’ve been researching statistics, studies, and references for an article (probably a book one day) on the staggering racial disparity present in our privatized prison systems, in particular, how it affects young black men in our communities and the short and long-term damage it causes to their families as well as to our society as a whole.
So you know… a real fluff piece.
The problem with scrubbing off a bit of dirt from the surface of something like this is that you expose a teeming cesspool of disease and horror beneath. And once you look into that darkness, falling ever-deeper into that rabbit hole of associated cultural setbacks, systemic traps, and loopholes for those in power, you CAN NEVER NOT KNOW.
You’ve opened your eyes.
You swallowed the red pill.
You know the truth and life becomes difficult.
(Well, if you’re a human being with a heart and a decent-sized sense of empathy, and compassion, life becomes difficult.)
Suddenly, with your eyes open, you see it everywhere.
You see it in the unarmed black woman body-slammed by an officer twice her size, when she wasn’t even fighting back. You see it in the teenagers of color who are convicted of crimes while their white counterparts go free. You see it in the wary HOA’s that lodge baseless complaints against a family because the color of their skin makes the neighbors ‘nervous’, and cause entire families to lose their homes.
I’m not talking about 1955 Alabama here… I’m talking today, here. In our city. In our community.
And I’m ashamed of us, and I’m shaky, and I’m pissed off.
I feel like if I were the mother of dragons…I might pull a Season 8 Episode 5 and burn it all down to rebuild from the ashes.
The problem is too big.
That’s what we’re told right?
You can’t fight the system! It’s so much bigger than us. We don’t have the power. The government controls it. The rich control it. The churches, the states, the universities, the public schools, the whole of American culture…
But if you will remember…
The computer on top of your shoulders. The big 10 pounder. The one that processes thoughts and emotions, chemicals and body regulation, the one that creates poetry, writes novels, formulates complex plot and character design.
That’s not nothing.
That’s a powerful weapon in the hands of an informed public. And the way I see it, once we open our eyes, it’s our duty to shake as many egg pods as possible, peel back some eyelids and make the world pay attention.
Two open eyes becomes four. Becomes eight. Becomes sixteen. Becomes hundreds…
The Beautiful Stuff has everything to do with facilitating the best version of humanity we can muster. The most compassionate, fair, and just human we can be. And when we are faced with a hard and ugly cesspool, teeming beneath a society built on the death and destruction of so many lives, we can no longer live easy.
So neither should the powers that be.
My eyes are open and I will do my damndest to keep those that benefit from the broken and ugly system from covering them up.
We may not have the money. We may not have the loopholes and congressmen in our pockets. We may not have law degrees, or time, or the power of influence on large groups of people.
But we have our words. We have our minds. We have our actions and, I hope, enough anger to bypass our fear. Pay attention and acknowledge that this is a problem. Shine a fucking light on it so the rest of the world can’t ignore it anymore.
Find that spark in your chest. That pinprick of light that knows every human deserves to be safe, to be heard, to be healthy and fed, and treated with respect. Find a way to make it grow. Let it lead you to do what you can to change the inequality of the world around you.
You can always do something. Little. Big. It doesn’t matter the size of the action but the heart you put into it.
One water droplet may not have much impact, but a rainstorm can change the landscape.
Go out there. Be bold. Be heard. Stand up for each other.
In the karate school where I volunteer the word of the month is courtesy. It’s not a new concept in martial arts. Courtesy and respect are two of the most fundamental principles of the art. Respect for each other, respect for the rules, respect for the art and for the generations that came before us. Courtesy to our sparring partners, our instructors, and people in general.
The basics of courtesy often start with the ‘magical words’:
I forgive you
These words are like leaves and branches of language that convey the deeper roots of courtesy and respect. Simple polite words that are just the beginning of a much bigger lesson wherein we acknowledge the validity of other humans as equal and important by showing them kindness, compassion, and empathy; the cornerstones of living a beautiful life.
By this time in your lives you have probably all been taught about the “Magical Words”. Magical because they can open doors, springboard friendships, heal broken ties, and encourage smiles.
The typical phrases your parents and grandparents tried to instill greased the wheels of everyday interactions but also taught you something much more.
By saying “Please” we are acknowledging that we need help, and that we aren’t afraid to ask for it.
By saying “Thank you” we acknowledging that the action of giving requires another’s time and effort and we understand the amount (small or large) of sacrifice involved and are grateful for it.
By saying “You’re Welcome” we acknowledge that the favor was done willingly and we are happy to help where we can. This can leave a lasting warmth between people that perpetuates reciprocity and trust.
By saying “I’m sorry” we acknowledge that our actions or words have harmed someone else. That we have done damage, either intentionally or not, and now regret the pain we’ve caused. Showing regret shows that we are empathetic to what the other person has gone through on our account.
I’m saving the hardest one for last.
By saying “I forgive you”, I acknowledge that you hurt me and I am choosing to let it go.
Forgiveness goes beyond common courtesy. Forgiveness is next level stuff, and it’s the hardest thing we’ll ever have to learn when it comes to compassion and empathy.
Pain serves as a powerful teacher. It reminds us to not make some mistakes over and over again. And when we are hurt we want to hang on to it, for the stupid reason that we don’t want it happening again.
But that’s the thing. We hang on to it.
And by remembering we relive, and by reliving, we stay hurt, we stay angry, and the pain is done to us over and over again, not by the original perpetrator but by our own insistence to keep it close to our hearts. That’s how we build walls against compassion and empathy to others.
So here’s what I offer instead:
By saying I forgive you, we are also showing courtesy and respect to ourselves. We are choosing to acknowledge the “I’m sorry” (even if there isn’t one) by letting go of the harm so we can keep our hearts open for something better than pain to fill it with.
And to those who are truly sorry, who offer up their apology from a place of genuine desire to make right a wrong, we give a gift that is priceless with our forgiveness. We acknowledge to them that we are human too.
All of these phrases can be used without thinking. They are often just little idioms of our nature; thrown around without realizing we do it.
But this week I’m challenging you to think about them, consciously. Understand them before you say them and mean them when you do. It will make a difference. It may only be a difference in your own mind, but that’s where the power of those words really comes from anyway.
So, please…do something kind and courteous to yourself and others today. You’re welcome for the reminder. Thank you for reading this blog; it means the world to me that you do. I’m sorry if I tend to wander in thought and subject from time to time. But I forgive myself and the creative process that demands a little haphazard chaos in the order of life.
Sometimes, as a poet and writer, it behoves us to stretch ourselves and try out new forms, word use, and technique. I encourage you all to step out of your normal patterns of verse and play with alliteration, assonance, and the ever-popular to say but disastrous to spell: onomatopoeia.
Enjoy this little experiment of mine and pass it along.
DON’T FORGET TO SEND ME YOUR OWN POETRY TO BE ENTERED INTO THE ANTHOLOGY AS WELL AS TO BE FEATURED AND PROMOTED HERE ON THE BEAUTIFUL STUFF!
I am the marksman and martyr
The ever-present effervescence.
Symbiotic soul-light, illuminating illustriously
Black nebulous annihilating, extinguishing entirely
Let’s talk about fear and how it changes us, how our fear changes over time, and what purpose it all serves.
This all began in yesterday’s yoga class when we were told to try a handstand, with and without the use of the wall. The instructor is amazing and even at 5:30 in the morning, she’s been able to get into my pre-caffeinated head and merge my body and mind in a beautiful symbiosis of breath, and heat, and general bendy awesomeness.
Yesterday I began the morning by suffering through five miles of a run I didn’t enjoy. The week itself had been long and the weekend was short on sleep…yesterday was a cumulation of unhelpful factors.
So even though I was on my mat, carving out my own space in the universe to detach for an hour, I was still too much in the world. And watching my tiny little guru flip herself upside down effortlessly, knowing that my ass is WAY bigger, and understanding that I wasn’t on the most solid of ground emotionally, didn’t help my middle-age sense of insecurity.
While hopping up on one leg repeatedly in a effort to find balance the thought of “Why is this so hard, I’ve done cartwheels, I’m tough…my ass is big but I’m a sturdy girl all round, I got this…why, can’t I just–“?
*grunt*, *groan*, *heave*, *plop*.
It came down to fear.
I was afraid.
I was afraid that my own body would overcorrect. That to avoid pain, I’d swing my pendulum too far to the other side and really end up in a mess. Even though the wall was right there to catch me and there were no demands for me to even achieve the pose.
My physical fear was manifested out of my emotional fear of going too far.
Sure I worry for my rotator cuffs, and I don’t like the idea of barreling into the wall, but I think I was more afraid I would leap out into the world, heart on sleeve, hope in eyes, and fall off the edge. The headstand was a metaphor, for the cyclical “Why bother–you’ll just end up hurt” pattern that affects so many of us.
I held myself back physically. Because I was trying to protect myself emotionally.
I gave it effort, but not:
I knew I could do it, if I’d let go of the expectation of perfection and the fear of falling. Just like anything in life.
But humans are funny creatures and we spend a lot of time trying to protect ourselves from past physical and emotional pain by avoiding the effort that resulted in that pain.
Yesterday’s lesson brought up an honest question about my fears and where they came from and how they became so entrenched beneath my surface.
Fear serves the purpose of protecting and defending your life and your livelihood. But it also cages you. It stops attempts before they start. It can even set you up to fail.
Now failure isn’t a bad thing. It helps us grow and learn. And it’s not as Churchill so aptly said, “fatal”.
So why can’t I put my ass over my head?
Maybe the answer lies in the day I was having, maybe it’s that I wasn’t physically stable enough yet…maybe it’s because I’m afraid I’ll get it right.
Because sometimes failure is more easy to accept than success.
Why is it scary to succeed? Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do, in life, in our writing, in our day to day?
You’d think that’s what we want for the effort we put in. But self-sabotage is something most of us have done before especially at that hair-breadth distance away from obtaining our goals.
Maybe it’s the unknown aftermath of success…or the expectation to always be searching for the next success, climbing ever farther, faster, higher. If we stay mediocre. If we give up or don’t try…then we can stay nicely tucked into our pajamas on the couch midday, and no one would expect anything more.
Maybe if we start off mediocre, then any effort or tiny improvement we make seems like a mountain climbed.
And that’s just us lowering our standards.
Is it good to let our fear pigeon-pose…er…hole us into mediocrity?
I dunno. I think that’s something you need to talk to yourself about. Maybe it’s a good measurement of what we really want in life, and what we really hold dear.
If you no longer want to give it your best then maybe it’s not worth doing all
Thoughts and comments appreciated on this discussion.
Until I hear from you, I’m going to go find myself a wall and see if I can hoist this ass over my head, in the privacy of my own home where my grunts and groans will be mirrored in the aging basset taking over my yoga mat.
Nope, that’s not a typo. You’ve all heard the adage (or if you’re a writer worth their Peter DeVries salt you have…)
“Write drunk, Edit sober.”
I’m not going to recommend you write drunk. You can… It’s totally possible, and more often than not, highly amusing the morning after. Unlike the headache you’ll be nursing.
DeVries’ meaning was simpler. Write with abandon, in love, fervent and without inhibition. Lower your boundaries and kiss the words you wouldn’t normally, dance with phrases you’d been afraid to hold in your arms. Grab the lampshade of crazy plot twist and wear that son-of-a-bitch as a hat while you twirl through the story.
But in the morning…edit like you’re highly regretful and aiming to pinpoint every mistake you’d made the night before so as to never repeat the debauchery again. Be remorseful. Be judgemental, and like the Spanish Inquisition, show no mercy.
I’m in, let’s say the twelfth round of editing on my WIP. A round that was inspired by a recent submission editor’s advice. This time I’m proceeding with a more somber attitude, one that knows I wrote it, in part, like a drunken idiot and now have dropped my ego enough to be receptive to the advice.
Never before have I been so close to getting a traditional publishing contract for one of my books. Part of this is due to a more polished product (it’s not my first rodeo…or book kids), a more general genre and subject (why do people shy away from paranormal romances and hot ghost sex?), and, I like to think, a cute, relatable plot that’s just enough dark to be interesting.
So, I’m buckling down and doing what I was told to help get this baby off the ground. I’m about thirty pages in and catching some of the ‘problems’ that were brought to my attention. But as I work, I have a concern:
How much of myself and my voice am I taking out of this thing to appeal to the personal likes/dislikes of one editor.
So we come back to somber. Serious. Earnest. Grave. Unsmiling.
Sometimes there are hoops we have to jump through to get to where we want to go. Sometimes we have to shelve our pride and ego and be willing to see past what we love about our work to what could be better.
How do we make sure it’s not just some dime-store novella like the fifty other ones on the shelf? How do I make sure, with all the dead darlings lying beside my computer, that its still my story?
I don’t know those answers exactly, but I’ll tell you what I do know.
I know my characters and the way they react to situations and each other. And where my grammatical prowess may be lacking, I will always stay loyal to them first. When the critique is centered on prepositions or wordy description, I can be earnest in cutting it clean. And not only will my story be stronger, it will be easier to read…hopefully to the point where hands don’t want to let go of it until they finish “just one more chapter”.
So my advice for this week is this:
Take good advice from people in the industry who know when it comes to the technical mishaps of your work. Take the advice to tighten your writing from people who have to spend hours of their lives sifting through the slushiest of slush piles.
But always keep true to the drunken passion of your story that made your heart dance and giggle while it awkwardly pulled that plot line in for a kiss. Keep your story’s heart, but don’t be afraid to pluck it’s wayward eyebrows and wipe its nose.
Good luck, in whatever step you are of your process. Editing, writing, or contemplation of either.
Next week is my homage to writer’s conferences, with some good advice on how to spend your time and get the most bang for your buck.