A trip back in time: the 1940s Ball 2019!

Here is my signal boost for Gettingoutmore.org.  In which I talk about the benefits and hazards of time travel and how there are times you just wish you had lived during.


Work in progress

Today is a double post.  I realized this was an entry all on its own, and important enough to get its own entry.

My book

The chapter I finished last night started off in my little black notebook, written in my nearly indecipherable coded language, known as Clint’s handwriting in cursive.  The older I get, the worse it becomes too.  Most of the time I can’t read it, which means that my ideas and secrets are safe if I ever lose the notebooks.  It also means that as I transcribe the writing to electronic format, I can’t read much of what is there either.  Fortunately, it’s more of a mnemonic trigger.  If I start transcribing and then the writing takes over, generally I cover whatever I had written in the notebook.  To my surprise, this even includes specific words and details I will later decipher from reading the notebook again, just to make sure I caught everything.  It’s almost as if the story is there, and I am just uncovering it and bringing it back into the light.

The little black notebook is the perfect bridge from the brain to digital.  It’s an analog tool that acts as a capacitor of sorts, slowing down the impossible speed and clarity of the mind to something the computer can deal with.

Last night was a tricky piece involving a Rashomon method, where I tell the story one way and then from another character’s POV it is something else entirely.  I’m hoping I can pull it off.  It was a lot of fun to write.  I think it also worked well with the pacing, and rather than breadcrumb the reader into the big reveal moments, which are already highly telegraphed, I can just drop them in the middle of it, and they can enjoy the ride.  I think that will free up the story much better, rather than put all these Agatha Christie-esque A-HA! moments into the book.  This is only the first draft, so anything is still possible.

I have waffled on word counts.  Like many of my writer friends, I used to use them as a measure of progress.  I still keep an eye on them as a way to feel satisfied.  Anything under 800 words, and I feel lazy. So I try to increase that whenever I can.  But the numbers are arbitrary.  Yesterday, combined with the blogs, this blog, and the chapter, I probably wrote around 5,000 words.  Around ten years ago, I could write a 10,000 word short story in one day, then spend the next two weeks whittling it down to publishable size.

The word counts mean something, since they can show that I am just phoning it in and could be pushing myself further.  Much like the steps we count to stay in shape.  The important thing for me to get into the habit of is pushing myself until the words stop working, until I hit the point of exhaustion. That could be 500 words. Or it could be 10,000.  Right now, about an hour and a half is what I am back up to.  I’m letting the story tell me when it is done with me.

This morning in the shower, the story tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me it was still there.  It’s some changes to the chapter from last night.  Sometimes it would be nice to have a little privacy. Scared the hell out of me!

Do Something Everyday That Scares You

When I first heard this it was on a YouTube clip of a transcript of a graduation speech set to music and video.  Man, those words just resonated with me at the time.  I heard those words on a day when I truly needed to hear them.  Then I went on with my life for a few years, those words left unheeded…until I hit a time in my life when I needed to hear them again.

Not to go off on a rant about divorce, but it is a horrifying experience.  Your whole world is ripped apart, turned upside down, and it is up to you to rebuild everything from scratch.  In my case, everything was an improvement.  Sometimes these sorts of journeys are difficult, but worth the benefits.  In my case, what I left behind was the end of a dark time in my life and what I gained was…salvation.  Right around that time, I listened to this again, and as much of a wreck as I was, it still resonated with me.  As with the song, I divorced at 40.  I thought this was oddly prophetic.  And now, everything scared me.  Only now, there was something I could do about it.  I had already done something which scared the hell out of me, which was to reclaim my life and sanity from an awful experience.

I had to start small.  Scaring myself at this point was doing something little like going out to dinner by myself.  Yes, it sounds cliche.  The recently single person sitting alone at a booth at a restaurant, grazing on corn chips and salsa, chatting with the waitress.  Feeling as though everyone is pitying you for being alone.  You feel alone and yet conspicuous all at once.  You worry what other people think.  Until you don’t.

When I was married, I didn’t get out much.  I certainly didn’t go to parties.  I didn’t get invited to social events.  I never traveled with other couples or even family.  I had been locked in the strange world that is an occluded marriage.  We socialized only with the nuclear family.  Occasionally inlaws. I had let 15 years of my life pass me by.  It would take a couple more years to let the bitterness of that fade.  I felt like I had missed out on so much, hiding in a bad marriage.  At the end of it, I had only myself to blame.  After a while of that, there was no reason to keep blaming.  But there were still things that were scary.

Asking someone out on a date was one.  Submitting pitches and queries was another.  Deciding to allow things in my life to change, to get out of comfort zones.  Telling my kids “No” was tough too, especially when some of the biggest things that scared me in my life was being told no.  You would have thought I would have gotten used to it, sending stories out to magazines and editors; when you hear yes, it almost smacks you in the face, the No’s are so abundant.  And talk about scary:  when you hear yes for once.  It’s like “What do I do now!?  They said yes?!  I don’t know if I can handle this kind of pressure to succeed!”  I mean, what the hell are you supposed to do with that!?!

Over the last three and a half years, I continue to push myself and everyday, I try to do something that scares me.  Most of the time it’s something silly like striking up a conversation with someone, or trying out a new route to a place I haven’t tried.  My old method used to be to visualize everything in my mind that could happen and then I would have some sort of idea what to expect.  Lately I have discovered that nothing good comes from this.  Either the reality falls short of your expectations horribly, or you have already set your boundaries on how much you get to enjoy something because you can’t go past what you have imagined. Oftentimes, the reality exceeds the fiction you have cooked up.

One of my favorite dates was a movie, people-watching in a downtown venue, playing air-hockey, and dancing to live music on the sidewalk outside of a bar.  Better than Prom, better than a lot of things; yet simple.  Easy, if I let it be.  The scariest part was just letting me be myself instead of some schmoozy over-complimentary version of me that annoys the heck out of even me.  It was scary.

I used to blame anxiety.  Anxiety was a crutch.  It’s like they say.  “Everything you want is on the other side of Fear.”

Lately, I have been querying publications to get rolling on travel writing.  It reminds me of the old days of submitting to fiction magazines.  Either you hear back from the editors, or you don’t and the answer is oftentimes “No.”  After a while of submitting, you wonder what kind of masochist you have become to set yourself up for rejection in this way.  Over time you start to figure out that the worst thing they can say is “No” and it’s not so scary.  A “Yes” opens doors, but in the meantime, you don’t have to let No stop you. It might be what you need to figure out a better way to bend, or to examine how you could have done things differently.  Just keep going, and keep challenging yourself.  Be open to new experiences.  If the idea of doing something gets your heart racing, then there is an excellent chance that is exactly what you should be trying.*

In three short years, I went from timidly eating dinner by myself to skinny dipping in a hot springs around strangers.  Hot air balloon rides. Mountain biking. And maybe worst of all, occasionally telling my kids “No.  You can’t have that.”

Scaring the snot out of myself has become one of my favorite parts of the day.  Nearly every time I have done something, it has been worth the fear and anxiety I have had to battle. Now eating alone is no problem, neither is mountain biking, kayaking, road-tripping, talking to strangers, making plans, reconnecting with old friends, asking strangers to take your picture, joining in on conversations, etc. etc. etc.rain

Pro-tips: Be kind wherever your travels take you.  Don’t be obnoxious.  Be open to good things. Put your shopping cart in the cart-corral when you are done.  Learn how to say please and thank you for every country you visit. And don’t humble-brag.  It’s better just to listen to someone else than it is to act like an experience they will never have is no big deal.  Part of good traveling is telling a good story when you get back home.  Good stories don’t ever make people feel inferior.  They bring us all along on the journey.

*Within reason of course.  Just make sure you aren’t hurting yourself or someone else.

**Sunscreen is advisable in nearly any adventure situation.