Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Moment that Makes the Memory

I was listening to Daughtry’s September recently and it made me flash back to my childhood summertime memories.  As I pictured my brother and I pretending to be under enemy attack, hiding underneath the bushes and digging pits that were carefully covered with twigs and leaves in which we might snare spies, something odd occurred to me.  I was really only remembering a handful of moments spread out over one, maybe two, summers.  That’s when I realized what a small window of our childhood we actually take with us through our lives that defines our childhood.

What makes a moment turn into a memory?  What makes that one memory become a defining memory, a memory that creates the ‘feeling’ of our childhood.  ‘Summer’ to me is defined by that memory.  When I actually recall all my summers though, there are so many varied activities, adventures and feelings that happened throughout.  What made that memory become my defining memory?  It wasn’t a huge moment where lives were altered, and it wasn’t repeated for years and years until it was blazoned into my mind.  It was a happy, content, safe, cherished moment.
We can’t pick those moments, they pick us.  We don’t even know they’re happening until years later as we look back across time and distance.  That’s when they stand out, they define us.
When I realized this I began to think of other things, like Christmas, traveling, Fall, my home town, pets, school, …  The first thing that came to mind for each subject wasn’t a surprise.  What was a surprise is that for each one my defining memory was actually this small snapshot in time.  It was never a huge event, or milestone.  It was this small, perfect, average memory, and it would forever become the definition of that ‘thing’ which it stood for. 
I also noticed that they all happened very close together.  Within the course of three years my defining memories had all been created.  Click, they there were, set forever in my mind.  Now, idealistically speaking, summer means this one thing to me, Christmas means this one feeling to me, traveling means this one place to me, and so on.  Yet I didn’t even know at the moment that those memories, those times, would be the ones to forever define me.

Now I look at my children and I wonder, what will their defining moments be?  I can’t create them, only they can.  I can’t pick when they’ll happen or what will spark that click to occur.  They won’t even know when they’re happening themselves.  I want their moments to be beautiful, peaceful, full of love and joy.  Maybe that’s what defining moments are by nature, perfect little moments of love that is complete.  Maybe that’s why there’s inherently nothing manufactured about them, they cannot be generated by force.

All of the sudden I feel so small and not in control.  Even inside my own head I have no control of the influences of life.  Maybe that’s a really good thing.  Maybe the moments I’d pick would have been entirely wrong, because I sure know the ones that exist feel entirely right.

Oh, another cool thing, everyone makes their own defining memories, so even though mine happened when they did, my brother's are different than mine.  This is why some of the most significant defining memories from my youth are ones that my mother can’t even recall.
I want to watch extra carefully now.  I want to remember my kids defining moments when they tell me about them in 30 years.  I won’t know which ones they’ll be until then, but when they recall I want to be able to say ‘Wow, I remember that too’ and then feel the awe of how their minds picked those moments to define them.  This requires attentiveness, a cataloguing of endless moments happening right in my own backyard.  Noticing the little things over the big things.  We like to give attention to the big things, but it’s the little details that we carry with us forever.  Life is there, in those little, unnoticed moments which live forever.

Ahh, the little moments.  How easily we forget how much they’re worth.

Thank you for indulging me in a philosophical trip down memory lane.
Would you like to share one of your defining memories?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Writing Tenacity

Kim Mullican left a great comment on my last post regarding what keeps you writing through highs and lows.  In it she touched on something that was on my mind while writing that post.  So I’ll pose another question to you all.
Is it the positive affirmations that keep you going when you’re teetering on the edge, or is it the refusal to accept the negative ones?

Let’s be honest, we’ve all had those days when considered quitting.  Not writing, necessarily, because most of us couldn’t stop that if we wanted to.  However writing and pursuing publishing are two completely different ballgames.
I write because I have these stories in my head and the only way to get them out is to, well, get them out.  So why do I pursue publication?  That answer’s probably a little different for each of us.  First of all, I love these characters so much that I want others to know them and love them too.  Second, I’ve spent a LOT of hours on this writing, I might as well try to earn a monetary reward of some sort for it.  Third, I’m not a crazy person who hears voices carrying on lives in my head if it’s bound and bought, I’m an author instead.

Praise from people who love a story of mine is fabulous, yes, it is.  However it’s not those wonderful words of acceptance which make me say ‘No, I will not give up my publishing quest’ when the querying journey gets rough.  It’s actually the handful of people who are banking on the odds not being in my favor that keep me going.  When someone tells you, ‘Well, what are the odds, right? Like one in a million.’  Something in you will not let you rest until you’ve sent out that millionth query and become that one.  Quitting is proving them right.  Quitting is saying, yeah I write, but it’s just a silly hobby that has no value. 
So for all the people out there who’s goal it is to prevent a writer from becoming an author, let me give you a little advice.  You’d be best to keep those feeling to yourself, because it’s your words which will eventually fuel their success.  There are a lot of reasons to give up on a publishing quest, proving you wrong is one of the greatest reasons to hang on through the rough waters of submissions.

So, now, how about you?  Are there people who know about your dreams and eagerly wait to see them crushed?  Do they tear you down, or give you that fighting tenacity that every writer needs?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who’s got your back?

When I first began to pursue publishing and let a few people in on my plans, the response was surprising.  Yes, there were a few who thought I was crazy, others who comforted themselves with the odds that I wouldn’t get published and even some that were never let in on this little secret at all.  Overall, however, the support and enthusiasm was amazing.  People wanted to read my manuscripts, people asked questions, people cheered me on.
As time has passed, and we all on this journey quickly realize just how much time can be expected to pass, the support behind my endeavor has dwindled.  I don’t think people expect the waiting, nor do they know what to do with it.  If they ask how things are going they’re afraid of making you feel bad because nothing has happened yet.  If they check up on your writing progress then they’re afraid you’ll have something more for them to read, and they don’t have the time, so they just pretend it never happened.
Around the house they were ready and willing to help give you the time to write, because after all, you might get published and start producing an income.  With no instant income in the near future your writing very quickly becomes a liability and not an asset.
Time allotted to writing suddenly dwindles.  Incentive to finish stories quickly dissipates, and your writing drive sputters into neutral.
This phenomenon got me to thinking.  Do most writers out there have one person who is their writing generator?  When your writing power goes out, they’re there to kick it into gear again.  One single person who never treats you like you have a disease, writeritis, or tiptoe around you like you’re an emotional eggshell, or let you become overwhelmed by this goal you’ve set for yourself and your stories.  They always want to hear about what you’re working on, they cherish the midnight text that says another agent requested material, they kick your behind when you fail to write for a week.  They have a special place in your pre-mentally-written acknowledgements page, even if it takes 40 years to actually see that page in print.
Do you have a wind-beneath-your-writerly-wings?  Could you make it through the highs without floating away or the lows without burying your head in the sand without them?  Who is your biggest and first fan and what do they mean to you and your writing journey?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Go with the Flow

Have you ever come to that point in writing a book where you have the plot outlined, you know where the story is going in general, but every time you sit down to write it feels like the words are all wrong?  I mean, they explain what’s happening, but they don’t do it well, or pretty enough.  You’ve lost the flow somewhere and you can’t seem to get back into the rhythm of the words.
I’ve heard different opinions on this and was curious how you deal with it.  Do you write on through, figuring that you’ll get the story line down and deal with cadence later?  Do you walk away and wait for it to feel right again?  Do you cry yourself to sleep every night for months?  Do you give up writing and toss your laptop out the window?
Well, I hope you don’t do the last two.
If you do write on through it, what have you found when coming back to edit that section?  Did the writing feel worse than it sounded after a little break?  Did you have to re-write that portion because it really didn’t flow with the rest of the book?  Did you throw the MS in the trash and tell your 5 year old to write your next book for you?
Yeah, I hope you didn’t do that one either.
How do you get back on course when the flow is all wrong?

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Winnie The Pooh Effect

I was born to be Kanga.  I always knew this.  It was my personality.
I was baking meals for my family at 12, taking care of my baby niece after school at 20, making cookies for the people at work at 23.  I had an even temper, a quiet disposition, and a happy nature.  I was even called ‘stoic’ at the emergency clinic where I worked and ‘unflappable’ by my friends.  I had a singular goal in life, to someday be a wife and mother.
I would bake cookies and do art projects with my little Roo all the day and we would wait for Owl to come home, running to him with smiles and laughter.
Really, stop laughing, this is what I thought was possible.  I was Kanga after all.
Years later I was married and had my first child.  I quit my day job to take on my real job, as Kanga.
A year passed before I awakened one day to a starling realization.  Over the course of that one year, I had become Rabbit!  I gasped in horror.  No, I was Kanga, always Kanga, when did this happen?  After calming myself down some I decided that maybe I was jumping to conclusions.  Maybe I only felt like Rabbit, but to everyone else I still looked like Kanga.  After all, I did spend a lot of time baking cookies, ok, they were the pre-shaped ones, but still… Plus all the hours of arts and crafts together filled our days.  Before I panicked I needed a second opinion.  I went to my husband.
“What Pooh character do you think I am?”
Ok, he clearly thinks this is one of those questions that men are not supposed to ever answer because there’s no right answer and they’ll only end up in trouble.
“No, really, I want to know.  I won’t get upset.”
“I don’t know, Piglet I guess.”
“You think I’m little and scared?”
“No, is that what Piglet is?”
Ok, so he was thinking little, pink, you can’t go wrong.
“Think about their personalities.  I think I know already, but I want to know if I’m right.”
He thinks a little longer this time and finally answers with all the certainty in the world…
“You’re Rabbit.”
“I knew it!  I’ve become Rabbit.  How did this happen?”
“It’s ok, he means well.”
It was official.  I was cranky and crabby and barking out rules.  I mumbled and muttered while no one paid attention.  I was always upset about someone bouncing through my garden and I was trying to make all the plans while everything fell apart behind me.  I was Rabbit.
Why did this change sneak up on me?  How can one’s Pooh character just change?
Over the years I think I finally came up with the answer.  I was always Kanga because she matched my personality.  I always expected my little Roo.  What I didn’t expect was Tigger.  Yes, I have Tigger children.  I wasn’t given peaceful, happy, bounce into my pouch, time to go to bed dear, Roo children.  I was given Tiggers.  Tiggers bounce you, Tiggers bounce everything.  Tiggers don’t often listen the first time you say something.  Tiggers think they know a better way, always.  Tiggers are wonderful and fun and generous and happy, but Tiggers are hard to control.  Maybe it takes a Rabbit to control a Tigger.
So, now I have two little Tiggers of my own.  I love them dearly, and as far as I can tell, they like Rabbit an awful lot too.  For all his grumbling and complaining he really does have a big heart.  I often wonder if I’ll ever get to be Kanga again.  Maybe later, when my Tiggers have their own little ones, maybe that’s when I’ll get to be Kanga again.  Grammy’s have that luxury you know.  For all the Rabbit that comes out on a daily basis, Kanga’s still in there, waiting for her turn.

Your turn: What Pooh character are you?