Dead Weight

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Get yours now!

Why do we write certain stories? There are probably as many answers as there are writers. Growing up, I wanted to write a novel – I finally realized it was a question of when. I had to start or it was never going to happen. At the time, I was enamored of scuba diving and wanted to explore that on the page. Daydreams, what ifs, fragments of overheard conversations, curiosity and a few unknowns go into the mix when I’m writing (more of a pantster than a plotter).

I remember the chlorine-scented moment at our first pool-side scuba class when I realized I was really going to have to do it myself. That moment of whoa! helped me write the novel. No one was going to put my tank on for me, no one else could breathe for me or take that giant step off the deck or monitor my gauges. I was responsible for my survival. Yes, you dive with at least one other person and yes, you learn what you are doing before you enter the ocean, but in large part, as under the sea, so in front of the screen. Taking a leap into the ocean helped me to start and keep putting words on the page until I had a book. And with both, once I was into it, the fun took over.

Diving the giant kelp forest off Catalina Island feels like flying. It’s so beautiful. Seals came up and blew bubbles inds scuba diving001 imitation of those from our tanks. Shafts of sunlight danced through giant stalks of swaying green as bright orange Garibaldi darted in and out. It’s a magical experience and I wanted to give that to readers, plus a “what if” experience of things going to extremes.

What dead weight have I shed? The dead weight of awful generational patterns and anger at my damaged and capriciously cruel mother; certainly of relationships that did not work out. I shed the dead weight of behaving as if my time here is unlimited.

For the month of June, I’m offering my first novel, DEAD WEIGHT, for 99 cents via Smashwords. Please buy it! Thank you.

Now, what about you? Please share your own “dead weight” experience in the comments (play nice).

2011

How was your year? Any resolutions for the New Year? If I may: Finish your book! Or start writing the one you’ve been meaning to. Or write another. Get it done.

What was 2011 like for me and where do I want to go in 2012? Still pondering. Here’s my year in review:

Wrote 2 screenplays, housesat for 2 friends, went to JPW in the spring and a Navy-ND game in the fall, plus London, Kenya, long hours of volunteer work, pitched my novel in NYC, put out another on Smashwords. Thought I had ADD but when I went primal and off grains most of the time, didn’t need drugs, just fish oil and better vitamins. Queried agents and publishers, submitted and entered contests, applied for residencies and very little of it came to anything. Still, I believe in this novel and the screenplays and am not giving up. Was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Started dating, started the Steve Jobs bio, starting realizing I need to spend more time reading and dating. But not at the same time. Stopped going to the gym and got a pullup bar. Helped a friend after her knee surgery then up to see my brother after his liver cancer diagnosis. Had met some of the celebrities who passed, but… no one close to me died this year…. Went to the theater, went to concerts, went to church, heard words of wisdom from one of the wisest, smartest men I’ve ever met in a tiny one near Kibera. Heard nuns at dawn singing like angels. Had lunch with women with profound neurological disorders, fed one named Joy, heard a briefing by human rights attorneys, met an economic anthropologist, walked the slums of Dandora and Kibera, sang and danced and rejoiced with Kenyans and the Masai. For the first – and last – time drank cow blood, tried goat intestine soup and ate brains (not at the same meal because that would be gross! heh) Learned a little Swahili and a few words of Maa. Became an honorary Masai, which was a lot more appealing before they put on the full court press of haggling. Loved the majesty of the Masai Mara in sun and rain. Saw the Big 5 plus endless herds of wildebeests, a shy hyena, ostrich, zebra and giraffe strolling red oat plains, lion cubs playing, a lone vulture above scattered fields of white bones. Had a drink at the Hippo Bar on the Mara and the Library Bar in Hollywood. Finally made it to the top of the Empire State Bldg. Watched revolutions and news of bin Laden’s death and Downton Abby and lots of movies and of course ND football; went to gamewatches & drank a Nutty Irishman while the Irish threw away another game and had a Bloody Mary while the 49ers won. Ignored the Chargers. Made new friends, saw the end of one friend’s marriage and the beginning of another’s. Tailgated for the first time & learned I might have a talent for Flip Cup, but not Beer Pong. Attended my first doctoral dissertation defense and celebrated a wonderful young friend getting his PhD. As usual, it was the best year for some I know and the worst for others. It was, on the whole, one of my better, yet bittersweet years. I was blindsided and disappointed and amazed and complimented and ignored and celebrated. I saw more poverty, more suffering, than I have in a long time, but also more joy and hope right in the middle of it all. Laughed more than perhaps any other year. Went to more parties. Me and mine are healthy and happy.

That is a blessed year.

how do you do it?

Are you stuck in the doldrums and cannot finish your book? Welcome to the club. I don’t know a novelist who doesn’t get bored, fed up, finds the energy is gone, etc. in the middle of a novel, not to mention sick to death of the thing after going over it repeatedly in the rewrite process. In a way, I never “finished” any of mine, no artist finishes a work, you just have to stop when you cannot stand it another second and it’s as good as you can make it for now – which is just another way of saying it cannot be perfect because there’s no such thing.

I keep going by keeping going and sometimes I fail and other artists (often painters, sculptors, not to mention fellow writers in weekly check-ins) get me going again either through inspiration or pep talks … and sometimes I have to go for a drive by myself and scream at the top of my lungs. Another thing that helps is word or page count races with other writers or some other kind of accountability. Make a contract for yourself, sign it and give it to someone who will hold you to it.

Exercise helps too. I don’t ask about why I write or whether makes me happy because what makes me happy is having done the work, which is not that different from exercise. If I thought about how I feel about exercising in the morning, I’d never do it. I just start and feel better after. Take good care of yourself, but don’t fall into self indulgence. I’d argue you cannot be creative and sleep-deprived. Get some rest, but don’t get lazy.

Writing, painting, sculpting, music, etc – it’s all about communication. There are ways to get your work out even if you do it yourself. That’s what Smashwords is for. You have an audience. Someone is waiting for your book. Hopefully many someones. You may never know about it, but you owe it to them to get that book done and out into the world because somewhere – and maybe not even in your lifetime – there is someone who will read something you wrote and it will have an effect on their life. Maybe it will make them angry or happy or inspired or less alone or feel understood or maybe they will swear they can do it better and get of their butt to write their own damn book. Who knows?

Do your part. Finish your novel.