He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. —Psalm 113:9

July 12, 2010

Getting Real

So on Saturday, I wrote a beginning for something that's been brewing for a few days. I've got a vague outline in my head for a semi-semi-autobiographical something about a young woman who has busted her butt for years to prove wrong everyone who ever accused her of being a lazy underachiever, only to have everything fall apart and end up finding love, happiness and success in the kind of unconventional, supposedly underachieving work and lifestyle everyone always warned her to avoid. Here's a little snippet of what I've got so far:

I knew I should have stayed in bed this morning before I even made it to the office. How did I know this so early in the day? Well, if the lost keys, the spilled coffee, the speeding ticket (thanks to my lost keys making me late for work) and the broken purse strap that caused the entire contents of my purse to spill onto the parking lot weren’t any indication, then it was probably the pratfall I took about a block from the building that clued me in.

The most embarrassing part was that I didn’t trip on anything. And there were no icy patches or slick spots to make me slip, either. Half way through the intersection, in the middle of a crosswalk where I was surrounded by at least twenty other people who knew how to walk just fine, my ankle just gave out, and I went down hard, slamming both my knees and my palms onto the pavement, spilling my purse again in the process.

Here’s the thing: it’s funny when people fall. Of course I don’t mean the elderly or people who have mobility problems, and it’s definitely not funny when people get hurt. I’m talking about grown people, in their healthy prime, who normally have no trouble at all getting from point A to point B on their own two feet. I mean, there’s a reason the pratfall forms the basis of slapstick comedy. It’s a funny visual. So whenever I take a spill like this -- which happens more often than I’d like to admit; maybe that’s my karma for thinking it’s so funny in the first place -- no matter how much pain and humiliation I’m suffering, I always picture how it must have looked to the people around me, and I bust up laughing.

So there I was, in the middle of Second and Boston, sprawled on all fours with pain shooting up my arms and spreading out from my knees, laughing hysterically. The expressions on the faces of those who stopped to help me went from concerned to confused to weirded out in pretty short order. A guy wearing the standard casual-office uniform of Polo and Dockers paused in the middle of picking up my purse to stare at me in horror, which made me laugh even harder. I’m not sure how long this went on, but tears were streaming down my face by the time by the time I felt hands on my shoulders and heard a voice asking, “Penny, are you okay?”

...the part about laughing uncontrollably whenever I trip and fall is completely true.


The other day, while cleaning my office and moving all of my writing books to the windowsill, I came across one I'd completely forgotten about: Writing Articles From the Heart: How to Write & Sell Your Life Experiences by Marjorie Holmes. I bought this book at least 15 years ago, and my edition was published in 1993, years before the advent of blogging. I started reading it today, and I'm curious about whether more recent editions have been updated to include blogs as a platform for this type of writing.

At any rate, I'm glad I re-discovered it. As previously noted, I've been thinking about this type of writing lately, and this book is answering a lot of the questions I have about it, primarily regarding finding an angle, figuring out where to focus, and how to organize a narrative and not just ramble like I'm doing now. And I'm thinking I might use this blog as a practice forum for this type of writing, to see how well I take to it.

I'll tell you why I think I'm drawn to a more realist, literary branch of writing these days. I'm not abandoning my love of genre fiction by any means; but lately, I've been feeling disconnected from my own writing. This is part of a larger disconnect I've been dealing with lately, ever since all the baby drama. In a lot of ways, I just feel numb. I can still enjoy things, laugh at funny things and cry at sad things and get angry at things that piss me off, but more complex emotions seem a little beyond my grasp right now. It's hard to feel excited about anything. And when I think about romantic pairings in my own stories, I don't get the giddy thrill that I used to. I don't get much of anything, really.

It occurs to me that this might be something I need professional help to remedy, but until I get good insurance, my only recourse is to pray it out, talk it out and write it out. I'm wondering if getting more real with my writing will help me reconnect with my emotional life. I hope it does, because right now everything I write feels flat and lifeless and forced -- which is pretty much how I feel more often than not these days.

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