Musings From a Creative Writer

Creative writing is the imaginative musings of a writer. The writer incorporates the senses to show the reader a story. It’s a flowery embellishment of sorts, describing a park you’ve created from your imagination. It’s the sensation a character feels from the sun on their skin in the middle of the day.

In school, your professors teach you to show and not tell. It’s the showing of the beach at sunset rather than telling the audience that the sun set. Now all your sentences become too long because all you do is show. Then you read an article that says it’s better to tell. If they ran, say they ran. Keep the story progressing. Progressing to what? You don’t know, but you keep writing.

The words you wrote and rewrote begin to sound like crap. You’re ready to burn your manuscript, except for that one sentence or that paragraph. There’s still hope. You put the lighter away and retrieve your work from the garbage. It’s a cycle of building yourself up and tearing yourself down.

As the writer, creative writing can leave you staring at a blinking parallel line. Your cursor sits waiting like your beating heart for the next word. How’s the writing coming people ask. “It’s coming,” you tell them. Every line you write you obsess over. You weren’t a perfectionist until now.

Who are you writing for? You realize more often than not that you do it for yourself. Words made their way into your heart and now those must find a place in the world.

Creative writing can take you on an adventure all while sitting in the comfort of your bed. You feel emotions about a topic you never had an opinion on until you read about it from a book you stumble across at the bookstore.

You want to hit a nerve in your reader that makes them stay up all night reading your book. When they are through you want them to mourn the character they can no longer read about.

This is what you want for your reading audience, so you keep writing.

Character Development

Emotionally attached to fictional characters

Character development can be challenging. You have a character. You’ve given them a name and some physical details, but you want your audience to connect with them on a deeper level. When I’m reading a story, my connection with them grows when I get a glimpse inside their head.

Make a list of characters you like from different books you enjoyed. What was it about them that made you grow an attachment? Are they forgetful and worry all day at work whether or not they switched off their straightening iron? Did they worry about the impression they made at an interview? Do they bite their nails when they’re anxious?

Define the character are you working on? Is it your protagonist or antagonist. Think about what makes your character interesting for better or worse? To start out on an easier note, let’s pretend you’re making a new friend. I’ve included the questions below to help you dig a little deeper. Keep in mind you want your audience to become emotionally invested in your character.

It’s Coffee Talk Time

A couple of people sitting directly across from each other with a cup of coffee.

Observational Questions

  • How do they act when they are happy, excited, in love, sad, or angry?
  • What kind of gestures do they make in conjunction with these emotions?
  • Do they have any tattoos or noticeable scars?
  • How do they typically dress?

Interpersonal Questions

  • What is one of your biggest pet peeves?
  • The song you blast when you’re happy?
  • Favorite bar/restaurant you enjoy?
  • Beverage of choice?
  • Do you like to travel? Where have you been?
  • Do you have pets? What kind? How many?
  • Do you have children? What are their names and how old are they?
  • Are you close to you family? Any specific member you call when times get tough or unbearable? Why?
  • Who do you spend your holidays with?
  • Are you religious or spiritual?
  • Do you play or watch sports?
  • What do you do when you’re stressed out?
  • What languages do you speak?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Do you have a nickname? How did you get it?
  • What is your favorite appetizer?
  • As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • What is your favorite vacation spot?
  • Happiest moment of your life? Worst?
  • How do you see the world? Is the glass half empty or half full?
  • What’s your greatest fear?
  • What is one of your biggest regrets?

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These questions may only scratch the surface of getting to know your character. Let me turn this over to you now. What else do you want to know about them? Think back on how you got to know your own friends. How can you integrate them into your character? Maybe put some of yourself in them. Try putting them in a scene.

Here’s an example. Allow them to sit alone in a restaurant. What do they notice about other people around them. Is your character comfortable or embarrassed sitting in a booth by themselves. Why do they feel that way?

Inner dialogue can help move your story along and throwing your character into action will help you determine what they’re missing.

Things Remembered

I’m once again drifting back to thoughts about my dad. His face stares back at me through the light blue eyes of older men who live in and around Citrus County, Florida. They share an age bracket driving around in antique cars like my dad once did and gesturing with their hands just as he did when he didn’t particularly agree with a fellow driver’s lack of road etiquette. He was a loud-mouthed Polish Italian who spoke Mandarin fluently and enjoyed using it anytime he came across someone else. His pronounced nose, long face, and thin lips are forever etched in my head. He used to think he was an old Asian man reincarnated into the body of an American man. Who knows? Maybe he was.

He wore aviator sunglasses, drank Genesee beer pale ale at dinner, and loved making his special spaghetti sauce with clam sauce. When he was home, I would find him lounging on the couch watching John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or reruns of Star Trek with William Shatner, including the feature-length films. He would do impersonations of Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny in front of my friends. They would laugh politely, not understanding the reference. Their parents were younger much younger.

I had very little knowledge about his whereabouts when my mother moved out to Florida at the end of 2011. For all I knew, he was still living on Geary Street in a run-down apartment in San Francisco.


Research on Ancestry.com showed that he passed away in Hawaii, not in San Francisco as previously thought. A few weeks ago, I searched his name on FB. His post revealed much of what I already knew about him, but what caught my eye were photos of a Chinese woman. The caption said the woman was his wife. They had gone over to China and had pictures taken of them in different gardens and one of them dressed in costume from Ming Dynasty 15th century. Say whaaaat?!!!! Who was this guy? He looked happy and I couldn’t help but be happy for him. I hope he left this world with a smile on his face.

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He said a lot of things over the years that have stuck with me and I can’t help but repeat them since they carry a certain relevance now that I’m a parent doing my best to be an adult.

I don’t say these things to my own children, but when I talk to my husband these words pop-up from time to time in the form of, “You know what my dad would say?”

Since there is a generational gap where my parents were closer to the age of his grandparents he often says, “I haven’t heard that before.”

Here are some of the echoes of words that remain and my interpretation.

Dad: Does a bear sh*t in the woods?

Me: This was my introduction to rhetorical questions.

Dad: The world is going to hell in a hand basket.

Me: I used to think of it as the end of the world, but now I see at as a daily perspective. Some days appear worse than others. I’m trying not to allow the media to dim my view on the world. I have seen a lot of good and that’s something that the media cannot diminish.

Dad: You’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’.

Me: He would flex his arm and wave his fist back and forth anytime I said anything remotely smart-alicky. I really don’t know why his reply would entail me getting a bruising. My dad never laid a hand on me. If I did get out of line, my mother was quick to give me a pinch under my arm.

My dad and I got along most of the time, mostly because we didn’t really talk. We had different views about the world and the older i got, the more difficult it was for me to remain quiet.

I’m realizing more and more that it is hard coming to terms with my family members. We spend years growing up around them, but we don’t fully understand them or what their life was like prior to us entering the picture. My parents were terrible communicators with each other and with me.

I’m still learning how to to communicate with my own family. It’s an uphill battle at times, but it’s definitely worth it. I do know that I don’t want to leave my children with clichés. I hope they will genuinely know me. The last thing I want is to go through this life completely misunderstood.

Stressed? It’s Forking Desserts

Did you know that desserts spelled backwards is stressed? It was news to me. It’s no wonder that desserts are often given to us when we are stressed the fork out.

A quote concerning stress: “You can’t control the winds, but you can adjust the sails.” – a number of people are attributed with this saying.

So, Are You Feeling Stressed?

Stress forking affects EVERYTHING in my life. Be it mentally, physically, and emotionally. I wished I wouldn’t let it get to me, but I know time and time again that’s where my faith steps in. Easier said than done. It takes some serious concentration to get unstuck from the loop. I’ve talked about negativity before. Don’t worry, nothing has changed.

Loops of Negativity = Negativity about everything. Talk about a dark cloud consistently looming overhead.

The Loop

You know, that mental treadmill of sorts that keeps you stressed, anxiety ridden, and filled with worry. It sucks the joy out living. I believe that’s the reason I enjoy basking in the happy, peaceful, joyful moments. Now that’s a treadmill filled with abundance.

Here I am, still learning this concept. Always learning. I’m learning to forgive humanity and myself. I’m trying to be a better wife, a better mother, a better daughter and dare I say it…a better Christian.

Personally, I’m turned off by people that introduce themselves and then add, “I’m a Christian.” Show me what you mean by that. You don’t need to tell me something you are, especially if you already show it by your actions. This goes for people who say they are kind, generous and loving. Show me kindness, generosity, and love.

It’s rough out here in this world.

If you’re not careful you can turn into a negative human only attracting the worst of what life has to offer. Doesn’t reading that sentence make you feel icky?

When I start seeing the negativity enter, there’s only one thing I can do. I must freaking change my gosh darn attitude. I’m trying to reverse my sailor’s mouth. It’s flippin’ tough, but not impossible. I’m not going to say I have a good track record, which I did for a big chunk of my life because of a religion, but now I’m just doing it because no one likes a potty mouth and there are so many more better words out there.

Have you looked at a dictionary lately? I just wish there was one that would carry as much emotion as that one four letter word that rhymes with duck. Do you have a better one? Let me know in the comments down below, because fork doesn’t do it for me.

What to do when forking desserts get the best of me?

I write, run, lift weights, knit, and pray A LOT.

If that doesn’t work, then what?

Lean on hope and faith when you’re stressed.

I could quote a bunch of bible verses here, but I’ll spare you. In this process of becoming better, I’ve come across a new friend. Her name is Jackie. We text each other a lot. It’s mostly about remaining in prayer for one another. We talk about our faith and discuss how it’s made us stronger women, thus making us better wives, mothers, and friends.

As fate would have it, she was initially friend’s with my husband’s mother. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one. She’s also my age and hit it off the moment we met. Our two older children are similar in age. We can relate on so many levels. We know and are acquainted with the same people. I’ve lived here for over a decade. All this time, in this small but big county, we met at the Family Dollar in the frozen food aisle on Christmas Eve.

I’m constantly trying to see the little blessings in my life when I’m consumed by the bigger problems.

When life feels devoid of hope and lacking in love, I turn to God in faith and He answers me through friends.

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If you’re forking desserts, my hope is that these words find their way to you.

Depression: The Big “D” Word

Let’s make that a double. This is Desiree on Depression.

I have talked about this sort of thing before, but not at this level. You can say “I’m leveling up.” -The Blue Shirt Guy, Free Guy.

I have been in a dark place mentally, which came with having my two little additions. They are 11 months apart! Once upon a time on the tiny isle of Desiree, I thought having babies 16 months was close. Life showed me what was up. Four months after Brooklyn was born, I was pregnant…again.

*Side note: So, you can get pregnant while nursing. Talk about one of thee worst myths created!!!!!

I have faced this issue time and time again throughout motherhood, but I didn’t realize that I was suffering from postpartum depression also known as baby blues.

The Dark Place

There was little motivation I could summon except the minimal which included writing, blogging, and finally finishing up my Master’s which was only supposed to take two years, but turned into five. I had TWO classes left when I stopped running and schooling in 2018. I am proud to say that this past year I finished up those classes because I have an ever-supportive husband.

Since I didn’t feel the drive to run anymore I just didn’t see why I was alive. Hey runners, I know you know what I’m talking about. A f*cking IDENTITY CRISIS Ya’ll. If I wasn’t a runner, who was I?

If I was mentally checked out on my children, how could I call myself their mother?

And if I couldn’t love myself how could I love my husband like I said I did? How could I be there for them and him?

My toilet bowl flush of thinking went on to believe that my children would probably do much better in life without me.

Depression made me feel like I wasn’t worth anything to anyone.

This was the worst stinkin’ thinkin’ that I had ever come up with.

I will not go into the rabbit hole of “normal” today. My family knows that terrible truth. Do you know that song by Taylor Swift called “Blank Space”? I can relate… a little too well I didn’t recognize the “dark place” for what it was. Depression clung to me like a noose, so much so that it came with my husband calling a mental health facility.

I wanted to kill myself…what I didn’t care to understand at the time was that during my rant, my two oldest daughters heard my yelling through their bedroom wall. They cried, while I screamed, yelled, and ranted. My husband hid all the sharp objects. while I screamed, yelled, and ranted.

Suicide isn’t the answer and because of my husband I got through the night and then the days slowly turned into weeks. I apologized for saying those things and thinking those thoughts, but I didn’t realize it hurt them. There are a lot of things I don’t realize when I end up in the wrong head space.

I spoke to my daughters individually and apologized for my behavior.

It’s difficult to put my thought process into words, let’s just say I was in the wrong head space. I didn’t give a f*ck and I’m not talking about Mark Manson’s version.

I could only see the worst in myself.

The Conclusion

I realize not everyone faces depression, but there are many people that do. I know I’m not alone when I say that I like to pretend everything is okay when it’s not, mostly because I don’t want to burden anyone with my problems.

Unfortunately, there are far too many women and men that don’t talk about the mental pain they are experiencing.

I can’t say this enough…TALK TO SOMEONE!!!! Real friends will listen. The Universe needs you. Please remember that you are not the only person suffering, your immediate family members will feel the pain of your loss every day and for generations to come.

We All Have a Purpose

I urge you to take some time for yourself and do some soul-searching. Bite the bullet and be alone with your thoughts. Turn off the music and stop trying to drown out whatever you are trying not to feel. Your soul is trying to tell you something. Now is not the time to be comfortable in the sadness. We are not meant to dwell there. Do yourself a favor and free your mind. What would you do right now, if you didn’t have the constraints of your j-o-b?

Find your PASSION and chase it down HARD. Think of yourself as a lion/lioness chasing its prey like it hasn’t eaten in a week.You can recognize it when it strikes a chord in your being. It makes you want to get out of bed in the morning. Do not confuse a person for that feeling. Remember that post I wrote about creating your own sunshine? Do that. You are your choices. Accept the good and the bad and as my husband says, “Keep it movin’.”

Everyone experiences those lows. Depression can strike the happiest of people. The key is to catch it before you hit what feels like the bottomless pit. Life is better among the living. Remember that YOU have a purpose.

Once you figure out what that is, write it out. Tattoo it on your forehead. Do whatever you need to do, so you can see it every day.

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Thanks for dropping by. I know and understand the value of time, so thank you for taking the time to read my post. I would love to hear from you, so please leave me a comment.

So I can keep bringing you the best version of myself through my wordsmithing, go ahead and buy this mama a coffee.

Atacama Extreme 100: Part Two

At pre-race check-in, the race director did a short slide show and showed us the unassuming dune. I thought, “I totally got this. I’ve ran 50k on the beach. I’ll be just fine.” Have you ever found yourself saying that last sentence?

Those are some gloating words. Sometimes we come into a race overconfident. Sometimes we come in overconfident because we are trying to hide how scared we are. Mind over matter, right?

Right.

Keep talking about it and just be about it already.

Have you ever ran on the the beach? If you have, you know that the footing is incredibly uneven.

The terrain in Atacama varies, there’s hard clay, crunchy dirt where your feet sink into the ground like you’re in snow, volcanic sand and the kind of sand I mentioned in my question.

Uphill at a 45-degree angle is a hell of a lot worse than your every day run on the beach. There are no foot holds and nothing to grab onto. It took me a quite a bit of doing to get up the sand dune. For every four steps I took, I only progressed two steps forward. It didn’t feel like I was making any headway. I wasted an incredible amount of energy going about it wrong. At first I tried walking straight up, but it was tiring and it felt like I was hardly moving. Then I watched as two other women ahead of me walked up sideways. You can see my sideways footprints behind me in the picture below.

It proved to be a success and I managed to finally make it up to the top of the mountain. It wasn’t that bad.

Reaching the top of the mountain.

I followed the orange flag markers until they vanished.

I retraced my steps and looked for the flags. Where were the flags?

The sun was rising high above me and it started to get warm. It was getting warmer and the time was slipping away. I only had sips of water left in my hydration pack. Those damn patatas fritas had dried out my mouth and my phone had lost its signal when I reached the top.

I needed to get off this damn mountain and I wasn’t about to go down the way I came up. I had lost so much time already.

The flags disappeared halfway through the mountain. Thankfully, the top was relatively flat with sporadic giant-sized stalagmite looking rocks (like the one pictured below).

By this time, I was on my third try of retracing my steps. On one particular rock, I found myself staring up at a man and his goat. He was wearing a Peruvian poncho and was waving at me. Naturally, I waved back. At last, maybe he could lead me off the mountain. I got closer to the rock and the man and his goat disappeared.

I realized I was in serious trouble.

I was hallucinating.

I thought about the things in my pack. A whistle. Who would hear me? A mirror. I didn’t know the first thing about making a fire, unless I had the aid of Google. A compass. Sometimes it would say my North was my South and vice versa. I didn’t have a map from point A to B, which would have been the one thing I should have carried. Instead, my life was dependent on finding those small orange flags.

The only thing I wanted more than anything was to end this “adventure” and see my children again. Before I left, I told my second daughter, “You know where my life insurance policy is?”

She laughed it off and said, “Mom, why would I need that?”

“Just in case. You never know,” I replied.

I didn’t want that to be my last words. I was not ready for my time to end.

On the fourth retrace, I kept walking forward. The other side was a steep drop off. Was I supposed to go this way?

You have got to be fking kidding me right now. I continued to cuss the race director out in my head. This was nuts. Then again, I was the one who chose to do this. I had signed the waiver with confidence. I had enough races under my belt to finish this desert run. My mind reverted back to the movie Lion King. Simba says, “Danger? I walk on the wild side. I laugh in the face of danger. Hahahaha.”

Yeah, it turns out that I don’t like adventures that may cause death.

I turned around and tilted my head where I saw the last flag. Since the sun was directly over them, it somehow hid them from view, but when I looked at them in a different angle, the flags started to appear…and they led me towards the steep drop off. Again, no footholds.

I was going to die, but at least I wasn’t going to die there.

I made it off the mountain, practically scooting and sliding on the rocks and sand all the way down.

Lesson Learned

You can be prepared with every tool imaginable, but in the end everything can go wrong. Take a deep breath and follow your intuition. You’ll make it off your metaphorical mountain, but it may not be the way you imagined it. It never is.

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Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my post. If you like what you read, please like and follow. Hope to “see” you soon!

Hey Jealousy

Can you see the forest through the trees? In my sane mindset, the concept is simple. But like any beautiful mind it can switch real quick. Forget the effing forest.

Here I was blogging about the dangers of FB messenger, when I was confronted with a different situation. My husband is the coach of my stepson’s baseball team and there is a certain someone who will not back down on speaking to my husband through text. I won’t disclose much more, but let’s just say I’ll be glad when baseball season is over. I could say none of this trite stuff matters, but I would be lying. Little things can add up and turn into one big shit show and I was not going to standby and watch.

Jealousy is blinding and when it goes unchecked it can turn into something uglier. I have anger issues that I’m continually working through, so unfortunately with jealousy comes my emotional tidal wave of anger.I shared a little bit of my pettiness in my Red Light, Green Light post, but didn’t realize how bad I had it. Short fuse? I definitely have one of those.

Like all other emotions we get to experience, jealousy can drive you bananas if you allow it to consume you. I didn’t know I had it in me to feel this type of way. So, what did I do? I tried ignoring it, but that was short-lived, then I got angry while voicing my concerns. I knew I shouldn’t waste a second on jealously, but I did. I indulged hard. Love, trust, and loyalty all came into question. I expressed my concern and my husband listened. I was able talk it out and adjustments have been implemented.

Quiet Place

I was raised an only child. My mom shot down any attempt of having an imaginary friend. She would say, “Dais, don’t do that, people will think you’re crazy!” I had quiet all day every day and I hated it. Learning to read and write opened a new world to me. Writing was a therapy I didn’t know I had.

I didn’t mean to have a big family, it just slowly turned into one. My household contains me, my husband, three daughters from my first marriage, our two daughters, sometimes my stepson comes over on the weekends and then there’s my mother. Coexisting with my family can be hell on earth, but there’s no place I’d rather be….yet this mama needs her mind right to be there for her family.

How do you find quiet amid chaos? I close my eyes and breathe, then I take my journal out and write furiously.

Reflection

As I continue to work through my emotions, journal writing helps me find that calm in the storm. I become more self aware of what is causing me to feel and act a certain way.

I have learned that this sort of reflection is beneficial in creating an avenue for communicating my feelings, especially when I’m not sure how to broach the topic. My journal is a place where I get to speak truth about the truth. In this simple act, I can recover my senses and calm the expletives down. Reflection is a powerful thing,

Take a moment to ask yourself these questions in your journal when you start feeling your emotions running away from you.

Why am I feeling this way?

What am I afraid of?

Make sure you chase them down to get the answers you need to keep moving forward in life. Our human minds can get stuck on a loop, but we have a choice to stop it.

Be Honest

Be honest with yourself. If you spend enough time tending your mind, you will be able to see the forest from the trees. Give it a try and let me know how it’s working for you.

A Letter to Mia

Memoir writing is filled with the past and the many people I have shared some time with. Every year in October, I silently think about an old childhood friend. Mia Jones became one of my best friends when I lived in West Valley, New York. This month does not only share her birthday but also the month she left us. We only kept in contact through email in our 20’s, so the voice in my memory still reflects that of her 11-year-old self. There are things I wished I would have told her but didn’t. They are nothing earth-changing but have impacted my life nonetheless. This year I felt compelled to write her the following letter.

Dear Mia,

If I could speak to you again, I’d ask you if you were doing okay. We would reminisce about when your brother, Frank, made us watch A Nightmare on Elm Street in the dark. I never told you how that fear stayed with me for months afterward. I took showers facing the showerhead with my eyes wide open. The water and soap would burn my eyes, but at least I was prepared to escape from Freddy Kreuger’s steely grasp. 

You, Laurie, Erin, and Amanda held a going away party for me the day before I moved. We had a water fight in Laurie’s backyard. There’s a picture of us taken that day, drenched from the water balloons. The five of us holding you up like you were in a Broadway show. Your mouth was open mid-laugh. I never told you I thought you would be a comedian. I can still hear your laugh echo in my memory, even after all this time. The four of you signed the back of a shirt with dairy cows on the front and our town name written underneath. I never told you I wore that shirt practically every day my first summer away from all of you. It was washed so many times that the back of the shirt no longer carried all of your names.

I spoke to you through email when we were in our early 20’s. We exchanged short pleasantries, and you told me you were majoring in business. We hadn’t spoken to each other since we were 11. Through a few emails, the gap of time was bridged, and it was as if we had never been apart. 

Not long afterward, I got an email from Laurie, telling me you passed away. I didn’t know you were sick at all. The words became blurred by my tears. My three and four-year-old daughters couldn’t understand why I was so sad. I told them I had lost a special friend, who had gotten very sick.

If you were still here… I should have… would have… could have… asked you more often to tell you how much I missed seeing your face. I would have asked you more questions and checked in with you more often. I never got to tell you how I wished I was a part of your family. Your parents were so good to me. My parents and I never laughed together the way your family did. Even now, I remember how much love I felt within the walls of your home. 

You live on in my memories. Until we meet again, my friend.

Love,

Desiree

Write a Letter

Remember to stay in touch with the people you cherish, especially the once-in-a-lifetime kind of friends. They are the type of friends you haven’t spoken to in years, but you can always pick up where you left off.

The greatest gifts to me have come in the form of a handwritten card or letter. I miss those days. My hope is that you will take a moment and send a letter, e-mail, or text to that person you wished you had kept in touch with. From what I have learned, they will be glad to hear from you.

Red Light, Green Light: A Metaphor

"People love green lights in life. They affirm our way." - Matthew McConaughey

All the Small Things

Have you thought about how much time you spend angry? I’d rather not count the hours awake or asleep. As a teen I would sometimes wake up with with frown lines and a sore jaw after a night of teeth grinding.

After many years, you learn a think or two about yourself. I have learned that it’s easier to relax those frown lines, smile, and unclench my jaw.

It can be as petty as my toddler taking a bite of my food she’s been begging to try…like a cannoli and then she immediately spits it out or when a stranger cuts me off to beat the red light.

Let’s examine the red light, green light scenario a little closer.

Red Light, Green Light

This is the part where I hope the light will turn red and when it does, Oooh-wheeee, my righteous indignation pops up and says a big, “HAH! That’s right,” and there we sit, me behind them, glare smiling at their back windshield, knowing they will not meet my eyes in their rearview. There we sit and wait for the same light to turn green and just for kicks they speed off and we are stuck together once again.

In the alternate version, the stranger speeds off never to be seen again. I can stay mad for at least another minute cursing that individual and then hoping I see them getting pulled over for reckless driving. Another minute passes and I have forgotten all about it. It wasn’t worth the trouble, because In these small pockets of time I just needed to remember to take a deep breath and smile.

The Traffic Light Metaphor

Speaking of traffic lights, this makes for a perfect segue to bring up Matthew McConaughey’s memoir Greenlights. As you can guess from the title, he uses traffic lights as a metaphor for life. The green lights come in each of our lives allowing us to proceed and continue moving along with the AC blasting, belting out our favorite songs, someone or some thing cuts us off and then whammo, the light changes to red and we slam on the brakes. What do we do?

The Reaction

The light makes that quick switch from go to stop and we come to the swift conclusion that life has cheated us. We get angry and frustrated and throw our hands up in the air in frustration shaking our fists in the air saying, “Hey now, why did everyone get to cruise on through while I’m stuck sitting at a red light. It just isn’t fair!”

Reassess the Situation

There are unforeseen reasons why things happen to us that are out of our control. The powers that be have different plans for us, so we can either A) Wait for the red light to change or B) Take a detour and start hitting the green lights again.

Life isn’t an upward projection. It’s more like a party with mystery boxes that sometimes contain a bomb. The bomb blinds us, we become paralyzed and cannot figure out how to go on, but somehow we do manage through it. The smoke clears, we dust ourselves off and continue moving forward. We don’t know how we survived, but we did. We are better for it. I don’t know what you call it, but usually it’s some lesson I needed to learn.

No, no, no, no, na, no, no, no

As in life, writers are faced with challenges. We get rejection letters that come in an e-mail or we get to the end of a book we spent writing for the last two years and decide it’s not the book you wanted to write when you finally finished it.

Nicholas Sparks wrote a novel, his first one, that he never published. Stephen King was rejected 30 times before he was accepted before Carrie was finally published? Was all that time really wasted or did they learn something from those instances? Do you think they felt like it was all just a big fat waste of trees and cross their arms and quit, exclaiming, “How come got it done, but I didn’t. This isn’t fair!”

No way! They continued moving forward and Nicholas Sparks went on to write The Notebook and even got a movie deal. Warner Brothers offered him…ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Say whaaaat?! My jaw dropped when I learned this little tidbit. It’s not a common occurrence, but Sparks is an example of what could happen.

Revise Your Thought Process

Maybe we need to throw out the manuscript, so to speak, or come back to it later. GIve your thoughts some time to cool. In fact, I was ready to submit a short story with only hours to spare before the deadline, but, after my daughter read it, her feedback made me realize I had some gaps that needed filling. She didn’t say anything about the gaps, but asked who a certain character was when I realized I changed the characters name midway.

It’s always good to have another set of eyes look at your work. Merely cosmetic, but I read it again and couldn’t read it all the way through. The flow was missing. For now, I will continue to rewrite and revise and pitch it somewhere else. Sometimes I feel like I’m in this giant rush, clamoring to get it all done, when what I should do is take a breather. Yeah, I haven’t quite learned that lesson yet.

The Human Condition

During that breather, read about others who faced your challenges or something along the same lines. The human condition is one we can all relate to, so experiment with things that make up the human condition (i.e., emotion, mortality, conflict, birth..etc…) Try your hand in a different genre or try flash fiction (500 words). You might find that you like the short story so much that you keep churning out those words into a novel.

What If?

I have this trilogy I’m working on and it started out as a simple love story quandary. Well, it has turned into science fiction. I wasn’t going there, but it did. I went into my what if thinking and it took my story into an exciting direction. It turns out that the first novel I wrote wasn’t a complete waste. I asked, “What if?” with my index finger tapping my chin and then started typing. It’s an incredibly helpful tactic.

The Journey of a 1000 Miles…

You know the rest of the adage. With a determined mind, we persist and move forward taking baby steps and sometimes giant leaps until we get to that part of our journey. Of course it doesn’t end there, so we take another breath or two and continue on to the next thing.

Enjoy those green lights, my friends and if you hit a red one, take a deep breath and smile.

Memoir Writing

Memoir What

I’m sure you have questions, like wondering if you should start at your birth and inch your way up? You can do this for the sake of your timeline/outline, but I have yet to come across a memoir that begins with something to the effect of, “I arrived in this world at 6pm on Sunday, September 21, 1979.” (Yes, that’s my birth day) or “And then I started riding my bike without training wheels when I was 2.”

If you can creatively write your when’s and where’s from point A to point B then do it, but for all of us regular writers, spare your audience all those details. Instead, try a memory that sticks your readers right into a piece of the action. It doesn’t have to be about the time You-should-have-seen-the-other-guy kind of moment. Something low key is a good starting point.

Here’s an example taken from one my earliest memories:

My surroundings became a blur. The sky and the ground swirled into a blur as my body slid across the icy packed snow in an aluminum saucer sled. I sat crosslegged, gripping the sides, but came to an abrupt stop when the sled met the wooden fence, hurling me into a dizzying heap. I was splayed on my back with snowflakes melting on my face. My mother ran to my side and picked me up, brushing the snow off my body, checking for broken bones. My tongue tasted something metallic, and then my lip began to thump and burn.

Reminisce Away

You can start with something unique from your childhood or think of key moments from your life. Try a hilarious moment when you fell flat on your face because your backpack was too heavy, or a sad moment like when your mom told you she had breast cancer for the second time.

Talk to a Family Member

Ask a family member about their memories of you. You can even try to write from their perspective and see where that takes you. It will probably head you straight into memory lane and that my friend is exactly where you want to be.

Tell your Story

Is your story worth telling? Still thinking about it? Your story is worth telling because there is not a single person on this earth who can share the same story of their life. They may relate, but no two lives are alike. What struggles did you face?

I think Priyanka Chopra Jonas said it best, “You’ll definitely learn about how I became me during the in between of what you haven’t seen.” We all have chinks in our armor. Talk about your fears and your doubts. People are far more interested in the unseen.

Memoir Now

I am a believer in self-starting. Do you want to write your life story? What better time than now? Even if you’re not looking to publish, it’s a way to leave something for your posterity. A few of my writings I recently shared with my 18-year-old daughter. She had no idea about the things I shared. She felt like she was finally getting to know me. Her own mother!

How much of your story do your children not know about you? I’m not talking about our deepest darkest secrets. From my own experience, it was as simple as my children learning the origin of my childhood nickname.

Additional Help

You can spend a great deal of time looking for journal prompts to get you writing, or you could try this guided journal. No, I don’t get paid to sell you on a journal, so if you tried this particular one out, let me know what you thought of it. Also, if you have found a guided journal to help write your story, please feel free to leave it in a comment and I’ll be sure to add it.

This is My Life: A Guided Journal

This Is My Life: A Guided Journal: Creative Prompts to Tell Your Story, So Far