As a life-long pessimist, I like to tell people-who-call-me-on-it that optimists are never pleasantly surprised. It takes a lot of energy to search out that silver lining when the sky is filled with black clouds.
But early yesterday morning, I was pleasantly surprised—so much so that I lived the rest of yesterday in a fog of optimism.
Another of my stories sold and will be published this month.
Meanwhile, if you’re interested, go to The Arcanist for a quick five minute read, published at the end of August.
I’m at that point with my work in progress (WIP). Time to chalk it up as a bad experience, lessons learned, and move on. Maybe I’ll give up writing altogether–or so I tell my fabulous editor/coach.
No, no, no, she emails back. You’re closer than you think.
And while I’m cogitating, Jim asks me what I want to do with the ‘old tree out back’. This poor thing was a 40 foot cottonwood that has been here since before the acreage was divided and the house was built some 30 years ago. It’s been dying a slow and painful death since we moved in. This spring, Jim cut the tree down and left the stump.
I thought we’d poly it and use it as a garden seat. I neglected to say the words out loud to Jim, and he left it be. As you see, the tree persists in being something. Not the cottonwood it was. Maybe a cottonwood bush. And surrounding the stump are little trees popping out of the grass. Like so.
I have this notion that I should be able to write three or four novels a year. And I have, but not different books. I’ve rewritten the same book, three times going on four.
Now here I am, at the start of the second year, deciding whether to persist. Have I learned to be more tree-like?
Last year, I took on the Ray Bradbury challenge to write 52 short stories in a year. I fell a bit short, only writing 32 and most were bad. But I had a handful of not-half-bad stories, and three that seemed good.
One of the things I learned along the way was how to be another person. Never mind that I’m a–well let’s call it ‘senior’–female. I could be an out-of-work 30 year old male, a mean and murderous female school teacher, a male retiree bent on revenge … you get the picture.
Weeding the mermaid garden this morning, I wondered what it would be like to sing songs to destroy men and ships.
As a more-or-less right brained person, I tend to see wholes instead of parts. Sometimes this is a plus. Like when planning a garden or a novel.
But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty—weeding and editing—I tend to get overwhelmed by all the little pieces. And for me, overwhelmed means immobilized.
I do better when I focus on just this one thing.
This chapter, page, sentence rather than the entire work. This one garden, section, plant rather than the whole yard. When I narrow my focus, I’m more likely to keep moving forward.
We have a courtyard off the master bedroom and the centerpiece is a 15-foot Japanese maple (Acer Bloodgood) that by rights, should not have lived in windy Kansas. During last fall’s storms, branches banged on the roof and gutters until Jim tied them back.
In February, we gave the tree a hard prune—30 percent. The photo? On this branch where we made a cut, the tree focused on just this little sucker today … Pretty.
Do you see that frilly leafed plant at the bottom of the photo? Unless I miss my guess, that’s Nepeta (Catmint) Walker’s Low. It has a lovely blue flower and a musty smell. When in bloom, bees and butterflies will cover it, making it difficult for an insect-phobic human like me to get close enough to weed.
Fifteen years ago, I planted a tiny Walker’s Low plant that in five years’ time grew so large it took over a third of my front flower bed. In the fall of 2008, I spent three days ripping it out. I dug deep and then deeper to get every bit of root.
Or so I thought.
Now it’s 2018 and if my powers of identification are correct, here it comes again. Out of the ground, like the unwanted dead haunting my garden. Not quite sure what I’ll do. Tear it out? Leave it, having learned to prune it back—severely—every fall? Whatever I do, I gotta admire its persistence.
This past year, I’ve had my own lessons in persistence. I’ve been a technical writer for many years but always wanted to write dark fiction.
Fantasy. Horror. Paranormal (gasp) romance.
But I didn’t just want to write stuff and put it away in a box or on a flash drive for posterity. I wanted to publish. In my lifetime.
Last year, I decided it was time to figure out how. Without burdening you (at least not yet) with all the details, I stumbled upon a fabulous coach who taught me what my Walker’s Low already knew. Keep at it. Do the work. Show up. Persist.
After 14 months of alternating between discouragement and determination, I have two short stories, publication forthcoming sometime this summer. Stay tuned…