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Jayme, an anxious freelance writer with young kids, is still trying to carve out a space for herself in the industry.
Autumn and impending holidays are nearing. She’s getting back into the writing work flow. Of course, it isn’t going as fast and smooth as she’d like it too, but she’s realigning her ducks after putting a major project down due to lack of sight. She wrestles with some confidence and focus issues but is dedicated to finding flow.
One morning she is partaking in some free-writing and stumbles onto an idea for a short story. Her inner-not-so-helpful critic immediately snaps at the loose, fragile concept. Jayme goes for a walk and listens to Weezer. Her dogs sniff away at the bushes and mailboxes. Whispered voices pass between neighbors standing by a blue pickup truck with spray painted windows. Anxiety and story telling muscles drum up a heist, then fleeing citizens. Thoughts of the government ordering neighbors to be walled in cycled through her head as she transitions from walking to writing.
Jayme is nothing if not stubborn, so she sits and writes and thinks and works through the scenes and ideas. Not all ideas should be accepted at face value. They are only stepping stones to the true intention. Her upbringing conditioned her not to trust herself or her environment, so it is challenging to let go. Thoughts of the drawered manuscripts skulk on the corner of her idea and oncoming epiphany. She changes the music and gets a glass of water. “It’s a grind,” she tells herself as she combs through the previous paragraph. “I know there is an idea in there somewhere. I’m the right path.”
A small creature pops its violet-furred head in a fluid string of dialogue. Its beady red eyes studied her looking as surprised as she feels.
Without a better idea of what to do next, she spit out a simple but appropriate greeting, “Hi.”
The weasel-like animal waved its narrow-toed paw. “No pictures please.”
“What are you?”
“I should ask you the same question.”
“I think this may be too weird.”
“How can you judge me without understanding what my purpose is? I’m here. Just, as you are.”
Jayme followed the animal, which calls itself Top, into its warren. It isn’t a cozy, twig filled animal home but a string of potions and stolen goods on aged shelves. There is a smell of magic between the mud-filled walls she had never smelled before. Jayme stood between the script of spells reaching deep into the earth and the door to leave before too much heart and time. She danced with the decision as if she had a choice.
“Well, are you going to follow me?” Top crinkles its snout, giving his whiskers the look of brushes for dirty floors.
“Are you what I’ve been looking for?”
“Maybe. It’s hard to say right now.”
Top grew impatient and wandered over to the pebbled path that led to a small pool of pink water. Jayme watched the turquoise birds flutter about feeling over whelmed. She sighed and wandered over to Top.
Top pointed a claw at the rose bubbles swirling in the center. “There are secrets deep in there.”
Jayme offered Top a flat hand.
He sniffed it, unsure.
“Let’s do this together.”
Top bobbed its furry head and scurried up her arm. He perched on her shoulder with his mouth near her ear.
“Jump,” he whispered.
Tunnels twists into stairs that fold into waterfalls. Hand in hand the two new friends explore a world one knows wells, and the other knows only what their willing to see.
Fall is approaching. The kids are back in school. My house is quiet. Cinnamon is suddenly more appealing. Our planet seems to be crumbling down around us. I spent the summer writing scenes that never needed to exist for the story I was telling because I thought I was writing another one. I discovered the amazing world of paleo-style cooking in a nobel attempt to be healthier and have a hobby outside of words. I’m currently sitting at my desk ready to crank out some smaller pieces in hopes of earning modest piles of cash. It’s been too long since the last blog post, nerves were starting to climb my legs, so I popped over here to write this. The moment my fingers hit the keys my mind started jumping all over like a confused frog with no tongue.
I’ve learned so much in the last eight or so months. I did it with crash-course grace, and my head is still spinning on its side. I made so many mistakes with my latest project—the one that I’ve been obsessing over and nothing else. (Part of the problem, btw.) I know what you are thinking. “It’s all part of it.” “Probably not as bad as you think.” “That’s what editing is for.”
No, really. I broke it. For now. I wasn’t listening to the character’s true voice and allowed my goals to distract me. The first moment I started the project till right before I finally listened to myself, was a continuous and reactionary series of events. I walked away for its own good. This was a hard thing to swallow. Really hard. Making mistakes is sometimes the best way to learn. My husband always says to the kids, “If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t growing.” So, I guess I grew up a lot over the last year.
As a parent I watch my kids slip in and out of these developmental phases. There is nothing like children to remind you of how temporary life is. Oh so humbling. I so seldom pay attention to my cycles of learning and moods. If you are only a little familiar with me, you know my love for Alice in Wonderland. The story is so much more than children’s fantasy. It’s a story about growing up and how our environment messes with us as we go. We have choices, and they have consequences. It’s a metaphor for life, for writing a story, and periods of time that have more of an impact than others. Lost innocence is the place we all visit at some point. Wonderland can symbolize many things, but sometimes I think of it as a representation of a phase. The thing about life? ‘Our now’ feels forever. For me, it’s those milestone birthdays or the realization of how old Moe the cat is that really shows me all that’s changed. This summer that just soared by was on the other side of a door in a hole. I’ve been chasing this project for the last eight months (or more) that didn’t want to be chased. There is a story there, one I have to tell, but my mind is on other projects that are ready for me now. Sometimes a story has to wait. It hurts, and it always sucks. I trust that my path with lead back to it.
As disappointed as I am that my WIP and I need some time apart, I am equally excited about all the short fiction I have in the works, essays of thoughts, working with Rebecca Clark on The Shadow Bearers again, and another wave of Too Many Words Episodes. (More info on all that soon.) The words will find me, as they will find you.
I wrap this up with:
Keep the critic in your pocket, listen to your gut, and have fun tormenting your characters that all want something.