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IWSG – July 2019

-The soundtrack for today’s writing session provided by the Beach Boys

Welcome to the monthly IWSG blog hop. Check us out HERE, sign up and play along with the best bunch of writers out there.

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For any who are wondering about my ongoing heath saga (see last months post), I’m improving, figuring out how to exercise, eat, function with the side effects of my medicine and my illness. My mental health is improving, and I’m starting to feel that writing urge. The blank pages still scare me, but I was able to hand write a few journal entries recently. Getting words on paper helps.

The optional question for the month of July is-  What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

Looking back at the history of my writing, almost every character/protagonist I created when I was in my late teens and early 20’s was a mash up of my good and bad traits. I don’t think I was ready or able to write outside of myself or at least what I thought about myself. These characters were idealized versions of me (both positive and negatively), and they were also heavy with hyperbole. Looking back, reading the stories makes me a little uncomfortable. The protagonists all shared my political ideology and world view. They looked like me, talked like me, desired the same things out of life. Every love affair was the most important love affair. Each conflict, the ultimate conflict. Any emotional crisis…

Well, you get the point.

I’ve gotten less pretentious, I hope, less judgmental, and hopefully that means better able to write authentic characters. They may still be infused with my personality traits, ones I find interesting or complicated, but I hope I’ve grown enough as a writer to add elements outside of my little world.

 

 

 

 

 

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IWSG – June 2019

After missing a month (story to follow), I’m back in the game and ready for the IWSG monthly blog hop. Haven’t heard of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group? That seems very strange if you’ve been reading this little blog of mine for any period of time, but I guess it’s possible. Check us out HERE and sign up.

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An insane story-

About 4 months ago, my wife and I planned and booked a vacation to New York City. It is our favorite city and our favorite place to vacation. We try to travel there at least every other year.

One thing about NYC- You walk a lot. And I was not in great shape for walking. I’ll blame winter, but really I’m just lazy. In order to enjoy my trip to the fullest, I began walking on the treadmill, uphill, about 45 minutes a day.

Sometime in the middle of April, during one of my workouts, I experienced a strange numbness in my left elbow. I immediately thought heart attack, but when I got off the treadmill, the numbness went away and I felt fine. Not wanting to overreact, I decided against going to the doctor.

From time to time, and only when my heart rate was elevated, the numbness would return. Each time, when I stopped and rested, things returned to normal. I knew something wasn’t right, but my trip to NYC was coming up (first part of May), and I really didn’t want something to get in the way of 8 days in my favorite place.

The first few days in the city, things were fine. I was tired, but the numbness stayed away. Over the next few days however, whenever I was exerting myself, the numbness returned. I was forced to stop several times each day and rest for longer and longer periods before I felt normal. It was starting to really freak me out. Rather than enjoying my visit, all I wanted to do was survive the week, get on the plane, go home.

Wednesday the 8th was the worst. I had several events, and spent most of the day resting in the hotel. After meeting a friend for dinner that evening, Sheryl and I stopped at Whole Foods to get some things for breakfast the next few days. On the five hundred yard walk back to the hotel, I was forced to stop twice, both times requiring 10 minutes of sitting before I could begin to walk again. Back in the hotel, I flopped on the bed and fell asleep very quickly.

I woke with a start just after midnight. For the first time since the numbness began, it manifested during a resting state. It passed in seconds, and my exhausted body fell back asleep. Forty minutes later, I was awake again, numb from my elbow to my shoulder and this time, my chest hurt, as if someone was pushing down on my sternum with tremendous force. I was out of excuses and rationalizations. I woke Sheryl, and at 1:00 AM Thursday morning, we found ourselves on the way to an emergency room.

24 hours of tests revealed the culprit. I had at least one, maybe more blockages in at least one artery. I had been suffering angina from lack of blood flow. Luckily, I did not experience cardiac arrest, but if I’d continued to ignore the warning signs, the chances of a fatal event were very high.

I spent a very stressful 36 hours worrying, wondering, thinking. I’d always considered myself an optimistic person, but most of those hours were lost in depression, the strangest and most intense sadness. All the medical personnel were certain I was a stent or two away from feeling better. Their confidence, and the continual presence of my amazing spouse kept me going.

On the 10th of May, I had an echo-cardiogram which revealed two blockages (one at 95+%) in the LAD artery. Angioplasty was performed. Two stents were implanted, and after 95 minutes awake on the table, I was back in the recovery room. After 24 hours of observation, they released me from the hospital, back to the city, the subway, my life.

We had to stay in the city an extra week, but the difference between the first 7 days and the second were night and day. I was able to walk without pain or numbness, sleep without being awakened.

Physically I wasn’t limited, but mentally, I had and still have some difficulty.

Every twinge of pain or discomfort and I’m sure it’s my heart again. I feel alright, but the side effects of the blood thinner are kicking my ass. I get tired easily, dizzy. Sometimes my breathing is labored (another lovely side effect of the meds). I hope as my body gets used to the medicine, things will balance out.

Writing has become difficult as I’m not sure how to process the strangeness of the past two months. I feel relieved to be alive and mending, but absolutely undeserving. I’ve sat at my desk a dozen times since returning home, hoping to write something, anything, but I don’t think I’m ready. I need more time to think, and while writing would certainly expedite things, there are very few sentences willing to come out and play.

If I’m honest, I’m afraid. Absolutely insecure. And right now, that fear wins out every time. Getting this blog written down has taken me several hours, and I’ve left out a great deal. Most of it is more instances of me ignoring obvious signs of distress. Some of it is the emotional stress of worrying each night that I might not wake up the next morning.

I’m going to get some help, talk with a professional. That seems like a really good idea. Maybe the best one I’ve had in a while.

Also, I really want to go back to NYC. All this craziness hasn’t diminished my love of that place.

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And I would be very ungrateful if I didn’t mention how outstanding my cardiologist in NYC was. He saved my life. Angioplasty is a modern miracle. A little hole in the wrist is the only wound required. And that has already faded away.

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IWSG – April 2019

The first Wednesday of the month (and apparently my entire blog) is reserved for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. Check us out HERE and sign up.

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The optional monthly question for April is- If you could use a wish to help you write just ONE scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be? (examples: fight scene / first kiss scene / death scene / chase scene / first chapter / middle chapter / end chapter, etc.)

When I finally summoned up the courage to start writing a novel, the first five pages came very easy. I’d already written, and rewritten the introductory moments at least ten times, thinking it would end up as part of a novella or short story. But when I embarked on the insanity of composing a novel length work, the idea crumbled and I found myself stuck, stopped mid sentence, looking at the screen, hands over the keyboard with no idea where to go or how to get out of the hole I’d dug for myself.

So I put the chapter aside, stopped writing, let myself be frustrated.

Two years later, I was going through some old files, hoping to find a fragment I could use to create something new. I like doing that, finding one or two discarded ideas and seeing if I’m ready to finally write them. I read the five pages, liked the feel of it, and in a flash, saw the way out of the scene.

Not only that, but I realized I’d been approaching the concept of the novel from the wrong angle. I wrote the rest of the chapter, pleased with myself, then sat down to write a prologue, which later became chapter one.

I adore the book, mostly. The ending is brilliant, and I especially love the prologue. What I don’t love, and what I would use a magic wish to make right, is those initial 5 pages, that chapter that stifled me once, and then gave me the insight to compose the novel. It is by far the weakest part of the novel, likely because the writing was initially unfocused, and then later, good enough to get the job done.

I should just rewrite it from scratch, see where I end up. At the same time, I’m not sure I should be pushing myself on this particular novel anymore. It was my first, and like most first novels, it suffers from my lack of ability. Still, whenever I read it, I don’t feel like it’s a throwaway book. At some point though, I have to move on and focus on the next project, which is finally (FINALLY) starting to take shape. I’m excited about that project more than revisiting an old one, and I’ve learned it is best to go where the excitement takes me.

 

 

IWSG- December 2018

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The first Wednesday of every month is set aside for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you don’t have a clue what IWSG is, you are ridiculously new to to my blog. Check us out HERE.

I’ve met some of the most awesome writers and people by being a member of this group. Also, they almost always have great advice on getting you through any writing troubles. Sign up. Play along.

The optional question for December is- What are five objects we’d find in your writing space?

My writing space lives in the basement of my home. I’ve filled it with all sorts of things that inspire creativity in me. It is a comfortable place, perhaps my favorite in the entire house. IMG_2314.jpgIMG_2313.jpg

I feel lucky to have such an awesome space devoted to creative thought and action.

Clearly there are more than five objects in this space, but there are five you would always find in any personal space I’ve set aside for writing.

  1. A quality laptop- I used to write everything by hand, but my handwriting is atrocious and often when I go back to read or edit, even I can’t make out some of the words. Writing software has made everything so much easier. Editing alone is exponentially easier on a laptop vs a handwritten text.
  2.  A device for playing music- I learned years ago that I am more relaxed, better able to write when I’m listening to music. I’ve tried writing in quieter spaces and it just doesn’t work for me. In fact, I’m more distracted by a quiet room than a noisy one. In my current writing space, I listen to both vinyl LPs and compact discs. I have used digital music before, and will if I’m out at a coffee shop or library, but I’m a collector of things (books, music) and like the tangibility of objects, so my preference is for a physical copy of whatever I’m about to listen to.
  3. A mug of coffee- I don’t do this for the caffeine, but for the sensation of consuming a warm beverage. Honestly, it is among the most crucial aspects of writing for me, something to hold between my hands, something to sip at during a moment if indecision or when more thought is needed.
  4. A comfy chair- In this case, it is a mid-century modern, red leather, armless chair with a matching ottoman. Every writing space needs a place to sit and ponder before writing, during writing, or after a session is complete. It is also a good space for enjoying music or reading.
  5. A nice wide desk- I recently bought the desk in the picture after my old one decided it no longer wanted to stand. My new writing desk is huge, awesome, and has loads of space for me to pile papers (I hid them for this photo) or other objects that might be necessary. Also, it’s surprising how many coffee mugs, books, pens, etc. can pile up and clutter the area. The bigger the desk, the longer it takes for the stacks to becomes cumbersome.

    Well, that’s it for me. I’d love to hear about what I’d find in your writing space. In fact, I think I’ll go read all the IWSG blogs and find out right now.

IWSG- October 2018

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a mighty fine group of people. If you haven’t already signed up, joined in the fun, I’m not sure I can do much to help you anymore.

Check us out and sign up here– 

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This months optional question is-

How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?
Major life events can affect my writing in many different ways. When I was younger, I often didn’t understand my own reactions to events until I wrote about them, which I tended to do during any big live change. Even then it would often take months for me to make sense of what I was writing about and how it related to whatever life event had taken place. I was always grateful for the moment of understanding that came after I was ready, when the writing finally made sense to me.
As I’ve grown (in age and as a writer) I’ve found that when I am in the middle of an event, I really can’t sit down and write about it, or even write about other things besides that event. If the event is a catastrophic one, it might be months until I am ready to sit down and write anything again.
Writing has been very helpful in getting me through unexpected things. The untimely death of a friend for instance pushed me into a different kind of writing. I wanted to leave behind a lot of the more abstract stuff I’d been working on and really get at something concrete, bare and bold. A few months after this friends passing, I started trying to define the experience through poetry, and had to resist the temptation to be vague. I no longer wanted to dance around hard issues or sugar coat them. I missed my friend a great deal and wanted everyone who read my work to have little doubt about that emotion, where it came from, what this friend meant to me.
On another topic, I’m extremely unsatisfied with the direction of this blog and am in the process of evaluating new and different directions. Hopefully I’ll have this figured out soon and my weekly post will return better than the recent stretch of fairly uninteresting entries.
Love and light to you all.

 

Grateful

My wedding anniversary was Monday. Twenty-five years, which is a shocking number to me. I remember the first time I realized I’d had a friend for that long, or that an album I’d purchased with my own money reached that age. It isn’t new knowledge that the older you get, the faster time goes, but sometimes the realization hits home and staggers you a bit.

Sheryl worked on Monday, so we spent most of last Saturday out and about, celebrating by purchasing new books at our favorite bookstore (The Printed Garden), eating lunch at a delicious Chinese restaurant, and looking for new flooring (puppy claws and hardwood floors do not like one another).

It was a pleasant day, and I was feeling pretty good about things as we drove home. At the intersection of a major highway, I waited for an opportunity to turn right. Traffic on this road travels between 55-70 MPH depending on the time of day. It is wise to wait for a very clear lane before turning as to avoid misjudging the speed of oncoming vehicles. In my old age (wink), I’ve learned some patience behind the wheel, so I waited.

A minivan in the far right lane slowed to a stop, and I concluded the light was turning red. In the moment before I decided to turn, I noticed a white Jeep approaching the minivan at high speed. It wasn’t slowing, wasn’t going to stop.

The impact launched the stationary minivan through the intersection (which was luckily still empty), and I watched in fascination as the crumpled car wobbled past me. I marveled at the damage (the rear end was obliterated), amazed to see the driver still conscious, attempting to maneuver off the road.

I heard my wife next, shouting something like “Use your brakes. Stop.” and I looked to my left.

The Jeep was bearing down on us, rolling at around 20-30 MPH. There was little I could do but wait for the inevitable. The Jeep crushed my driver side door, nearly bending it off the hinges. I may have let loose a swear or two.

With some help from kind people we were able to move all the vehicles off the road. Before I was able to exit my Toyota (through the passenger side door), paramedics were already on scene and the police arrived two minutes later.

Fortunately no one was hurt.

Unfortunately, the driver of the Jeep was very drunk. He spectacularly failed every sobriety test, and a search of his vehicle uncovered an empty pint of vodka. He was arrested and taken away before the first tow-truck arrived.

I spent the next hour stewing about my damaged SUV, angry about what had happened, how it had unfolded, and how unnecessary it all felt. Driving home, most of the adrenaline was slipping away, and my thoughts turned to the absolute luck of it all. Things could have been so much worse. Someone could have been injured or killed. If children had been in the van, they would have certainly been hurt. If the van had not been there and the Jeep had continued through the red light, he would have impacted cross traffic and maybe an unsuspecting Ryan turning right.

The carelessness, the selfishness of one individual angered me.

But something else pushed through- Compassion

I felt (and still do feel) so much sympathy for this young man who had made a terrible choice. I doubt this was his first time driving drunk, but the repercussions of this particular decision will certainly be many- The hefty fine for DUI, the arrest record, loss of employment (maybe), loss of insurance (and the likelihood his insurance company sues him), the driver of the minivan will likely sue; the inevitable guilt.

I don’t know what events in this guys life, what decisions or outside influences put him in the position where he concluded getting behind the wheel was a smart choice, but I feel so sorry for him.

I might feel differently if I’d been injured, or if someone else had been hurt, but I hope my compassion would remain intact. I’m not naive and certainly believe there should be consequences for actions, especially those that adversely impact others, but I really hope this kid gets his life together, and that this one bad choice doesn’t ruin his life completely.

Hope is a good thing, right?

Also, these events have caused me a great deal of introspection, made me reevaluate every time I’ve been out with friends, had a few drinks.

But that is what life is supposed to be about, learning not only from our own mistakes, but from the errors of others.

As of today, I’m still feeling grateful, thoughtful, careful. I hope that continues.

 

 

IWSG- July 2018

A day early for the monthly blog hop of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We get the 4th of July off, and I imagine the members outside the United States are wondering if they get their national holidays off as well. Nope. Sorry.

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If you aren’t already a member of IWSG (and I honestly can’t understand why you wouldn’t be), check us out and join HERE.

The optional question for this month-

What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

From the time I was 11 years old, I’ve dreamed about being a published writer, being famous. My early stories were science fiction tales including my friends and love interests. My parents claimed to love them, and the one friend I dared to show really liked the part where his bully died. I liked writing about relationships, I was terrible at writing romance. That hasn’t changed much. I keep hoping something will click and I’ll suddenly figure it out, but at 47, that seems unlikely.

In high school, I switched over to poetry writing, and I tell you, If anyone ever wrote a collection of poems more sappy, more over the top, more ridiculous, I’d like to meet them. We could break the universe together. Even more surprising, I honestly thought there was a career to be had writing poetry. Silly Ryan.

I was sure once someone in publishing (magically) read my poems, I’d be an instant sensation. Even as I aged and my poetry matured, I still expected someone to just discover me. I made almost no effort to enter contests, submit to magazines (even at university, which should have been so easy and obvious). When my efforts and heart returned to writing fiction, I was so out of practice, my stories were pretty awful, but I had a wonderful professor who saw some talent in my writing and encouraged me. Still, I didn’t seek out opportunities, take risks.

I’d like to say I learned my lesson and submit like crazy now, but I don’t. My 30’s passed by in a rush and not until I finished my first novel (at the age of 42), did I finally take the plunge and seek out representation.

I still want to be a published writer, and still believe it is a matter of getting my work seen by the right people. What has changed- at last I understand that for that to happen, I have to put myself out there, take risks, be bold. I’ve entered two contests and queried several agents recently. I’m about ready to approach some small presses, ones that take unsolicited submissions. I remain hopeful, and while 11 year old me thought he might be famous one day, 47 year old me knows that is irrelevant.