Into the Deep

Into the deep I dive.

Into this world of black and white.

Into a world of words and voices unheard.

Recommendations and advice.

Dos and Don’ts of the writing world.

It pulls me in, I have become lost.

My thoughts are mine no longer.

Stephen King, William Strunk, Anne Lamott, Robert Lee Brewer

My thoughts are now theirs to mold.

Even as I stare at my work, my eyes are drawn to the book hidden in my drawer.

To my backpack where the behemoth sits.

It waits for me to pour through its pages of publishers and agents.

Into the depths I sink.

Becoming lost to my new world.

Pinky Swear You Won’t Tell

I’ve read 3 books on writing in as many weeks. I feel like a high school student again, carrying my text books from here to there. Only this time I’m enjoying it, reveling in it. The current read becomes my constant companion. I’ve learned to take it with me even when I don’t think I’ll have time to read because there may be ten minutes of wait time somewhere in my day when I can open those crisp pages and soak up the information.

The only problem – I don’t want my coworkers to see the books. The Elements of Style could just be my attempt to learn to write more professionally so that one didn’t need concealed. On Writing was a little trickier. If seen and asked about, maybe I could have said “It’s just a memoir by Stephen King”, but that wouldn’t be doing it justice at all. His words are still echoing in my head.

“Write honestly. Write a lot. Read a lot. Write with the door closed. Write what you know. Write honestly. Write honestly. Write what you know.”

I couldn’t reduce it to just a memoir. So that one I would tuck under my arm when leaving the building and hope I didn’t see anyone who would actually ask what I’m reading.

Bird by Bird isn’t quite so obviously about writing based on the cover. Except the small red square on the bottom, the front cover does not mention writing. I could have that out on my desk and only cover the bottom fifth of the book. But again, the dilemma arises of whether I should reduce it to just a book about life since the parts about writing are what I’m really after.

Last night I picked up a new volume and this one is not so subtle. I fought the urge to wrap my newly library-borrowed 2016 edition of Writer’s Market in a brown paper bag like I used to my school books. This monster of a book screams “I want to be a writer!”. This is one I will only pull out when I know I won’t see someone from work. It’s the one I may carry in my backpack, but that won’t get pulled out unless I know for sure I am alone at my desk, not to be bothered.

Don’t take this as me being ashamed of my desire to write well and to be published. It’s quite the opposite. I want writing to be my full-time gig and everyone in my personal life is free to invade the bubble I’ve kept my writing self in for almost my entire life. Anyone in my personal life. My boss is an odd ball and I don’t want the questions and guilt-trips that will inevitably spill from his mouth if he finds out I don’t plan on living out my days in the sacred IT world, specifically his sacred company and department. Everyone in my office is such a blabbermouth that I don’t want to risk him finding out from one of them either.

Writing is such a personal part of my life. For the most part, I’d like to think I’ve already been heeding Mr. King’s words of writing honestly. With that honesty and openness​ comes the parts of me that work is never allowed to see. Work is work and my personal life is my personal life. Sometimes they mix, but for the most part, they keep their distance from each other. The best analogy I can come up with this early in the morning is that work gets to see my face, my personal life (and those involved) get to see my heart and my brain. My face sometimes gives away what I’m thinking and feeling, that can’t be helped. In general, however, even my facial expressions are only a fuzzy reflection of what’s really going on in my head and my heart. I feel this doesn’t make complete sense, but that could just be because I am still trying to wake up. 

At any rate – the title of this post is Pinky Swear You Won’t Tell because, as my faithful readers, I want you to swear you won’t tell. Swear you and I will keep this confidence until I have finished school, worked out the time I need to be there (because they are paying for said school), and until I can finally publish something. Swear to stay my confidential therapist, my lawyer, my doctor, until such time as I’m ready to reveal my beautiful secret.

Why Wouldn’t You Do It?

“If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”

Stephen King said this in On Writing. It made me stop reading for a moment as the words sank in. Why haven’t I been doing this? I’ve known for a long time that I love writing and that I’m at the very least an OK (maybe even good) writer. I’m still honing my craft, but I know I’ve got something here. So why have I been wasting the last 7 years of my life trying to push myself into a field that is not the love of my life?

Why am I studying a field that only benefits me for a small time, but really benefits the company’s ambitions more than my own? Why didn’t I see the writing on the wall in highschool? My own writing for Pete’s sake? I wrote every day, sometimes for 8 hours straight. Why wouldn’t I pursue that? It was and still is my passion? Why did I not see it as my opportunity to love what I do for the rest of my life?

Why in God’s name did I keep writing, but not try to publish it? What was I waiting for? Sure my “novels” that I wrote in highschool were fairly terrible, but why didn’t I refine them and send them off? Why didn’t I try to publish my poems or short stories?

I’m now stuck, unable to heed Mr. King’s advice to read and write 4-6 hours a day because I’m doing schoolwork during the hours I’m not working. Doing schoolwork for a subject I’m steadily losing interest in. I still find time to read and I try to write for 30 minutes in the morning, but my God! What position have I placed myself in? 

I keep telling myself only another 16 months, but that seems like an eternity right now. I’ve become so resentful toward my schoolwork. It’s keeping me away from the thing that I love. It’s hogging all my brain power for the day. It’s hindering my growth as a writer. Or are these just excuses? I don’t even know anymore.

Where Is My Mind?

Where is my mind? It once was buried in the 0s and 1s behind the images I see on my screen. It once was lost in the world of processors, hard drives, and RAM. At one time I loved to delve into a problem and make the technology world my slave. Now as I sit at my desk, I’ve found my mind is not here. My mind is not inside the Internet of Things. I no longer care for discovering the backdoor into a Cisco router. I no longer care for the creation and care of databases.

My mind has left this hollow world of computing and moved back to the tangible, solid world of books. My mind has moved into the world of black and white text. Where I used to think of Cat5 vs Cat6, I now think of short story vs novel. I can’t focus. My mind wonders to the book hidden in my book bag. My mind wonders away from the screen which demands my attention to the quiet book, sitting peaceful, waiting for me to open its pages once more.

My mind leaves behind the hum of a hard disk drive spinning and moves to the soft swoosh of pages turning. My mind wonders to the story I’ve been working on for years and how I might improve it. My mind wonders outside this small box they’ve placed me in and out into the open world of hopes and dreams. To the world where I may become a published author.

I’m obsessed. I can’t stop thinking about it. Even as I install yet another piece of software, my mind travels outside my body and into the world of writing. I need to find a way to make this work. I need to find a way to refocus. I need to find a way of doing both. How do I go to school for technology and still find time to study writing? How do I work full-time and still find time to write my words down on paper? How do I keep up with all these things and more?

Do I let my words spew like vomit through the tips of my fingers and onto my keyboard without much thought for the structure? Do I type whatever comes to mind and ignore the syntax of it all? Do I write first and think later? I just want to write. More than anything I want to write.

Hector

Hector watched the last of the three bodies be pushed into the hole. He could feel every drop of blood on his skin. The drops burned his skin as if the lit end of a cigarette butt were attached to each one. He could hear every scream echoing, every shot bouncing off the canyon. His arms hung loose at his sides, disgust, confusion, and exhaustion filling every muscle. Why were they here? What had pushed him to this point?

He looked up at the sky. It was a clear, hot night. The stars stared down at him in disapproval. The moon shone brightly to illuminate his ugly deed. He felt the weight of the gun slung across his back. He watched as the other men started pushing dirt onto the bodies. He knew he should help. He played just as much a part as they did. He just couldn’t get himself to move.

Suddenly there was a confused voice behind them. A man questioning in a different language. The men burying the bodies stopped to pick up their weapons as the questioning tone turned to anger and the voice got louder. Everyone was shouting for the man attached to the angered voice to calm down, to move along. Hector’s head hung. Why had this man not kept his distance? Hector started to turn and the shouts for calm turned to shouts for stopping.

The shot ran crisp and clear through the night air. The shots that followed were defeaning. Hector’s ears rang and his head was spinning. He inhaled and pain shot through his chest and into his back. He looked down to find a small hole in his shirt. He dropped to his knees and reached a finger up to touch the hole. He pulled his finger away to find it red. There was a tug on his arm. The others were yelling something, but he couldn’t hear them.

He was being pulled up and his arm was slung across his friend’s shoulder. The pain shot through his chest again as he tried to pull in much needed air. The world was spinning around him. That’s when it happened. When the world he’d come to know was spinning out of control, her innocent, unsure face came into view.

The reflection of the waves on the lake were dancing on her face. The wind was blowing her long blonde hair behind her. Her eyes were doubtful as he reassured her he would come back to visit.

“Do you trust me?” He had asked. A half smile turned a corner of her mouth as she shrugged. “Come on. When have I ever let you down?” The smile faded.

“Every time you left me behind. And now you’re doing it again.” She crossed her arms again. It was more of a defense than a sign of anger he remembered thinking. She did it when she was nervous, when she was mad, when she was on the verge of tears. He was still confused by this “again” word.

“When did I leave you behind?” She stared at him in disbelief.

“Every time you moved up to a different school!” An involuntary scoff escaped before he could stop it.

“I passed a grade and you’re mad at me for that? What did you want me to do? Fail?” She looked away and bit her lip, another nervous habit.

“I guess not.” She mumbled. In that instant he was struck by how much her body, her face had matured. She was 15 and he was 18. He was leaving and she was staying. But at that moment, while she looked at the lake beside her, he realized she was going to be the most beautiful woman in this town. He did feel guilty for leaving her here, but he also felt he was losing out as well. He wasn’t sure why he did it, but he reached up and turned her face to his. He held her chin with his right hand and pushed a loose strand of hair away from her forehead. Tears were welling in her eyes and before he could blink she had her arms wrapped around him, her face buried against his chest.

“You better come back to visit!” She said against his shirt. He wrapped his arms tight around her and rested his cheek on the top of her head. “I’ll never forgive you if you don’t.”

“I’ll come back.” He said as tears of his own threatened to choke him. He kissed the top of her head and pushed her to arms’ length. “I’ll come back.” She nodded and he finally saw the trust come back to her eyes.

He hadn’t seen her since that day five years ago and now that he had a bullet in his chest he was afraid he’d never see her again. Did she hate him now that he had broken that promise? Did she even think of him at all? Was he just a distant memory to her? The desert swayed before him and stars danced in his eyes before disappearing into black.

Resources Anyone?

Hello fellow bloggers!

Do you have any suggestions for writing resources? I have found myself doing a lot of research to make sure my writing is accurate when writing about certain topics. Do you know of any websites or books that are a good resource for writers specifically? I’ve just been using Google and trying to sort through what’s accurate and what’s not, but wasn’t sure if there is anything specific out there.

Any help would be appreciated!

Melina

Melina stood at the edge of her yard. From here she could see Hector’s house. His front door, his freshcut yard, the car in his driveway. She folded her arms as anger burned her chest. How could he just leave without even saying goodbye​? Sure he had mentioned leaving after graduation, but he had never actually stopped to say goodbye. 

She watched him take several trips from the house to the car as he loaded up his belongings. She had two years of school left and he was done. He had graduated and was getting the hell out of Dodge. She still wasn’t sure why it upset her so much. He was her friend and she should just be happy he’s getting out of this crappy little town. But instead, it made her hate him. 

He was leaving her. Their five man crew had slowly faded into a three man crew and eventually into no crew at all as one boy moved and the other two decided there were other people they’d rather hang out with. She had made new friends as well, but Hector had always been the one she would drop everything for. They had never stopped hanging out after school or going down to the lake. They never took their new friends to the lake without the other one coming too.

It had been really hard each time Hector had moved up to a new school building. When he made the jump from elementary to middle school, she had thrown up the first day from anxiety. When he moved from middle to high school without her, she had been sulky and no one had wanted to hang out with her. Those years had been hard because they hadn’t hung out as much. She hung out in the park with the other little kids, while he started to go to movies and the local hot dog shop.

Finally high school had come for her. She had thought maybe he would act like he didn’t know her. She wasn’t sure why she’d been nervous to be back in the same school as her lifelong friend, but as she waited for the bus that first day, he was all she could think about. She had been looking at her feet, kicking a rock around when a short, compact car had pulled up in front of her. She looked up to find Hector grinning that teasing grin of his.

“Finally making it to the big leagues.” He said with mischief in his eyes. She smiled and shrugged, the nevous edge disappearing.

“Well they said something about their current roster lacking potential. They need a heavy hitter.” He laughed and motioned her toward the car.

“Get in.” She had jumped in and felt right at home. It wasn’t until about a month from graduation that she had realized their time together was coming to an end.

Now as she watched him kiss his mom and shake his dad’s hand, she decided enough was enough. She dropped her arms and walked back to the house.

“What’s wrong Lina?” Her mom asked as she walked through the kitchen and toward the stairs.

“Nothing.” Melina mumbled and headed up the stairs before her mom could question her more. In her room, she felt restless. She moved from desk to dresser and back again, nudging papers or picture frames with the tip of her finger. She finally decided to call her best friend, Alice. She walked back into the hallway to get the phone off the receiver and heard her mom talking to someone. She looked down over the banister and saw Hector standing across the island from her mom.

“What are you doing here?” Melina interrupted in a hostile tone. “Shouldn’t you be down the road, a million miles away by now?” They both looked up. Her mom scowled, but Hector smiled.

“Ah.” He shrugged. “The million miles can wait.” A smile tugged at the corners of Melina’s mouth as she walked down to stand beside him. He nudged her with his shoulder.

“You didn’t think I was going to leave without saying goodbye, did you?” Melina shrugged and continued to look at her hands on the counter. “Wanna go chill by the lake one more time?” She shrugged again.

“Lina stop being such a baby.” Her mom scolded her. Melina snapped her head up, suddenly being called a baby was extremely annoying.

“I’m not a baby!” She proclaimed as she grabbed Hector’s arm. She yanked him toward the back door as he spoke over his shoulder.

“Thank you Mrs. Martinez.” Melina didn’t hear her mom’s reply as she opened the sliding door. Once in the woods, she turned to Hector. 

“Why were you thanking her?” She emphasized her in a way that indicated disapproval. 

“She was wishing me good luck and told me to call or at least email her every once in awhile to let her know I’m doing OK.”

“She doesn’t care.” Melina sulked. “She just wants to seem nice.” Hector stopped walking beside her.

“What’s your problem?” Melina kept walking.

“I don’t have a problem.” She felt a lump in her throat, but couldn’t figure out why it was there. She felt if she stopped walking, she might cry and that’s not how she wanted him to see her. She crossed her arms against her chest again in an attempt to stop the emotions running around in there.

“Yes you do.” She heard him walking again. “You’re acting weird and being all…” He struggled to find the words. “Well like your mom said, like a baby.” Melina spun around fast.

“I’m not a baby. Why does everyone think I’m a baby for being upset that you’re leaving me. Again. This time probably for good.” His face twisted in confusion.

“Again?” Melina turned and started walking again.

“Forget it.” She hated him. She hated his stupid hair. She hated his stupid smile that he rarely went without. At least that’s what she tried to convince herself of.

A Surprise

A week or two ago I ordered one book from the library and put another on hold. I had read a blog post and it inspired me to try and get my hands on a few books on writing.

The first is by William Strunk Jr. & E.B. White, The Elements of Style. The second – On Writing by Steven King. There were several other books on the post, but these two caught my attention the most and I decided I can eventually get all the books, but with both work and school, that maybe I should pace myself. 

I love Stephen King’s writing style so to find out he wrote a book on writing called On Writing! I was beyond excited. That was the first book I looked up on my local library’s webpage. I was a little sad to find all copies were checked out with additional holds on them, but I added my own hold to the list. 

I next looked for The Elements of Style. It was available! I requested it, picked it up after work, and jumped into it as soon as I was done with my homework. This compact book holds a wealth of information. I have only had 30 minutes every couple of days to read it, but am already on the last chapter. I’ve fallen asleep reading it because I’m too stubborn to put it down and get some much needed rest. I’ll also be reading it again to make sure it’s lessons sink in.

Yesterday I walked into the mailroom at work and found a large, padded envelope in my mailbox. I was slightly confused when I pulled it out because I didn’t remember ordering anything so heavy and boxy. As I walked back down the hallway toward my office, I opened the package. I expected to find some piece of equipment, such as a cable or power inverter. What I found instead were three books that had absolutely nothing to do with work.

A wide smile spread across my silly face as the confusion vanished and realization set in. My sweet, considerate, supportive husband had ordered these for me without my knowing. I had mentioned I wanted the two books I ordered from the library, but was surprised he added the third (Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott). It was such a coincidence that it was also one of the books on the mentioned blog post (he had not read the post). I was looking down at my books and smiling like a love struck sap as co-workers passed me in the hall. One even commented that I looked “really happy today”. Yes! Yes! I am really happy!

I canceled the hold on On Writing (as it has still not been made available) and switched to reading my own personal copy of The Elements of Style! I didn’t have time to return the library’s copy last night, but I will tonight because who needs the library’s copy when you have your own!

Thank you Cristian for posting that list of books!

You can read the post about good books on writing here.

Writing – A Lot Like Bleeding

I saw a quote this morning:

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

It struck as so real to me I decided to actually do a little research to see if the credit to who said it was correct. The person quoted it as Hemingway, but after some quick research, I found out I was doing my duty by double-checking because it is not his quote. I then found the following web page.

http://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/09/14/writing-bleed/

So many writers talk about writing like it is the pouring of one’s blood from their body. I can’t agree more. I feel like the stories and words I put to “paper” (aka my blog) are a part of me. I feel like when I put them out there for the world to see a piece of me is leaving my body, never to return. That’s why the caption of my blog is “Releasing my soul one word at a time”. 

With each story I write, a piece of me floats through the data lines, converting to 0s and 1s before reaching your screen and, hopefully, touching you in some way. With each poem, I pluck a piece of me from my body and never expect that piece to be given back. Some days it hurts more than others. When it takes what feels like years for inspiration to hit. Or when I write something so completely honest my finger hovers over the publish button, gathering the courage before following through. Some days, when the idea has already been marinating in my imagination, I feel freed by the release of my “blood”.

You get my heart and soul. You get the part of me that few people close to me see. It is my secret world where I can free my mind without fear of failure. I can release toxins that are troubling me. I can set free moments of joy like doves at a wedding. I can let roam words found in dreams or nightmares. Finding the first words can be difficult, but once the first sentence is written, my heart and soul take over and they each give up a little bit to make my writing mean something.

That is why it feels so much like giving my blood. There’s a small pinch, but then the actual draw of blood takes little effort on my part. Once the turniquet has tightened and my fist is clenched, the needle pierces my skin and the words flow freely. Although the flow is effortless and I know where that part of me is going and that it will go put to good use, there is a part of me that wants to scream “No! It’s mine!”. But on the other hand, if I don’t let go, I won’t feel the sweet release of knowing someone somewhere is reading my words and getting enjoyment out of it.

I pray I do not bleed in vain.

A Dream So Vivid

Our minds lie to us. They twist facts and distort reality. Lies become truth. Dreams become life. Images change over time. Once when I was a little girl, my father took me to a small, old-fashioned diner. 

Its location is odd to me. Sitting in the middle of a stretch of road, with barely even a house to call it’s neighbor, this diner is all chrome. We sit on bar stools at the counter while the others sit in pink cushioned booths. We eat ice cream and drink soda.

I sense my grandpa in this place. Maybe when I was too young to remember, he came with us also. Today is a treat. I’ve been riding in the truck with my dad all day. We woke while the hush of sleep still hung over our town. I stared at the stars before climbing steps taller than me. As I sit in the cab, I doze against the soft pillow I’ve brought along. We watch the sun come up together. We watch the world around us slowly wake as more cars began to pass us. I wonder where they are going, what important business they have to complete today.

Hours later we’ve delivered the last load and we just happen to be near this glorious, chrome-fronted diner. It strikes me as odd that there are only two other customers in the whole place. The quiet unnerves me even more. Shouldn’t I hear the sizzling of grease on the griddle? Shouldn’t I hear a cook yelling orders to others and a waitress asking when her orders will be ready? 

The other customers watch us enter with curious eyes. We go to the counter and take our seats. A kind-eyed, hunch-backed old man placed his hands on the counter and grins.

“What can I get you folks?” My dad places our order, a root beer float for him and an ice cream sundae for me. The old man nods as he stands straight and wipes his hands on his towel.

The rest of the memory is hazy, as if nothing matters for the rest of the day. Even the driving we’ve done during the day is not completely clear. Nothing mattered that day but eating ice cream in a diner with my dad. 

The haziness, the silence and emptiness of the diner, the curious looks of the other patrons, these all contribute​ to the idea that this may be a dream. The fact that I can’t find a diner in that area. The fact that my dad only remembers one and it was not chrome-fronted. The fact that I sensed my grandpa there when, more than likely, he had never been to that place with us. These all lead me to believe that I dreamt this memory. How vivid our minds see our dreams!