Two posts in one day? What is this world coming to?

Today is my oldest son’s birthday. He’s a real adult in my head now. Legally, he was an adult four years ago but like every parent, I didn’t immediately see him that way. Now I do and it makes me feel less than young.

Besides my kid being grown, several other things have happened lately which have made me nostalgic and a bit sad. I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in close to fifteen years. There was a falling out all those years ago and we didn’t keep in touch and she moved away. When I saw her and her husband I found out they’d moved back to town a year ago. I was surprised I’d never run into them during all that time but I shouldn’t have been. I rarely run into people I know when I’m out and about for some reason. This city isn’t even that big, barely over 250k people live here, so you’d think it would happen more often but it doesn’t.

Well, if I’m honest, I have to add I’ve become such a homebody I rarely get out except to get groceries and an occasional date night. I got especially bad about staying in once my back pain got really bad. Then with the surgery, well I’ve complained enough about that.

Eventually even I got cabin fever and by last weekend I was determined to get out and do something. There was the annual Art’s Festival on Saturday and Sunday. It was significant because last year at this time, while at the festival, I was forced to admit it was time to see a doctor about my back pain. I knew it would be a little hard on me to go but not compared to the last time.

I chose to go both days because I wasn’t sure I would make it through the whole thing in one day. I roamed around for hours, wearing myself out but loving every second. Then I ran into an old friend’s husband. I was so surprised to see him I almost believed it could actually be him so I walked past and kept going into booths and checking out all the cool stuff. We kept crossing paths and finally I believed it was him and said hi. We talked for a bit and he told me his wife would be there soon to work in one of the booths.

I didn’t know how I felt in that moment. I hadn’t seen her in so long and our friendship had ended on very bad terms. But we’d been friends for thirteen or so years before it all fell apart. I loved that woman like a sister. We were so close I was there when one of her daughters was born. Our kids had played together. We babysat for each other. We’d been there for each other through bad marriages and equally bad divorces. While a little nervous, I wanted to see her but I had one major issue. I was exhausted. I needed desperately to get home and lay down. I stayed for about twenty minutes but I got worried I wouldn’t even be able to drive so I had to leave before she arrived.

Obviously her husband was going to tell her we saw each other. I have no idea if she thought I was avoiding her or not.

The next day was my husband’s day off and he went with me to the festival and we dragged my friend Jesse with us. We saw my old friend but she was busy so we roamed around so the guys could check out everything, eventually making it back to where we started.

As soon as I got to her she hugged me. We talked for…I don’t know actually, my husband said 20-30 minutes. It was nice and it was strange. It was almost like stepping into the past.

Later in the evening my husband and I were talking about it and I got a little teary. The whole situation has been on my mind for days now and will probably continue to be. I don’t know what will happen next.

The last thing to happen to bring up old memories happened Monday evening. I met up with Jesse, who is also a writer, to talk about our writing. We went to a coffee shop we never go to. While there we ran into another writer who is part of the Nanowrimo group. The three of us talked for three hours straight. The encounter itself made me miss going to a writing group but some of the specific subject matter brought up a few painful things and one important truth.

Have you ever given advice you knew damn well you needed to follow? The other writer we ran into was talking about the guilt she felt for not working on a story she’d been trying to write for many years, eight I think. She said other stories popped up which she found more interesting and she would work on them. She also stated when she talked to people about the newer stuff she always got more interest than in her older novel. It was easy for me to tell her to put the old one to the side. I did the same thing, mostly. I explained how the more she writes the better she gets and by the time she gets back to the one bogging her down she would be better equipped to fix whatever it was that made her stray.

It’s what I did with a story, a trilogy actually, I started back in 2003, one of the worst years of my life. I really did put it aside. I made some story boards and put them up on the wall over my bed then I walked away. I occasionally have ideas for it but I simply jot them down and keep my distance. I do however still feel some guilt about not finishing the stories.

By the end of the night both me and the other writer felt less guilt about temporarily abandoning the burdensome tales. I was left with the memories of how excited I was to write the story in the beginning. How it grew into multiple books. How creative and amazing I felt and how no one cared but me. I got married for the second time a few days after the story first came to me. At first my ex pretended to be happy for me but I found out quickly it was something he was jealous of and hated. He found inventive ways to make me put my pen down. I do mean pen, back then I wrote exclusively by hand before typing everything up later.

After a while it wasn’t even hard for him to get me away from writing. I hated myself for walking away from the only thing I ever truly wanted to do and hated him because he was okay with that trade-off. Unfortunately, for years my trilogy carried so many negative vibes I could hardly stand to touch it. I did pick it back up the first year I did Nanowrimo and made some serious progress but there really are times you have to put certain things aside to make room for better ones.

The story ideas are sound but I was so bogged down in it I wasn’t making progress. Not on it or as a writer. When I stepped away and started writing really short fiction everything changed. I now have twelve stories in various stages of completion, many of them very close to being done and one completely finished waiting for revision. That’s twelve novel length ideas I’ve worked on in two years. I shouldn’t count one since I started it on Monday but I’m so into writing this one it needs to be on the list. I won’t include the two children’s books until they are edited. Add in the close to a hundred pieces of flash fiction and I think it’s safe to say it was a good idea to step away from the trilogy.

None of this would be possible if I was still spending all my time and effort on a series of books that only drag me down. Some day the memories won’t stop me from writing it. In fact I’ve used some of those memories to fuel other stories, at least partly exorcising their power over me. Until then I won’t feel bad about it, anymore. Besides, it’s there are the wall waiting for me whenever I’m ready. I won’t forget about it.

On a lighter note, I spent the morning working on my new story. I need to come up with a vague outline but I have all the pieces I need to do it. All the bare bones are there. I sat in a coffee shop for three hours sipping hot tea and writing any scene that came to me. My head was all over the place but it worked for me today. Now I need a little more structure. I’m not a real planner but some planning is beneficial. I like index card outlines.

I have a wall outside my bedroom that was used for nothing. It’s in a tiny hallway and the only decoration I tried putting on it got knocked off and broken. So I bought 12 inch cork board squares and red yard to make a giant index card outline. The last story I had on it used the three act structure but I put up extra boards so I could use it for any structure I wanted.


All the labels and yarn are put up with tacks so it’s easy enough to change. Ugh the handwriting! Having it outside the bedroom means I see it every time I go anywhere else in the house, which is great.

Once I have cards up for the new story I’ll be able to easily see where the holes are and work on filling them in. There is no estimate on when I’ll have the thing written. I’m in no hurry, I’m just thrilled to be writing again. I don’t think I’ll put this one away to work on previous stuff though. No need to clutter my recovering head space.

It’s odd, I was going to use one of my prompts from Write Anything Wednesday, the one about a birthday present, but I wrote this rambling post instead, plus all the writing I did this morning. Not a bad thing in my opinion!

Also, my inner editor is aware of how many times I used the word ‘that’ and how many unnecessary commas this post has but I refuse to get into editing mode while I have new ideas flowing. So pardon the mess while I’m still under construction or whatever.

Finding Inspiration In Unlikely Places As Well

On Sunday I wrote a post about finding inspiration in likely places (click here to read it). On Monday I found my muse in a very unlikely place. I was across town from home buying office supplies when I realized I was hungry. I went to a nearby Chick-fil-A because there isn’t one near my house yet (they are building it though). I don’t have it very often and I was in the mood for ice cream so it was the perfect choice.

I sat in a corner booth that somehow made me feel like I wasn’t surrounded by a huge lunch crowd. Luckily I had thought ahead and had a folder with me containing a mini-workshop from Holly Lisle. One never knows when they’ll find time to write so I figured it was better to be prepared. I’m so thankful I did this.

Eating came first but I was itching to get into the writing even though I had nothing in mind. I was only hoping something would come to me. I’d done this workshop before but I already had a halfway written story and I did it to help me get it in order in my head. It worked but I feel like it was inevitable it would help because I had a story, I just needed some structure so I didn’t get lost or worked into a corner along the way.

This time I had no ideas and didn’t actually believe it would work since I’ve had trouble lately. However, I was finally off all medications from my surgery and there was at least a chance my muse would come out and play.

I was so nervous as I opened the folder! Fear is a powerful demotivater, as I’ve learned over the years but I was determined I would come up with a story, even if it sucked. It described different ways to develop a story but used characters for the workshop. One of the first things it told me to do was to sum up what I know about my character in one short paragraph.

Panic set in. I knew it was panic because a lady sitting five tables away made a weird face at me and looked concerned. I registered her reaction but chose to ignore it because I was busy freaking out. How the hell was I supposed to come up with a character when I’ve barely been able to have ideas about things I’ve already started?

So I did what came naturally and stared at the ceiling. For how long, I’ll never know but it worked. Somehow I made a character who has a weird and dangerous form of magic. She is living with a group of people with the same powers, an order if you will. They are going to force her to take a human life on her birthday so she runs away the night before. The order aren’t willing to let her go so she lives on the run. Also, with her type of magic, regular people fear her and won’t accept her.

The poor girl is going to go through the ringer. As I followed my directions and wrote what I knew about her I was surprised I knew so much. I managed to come up with a central idea, many of the things she goes through, at least four other characters (they are a little vague right now), and how I want it to end. In the workshop you are supposed to do all the things I listed then write a few sentences about the big scenes you can’t wait to write. I ended up with seven before my back started hurting and it was time to go home. For the first time in months I was disappointed I had to Stop writing instead of being upset I couldn’t start!

So I went home and immediately sent a text to my husband and my friend Jesse, who is also a writer, about what happened. It wasn’t bragging, it was just joy. Of course I told them both way more than they needed to know about the story.

The day got better later. I met up with Jesse at a coffee shop to talk writing and while we were there another writer, who neither of us knew very well but had been around during Nanowrimo events, came over to say hi. She’d been in another area of the shop working on her stuff and only meant to say hi and bye but three hours later we all left. It was great getting to know this woman.

Chatting with other writers was amazing. We talked some about our stories but mostly about novels by famous authors, gaming, movies, and…everything! It made me realize how much I miss and need a writing group. There is one this lady goes to on Sunday afternoons that I’ve been meaning to go to but I was waiting for my recovery to be finished or at least further along. Also fear. I was afraid I wouldn’t have anything to talk about since my creativity was on hiatus.

I’m not afraid anymore. In addition, I’m feeling pretty good about writing. I know I need to work my way back to normal but I can see it’s possible now. There are no more roadblocks, only hurdles. I can handle some hurdles.

I mentioned Chick-fil-A was an unlikely place to find inspiration but I’ll have to put it on my ‘likely place’ list now. Soon there will be one four blocks from my house, they have wi-fi and I learned it doesn’t matter how busy it gets, I can still write there.

Photo by the amazing Ryan McGuire