Imagine if everyone focused on making their own lives perfect, on getting and keeping their own proverbial shit together, instead of telling everyone else how to do what they themselves clearly haven’t mastered.
I’m editing. I’m editing this webpage. I’m editing possessions. I’m editing a book.
I removed the previous post about “The Wizard of OZ” because it didn’t set the proper tone for what I’m relating it to, and that is the novel I’m editing, “The Edges of the Rain.” I am very much a Yellow Brick road gal, still, only my understanding of it isn’t quite the same now. Many of the themes present in “The Wizard of Oz”, are heavily embedded in this novel of mine. It’s some seven years since writing the first draft. It is a serious book dealing with a descent into madness. As I began to edit, I realized, fully, how far I’ve come since then. I tend to think that we are here, in this world, to learn, if we can. (And to love all we can.) I’ve made a lot of mistakes during the course of this lifetime. There are these strange things, circumstances, events, moments, that get us sometimes. An example I’ve cited is that, more than a decade ago now, I once used a mid-meltdown photo of Britney Spears as a profile picture, thinking, at the time, I was just being cheeky ( edit, clarification: being cheeky about the amount of stress I felt like I was under, not about her having any issues) and who was I anyway? I was just the average person in the burbs, and, had been a fan of some of Britney Spears’ music. But, who are any of us? Some time after that I had my own breakdown. What I realized was that even though I was no one to Ms. Spears and the likelihood of my trying to be funny seemingly had no direct effect on her ever, as in, not like someone told her I did that and she was set to tears over it, I realized that what it does is lower the overall tone of how we treat other people. I’ve tried to make that point in various other ways since then, sometimes using sarcasm, and realized, no one seemed to get that what I was saying was that it isn’t cool. So, now, I’ve stated my opinion of it plainly. I’d be lying if I said that I’d never been critical of anyone or anything. I’d be foolish if I told you what it is that has sometimes caused me to be that way with or about anyone as it is generally my nature to let people be so long as they aren’t hurting themselves or anyone else. Even then sometimes I recognize it as none of my business. Prior to my breakdown, let’s just say in my previous existence, one of the things I used to do to keep myself in check was, if I saw someone who was obviously out of sorts in some way, was to ask myself what would have to happen to a person to be where that person is at, going through what they’re going through? Because I’ve been down, I have been through some things. Somewhere around the time of being cheeky about Ms. Spears, I was losing that perspective, and I know why, what caused that, and it’s enough that I know it. People used to constantly be telling me to “lighten up.” I deeply regret having ever betrayed some of the things I believe in. It’s all learning.
Editing this novel has proved to be galvanizing as much of it is based on actual experience though it is most certainly fiction. It’s making me thankful for my life, for my sanity. Sometimes I’ve thought that I didn’t go insane, so much as I went completely sane in an insane world. I’m glad of getting to look at it all with a new perspective, hopefully mature. In so many ways it has brought me back to myself. In so many ways, this book, for me, has been about finding my way, my guts, as a writer, and perhaps nothing else. Though, that is unlikely. To learn is to grow, to be about the evolution of the existence of your being, and, I believe, everything is part of that process. Others may think or believe otherwise and they are free to do so. We are not all on the same road.
One of the things I’ve learned is that the people I’ve loved the most are those whom are so confidently at ease with themselves that they instantly put others at ease. If there’s a guy railing against bacon, how bacon is evil and no one should ever eat bacon because he hates it, and no one should ever listen to music from the 1950’s because that all sucks and why don’t you join the modern age, and hey, you shouldn’t read those books because they’re all garbage, here, read these books that are real literature, because it’s all bad in his, or her, exalted opinion of his opinions, that’s a person I’d just as soon not have much to do with. If there’s a guy that’s calm, confident, relaxed with himself, who thinks it’s cool that you have a room dedicated to your favorite film memorabilia, are addicted to root beer floats, and can’t watch enough Kung Fu, even though he doesn’t like that show, give me that person. The confident person is generally going to be kinder, because they’re not threatened by your differences, less likely to try to make themselves feel better by making you, or anyone else, feel bad. Some people are never happy, because deep down they’re unhappy with themselves. Sometimes people become so hurt, they become terrified of joy, terrified of the uncertainty, the seemingly fleeting nature of happiness, and so they cling to their hurt, to their anger, misery, and pain, and trudge like monsters through the delights of others wreaking havoc as if to prove and validate their own hurt and misery, their own experience. And I know how hard it can be to let go of those things. Such people are constantly looking for someone to feed off of, for someone to reassure them that their opinions about bacon are correct. They don’t want you to be yourself, they want you to be a reflection of their ideas and opinions of all that is bad or good or correct. What I’ve learned from such people, ultimately, if I didn’t shrink completely away, was that I wasn’t going to learn anything from them. (And that’s been disappointing sometimes, because I haven’t necessarily disliked all such individuals, only realized they weren’t people I was meant to know anymore than I did at whatever time it was.) There’s never been any room for me to grow in the presence of such. It’s a lesson it’s taken me a lifetime to learn at some emotional expense. Give me the people who are truly at ease with themselves, they make the best teachers, they make the best lovers, they make the best friends. They let people be and become themselves, so they can find their own confidence. (I think confident people help create other confident people, inspire others to be confident.) They help you when you fall, more importantly, they don’t push you down in the first place.
Even at that though, like I said, we’re all on different roads, learning from one another. Maybe what I learned is, give me the confident people at ease with themselves, the ones who aren’t telling me how to be, because that’s who I want to be like, the people who make you feel like it’s okay to be who you are, and to still be learning.
“Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book, your composition of yourself is at stake.” ~ E.L. Doctorow
In the bottom of my beach bag, I found a notebook full of poems I wrote last summer, along with a copy of Town and Country magazine from one year ago this month. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to undo me, or perhaps remind me is a better way to put it, of what I thought I was doing, or who I thought I would be by this time in my life. Sometimes it’ll be some other writer-woman ( who is in my peer group) that I see who obviously has it more together than I do, in every way. I’ll think, “What the hell am I even doing?” What I’m doing after that is reminding myself that I don’t live my life by comparison and it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. I have to correct myself to keep myself from letting my thoughts go down the road of “what might have been… if only…” I don’t finish that sentence because the rest of that sentence is “… I’d had my shit together/hadn’t still been falling apart when I started trying to be a professional big-time writer woman.” etc. There’s no point in that whatsoever. Really. I will tell you, I shouldn’t have been trying to pursue a writing career at the time when I started to because I was still having some serious post-nervous breakdown issues, and at the same time, as always, the writing proved to be my salvation in that, if only because, it gave me something to do, to focus on. I also did a lot of praying, a lot. I’m pretty sure I still manage to say one prayer a day at some point, or just, “Thank, God.” So, there’s no point in dwelling on any of those things or concerning myself with what might have been if only. There’s something to be learned from everything, however, and always room for improvement. So when I see those, I think, better examples of adult women writers, in my age group, those whom are emotionally mature, who look to be getting things done in the way I thought I would be, it is inspiring, and that is helpful. ( Keeping in mind that being a writer is such a completely unique job, existence, way of being, that there are no other “examples” that are in any way helpful. It makes no difference to me if the woman who owns the bake shop is a prime example of womanhood with her life completely under control, she still isn’t a writer, I am, so none of it applies, unless I’m baking pies.) Of course then I have to remind myself, so I don’t start going over all my own faults with a fine-tooth comb… if I were more personable, charming, had more grace, whiter teeth, a better car, hadn’t been crazy, wasn’t getting so many damn wrinkles… that their lives likely aren’t perfect either, everyone has “problems” or something they’re dealing with or “things.” This is also part of the point, however, because they’re still getting it done, with style, with grace, with dignity, winning awards, earning the respect of their peers, living the dream. (It is also where I remind myself to let go of any momentary feelings of envy because if we knew what all any other person had dealt with in life, was dealing with in life, we’d never ever be jealous of one another, or anyone, ever, we’d all still choose to be who we are with the lives that we have…most of us.)
The other day I was trying to figure out what kind of story I’m in, what genre. As in, what kind of story is your life in. I could say for certain what kind of story I know I’m not in, I’m not in a noir story, it isn’t science fiction, not a western, and so on. The conclusion I arrived it is that I’m in some kind of romance/love story, fantasy, fairy tale, horror, myth legend, inspirational, etc. or any of the related sub-genres, all of which sort of falls into the category of something Gothic, something sort of 19th Century meets the modern world. That’s looking at what I know to be the complete story of my life up to this point, something with Gothic overtones. I say that because it’s been part nightmare at times, and part complete joy with times of wonderful calm and happiness, Gothic. I was all set to have an interesting discussion on the topic with my husband when he said, in usual Jess fashion, “I’m in a biography.” And that was quite a good laugh. But in his saying that, I realized I’d forgotten what it was that I thought my life would be like at this point, kind of the life you have, have really been having, versus the life you thought you would be having, and that brings me back to some of those examples of women writers that have ( look to have ) it together in the ways I thought I would. I thought I’d have nailed a six figure book deal, or two, have one or two real friends, the most awesome relationship ever, etc., I’d be glamorous in an understated way, well-respected, just a completely fabulous life without any real problems. Keeping in mind that this fantasy of my life as a writer was likely first conceptualized when I was somewhere between the ages of seventeen and twenty. Suffice it to say, I’ve learned a few things about reality in the three decades since then.
None of this is to be taken as any kind of complaint. I’m pretty happy with where my life is at right now. I really enjoy my sanity. I had to fight to get it back to this. I’m grateful, incredibly thankful, for every good thing, for every good moment. What I’ve realized, however, is that it’s likely none that of us are living the life we thought we would be living, but not only that, none of us are likely living the lives we think we are. I thought I was going to live this glamorous life as a writer, I’d wear beautiful silk shirts with coordinating slacks, high heels, silk pajamas and lounge wear, drive a Mercedes or a mid-80’s Jaguar, and this was going to happen based upon the fact that I’m so talented, amazing imagination, and phenomenally prolific, it couldn’t not happen. ( I guess I thought I was going to be Danielle Steel, from the sound of that. Who knows.) At no time did I consider the realities of my own story. (Danielle Steel is from a wealthy family and grew up in Europe.) I used to imagine myself wearing plaid skirts, tall boots, and a turtle neck under a tweed jacket with elbow patches, walking across some Ivy League campus in New England in the fall, as well. Despite my “humble beginnings” it would “just happen.” You can be whoever you want to be. You can live whatever life you want to live. I wear dress pants more often than jeans these days, around the house. I’ve many style/fashion intentions and plans. (Really, the idea was to be able to live decently and create art, to be able to write. Because I was, I am, going to write anyway.)
Sometimes it’s my own work that reminds me, found in the bottom of a bag, in a notebook I was carrying around so as not to be carrying around my actual notebook, that reaches up and hits the reset button. Reminds me of who I thought I wanted to be, what I thought I was doing or going to be doing. Sometimes, it’s something that makes me painfully, if only momentarily, aware again of my own foolishness.
In my beach bag, I found these poems I wrote last summer. Some of them are pretty good, I think.
Zen written on 5/21/17
I am reading Sandburg by the pool
and longing for Joan Didion’s ease and access
I think I remember
what an aardwolf is
and contemplate the word
and a world that neglected me
and a society that doesn’t seem to know
its own behind
from a hole in the ground.
But, I remind myself
I was out of my mind for a while
So I cannot blame it. (the world)
People think crazy is contagious,
like a list of symptoms
and side effects
at the end of a commercial,
for what cures you,
can kill you.
Roll the bones.
Worry about Skylab (it fell. hit no one.)
Worry about Skynet.
Learn to love the bomb,
and don’t worry.
You could be a championship motorcyclist,
and get hit by a car while riding your bicycle.(*)
You could eat salad every day
and still gain weight
because you’ve got to think
Admit your vanity still matters
and make it matter more than
It’s your hormones.
if your hormones are off-key
out of tune
you may need more bikini
They make a pill for that too.
How to remedy humanity
in daily doses,
just don’t take too many, or
I prefer my chemicals be only diet Pepsi. Usually.
I’m reading Sandburg by the pool,
and Raymond Carver,
and Town and Country magazine, and
“How to Take A Bullet”
I’m writing poems
for a new generation
Keep your personality lean,
and the bullshit
to a minimum.
Turn the music up,
and the noise down,
so you can hear the sound
of your own being.
They don’t know what it’s like,
to have to learn how to exist again.
*reference specifically to championship racer Nicky Hayden who was hit by a car while on his bicycle on 5/17/17, he passed away on 5/22/17
Reserve the right to edit.
One of the most wonderful things within the many fine and good examples that Bruce Lee left us with, is his example of inclusiveness. Despite being met with prejudice throughout his life, he seemed to hold no such feelings in his own heart. He continuously broke with traditions. He fell in and love and married who he wanted to marry. If you came into his studio, dojo, with an open heart, an open mind, a willingness to learn and be taught, he would teach you. It made no difference to him what color your wrapping paper was, no difference to him if you were male or female, his wife, Linda, was one of his students. He stayed true to what he believed in despite being met with continuous opposition and challenges to his ideas, his philosophies, his approach to living. Bruce Lee understood that prejudice is the product of ignorance, and the antidote, is education.
I’m at the beginning of really checking this out thoroughly, but I can show some love for that example for sure.
Have a Happy Valentines Day.
Thelxiepeia, poems 2009-2012, Now available on Amazon in paperback.
The Willow Tree…………………………………………12
The Talk Is Savage……………………………………. 17
Miss UnHoly……………………………………………. 19
If We Had These Roses………………………………. 21
Look, Pretty, Stand Still………………………………. 23
Care Full……………………………………………….. 25
Temple Within………………………………………… 27
The Devil Wore Red………………………………… 28
Dorothy Doesn’t Live Here Anymore…………….. 30
Thump, Thump………………………………………… 34
If Love Hates Me……………………………………… 35
Ichabod Marries……………………………………… 36
Some Obsession………………………………………. 37
Strange Ode to Levon Helm……………………….. 39
This Now………………………………………………… 40
The Ball Jars……………………………………………. 42
The Reincarnation of a Wax-Winged Bird……….. 44
Dirty Knees…………………………………………….. 46
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea…….. 48
Loved As Is…………………………………………….. 50
The Howling Dame…………………………………… 51
Sacred Breath………………………………………… 55
The Fragile Veil……………………………………….. 57
How much work is involved in making a book, bringing a book to market, yourself?
I’d say that depends on the author. First you’ve got to write the thing and come up with, or out of it with, a final draft. I write it. I edit it. I format it. That is all me. I proofread it, again, and again, and probably again. I just finished the fifth page by page check of “Gold Mine”. I found a place in one of the pieces where “understand” needed to be changed to “understanding”. Spellcheck doesn’t catch that kind of thing, nor does it catch homophones, and sometimes a grammar check won’t catch those either. Editing poetry is far more tedious than editing stories or editing a novel. Editing a novel there is the forward motion of the story itself to keep you going, with poetry, each piece may be different, require different formatting. I also occasionally invent words and of course spellcheck doesn’t recognize those. I’m currently editing and publishing work from years ago, trying to get caught up. This is important, it doesn’t matter when a piece was written if it is good. No one looks at a Renoir and says, “That old thing?” Same goes for music and film, if something is good, then it’s good. Timelessness.
Making books this way is very much rebel book making. I’m not anti-establishment in that I wouldn’t ever say that I definitely wouldn’t seek to publish along traditional lines again. But, I am a person who believes in thinking for myself. I believe that my work is good, and I want to publish it in the way that I want to publish it, and in a timely manner. I’ve already vented my feelings about how I arrived at the decision to become an indie author. At this point I would say that it completely suits me. It allows for complete creative freedom and control. It allows for me to work at my own pace, or not work if I’m in too much pain. With my arthritis, I admit that I do always feel as though the clock is ticking on the longevity of my hands, I’ve got back and neck problems too ( as many writers do). Honestly, the physicality of my particular situation, I don’t know that I could do this any other way, it would have to be an unheard of super sweet deal of, “Sure, whenever, you want!” As yet, I am enjoying being an independent author.
I am also then in charge of getting my work our there, that’s the part that really isn’t my favorite because I’m not a natural salesperson. I’m a writer. I don’t have a team of anyone standing behind me, or as yet, an established fan base, or a publicist. Keeping in mind that each part of the process is time and effort. If you’re a writer who is handing things off to an editor or an agent, if you have an established fan base, then you’re not wearing quite as many hats as someone who is doing everything themselves.
I can tell you that having made the decision, I’m calmer, less emotionally invested in the b.s., hypocrisy, and politics, of any given situation, because I don’t have to be. And yes, that is a luxury, one that I’ve gifted myself with by opting out of the usual route. It is also a grace, something that I’m lucky to be able to do and I don’t take it for granted, I’m happy for it for however long it lasts. I’m incredibly grateful for my husband in that, he’s been supporting my work in one way or another for a very long time. I do not regret opting out of, for the most part, the fray. Quite honestly, recent situations within the entertainment industry only reaffirmed my decision to go rogue, to go rebel, and do this myself on my own terms.
All of this is a learn as you go process. How much work?
Like I said, this is the fifth time I’ve gone through this manuscript page by page. That’s after having written it in the first place. So write it, then edit it, then spellcheck it, then grammar check it, then proofread it, (when you’ve got your final draft, or close to it, I say file your copyright,) then format it, then check your formatting to make sure everything looks as it should on each page, again, check your acknowledgments, your credits, your permissions if needed and you’ll be teaching yourself all of that too. Then you’re going to design your cover, or have someone do that for you. My philosophy about that is not to over think it, I’m a writer, yes I want the covers to look good/decent, ultimately that’s the wrapping paper, but I’m not an artist or graphic designer and I can’t afford to hire one as yet. I’ll get better at the covers as I go, ultimately, I am a writer and it’s the words that matter the most to me. ( It’s who you are inside that counts right?) But, you’re going to do that too, design your covers. Etc. Etc. Etc. It can all take anywhere from months to a few years. ( From what I’ve read around, going the traditional route to publishing a book, providing you get a book deal, is an average time of about two years from idea and pitch to finished manuscript and publication.)
It isn’t the way to go for everyone, or even most, perhaps, but it is working for me. Am I a selling millions of books? Well, not quite yet. There are no guarantees along those lines regardless of the publishing route you choose.
The cover of “Gold Mine” is a picture of an x-ray of the fused bones of my right hand and wrist, the cause arthritis ( Still’s Disease), from several years ago now, that’s it. I often wear a brace. The clock is ticking. “Gold Mine” is a collection of poetry and prose the last piece of which was written in 2009. Collections, whether it be poetry or stories, take longer to accumulate.
Each writer has their own goals in my mind for what they want to do and how they want to do it when it comes to their work. For now, this is working for me. “Gold Mine” should be available for purchase sometime in early November. There are several pieces from the book available to read for free here on this webpage, just type Gold Mine, into the search box, though I will list the links when the book is ready.
Currently editing and proofreading “Gold Mine” for publication sometime before the end of the year.
Let it Ride
Let’s blur the edges,
Break the rules,
Drink coffee at midnight,
Rye at dawn,
Let’s stay awake to solve some mystery,
Or write one.
Paint a picture,
Throw stones at the moon,
Listen to the crickets sing to June bugs,
Make that our favorite tune,
Take off our shoes on the wet grass,
Dress like gypsies,
Carry tambourines and peace offerings,
Dig for fossils in the creek,
The language of the breeze,
Quietly steal the day,
Take the night,
Build a fire so bright,
The stars will be jealous of the light,
Let’s be over-zealous,
Impassioned and compelled,
Let’s take chances when the tell us,
We are too old for this.
Put our money where our mouth is,
And let it ride…
Give ourselves permission,
To be the joyful people we are on the inside,
On the outside,
In case this is,
All there is.
In October we honor traditions.
We do October movies, there are many… this is a good one…
we read this poem…