Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Writing is hard.

Psalm 45:1Ecclesiastes 9:10

MTV is teasing us with old episodes of Daria this week, and I love her and her little flat voice, and her friend Jane and her even flatter voice, and we got totally sucked in and now we're buying DVDs, and all of this to say that: writing is hard.

I'm late with my post again this week, life happens, and it is emphasizing to me, again, all the ways in which I constantly feel like a failure.

("Gosh, BC, you're awfully hard on yourself, all the time.  You should look into that, maybe pray about it."

"I know, Dear Readers, being hard on myself is another of my constant failings.  Sigh.")

One of the Daria episodes that aired today, "Quinn the Brain", helped me finally admit something that everyone already knows anyway (yay me and the big revelations): writing is hard.

Recently it occurred to me that I have been working on this blog for about a year, working on it longer than I've been posting to it, and even wrote small parts of it as long as two years ago, and I am astounded at myself.  I don't think I've stuck to anything, in a totally self-motivated, no outside accountability kind of way, this long in my life.  Oh, I can lie to myself and say that the devotion of my massive fan base keeps me going, but really, you would all find someone else to waste time with if this blog just stopped the way so many do.

Writing is one-third ideas, one-third discipline, and one-third editing.

Everyone has ideas.  We are all one-third writers.  We are all one-third actors, directors, singers and street magicians (or maybe that's just me).

Very, very few of us, including me, have the discipline to actually sit down and bang out our thoughts and ideas.  This is, for me, the hardest part.  All my ideas are perfectly executed in my head.  Why put myself through the torture of staring down the blank screen every day if all I get for my efforts are some half-baked ramblings inconsistent in tone and unclear in meaning?  As Quinn said today in her eponymous episode: "How hard can it be to just type stuff?"  Pretty damned hard, cutie.  Pretty damned hard.

I am really good at editing, though.  (In writing anyway, not so much in speaking.)  Most writers, after getting out all they can, foist the rest of the work onto an editor, someone who gets paid to try to bring an author's true vision out of the dross they set down.  It is really hard to do this for yourself, that's why people can make entire careers out of it.  But editing for DH is how I got started in writing.  I can easily do this for other people.  Sometimes, I can do it for myself, too.  Sometimes I'm too self-critical.

But lately, I've been newly impressed with the value of editing.  DH's first book has been published, to great familial acclaim, but since publication, he has rolled out a few new, read: re-edited versions, mostly due to rampant typos.  And he keeps re-releasing better versions because he cares about how his finished products look and feel.  We want to write and edit for our whole lives.

In the age of internet self-publishing, editing is more important than ever.  It doesn't matter what you have to say, if you spell like a kindergartener, no one will take you seriously.

I am not happy with my own writing.  I may never be.  But I know that even if no one ever reads, or likes, what I write, the act of writing, the ability to keep coming back to the blank page over and over, the ability to keep fishing valuable insights out of my own navel, is making me a better person.  Every time I write of these posts I like myself a little bit better.

Bless you for reading.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Old St. Nik, Part 12

Margaret was confused, but this was not the strangest thing she had ever seen, and she always kept her wits about her.  She heard the swords ringing over and over above her, and knew that no one would be watching her.  She slid out from under the covers, into the narrow gap between her bed and the wall.  She reached up to her nightstand, and grabbed the antique colored glass lamp, a cheap Tiffany knockoff, a beautiful gift from her loving grandmother.  She unplugged the cord, and removed the shade, grabbing the neck in her right hand, turning the heavy base into a club.  She thought of her grandmother, dead a year now, and let the love they shared fill her up inside.

"This is really disappointing," Aposose taunted Nik.  "I kept hearing all these terrible tales of great battles you've fought, not just from you, but from the other demons as well, and you're giving me nothing here!  What happened to the big, brave saint?  What happened to the stalwart defender of children everywhere?  Are you getting old?  Do you need a time-out?"  Aposose stepped back, giving Nik room to breathe.  Nik stood still, panting.  He tried to come up with a strategy, but nothing came to him.  "Okay,"  said Aposose gleefully, 'time in," and lunged for Nik once again.    

Margaret, still crouched in her hiding place, watched the two men fight.  She tried to understand the idea that one of them was actually there to help her.  There had been women in her life, certainly, who had tried to help, most notably her grandmothers, but men, especially her father, had never been a source of anything but grief.  Her father did drugs, and did not care for his family.  He let bad people come into the house and left it to Margaret to defend the littler ones.  She did not know where her mother was, but she was sure that was her father's fault, too.  She thought of her father, sleeping downstairs, and let the hate she felt for him fill her up inside.

Nik tried to put up more of a fight, tried to care about the children, tried to find his faith again, and while he was able to strike a few blows here and there, this was by far the longest and hardest he had ever fought a demon, and he was old, and tired.  He remembered the hate he used to feel for demons, the fierce love he used to feel for the children, and the determination that his faith had always provided, but the memories produced only ghosts of feelings that were not strong enough to help him.  He felt his resolution to survive this fight fading, every blow he blocked knocking his soul loose from his body.  He called out loud: "God, I'm sorry I was rebellious and ungrateful and unloving, would You help me, please!"

Margaret heard the Santa Claus man praying, and her choice was made.  She was always the one to get up early Sunday morning, get the little ones ready, and march them all to the church up the street.  She knew the value of faith.  She knew how those times at church lifted her spirit, gave her something to look forward to, something to believe in.  She thought of her faith, burning a trail of warmth down her backbone, and let it fill her up inside.

Nik's prayer enraged Aposose, and without a taunt, without a word, he suddenly attacked Nik faster and harder than ever before.  Nik knew then that Aposose had been holding back, toying with him, and that there had never been any hope of him winning this fight.  The thought was oddly comforting.  By the time Aposose got him down on the floor at the end of Margaret's bed, with his head against the wall, Nik was ready to die.  "Goodbye, old friend," Aposose whispered.  Then, Aposose dropped his sword, and fell on Nik, his knees in Nik's chest, and wrapped his hands around Nik's throat.  Nik managed to roll sideways, knocking Aposose off his chest, but the demon still had a grip on his neck.  Aposose lay on his side with his back to her, but Nik looked up and saw Margaret crouched between the wall and the bed.  Their eyes met, and time slowed for both of them.

Margaret stood up, took two steps to the end of her bed, and brought the base of the lamp down on Aposose's head.  In slow motion, she saw the lamp hit it's mark.  She heard the cord whip over her head, and felt the metal prongs of the plug scratch her cheek.  She lifted the lamp and dumped it on the bed.  She watched as black sludge welled from the deep wound in Aposose's head.  She fell to her knees, and blood from her cheek dripped on Aposose's face.  It burned his flesh.  Nik pulled himself out of Aposose's limp grasp, and sat face to face with Margaret over his caved head.  He reached out and touched her cheek, where the scratches were quickly disappearing.  She began to cry.          

"Damnit, don't do that," Nik muttered.  "Why do they always do that?"

"Shut up!"  Margaret blubbered.  "I'll do what I want!"

Nik glared at her with grudging respect.  Then, he stood up, found his sword, and cut off Aposose's head. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Old St. Nik, Part 11

Nik tried to move lightly through the house, making no sound, but it was impossible.  The old wooden floors were cold and dry, and rubbed each other mercilessly, creaking loudly no matter where he stepped.  The door to Margaret's room was off its hinges, propped against the frame for a semblance of privacy.  Margaret, coffee-colored and peaceful, with perfect corkscrew curls splayed across the pillow, slept.  She had broad, clear features, and Nik imagined her smile was wide and welcoming.  He was so struck by her open, genuine beauty, that he almost didn't notice the demon standing next to the head of her bed. 

"You're slowing down, old man," said Aposose.  "I could have killed you a hundred times while you stood staring at the little girl.  I can't blame you, really.  This one is so special.  That's the reason why I came out tonight.  It was important for you to trust me for a long time, but now, this girl is more important.  I am so sorry to have to ruin our friendship this way.  Especially now that Abbess went and froze herself to death.  Stupid woman.  You have no one left now.  You best friend betrayed you; your helpmeet abandoned you; and surely after your little performance last night in the wind, your God will have turned His back on you."

Nik simply gaped.  He had no idea his angel friend had turned, and into the worst, most hideous, most difficult demon of all to fight.  A pride.  His best friend was a pride.  A beautiful, glowing, mighty angelic pride.  "When," he managed to croak.  "When did you turn?"

"Oh, ages ago!"  Aposose replied.  "Did you really think the whole host of heaven stopped talking to you all at once, or was it me they were avoiding?  If you weren't so stubbornly loyal, I would never have been able to poison you and your household so thoroughly and for so long.  And if you hadn't been so stubbornly angry and self-pitying, I would never have been able to turn Abbess away from you.  She paid for her selfishness, but if you could have brought yourself to touch her just once, she would never have left your side.  Do you know how old she was?  Two hundred and fifty-one.  Her love for you kept her alive far longer than any human should ever have lived.  She would have become a saint, and lived forever with you, if you had let yourself love her.  You killed her, Nik, as surely as I am going to kill you."

Margaret came awake gradually, to the sound of two strange men talking over her.  She stayed very still.  Usually, the drug addicts, dealers, and other shady characters her father brought into the house stayed downstairs, and she kept her brothers and sisters away upstairs.  This was remarkable, in her eleven-and-a-half years, Margaret had never had to deal with bad men in her own room before.  She was scared, but she realized she was ready.  She stayed put, waiting for one of them to make a move.

Nik's brain was like sludge.  His whole world turned upside down, he tried to think through the pain, and knew two things: God had not abandoned him, and he was dumb as a brick.  There was no point in hiding it anymore: "I am really stupid," Nik said, "I really should have seen this coming."

"Well," said Aposose, "it's not like a pride demon changes physically, just spiritually.  All the better to deceive you with half-truths.  I have chosen to represent the most respectable, the most well-regarded sin, don't you agree?  But enough about me.  It's you we're her to get rid of."  Aposose raised his sword, and charged Nik.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I didn't want a trophy.

Sometimes, when my friend B and I work the same shift, I drive her home.  After that, I take a different route home than usual, and one night, on that less-familiar route, tragedy struck.  I hit and killed an armadillo.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I won't kill my babies.

I don't remember who said this, or exactly what they said, but they were a writer, and they were talking about the editing process.  The gist of it was that sometimes, in order to serve the whole of the piece, some really good stuff has to be cut.  And that it would feel like killing your babies.

Now, I'm all for hyperbole, but whoever wrote about this did so before Twitter.  Now, when I can't fit a good joke into a blog post, or I come up with a joke that I can't write a blog post around, I still have a forum.  A reasonable, bloodless forum.  Except for the pictures of penises.  And the political vitriol.  Well, it's a forum, at any rate.

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