Losing My Voice (and trying to find it)

I’ve always been a wordy person, in the written sense, anyway. Don’t ask me something unless you want ten times the answer you bargained for, plus all of the research to back it up. I love complex issues, and I’m a very opinionated person. Call me a woman. It’s been interesting, then, that I’ve felt very lost since I’ve decided to really try to pursue writing as a career. The first step was easy. I wrote a few articles and found a job that semi-pays the bills and lets me work on my writing (in one sense, at least, even if it is very dry.) The tough part for me has been what comes next. It’s like this huge door was opened and I’ve got the whole world in front of me, but I don’t even know where to step. Intimidation almost to the point of paralysis. Have any of you had this happen? How did you overcome it?

I’ve got a head full of ideas and I haven’t taken the first step in many of them. I started writing a novel, got about 30 pages in, then went back edited, then re-edited based on my mood du jour. Sometimes I think there’s another book I should be writing, something better or more my style (or mood) but I don’t know if it’s ok to have two books going on at the same time. Do any of you write more than one book at a time?

I think that one reason I’ve been so paralyzed is because I’ve gotten caught up in this idea “writing for others” or, er, this concept of writing for money ūüėČ I am trying to fill in gaps by thinking of articles that might sell, but between that and my side job, it takes up all my brainpower. Or maybe I’m just hiding behind articles because it’s easy and I don’t have to be too creative on my own. I’ve got a million excuses, but the truth is that I just haven’t gotten very far. What tricks do you use to get yourself writing more, for you?

I think I am going to use this blog for ramblings like this, but also for short pieces that I’ve been thinking about putting into book form. I worked for a long time at a non-profit with youth that spent a lot of time incarcerated. We taught them soft job skills such as being timely and working on a team, plus the necessities like filling out resumes and interviewing skills. I still work there part time as a mentor coordinator. I am always struck by how amazing these kids (young adults, really) are. I’ve always thought it’d be amazing to write a little on their lives, how much they’ve lived through and how dedicated and brave they truly are. The kid with tattoos on his face working at Jack-in-the-Box probably has one of the most amazing stories you’ve ever heard, but no one’s helping him tell it. I’ve struggled with wondering if this is exploitation, or a story that deserves to be told one way or another. Can I even do them justice by putting their lives in my words? By simplifying them into a series of shorts? I think I need to try.

Another idea that keeps tugging at me is writing a memoir of sorts. I live a funky sort of life. My family lives with another family in a cooperative living situation in the middle of San Diego. We have a small farm in the middle of the city, with goats and chickens and rabbits. Throw in a few dogs, some cats, turkeys, a parrot and a gaggle of kids and you kind of come close to who we are. When we embarked on this journey, we didn’t know how long it would last. We dove in head-first and it’s truly been a wonderful ride. We didn’t know we were essentially marrying another couple when we started this, but that’s really what it’s been like. Ups and downs and life altering moments that we’ve had to get through together, and it’s made us infinitely stronger. It’s been 4 years now, and I don’t think there’s an end in sight. But then I think, who would want to read all about my life and my anecdotes? This is what I need to get out of my head — I should write it for me and my community and not worry so much about who on earth would read it.

Here lies the problem. We say that we are writing for ourselves, but truth be told we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t writing for each other, too. I wouldn’t care to put it on my blog, I wouldn’t fret about where to start. I¬†do¬†care if you read it, and I care that you actually¬†like¬†it. How do we get around that?

Advertisements

Weeding Through Memories

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/daily-prompt-shake-it-up/

I am 33 years old, so my twelfth birthday was just over 20 years ago. I can’t even believe I’m saying that. My best friend and I were reflecting just today on how crazy it was to think that we’ve had certain things in our possession, things like tongs and pans and children for 6 years, 10 years, 15 years. Not so very long ago, this duration of time was unfathomable; a lifetime to my adolescent self.

I barely remember my twelfth birthday. Jim Morrison once wrote a poem that’s been one of my favorites since I stumbled across it in high school because it strikes me as true. A rock star’s truth and my truth, parallel universes and worlds apart:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As I look back over my life

I am struck by postcards

ruined snapshots

faded posters

of a time, I can’t recall

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So for my twelfth birthday, I have flashes of memories in my head that are somewhat confirmed by my mom’s old photo albums. I think it was a slumber party. I am pretty sure that I invited a bunch of girls that weren’t really my friends, simply because they were the cool girls and everyone who was anyone invited them to their parties. I remember one of them being a bitch – I hadn’t really wanted to invite her. She topped it off by throwing up all over my mom’s rug. In reality, it was insignificance followed by 20+ years of other mostly insignificant things, broken up by bits of truly significant and beautiful things.

I can’t believe I have an almost twelve year old child now. She soon will be planning her epic twelfth birthday party. Me? I’ll be there with my camera.

Screaming in Silence

Sometimes silence is all we have.

Too much is said in fleeting glances;

the almost whisper of your fingers on my skin.

A subtle innuendo of yearning,

unspoken.

Look into my eyes and read my secrets;

I want you to know.

Words dance within my soul,

forbidden or elusive.

Sometimes silence is all I have.

 

This is in response to the weekly writing challenge: The Sound of Silence. I really enjoy thinking around the daily and weekly prompts, so I will be posting more of them! I’m no poet, but this is what climbed into my head when I started thinking on this particular prompt and It’s been a long time since I’ve gone this route! Be kind to me =) Visit the link below if you want to visit the prompt.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/the-sound-of-silence/

 

 

Different Folks.

San Diego. A gorgeous place in a beautiful location. Many people think “beach” and “sun” and the pretty people that go along with these two things. They would be correct, to a point, but many people forget to think “city” and remember all of the things that come with this loaded word. I live in one of the poorer neighborhoods in the city. First, let me tell you a little about the poorer parts of San Diego — San Diego is comprised of a couple. One of the poorer parts, the part that I lived in for a long time, consists of a slew of refugees from many parts of the world. The old immigrants are from Vietnam, but many that have moved here recently are from various parts of Africa and some of the Middle East. It’s poor because the people are not educated in American ways and are learning them. It’s poor because they are competing for low-paying American jobs. But that part of town is so rich in culture. It’s got the best food in San Diego, hands down. The families are intact, and they are here because they are trying to make a better life for their kids. Many immigrants are extremely driven and well-educated — that’s how they ended up here in the first place. It’s financially poor. That part of town gets recognized a lot. They get more city money, more grants, and more volunteers to try and help the refugees establish themselves and make a life here. It’s good, they need it.

Now, the part of town I live in is different. I moved here about 4 years ago. This part of town is often overlooked in so many ways. I lived in San Diego for a decade before I even knew it existed, and many people I talk to don’t know where, exactly, it is when I mention it. I live in what is known as Southeast San Diego. This part of San Diego has been poor for generations. It is impoverished in a way that is so deeply etched into the souls of the people here that many of them don’t know how to live life any differently. College has never been an option. Many of the youth are in gangs, but so are their fathers and their grandfathers. Most families are not intact in this part of the city. The schools have the lowest ratings in town and there are no volunteers lining up here to help tutor them. It hurts my heart a little bit to write it this way, but it’s true.

We moved here on purpose because we knew it was a tougher part of town, with the intent of pouring our lives into the community. Can I tell you a little secret? I love it here. I love the people so much. I’ve learned so much from my neighbors and the people I work with, and we’ve been so amazingly blessed in this neighborhood. There is a different kind of family going on here, one that is only found when people have nothing but each other. Our house is always full of random people, and I wouldn’t trade this spot for the world.

What kind of people live where I live? Financially poor, generationally impoverished, gang involved people. People with tough backgrounds and tougher lives looking forward. Real people. Strong people. Some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/daily-prompt-west-end-girls/

1000 words

This is a number I heard recently. I am not sure it’s true, but it seems like a good starting place. Someone told me that you need to write at least a thousand words to get anywhere in writing. The first 500 words are kind of obsolete — just greasing up your engines, so to speak. Have you noticed this to be true? I have. I think the hardest part is actually getting motivated to sit down and start somewhere. Once you get the words going, the rest comes easier. It’s all of the “oooh’s” and “aaaah’s” and anxiety about where to begin or where to go, or where to pick up and which direction to take it.

Here is another tip/interesting thought an instructor gave me recently: according to him, his first novel took only a couple of months to write while his latest novel has taken over 8 years. He attributes it to the word processor. He says that when he wrote his first novel on a typewriter, you couldn’t go back and edit (and re-edit, and re-re-edit) the work so easily. This helped to only move forward and not look back. He recommends turning the screen off and blind typing if you can, or even just putting pen to paper (gasp!) I think this tactic could work wonders. What about you? Any tricks of the trade?

On another note, I got two rejections yesterday. I haven’t submitted much, but these were the only two fiction pieces I’ve tried to get anywhere. It’s good for me, I am in a good place to take it in stride and keep trying to write better. I’d like more short fiction outlets, to read and submit. I will try to find some in the next week or two and post. I know I said that before and I haven’t gotten anywhere, but I swear I will one day soon. Post here if you’ve got any!

Momentum

So, I am pretty all over the place when it comes to work, in general, and what I want to do with my life. It’s really difficult to put my aspirations and life goals in a single box and label it. I can’t imagine working at the same job with the same people for a hundred years before retiring and dying. My life is just not about that. I know some people thrive on that, but it honestly freaks me out. I think that’s a big reason I am so drawn to writing.

When I chose to embark on this journey, I knew I couldn’t put myself in a box. I write web copy on one hand, and some days I am really good with that. I love researching and creating a logical flow to these articles. Other days, I never fully wake up from my dreams and I pour my time into living in someone else’s head, telling the story of some made-up character. Sometimes, I am so convicted by something happening in my neighborhood or the world-at-large that I have to rant about it on my other blog. Recently, I decided that I was going to start submitting these outpourings of things in my head to various outlets and see what would happen. Realistically, if I want to keep doing this I need to somehow make some money — my¬†husband will only give me so much leeway.

Well, a couple of days ago I got my first acceptance! My article will be published in our local news magazine. I know it’s not that big of a deal for some of you, but it was just the nudge forward that I needed to keep going with this. I needed this small pat on my back to let me know that somewhere out there, this is possible. Don’t laugh, but real published writers have always been like movie stars to me. Something awe-inspiring and unachievable.

I love that I can write something different everyday, depending on my mood. I am submitting essays, flash fiction, travel stories, neighborhood news, and working on my novel. I think I might start another novel that I can write simultaneously, on a completely different subject. I think I’ve finally found my niche, something that can keep me occupied no matter which direction I happen to be going on a particular day. I just need to find enough outlets! If you have suggestions for open submissions or queries, post them here. I’ll post what I find, too, and maybe we can help each other.