Meticulous Anarchy, (revisited blog post)
I am attending a writers conference in Aug. and one of my workshops is about the pleasures, (and the pain), in writing. I brought back this blog post and expanded on it.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a writer. How insane it is and how painful it is. Sometimes there is pleasure, or even moments of quiet peaceful content when you’ve used up all the words that had been bouncing around in your head. On the whole though, it is an endeavor that never truly culminates, a journey that never ends, an impossible task set before you that you unconsciously know you can never fully accomplish. It is cliché, but I suppose apt to say, the destination is the journey. Purposeful voyage?
I was just outside and got distracted with a climbing vine I’m training over an archway. It is still fetal, small, its tentacles are soft and young and unruly. It hasn’t learned how to really climb upwards, it keeps getting confused and going back in on itself. I talk to it as I try to carefully extricate itself, from itself. Then I prudently wrap that arm up and in the direction I want it to go. It’s still a rowdy mess, but now it’s contained and traveling in the same direction. Controlled abandon?
As I was helping with the shoots that were splayed out into nowhere, searching for something to grab onto, I thought about myself and all my little parts; the tentacles of my personality and intellect and also my emotions. Rarely do my emotions get the best of me, rarely do I succumb to their nagging. I am a girl though, and sometimes, rarely, but sometimes I feel something much stronger than I think I should. Or my body reacts without any forewarning from my brain, and I start to cry.
This sucks by the way. It is embarrassing and seems weak. I am anything but weak. I am strong, and self-aware and sure, and in general, I am the one doing to others or ‘happening,’ to others and rarely is the converse true.
This week for me has been strange. I have writers block. I suddenly have ADD too, something I’ve never experienced before. I am the queen of focus. Not this week. This week has tumbled me this way and that, and I am still feeling as if it isn’t quite over. I feel as if I need to protect and go fetal. I don’t want too, I haven’t done that in years; but still, that is where I am right now.
My tentacles need help, I need to tuck them back in, unwind the ones that went the wrong way and get them going the right way, but what is the right way?
When my mind does this to me, I am always in an existential crisis. It happened to me over and over when I was on my horsemanship journey of good-better-best-never-let-it-rest. I would reach a new level of competence and suddenly think I had no business teaching others and I probably shouldn’t even have horses. It was an, oh shit, moment. It was the discovery that I’d been doing it wrong, and just now, all of a sudden, in that moment, I got it, and I understood all the, why’s, how’s, when’s and what’s.
I would beat myself up for days, reliving all the times I’d screwed up or even worse, taught it incorrectly. I knew I would forever do it correctly from then on, but there was nothing I could do about my past years of doing it wrong. Problem is, how do you say sorry to those you’ve taught, if you taught them wrong? It’s a tuff one for a teacher, and I am sure I am not the only one who’s taught others, that’s gone through this exact thing.
I definitely need some gardeners tape wrapped around a few stray limbs just to help me stay on track. Unfortunately, I am my own keeper, and I don’t know quite how to apply.
The good thing about horses is that they forgive and forget. They are in their moments, always will be, always are. It’s over, it’s done, let’s move on. It is so much harder when our big brains fire off random memories of past wrong doings, errors and mistakes we’ve made along the way, or have been inflicted upon us. So much harder to un-do, and then re-do. If I let this vine do whatever it wanted, and a year from now I went and tried to untangle and re-train it, I couldn’t. It would be set, it would be rigid and firm, and its soft delicate little tendrils would be hard and woody, unwieldy.
I don’t want my heart to be this way, I don’t want my soul to be hard, woody and unwieldy. So, I’ve allowed myself to open up and be honest and real, raw, truthful. The problem is that others are still responding to me like they do to all around them, as if we all lie about ourselves and we are never truly honest. I am not like that, I am not lying at all, and I am trying my darndest to be transparent, although I hate that word. I think the word naked, is better. My heart is undressed, my heart is open, my soul is exposed? I feel naked and exposed, all the time.
I said something to a writer friend. A young writer friend who is having a difficult time putting emotion into his work. I told him something interesting, and it really hit home for me as well. I said that emotions come from a place of experience. The good and the bad, they are all slowly uncovered and exposed over time. Then, after they are uncovered, after we feel them and experience them, and whatever trigger that happened for us to see them, we either embrace them, and begin to strive to feel them again, or we start to cover them back up, push them back down, bury them, go numb.
Then they turn into this raw place, a slightly callused place that gets rubbed once in a while, and re-exposed; disturbed enough to crack open and bleed or weep. It is from there that we find depth for our words, and it is from there that we must learn to live if we want to be good writers.
The problem however is this, not only does it require we have some life that we’ve left behind us; mistakes make for better stories, and playing it safe makes for a better nap than it does a tale. It also means that we must experience emotions; dwell in them, soak in them, marinate in them and find that elusive emotional and spiritual intelligence if we wish to impart all of this through our words. To live this way means we dwell in a place of angsty upheaval, controlled abandon, governed chaos, meticulous anarchy. Plain and simple, it’s a very uncomfortable place to live. It’s your softest parts being unwound and then redirected, all without breaking, all without pruning.
I feel as if the first part of my life involved a lot of pruning. Now though? Now is so much different. I can’t just discard parts that are unpleasant, I can’t chop them off and walk away like I did before. I don’t know why I can’t, but I just can’t. So I am trying to train all these parts of myself into some sort of coherent clutter of personality, and at the same time, I am attempting to put all of that into words, to create a visual so others might feel and understand what is happening inside themselves.
For me, writing is the most insane therapy I can imagine. I am everyone, I feel everything, I say all the lines, and I live all these lives. There is tremendous pleasure, caverns of pain, hilarity, surreality, fantasy, passion and validation. There is also so much crippling doubt that I often delay getting out of bed just so I don’t have to start. I live in a mental state of numerous conversations that I insist must sound real for the characters portrayed. I also insist that my characters be multiple note, and not all read the same.
I have no idea what I am doing. I am barely literate, selectively energetic, spiritually seeking, and constantly curious, and I often feel straight jacket, padded cell, insane. Writing is both my doctor, and my crazy escape from reality. I care that the execution make sense, but not too much sense. I want the reader to ask questions and to wonder about my characters. I strive to show, not tell, although I struggle with the fact I just want to fucking tell it!
When I get a passionate review that someone hates one of my characters, I dance with glee. Yay! I made them feel something, even if it’s detest; I love it that they felt something because of me. That is what I want, and even though I write in a fluff filled genre, I am really trying to add in some grit and reality. Authentic Fantasy?
I am a mass of contradictions, as I think most women are, most writers are. To be a writer is even worse because we are curious and open, or at least we should be. I feel as if I should be as green and tender as possible. Still not clinging to the trellis, but so deeply rooted I am confident in my voice. My emotional fitness, or lack there-of, is what I call, meticulous anarchy. I tend that garden with intimate care, never resting on my laurels when it comes to my spiritual, and emotional evolution and intelligence. This is the ultimate in meticulous anarchy –this is empathy not only for others, but for myself. This is sentient identity.
If I feel a brace in my spine, or a set in my jaw, I will worry my way through hours and days of contemplation. I don’t feel as if I should ever, make something happen. If it doesn’t flow, if it doesn’t come to me in the right timing, then it isn’t meant to be. That goes not only for the people in my life, but also my past or current careers, my stories and my characters. I should in other words never force the chaos to organize, I need to learn to ride it and be part of it, merge with it and embrace it. Flexible disarray?
I love being a mature child, but I detest childish, juvenile behavior. I’ve found a chasm of difference between childlike and childish. I ache for deep, spirit driven conversations where we can laugh at our own inconsistencies and obvious hypocrisy. I desire to grow and change and never be stagnant or boring. I am driven by a fear of mediocrity –to be average is an insult to me –to be called normal, even worse.
Balance in all things is the key to happiness, and happiness is a choice. Being a writer is the most unbalanced of endeavors, although I often find stability or impart it through my characters. When I go so deeply into a story that I don’t sleep or eat, and I spend hours upon days not only dwelling in that world, but also living with those imaginary friends, I am far from living a balanced existence –I’ve escaped and I can hardly carry on a normal conversation. I however find peace in that place, and a kind of sating of craves that everyday life can rarely offer. Chaotic equilibrium?
Meticulous anarchy, purposeful voyage, controlled abandon, authentic fantasy, flexible disarray, sentient identity, chaotic equilibrium. Fourteen words that carry a multitude of implications. Seven combined meanings that if accomplished, would make the author in question a divine being. It’s not possible to achieve all of these things in one short lifetime. It is possible to try, to aspire towards, to forgive ourselves when we ultimately fail, and to be happy when we achieve even a modicum of success. Sometimes giving up isn’t such a bad thing, sometimes breaking down isn’t so much a defeat as it is an opportunity to break open and become larger in spirit, heart and soul; and sometimes, not always, but sometimes, the best we can do is wrangle the chaos into a coherent mess of promise, and then put that into words.