Category Archives: writing problems

Blame it on Hugh Jackman

Might as well, right?

I am anxious to see The Greatest Showman, I have it on preorder at itunes as I missed it hereabouts. This means that once or twice a week I go to youtube and look to see if there’s anything new there about the movie. I think I’ve watched every Greatest Showman related piece and read about the ticket numbers, etc. at least twice.

Okay. I’m a fan. Not necessary of movies or Hugh Jackman, but I’m that type of person. I was a sf book dealer for 20 years, right? And looking for something new while you wait for a movie to show up isn’t being obnoxious? I haven’t written 1,000 emails or tried to get all my friends to see the movie or, or, or… believe me, after 20 years of being an sf book dealer, I saw fandom at its best — and worst.

So, what am I blaming the talented Mr. Jackman for? Those songs. He didn’t write them. I know. It isn’t that. It’s what those songs have done.

I’d decided to kill the memoir, remember? After 10+ years of working on the thing, picking my wounds open again and again – to try and make it both true to my story AND entertaining without turning it into a novel was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it. I’d work on the memoir until I’d start to cry and couldn’t stop. Or, another way: it’s the roadmap to my personal hell. Whether the writing is any good. Even if the story, as such, falls apart and it’s a dead bore. It is STILL, for me, the map to and through my particular hell.

I was going to let it die. I’m over 60. I fought that battle for 50+ years, so why do I need to bleed in public? I don’t.

Except those stupid songs won’t get out of my head. And they’ve got me believing, again, that maybe I can actually do the job: tell the story and make it entertaining, or at least not a dead bore. Maybe. Or, that someone might actually be interested. Maybe.

And so, today, and other days, I’ve been going down that particular path to hell. Again.

And THAT I blame Mr. Jackman for. It may not be a bad thing, but it sure isn’t easy. I keep hoping the movie will show up on itunes so I can just WATCH the silly thing and maybe, just maybe, I can dig up the grave and bury the memoir, for good this time.

Or, I suppose the movie could just make this much worse and I’ll have to actually FINISH the stupid thing and let it go into the world.

I’ll get flamed, I know. I’ll get (again) told I’m a wimp. (I know.) I’ll get told, one more time — or several — that I should just GET OVER IT or GIVE IT TO GOD!

Yes, I know.




I have Desha Peacock’s decorating book. I just missed seeing her at a bookstore event. Found out about it the week following. Anyway, I was intrigued and I bought the book: Create the Style You Crave on a Budget You Can Afford.

Off and on I’ve dipped into it. Most of it seems to be articles about hip bloggers, which doesn’t interest me much. I don’t care about their blogs, their lives or how popular they are. Many of them, because they are on average 20-30 years younger than I am, are talking about things I already know to save money: the dump’s swap shop, upcycle, antique stores, flea markets, swap, etc. I do all that and have. So, a half a dozen times I’ve resolved to get rid of the book, donate or sell it.

I’d gotten there this morning, again, and found one of her “quizzes” which are supposed to help you figure out your “sweet spot.” I write in books I buy for information, and had various notes in this one about colors, but nothing else. But today? Today I wrote this about a “mood board” (I’ve never managed to make a mood board, or creative board, or whatever work. I’ve tried!)

“Seriously? Decide to feel a certain way and you make that in a room?


Fat chance!!!

Part of this was “Ask yourself these questions:. . . (My pencilled notes are in boldface.)

How do I want to feel in this room? How do I want my family to feel and others who visit?” My comment here was: How the F do I know? Never thought I could control how I feel in a room. Rooms victimize you.

“What colors would I like to see in this room? How much of this color or colors can I envisage?” No envisaging. NO visualization. None. Forget it!

I feel a little like I did when I discovered I’d been traumatized by knitting. My lack of visualization was deliberate, once. I decided I had to do that because thinking in pictures yanked me around emotionally, and my emotions made me crazy.

Of course, that was almost 40 years ago, but I’ve discovered that flipping the switch I did, from thinking in pictures to thinking in words isn’t easy to do, or to undo.


desha peacock book

I’m not sure how to fix this. I like our new living room, mostly. I learned a lot doing it. But other than having an idea about how I want to combine colors in the house, spending as little as possible, and getting DH’s overall approval, I have no idea about what to do or how. I only know the next piece usually, if that.

The living room’s paint needs touch up and to be cleaned up in some areas. I want to take a strip out of one room to make a hallway, so I have a wall with a large bookcase. Aside from that? I have no next steps.

The back roof has to happen this year no matter what, and much of the available money will go to that. After that? I have no idea.

It annoys me that this is seemingly so simple for some people and so difficult for me. I know why I did what I did. It was necessary, when I was 20, but it isn’t necessary now and it makes my life difficult in all sorts of ways.

I can’t write fiction. I can’t plan craft projects without doing a “sketch” because when I imagine a finished project, it never turns out that way, etc. Not being able to imagine what something might look like is a total PITA!

I Wish…

  • I had heart-warming stories to tell about my family, or
  • Warm, funny, ironic stories about the holidays, or
  • Charming things I’d made, for sale, or just owned.

I don’t have any of that, well maybe the last one. I have some wonderful things I’ve bought.

I don’t know how to do emotions in words. It has just occurred to me that the reason I’m afraid, yes afraid, of writing the middle of any story now is the “rising action,” that is, the emotional start of the tension that makes the plot and thereby a story.

I know all too well how to express my own, but my life has also taught me that I don’t do emotion from the same perspective others do. I read Nora Roberts or other romance authors and frequently my reaction to the complications which heap upon the hero is to think  –“Run!” And, of course the characters don’t. Partly because if they do, there will be no story. But partly because that isn’t really an option people, most people, entertain and also partly because “regular” people just don’t get overwhelmed as quickly as I do.

More, also, there’s the thing about if I put *my* emotions in it? My default/brainwashed brain says: “No one will read it!”

Goodie. Another wall to break down — just what I wanted!




Memoir Work

One sensible suggestion made by an editor friend was that I may have to simply retype the memoir to get a clean, uncorrupted file.

With that in mind, I retyped the front matter and chapter 1 this week, 10 pages total. It took me about 2 hours. The entire thing is about 90 pages total, which means, assuming that I type at approx. the same rate,  it will take me about 18 hours to retype the entire thing, or 16 more hours to finish it.

I expect the remainder will be faster than the first 10 pages because there are no title or half title pages, no dedication, no author’s word, just text and some illustrations. Call it 100 pages by the time I add a back cover and the illustrations inside. That’s still only 18 more hours, and it could save me an incredible amount of fighting with the vestiges of multiple edits, multiple sources, multiple computers and software.

Makes sense.

I was afraid that I would go through an emotional rollercoaster retyping the first chapter. But I will say that it’s an indication of how much I’ve healed  — that didn’t happen.

What pushed on me was the ever-growing  “in memoriam” list in the dedication. I’ve added two people in just the last six months. Mind, there is only one person in the dedication I don’t actually know, Paul McCartney.  He’s there for “Hey Jude,” as I couldn’t have written the thing if I’d jumped off that cliff long ago. I didn’t because of “Hey Jude,” so I think he belongs in the dedication. But, as I said, he’s the only person named there I haven’t met.

Hey, guess what world?

I can actually grow up at some point!

Having a career/life which isn’t based on being a wounded child is a new outlook for me. I’m a bit apprehensive and jazzed, as I think I should be.


Hiring a Writer and What I Learned

I hired someone I did not know. It had to be someone I did not know because I felt like all the people I did know were being “easy” on me. I needed a pro. I needed someone who wasn’t going to shred my emotions although shredding the writing, if that was required was okay, and I needed someone who absolutely got the book connection and understood the kind of writing I’d intended to do.

I was extremely lucky. I found someone. This person, like me, has been a technical writer. They’ve also edited anthologies. They’re also a science fiction person. I’ve never met them, didn’t know them and didn’t know they existed. The recent insanity about the Hugo awards (don’t get me started on it, please!) caused me to read a lot of people in the science fiction field and a lot of people out of it. Somehow, some way, through a link from a link from a post, I wound up at this person’s blog.

Educated, thoughtful, and the opinions were superbly expressed. I was *impressed*. Long ago and far away, I had an ambition as a technical writer. It was to make my writing so clear, so consistent that the reader forgot they were reading. I did that with this blog. Intrigued, I read more. I researched them on facebook and elsewhere. We have a few mutual friends, including some people who suffer no fools and have high standards. Huh. I’d never heard of or met this person. I haven’t met a lot of people. I haven’t heard of a lot of people, but this person and I share a chunk of FB friends where I would expect to have met or have heard about them, several times — and I hadn’t.

More research indicated they freelanced.  I’ve found an editor who will help me finish the memoir, the way I want it to be. I am both amazed and grateful!

I just realized that I promised something in the title and didn’t deliver it. What did I learn? I learned a few things. One, every now and then the universe is really, really good to you. Two, that I’d been beating myself up because I don’t write in a literary style. Years ago and miles away, that choice was deliberate. I’d forgotten that, and I’d just been at an academic conference. I’m not an academic, in fact I’m not highly educated — by choice. Writing doesn’t have to be literary/academic to be exceedingly good — go read some Mark Twain. And highly educated writing doesn’t have to be literary in style to be good either — go read a speech or two of Churchill’s! (My two writing gods.)

I’d forgotten that I love Twain and Churchill’s writing because although both men were superb writers, they didn’t need multisyllabic words, complex constructions, and obscure references to grab your heart out of your chest with their words. They did it with simple language, superb mastery and with an uncanny knowledge of human beings.

After that workshop and seeing my academic relative 3 times in the same two weeks, I got caught up, again, in the idea that I had to be “educated” and write “literarily.” I can’t. I hate that kind of writing, it is like pulling my teeth out through the back of my skull when I try.

So, I learned two things: 1) I really should avoid my family at almost all costs, although I won’t. and 2)A good editor is worth their weight in gold if you’re a writer. All writers need to be reminded of what they do well and what needs work. And a good editor can make that happen.

I May Have to Hire a Writer!

Which I find  odd, since, well you know?  I am a writer/editor.

But the backstory stuff, the part of the memoir that’s the lead-up to where it starts, all the junk: neglect, abuse, hormone insanity as a teenager, yada yada I have struggled with for a decade trying to write for someone who doesn’t know me.

It’s better, but it’s still bad.

I know this. Maybe my particular ring of hell (or that for writers?) is being the only person who can tell a story and knowing that you can’t tell it well enough.

I had a friend suggest putting it in 3rd person. Well, actually that solved a problem or two with the first chunk. But overall?  It made it worse. When I switched it back to first person, it is better. But I can’t keep writing and rewriting the same chapters from 3rd to 1st person, and who knows if doing that again would be helpful?

This is the stuff I’d struggle to write and quit when the tears wouldn’t stop. It’s inconvenient to say the least that the thing that traumatized me started so young. It makes telling my story really hard without explaining it, because the memoir is about dealing with it as an adult.  I was 19 where I start the piece. I sure am not Mozart or Beethoven to have accomplished lots of things by that age. What I had done was try to cope with chronic pain, and badly, so that I’d tried to commit suicide twice before I was 20.

Then I turned my life around, and that’s the story.

Maybe I should just rip the thing in 1/2. Instead of telling 40 years , with some (hopefully) funny stories between in 60 pages, I should just do the whole thing in bullet points. I could probably fit 40 years (without the funny stories) in about 2 pages, oh let’s be generous — 4.

I’d give up, but.

But? Two or three things. I don’t give up easily. I’ve got 10 years into this I started writing it in posts. We’ve invested in getting it edited (helpful and not) and 3 sessions at the writing workshop.

I love the new structure, my age at the time being talked about is in parenthesis.

(19) (backstory 1)

(19-20) (backstory 2)

(20+) (backstory 3)

(23+) Twenty three is when the whole thing shifts, again. I met the fellow I’m married to.

I had a huge problem with what to do after 25,when we got married. I’m in the same relationship. We’ve lived in the same place for some time. I had the same business for 10+ years, etc. Things got STABLE, mostly.

Stable is also boring btw? Nobody wants to read the story of what you had for breakfast, unless you’re important somehow. I’m not.

I had someone say they thought they knew what I wanted in my class. I expected this would be WAY off. But it wasn’t. What they said was, “You want vindication.” It was very unsettling to have someone I’d basically just met nail me so well, but they’re right.

I want people to see/understand how HARD it was to beat PTSD as much as I have, without consistent support from family, community, drugs, religion or the mental health field.

I want the people who really have PTSD  to know that someone else understands how hard it is and maybe with the drugs and help and understanding now, their journey doesn’t need to be as hard as mine was.

I want the people who get in a fender bender and say, “I had PTSD for 3 days!” to understand that they probably never had it at all, and be glad!

I want the people who told me I was crazy or who backed away from me or who dismissed what I was going through to understand a little.

I want the people who think I’m unstable because I talk about this stuff to understand why I think, no I know, I’m more stable than they are!

And yes, I’d like all those folks who over the years have told me to “Give it to God,” or “Grow up!” or “Just get over it,” to understand that when you have PTSD it isn’t a choice.


I thought of something, talked it over with my significant other, then we made a decision. Yes, I’ll write the memoir, get it edited, and formatted for an ereader, probably.

Yes, I’ll probably sell it myself and maybe through itunes.

No, I won’t go out and try to get a mainstream publisher to buy it.

I’m chicken!

It occurred to me that all the heel dragging I’ve been doing is not because I’m scared to write the memoir or even put it out there, but that I’m terrified of both the almost sure rejection I’ll get from the mainstream press and/or exposing myself to the general public. My significant other agrees with me.


So here’s the new plan: I finish the rewrite. Get the copy edit. Then get it all formatted up for an ereader or POD (publish on demand) and sell it that way.

Wrestling with the memoir, getting it ready to send out to God knows who, God knows where (and probably rejected several times) has been just AWFUL. But you know? I don’t have to do it that way.

I love print. It may pay the best (sometimes).  I don’t even own an ereader! But wtf — this gives me a way to do a trial balloon;  a way to see what kind of response I’ll get, without courting the almost sure rejections from the mainstream press. Epub or POD, either one, both? We’ll see!

I won’t be doing it this way because I don’t have a story to tell or  because I can’t write my way out of a paper bag and therefore it’s the only way I can get published. Nope. It will be because I choose to expose myself less, at least at first. If I sell 5 copies a year no one is going to get rich but that’s okay.

If it helps one person, that’s my goal. Just one, because then of course, you’ve changed the world, right?

If I didn’t believe small alterations can create large changes overall, I  couldn’t  have changed so much, I would have been overwhelmed, period. I would probably have become a druggie or alcoholic or something.

Direction is necessary. Energy is necessary and resilience is necessary. But hope, the belief that whatever you do can make a difference and result in meaningful change — that’s paramount.