How Do You Feel? By Shan Jeniah Burton

I‘m going to start this inspirational post with a video. Those who know me probably won’t be surprised to see that it’s a Star Trek clip. If you’re not into that kind of thing, don’t worry. You don’t need to watch it; I’ll give a summary after the fact, so you don’t miss the pertinent details.

I can still remember the first time I saw this scene, and how potent it was to me. There’s Spock, katra and body finally more or less reunited, clearly at the end of a marathon of Vulcan retraining, mastering every question put to him by three rapid-fire computer screens with ease and agility, until –

How do you feel?” ask all three computer monitors, at once. 

And Spock becomes immobile, unable, at first, to form any response at all, and then, hesitantly, after a repetition or two, he answers, simply and truthfully, “I do not understand the question.”

At which point his human mother walks in, and informs him that the computers know his dirty little half-human secret, and no amount of Vulcan mind retraining can prepare him for the emotions that go with that Terran DNA he got from her (yes, I’m paraphrasing.). And then she goes on to tell him that emotions are inevitable.

Even if Spock doesn’t know how he feels, he is going to feel. Until he learns to identify and cope with his evolving emotional state, his learning will be incomplete. His mother and the computer diagnostics are preparing him for his re-entry into the world of human emotion – the kind that tends to defy even Vulcan logic. 

By the resolution of the movie, when Spock asks his Vulcan father to tell his human mother that he ‘feels fine’, we see that he has come to some level of peace with the emotional realities of his existence.

You might be asking yourself, by now, if this really is a ROW80 sponsor post. Don’t worry; you’ve come to the right spot.

I’ve been asking myself Spock’s perplexing test question frequently this month, and I expect I will keep on asking. July is tricky for me. Births and deaths come close together, and span a good deal of the month.

How do I feel?

Last week, my daughter had a birthday. It was a lovely day. We’re car-sharing with my Accomplice, and, while dropping him off at work, we decided to walk a little ways to a thrift shop we’d passed. That led to a walk to the bank to break a bill too large for a small business, and to my daughter finding money on the street, then to a used bookstore.

We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, came home with some new treasures, and laughed a lot. It was happy, fun, and fulfilling, to have that time just with her, to celebrate her growing up, and the way the curtain is slowly peeling away to reveal traces of the woman she’ll be, in another few years.

A few hours later, I was crying. Not tears of joy, or even sadness at the fact that she’s not little anymore – honestly, while I love little children, these big ones are amazing, and I don’t want to go backwards in time.

I was crying for the child I gave birth to, and who never had the chance to grow up, cry, nurse, or even leave the NICU of the hospital where he was born. I was crying for him, and for myself, because today – Monday, July 13 – might have been his twelfth birthday – but instead, he lived only twelve days, the majority of that in a coma.

How do I feel?

It shifts. I suppose that’s always true, for all of us, but, in this month of highs and lows, it’s more noticeable to me. 

How I feel matters. It matters in the way I approach my day, how much energy and focus I have to give to anything, whether writing or not, my level of tolerance for change and frustration – even what projects I’m emotionally able to work on. 

Certain things are too triggering this month, and, because I live with people and can’t just crawl under my covers and hide with my grief, I tend to avoid them until I feel I’m on more stable emotional footing.

It matters, too, in my fiction. There’s deep value in paying attention to our characters’ emotions – so often, they drive motivations, introduce conflict or resolution, make the reader care about some characters, while wanting others to get just what they deserve…

And they add texture, depth, and breadth to the story. Emotions can be the blood in the veins and the breath in the lungs that makes characters more than paper dolls the writer is playing with…like theVelveteen Rabbit, they become Real when they feel…

So, this round, my round of reflection, I’ll be asking myself, often, “How do you feel?”

And I’ll use the answers to become a better, truer writer.

There’s no trick involved, other than being pressent and open to your own emotional state. You can do it, too.

So, now, once again, I ask you –

“How do you feel?”

~*~

Shan Jeniah Burton

 

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

One month closer to fall!  Whee!  Lots of folks have kids that will be going back to school sometime this month and something approaching a normal routine coming back.  I know I can’t wait!  How are you doing on your goals?

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Finding Your Passion by Cindy Scott

What do you want to do? It’s a very open-ended question. Do you mean right now? Or next week? Next year? Something that involves writing maybe? Give me something to work with here. No? Okay, I guess I can’t make this intro write itself. What do I want to do? Find my passion. I decided to be a sponsor for this Round of A Round of Words in 80 Days because I want to be able to inspire others to find their passion, as I was inspired to do. Right now I want your attention for the duration of this post. Hear me out, Dear Readers, it will be worth it!

How many times have you said you wanted to write a novel or publish said novel (or anything)? I know there were a good many times that I tried to write, but would lose interest with what I was doing or just get busy. It wasn’t until later that I realized I wasn’t inspired and lacked passion. I was doing the things that I enjoyed, but I didn’t realize what I really wanted. It can be really easy to lose sight of dreams if you don’t know what it is you want.

So, how did I find it?

It started with one person. Me! It started with me, because I chose to take a path and that path came via my friend Vickie. Maybe it during some of those late night Facebook chats about wanting to be a writer? She saw something, I think. She sent me a book and told me to read it. Thinking maybe it could help, she told me to give it a read and see if it could help me figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I am not one for self-help books, but I took this little 100 page e-book. It was a story of a writer/artist and how he had learned that the secret (one of many to come) to finding your (his) passion was easy.

He found out what was standing in his way.

 

“If you really want to do something, no one can stop you. But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.” 

 

Those words, they hit me pretty hard, truthfully, because I suddenly knew what was missing and standing in my way. ME!  There was a period where I tried figure it out what it was. It was me and my missing passion. Sometime later I started my blog. I had also just finish directing a show and the post show crash was hitting my hard and I need something (think therapeutic). Here I started to write…

Something else, when someone tells you that they believe in you, it makes you feel good, right? The person who gave me the book said it; the author of that book also said it. Suddenly I started to believe it. I could be a writer. I am a writer.

 

“Live deliberately. Decide: are you the kind of person things happen to, or the kind of person who makes things happen?”

 

That author, James Owen, said a lot of things in that little book, Drawing Out the Dragons. Then I realized I wanted to be that person. I wanted to live and to write deliberately. When you see it, you want it, and thus you need to good for it. Don’t let the little voices stop you, especially if those voices come from you stop you. I think I spent too much time listening to those voices; those little what-ifs are nasty little creatures. Powerful too!

Do you want it? I know I do.

It’s not always easy. It’s a battle. Sometimes you will find obstacles and speed bumps. Some days you may not want to write a single word and that’s okay. You want to know why? Because some days are not going to yield a high word count, or your muse goes on vacation, or sometimes you haven’t decided what you want yet. And you know what, that’s okay too! There really is no set plan to when you do anything. It’s just when you decide to do it, you just do it.

James had plenty of those days. Me too. But you know what?

 

“Sometimes a catastrophe is simply a course correction.” 

 

Even when there are those days when the worst happens, the catastrophe, you can still say, “I didn’t write today. It was a bad day, but tomorrow I will write.” That’s right! Every day is new and a blank canvas to create a new poem, a new story, a new painting, whatever you choose. I have had many a false start, a dead end, and half fulfilled promises. But, since finding my passion, I try to live deliberately. And it works! That catastrophe is often when the good rises from the bad. That course correction sometimes allows you to meet a publisher in your favourite coffee shop and strike up a conversation, meet your soul mate, or maybe inspiration for the novel that has been dancing around your head for forever.

Also, it is never too late. NEVER!

See, I wrote my first poem when I was about sevenish. I don’t have that poem anymore, but later in 8th grade I wrote two poems for a class project. From there I wrote in high school and college. I did spend plenty of time not writing, but that is okay too. I found out things about myself, made mistakes, and got a little dirty in the process. I then tried new things, like writing for the college paper for one semester and wrote my first one act play in 2011. I made choices. Sometimes they weren’t the right ones, but they did make me into who I am. And eventually I found my passion.

If I can give you any advise, Dear Readers, it is this: choose to live with a purpose, find your passion and go for it. It might take some time, but the key is, don’t give up. James didn’t. I didn’t either.

Finally I leave you with some words…I believe in you.

~*~

Cindy Scott

Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

I’m melting!  I’m melting!  That’s what it feels like anyway.  We have definitely hit the dog days of summer, when the only thing I’m fit to do is consume copious amounts of homemade frozen concoctions.  But gotta fit those words in!

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Ars Longa by Elizabeth Mitchell

That lyf so short,

the craft so long to learne,

Th’ assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge.

The Parliament of Fowls 1. Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343-1400).

Chaucer is paraphrasing Hippocrates, taken most likely from Seneca’s Latin rendering, “Ars longa, vita brevis,” in De Brevitate Vitae sect. 1. (Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, edited by Elizabeth Knowles. 5th edition, Oxford University Press, 2001).

One misunderstanding I hear many people voice is if one can get enough words on the page, one can write a novel.  Often those same people point to Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants as a NaNo novel, as if it sprang in galley proof off her computer screen on November 30th.  I do not know Sara Gruen, but I do not believe she e-mailed the draft to an agent on December 1st. However, I continue to meet far too many people who think their first draft is their last draft, although humans have known since the time of Hippocrates (circa 460-357 BCE) that art is difficult to master. Our own Beth Camp wrote this wonderfulpost about her multiple drafts this past winter, and Julie Rowe has this post on the focuses of the seven to eight separate drafts in her revision process. Yes, that is not a typo: seven to eight drafts. Therefore, I hate to disappoint, but writing 50,000 words in a month, or even a year, does not mean one has a ready-to-publish novel at the end of composition.

So, am I counseling giving up?  Not at all. I do counsel being realistic, in that any piece of writing will take learning, rewriting, more learning, more rewriting, in what will come to feel like an endless cycle worthy of one of Dante’s circles.

My other piece of advice comes from another clause of the quotation: “That lyf so short.” Start now. Life is short, and each year picks up velocity for me in some manner explicable only by science fiction. I have also had far too many object lessons on the fragility of life in the past two years. There is hard work to do, and eternity stretches before no one on earth.  My advice? Believe me, I am giving myself this advice as much as I am you, gentle reader. If you have a story to tell, start telling it, even if badly, even while learning to make it better, because time waits for no man, woman, or child.

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell