On Missing the Boat and Learning to Swim

There’s a lot I want to say today, and I’m still figuring out how to say some of it, so I’m going to throw a bunch down and hope it makes sense. It’s Monday morning, there’s winter weather headed our way here in NY’s capitol region, and my to-do list is scribbled out on my paper mousepad, plum-hued fountain pen ink scrawled atop black gel pen, two round, fuzzy inkstains that show I’m still getting the hang of this fountain pen thing. Husband and Housemate are out of the house, Skye hugging the heater, and time for me to get on with my day. Some of what I want to get out of my head will, no doubt, end up in my free writing notebook. Two pages of that, as early as I can make it in the morning, every weekday, no excuse, no editing. I find that essential to getting my brain into gear.

Blogging is a close second. I want to be real here, and honest, and I want to -well, crud, what’s the word?- keep things suitable for public consumption. Sometimes, that can be a fine line, and as much as I’d like to know what’s going on in the minds of my readers  when they read the day’s offering, that’s not a realistic expectation. Once in a while, (okay, more than that) I am going to put my foot in my mouth. Not the easiest thing to accept, especially on days when I wear heels,  but part of the human, and writerly condition. Which is as good a place as any to make a segue.

I have missed a lot of boats. I am probably going to miss a lot more. Humans do that, and writers, with our teeming hordes of insecurity, are maybe more likely to do that than others. Maybe creative types on a broader spectrum, but I can only speak from where I am at present. I was twenty-three, newly married, and smack in the middle of an undiagnosed depressive episode when my first rejection letter arrived. The sample I sent had issues. Nothing happens, the editor said, as I still remember, all these years later, but it took me years to remember the other part of the letter. The good part. The “send us something else” part. I didn’t send anything else. Maybe today, I would have plopped myself down and written something else (the book where nothing happens was all I had at the time; I’ve written more since) but, barring my mastery of time travel (the art itself, not the time travel romance that I will figure out the right approach for at some point; writing Her Last First Kiss now, so others have to get in line) going back and changing that is not going to be an option.

There was the opportunity to write an American Revolution historical romance, and that is still something I want to do, but I got to a certain point, and I couldn’t. I’m not going to try and do a differential diagnosis here on that one, but I couldn’t, not that way, and not then. The book wasn’t true anymore (writers of fiction, you know what I mean here) and I was too ashamed to say anything. What was wrong with me? The waters closed over my head. Blub, blub, blub. No more bubbles on the surface.

The time travel, too, diluted by so many other voices that I could no longer hear the hero and heroine who had once been so clear that they flat out quit the story I’d originally planned for them and demanded to be in this one. Collaborations that didn’t pan out, but still have their places in my heart, but may or may not ever come to be, in any form. Miscarried stories by the dozens, and I love them all, still. There are times when “just keep swimming” (sorry, Dory) isn’t going to be enough. There are times when the arms are tired, legs feel like lead, there’s no sight of shore, and that life preserver? Actually a cannonball. These things will happen. Even so, we keep on going.

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ink in the water….

The title for this entry came to me this past Saturday, while I was at the Capitol Region Romance Writers meeting, watching the documentary, Love Between the Covers, which I highly recommend, no matter what your experience with the romance genre might be. I have never been so proud to  be associated with the women and men of this genre and this industry, all different and diverse, and yet united beneath the same umbrella.

The next day, hunkered inside due to insane wind chill, I cleaned and inked the vintage Mont Blanc I’d found in a box of my dad’s stuff a while back. I hadn’t known I’d need to clean out the old, dried ink before I could fill it with new (metaphor much?) but, thanks to N, I got the chance to do exactly that. Watching decades-old ink, activated by warm water, flow out, mesmerized me. Here were the remnants of my dad’s writing. Notes, most likely, businessy things, maybe some of his philosophical ramblings on yellow legal pads, interoffice memos, maybe a letter or greeting card or two. I didn’t expect the quiet wonder of that, the feeling that it is a changing of the guard for this pen.

It’s mine now. The ink inside is plum instead of black. I think this ink wants to go into those purple notebooks from my last video blog. but still not sure what the focus of those books will be. Or maybe that’s for my purple Pilot Varsity. Or maybe I need to stop being so precious about what ink goes where (but it bothers me to use the wrong ink, so that’s probably a tall order for right now.) but that’s okay, because I have time.

Tying this all together now, the jumbled mind, boats missed, inspiring movie and meeting, ink spiraling into water, hitting my stride for this phase of this book – it’s alchemy, sometimes. All I know to say right now is that yes, sometimes we will miss the boat. Yes, sometimes life will knock us down. Yes, sometimes it will then kick us in the gut (guys, feel free to substitute “n” for “g” before the “ut”) but this is when I haul out my favorite Japanese proverb: fall down five times, get up six.

Get up. As soon as you can, get up. Take a rest if you need it, and ask for help up if you need that, but get up. Pick up the pen. Sit down at the keyboard. Put something on the page or the screen. Because there will be another boat. If it doesn’t come to the dock, swim out to it. Do it tired. Do it scared. Do it hurt. Do it confused. Do it uninspired. Do it, and the rest will come.

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