About Kittie

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Knowing yourself

Learning who you are is really a part of the process of becoming a writer. You can’t skip it. Knowing who you are as a writer takes trying things to find out. There is no wrong path to getting there — anonymous

Last week, I was talking to a friend — well, it was more the case of being interviewed by friend for a personal passion project of his — about the process of writing and being a writer. That was one of the subjects we discussed but not the main subject although the two are linked.

Anyway, it was great speaking to someone who is a fellow creative and interested in the writing process. I can’t remember the exact question he asked but it led me to make the remark that in the process of becoming a writer you end up learning who you are as a person.

It’s true. Every time you work on a writing project, or anything creative, you learn things about yourself — not in an epiphanous kind of way (though it could happen with other people, just not me), but in a slow burn kind of way that you don’t realize it’s happening until it’s staring at you, giving you a smart-ass smirk.

After I wrote The Raven Sonata, I came away with a more defined sense of what I wanted to do for the next story. No specifics, just certainties. I just wanted to become more ambitious with regards to story and character. I wanted to walk the path towards becoming a more complex storyteller.

In the process of writing the second novel, the more I learned about myself, the greater the clarity I had regarding the kinds of stories I wanted to write in the future.

It’s one part refining, one part clarifying and one part keeping the mind open to ideas that seem whimsical at the moment, but could gain the kind of traction you would want to take into the next writing project. It’s constant evolution. 

One of the interesting things about writing is learning about yourself. The characters you create, the world you want to build for them and the research you put in before and during the writing process reveal more to you about who you are. The process opens you up to embracing your true nature. This is more than just discovering you’re really good at playing beer pong or knitting slippers.

And another thing: your 9-to-5 job (or whatever your shift hours are) doesn’t define you. And I know there are folks out there who will disagree with me about that statement, but this is my opinion. Your passions define you. Everything outside of work is a greater determinant in defining who you are. The different passions/interests you have, reveal parts that create the whole that is you.

The time period where I was a horse owner and equestrian revealed a lot to me about the person I am. The good and the bad. And what I learned, I applied to the rest of my life more purposefully. Well, most of the time.

There were other interests I pursued between the equestrian life and the writing life. But they all revealed other aspects of my character.

Now, as a writer (I’ll never get used to referring to myself as an author), there is so much more clarity as to who I am because of the kinds of stories that interest me. In order to explore those stories, I have to embrace all the reasons I want to tell those stories. Some of those reasons speak to the true nature and complexity of my character.

In facing the true nature of your character, you accept who you really are. This isn’t a case of not liking what you see in the mirror and wanting to change it. This is different. This is the effortless acceptance of knowing who you are. This is embracing the fact your true nature doesn’t scare the shit out of you and it never will scare the shit out of you.

The people around you might have a different opinion about that but fuck ’em. You can’t live under their microscope.

I know who I am. Knowing that doesn’t scare me.

Crossroads

To slightly paraphrase Flannery O’Connor: The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His or her problem is to find that location.

I think I’ll always be at a crossroads as writer. I think that’s how it is when one finishes writing a book. Aside from getting the book ready to be published, the question will always be ‘what’s next?’

What is the next story worth telling? Is it going to come in the form of a novel or will be in another form like a screenplay? Who knows.

I’m pretty comfortable with that kind of crossroads. The more interesting crossroads are the ones that have nothing with telling stories. Well, not directly.

I spent the last week hanging with my best friend as I juggled with pulling the elements of getting the book ready to be published and trying to figure out my next moves once the books become tangible objects. I’m still figuring out the next moves. 

In trying to sort out the future, I was given the opportunity to revisit a part of the past that had been the most memorable and cherished time of my life. I can tell you it had nothing to do with a man. All my exes were necessary mistakes. But memorable and cherished? Yeah, right. Don’t make me laugh.

This time period involved a relationship with a creature who stole my heart the moment I laid eyes on him. He grounded me. I learned a lot about myself with him. He was everything to me. Everything had its place when he was alive.

I revisited a place yesterday afternoon where a lot of memories were made with him. I got to see others make memories with their creatures. I was asked if I missed what had taken up 12 years of my life. My response was not really. But I have my moments where I still desperately miss him.

Things made sense when he was alive.

But I was at crossroads at that time. A change was about to happen and that change didn’t include him as part of the future. I knew our paths would diverge and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I had accepted it but it didn’t mean it didn’t hurt like a fucking son of a bitch.

Ten years later, it feels like I’m heading towards another crossroads. Instead, of feeling like I’m being pulled along, it feels like I’m responsible for some energy that seems to be to leading me to the crossroads that I can’t see in the horizon yet.

Sure, they might be dreams and desires for something I want to taste and touch. But dreaming about something, wanting something is half the battle, right? You’re halfway there. It’s the other half that’s tricky.

More contemplating. Great. I guess I’ll be in contemplation mode for awhile.

Contemplating

Writing is more than a gift. It is a struggle that blesses those who see it through to the end — Nona Mae King

Even though I’ve finished writing the manuscript for my second novel and all the moving parts needed to turn it into a book are in play, I still don’t see myself as an author/novelist.

I’m fine with the word ‘writer.’ But ‘author’ and ‘novelist’ seem to carry a bit more weight and I hesitate to think of myself as having earned the right to describe myself as such.

I probably should wear the mantle of ‘author’ or ‘novelist’ more readily and without complaint considering I did complete two novels. To imagine the number of folks out there who have started writing a novel/story but never got around to finishing it for a variety of reasons, I should be proud of my achievements.

And I am proud of what I’ve done so far. As a storyteller, the second book will show the progression I’ve made from the first novel. My writing mentor has told me that my growth as a writer has been huge. I’m grateful for his comments especially when everything about the second book has been guided by research and instincts. I challenged myself on a number of levels. I’ll elaborate more on that later when the book comes out. But it’s always been my intent to push myself as a storyteller and the only way to do that is to challenge myself with the kinds of stories I want to write.

I have heard that once you write one book, the others that follow become easier. That may be correct in terms of knowing what needs to be done once the story is written. You know, all the post-production stuff (excuse the use of terminology that is more common with filmmaking) — the editing, determining the design of the book cover, where the book will be printed, etc. I’m speaking as a person who has done nothing but self-publish. Publishing houses and literary agents are foreign concepts I have not encountered yet. 

But when it comes to the actual writing of the novel or story, you do develop a better or more defined sense of how you want to map out and plan the story arc and the story arcs of your characters for the next book. But it doesn’t make telling the story any easier.

It’s kinda like when you workout. As you get stronger, the exercises and movements don’t get easier. They get harder because you know what you’re doing, you have your technique and you expect higher standards for yourself. You automatically set new goals for yourself.

The differences in approach between my first and second novels are not quite night and day but they sure as hell look that way. The story dictated my approach to each novel. Different stories, different needs, different approaches. I already know my approach for the third novel will be some sort of hybrid of the previous two with some options thrown in.

Yeah, I’m already thinking about a third novel when the second one hasn’t quite made its transition to book form. To be honest, the idea of laying the groundwork (let’s call it pre-production) for a third novel so quickly is a little surprising to me.

I dawdled and dicked around for almost two years before the premise of the second novel hit me full-throttle a over two years ago. Four years between books. I guess that’s normal for some folks. I don’t remember what I was doing exactly for two years after the first book came out. Again I was probably dicking around. But I know I was trying to figure out what the fuck I was going to write as my second book.

And it seems I won’t be dicking around for another couple years before the right story idea pops into my head. I’m quite pleased that I can gradually start working on the third book idea and then really start tackling the pre-production once the second book comes out.

I did have a story idea I was trying to develop before my boys charged into my psyche and demanded they be the second book. They were awfully persuasive. How could I resist.

That story idea is still on the board. I have a feeling it’s going to morph into something else but I haven’t figured what that will be. And no, this idea is not what I’m contemplating for the third novel. The set of characters are entirely different.

And I have a music playlist for the third novel already. Yeah, I know. What the fuck, right? There’s a certain aesthetic that’s been running around in my head for awhile since I finished the manuscript for the second novel and it’s reflected in the playlist.

The biggest question I need to answer is, can the aesthetic, that has been crawling around in the nook and crannies of my imagination, work in the story or do I borrow bits from it and create something new or different to suit the story and its characters? It’s a big-ass question that needs to be answered before any more pre-production can be done and before any writing can be done.

I think I know what the answer might be but it’s something I’ll need to bounce off my mentor. Maybe hash out a few ideas. He’s always good for that.

It should be interesting.