Organized chaos

Masochism is a valuable job skill Chuck Palahniuk 

Masochism isn’t just a valuable job skill. It’s valuable for life. 

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a masochist when it comes to things I do for fun or things I am passionate about. I might even consider myself a masochist when it comes to matters of the heart which is why being single will always seem to be the best option for me. But enough of that.

This past weekend, I participated in my first CrossFit competition. It was held at the box I go to and it was a friendly competition between two boxes. Even though there were prizes up for grabs, the whole intent of the competition was to have fun. 

Let’s be honest, I had fun. The movements in the WODS were not unfamiliar. But man, when you put certain movements together, something is bound to happen and your body will, at some point, bitch at you for all its worth.

There were three WODs – four if you managed to score well enough to make it to the finals. Thank god, I didn’t make the finals. I might be a masochist but my body is only willing to put up with so much. 

Out of the three WODs, the second WOD was the most taxing. It was pretty much a cardio-centred WOD. For those who love cardio, easy peasey. Although, I didn’t hear anyone say they loved that one all that much. That WOD burned. Every major muscle group burned. You could call it a full-body burn. I don’t ever remember my thighs burning the way they did after I was done. Throw me into a tub of ice, why don’t ya.

The third WOD was easier to move through because it was about muscular endurance. I tolerate that quite well. As I frequently tell/joke with my fellow CrossFitters, I ‘turtle’ my way through WODs. I just tell myself to keep moving regardless of how slow I may be going.

I won’t bore you with the specific movements that are associated with the WODs. All you need to know is that I’m kind of sore. 

But there is one very positive takeaway from doing the competition. My right shoulder survived the workouts. And judging by the muscle soreness, I engaged the proper muscles that protected and prevented the shoulder from going sideways on me.

That is huge. But that doesn’t mean I can get sloppy. I can’t get sloppy because it’s too easy to injure myself again and undo the work I’ve been slowly and diligently putting in.

Participating as an athlete in a competition isn’t the only example of masochism I willingly inflict upon myself.

Writing can be like that too. Yeah, I guess it can be painful. But I think it’s a necessary kind of pain. It’s not the kind of pain you back away from. It’s kind of pain that can be managed and be pleasurable depending where you are in the writing process. But I think you could say that about anything you’re passionate about.

It’s becoming quite clear to me that any sort of down time between major writing projects has me crawling out of my skin. I had mentioned in the last blog that I discovered an online community where I could examine ideas and concepts that I hadn’t really explored in my fiction writing yet. I get to play in my sandbox free from judgement, free to experiment, free to be curious. I get to do this while reminding myself why writing/storytelling is one of the things I love to do and need to do. And it will also be a reminder to me how much fun writing can be and should be despite the moments things don’t want to come together harmoniously. 

One of the things I worry about is, intentionally or unintentionally, losing or tamping down the passion and the fun that comes with creating stories.

Built into the process of creating something is the joy of discovering something about your characters and learning what makes them tick. Within that same process, you discover a lot about yourself – what makes you tick, what are the kinds of risks you’re willing to creatively take into order to tell a story the way it should be told.

I love discovering things about the characters I work with. I love discovering things about myself that had always, for one reason or another, had been lying dormant waiting for the right moment to awaken and roar with ferocity.

The masochistic part of writing is not the act of creating. The masochistic part is trying to juggle two or more projects and spend time at any given moment with any of these projects and keep the momentum with each one moving forward.

For whatever reason, I’m bound and determined to master this particular form of organized chaos.

So, here I am, with a nice little pile of projects to play with. And I couldn’t be happier.

Now, if I could only get my writing life and my actual life to live together in harmony. 

Embracing a need

The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on and suddenly it all makes sense. You get to feel like both the creator and the audienceNeil Gaiman

It seems I’m hellbent on creating a writing life that is far more creatively chaotic (and I mean that in a good way) than I could have ever imagined for myself.

As recently as last week’s blog, I talked about figuring out how to juggle two writing projects at the same time. I didn’t give a reason for wanting to be busy as a bee. I just figured I needed to start writing again. None of this taking time off to ponder my next move.

I was already pondering my next steps when I was finishing up the second book. 

The two projects are in their fledgling stages. WIP1 and WIP2 are in their conception/research phases.

And as of last Thursday, I’ve added another ongoing project/endeavour to my writing plate. I won’t even call this one WIP3 because of the beast it could potentially become.

I say ‘beast’ with zeal and affection. It is a beast I get to call my own. The beast will play with me and experiment with me in the sandbox. I’ll get to flex some creative muscles I haven’t flexed too often in my writing. The hope is that by playing with this beast, whatever I learn from it, it will be absorbed onto my other writing projects. Kind of a win-win situation.

You’re probably wondering why the hell would I throw myself into another writing endeavour. Would it be okay if my answer is “I’m a masochist”? 

I suppose I should say I’m following my heart. But I’m also following my instincts. I’m pursuing an opportunity to grow as a writer and storyteller. I think most importantly, I’m following a need to write, a need to create. The need is not one of those things that drills into you like a woodpecker making holes into a tree.

By the way, I actually saw one in action back in September when my best friends was in town. Fuck that pecking/tapping is loud. When I heard that bird strike the tree with its beak, all I could think about was the kind of massive headache you could get if you weren’t careful with that thing.

Anyway, the need doesn’t feel like something violently poking at you until you bleed or break a rib. Although some folks might like that feeling.

The need feels more like a gentle prod against your ribs and occasionally gives you a fervent, hungry hug. Then it decides to sink into your bones. It’s not there to cause you pain. It’s there to remind you that you are more than how people want to define you. You are more than what the physical world allows you to be. It’s there to remind you that your creative life is just as important than your work life and any other life you have.

More frequently than not, it’s more important, more urgent than all those other lives combined.

So yeah, I’m embracing this need. I’m operating via the phrase “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” To be honest, that’s phrase that been with me for my entire adult life. It hasn’t always been at the forefront of my life but sometimes it’s all there is.

Right now, it’s wrapped up in this need. It’s an incentive. It’s a reminder. But it’s never a lie, never a trick of mirrors. It is something that will never lie to me.

People will lie to me. Lies said out of selfishness, misunderstanding, misinformation, ignorance, envy, weakness, fear or cruelty. 

A need, especially a creative need, will never do that. I choose to follow that need. Nothing else matters.

Never ending journey

I don’t have many friends. It’s not because I’m a misanthrope. It’s because I’m reserved. I’m self-contained. I get all my adventures in my head when I’m writing my books Ian Rankin

Well, I surprised myself. Last Wednesday, I received an email from McNally Robinson Booksellers informing me that my book, Risk, made their weekly bestsellers list.

It showed up on the paperback fiction category in the #2 spot. I almost fell over. Not really but the sentiment was there. I had read the email on my phone when I arrived at work. I looked around and immediately told two of my co-workers by showing them the list that was included in the email.

I was shocked at the book’s placing and I’m still shocked now. It’s just weird. So, after I told my co-workers, I blurted it out onto my social media. And viaTwitter, that’s how more of my co-workers found out. It blew up on my personal Facebook page where a good numbers of folks happily freaked out with me.

Despite being absolutely floored by how well the book did the in its first week out, I’m thinking and pondering future projects that will challenge me.

I’ve been in touch with my mentor via email and he’s excited about the one of the things I want to tackle. Sometimes he’s too enthusiastic which kind of worries me because it makes me think he’s more aware of my potential than I am. I certainly hope I can meet the challenge.

When he returns from his travels, we’re going to get together over coffee and we’re going to hash out ideas and the joys and grief of this new endeavour has to offer. Makes writing a new novel way easier and more appealing.

This new endeavour is definitely going to challenge me. It might even scare me. But they say if something scares you, you should do it. And judging by my mentor’s enthusiasm, I might be more than a little nervous about this.

And yes, I’m back to being vague because that’s one of the things I do best.

But I have research to do which means I have to do some reading. Well, maybe a lot of reading. And that includes reading a 400+ page book before I meet up with my mentor again which is roughly four weeks away. Jesus Christ. Reading 100+ pages per week is doable, right? Although, if I’m making notes, it might make life interesting.

Of course, I’m going to mourn the fact that I’ll have to cut down my recreational reading. You don’t want to know what I’ve been reading. I’m addicted to it so withdrawal shouldn’t be bad if I wean myself carefully. If that doesn’t work, I’ll be functioning with minimal sleep. And I know my body can’t sustain that for any extended period of time.

Looks like I’ll be exercising my time management skills again which might make some folks think I’ve returned to being anti-social. Not anti-social. I just have way more fun and adventure with my imagination. That’s all.

So now, I take a step into the unknown with only my instincts and a couple of supportive friends/mentors to help me figure my way through the creative process again.

I’m beginning to think that the longer I do this, the more aware I become about the stories I want to tell. The more exacting I need to be to become the storyteller I’m pretty sure I can be.

It’s a never ending journey. But it’s a journey I will always happily take.