Monday, March 18, 2013

The True Story

     I’ve started work on a short story that I would like to have done by Easter. Last year I wrote and posted The Man with the Crown and I was very pleased with it. I love writing fiction, and of course when it turns out good, that’s even better. I used to plan out my stories. I would outline each key event that led to the conflict resolution. I don’t really do that anymore. I did a quick outline for my NaNoWriMo project. Since I would be attempting to write 50 thousand words in 30 days I felt I needed to know where the story was going. It may or may not have helped. Havoc’s Children got the word count in and then some.
     I don’t write outlines for most work now. I start at the beginning of the story and plow forward. I try to have well-developed characters and might write up a biography of them aside of my writing. The best times I have writing is when the characters are strong enough to navigate the story. I sit and type, barely knowing what comes next. To me, that’s as good as writing gets.
     I tend to have a little bit of a tough time writing beginnings. Hemmingway makes it sound so easy with “Just write one true sentence” as if that’s some kind of magic. It does work in my blog. But I can’t quite get it right in fiction yet. Endings however, I enjoy writing those and feel great doing them. I like to end with an abrupt, declarative sentence that encapsulates the theme of the story if I can. That can be a challenge, but the kind of challenge I enjoy.
     This short story for Easter, untitled still, is just a side project. The main thing I’m working on right now is my inventory for Celebrate Recovery. This is more than a challenge, it’s daunting, time consuming and exhausting. An honest spiritual inventory is part of the 12 steps in Celebrate Recovery. It’s a hard examination of one’s life and the events that have shaped it. It must be balanced with both good and bad. I need to include the people who affected me and hurt me. The last I left myself, I was only about 9 years old.
     Most people I’ve talked to have written their inventory as a list, like an outline of a story, which I don’t like doing. So I am writing mine as a story or a memoir. And here is where I ran into a problem. A solid rule of writing is to “show, not tell.” So I would write about an incident in my life. As is my style, I would have little or no description. I would say what happened using short sentences and I would not say the result of the incident. I would leave that up to the reader. Good writing, maybe. But I was missing the point of the inventory.
     When someone helped me realize this I went back and started to think about the effects of the events of my life. That’s when things turned difficult. Writing my life as if it were a fiction story was pleasant, even a little narcissistic. But then I had to drop to my hands and knees and examine the crud between the grout on the floor of my past.
The trouble isn’t about seeing failures; it’s about admitting that things really did matter to me. When I moved to Hawaii at age 8, the culture shock was too much for me to grasp. I tried to invite kids to church and ended up being picked on. I had to elaborate on how that made me feel. I had to stop writing and think about it. I had trusted that if I was working for God, inviting kids to church, then nothing could go wrong. In the end I was shocked and hurt, even feeling betrayed. The hurt came back a little when I wrote this down.
Sure I could objectively write about it. But it was a struggle to face the truth. The truth was it had an effect on who I was, yes, even who I am. I was/am not the über-cool dude, bulletproof, able to strut through any kind of torment and emerge unscathed. To put it simply: what happens to me affects me. I am influenced by things, capable of being manipulated, and can have my feelings hurt. I am not the pillar of strength I would like to see myself as.
The inventory is helping me with other things. I am seeing things that I will have to make amends for. (Another of the 12 steps.) And I can see where God has worked in my life. Most of the time it’s just been blessings I took for granted.
When I’m done with my spiritual inventory I have another writing project in mind. I want to write a memoir. I feel like I must do this inventory first though. It will be a rough first draft. If I ever wanted to publish something, this memoir could be it. I don’t know how long this inventory is going to take. It’s taking longer than I thought it would and in truth, they are never completely done.
I will see where in the year I am when I feel like the inventory is at a good place to stop writing and share it with my sponsor. Then I will decide what to do. It it’s real close to November, I’ve got my next NaNoWriMo project in mind. It’s a fun space-western, hopefully not to serious. And unlike the memoir, I know how it ends.

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