40 Reasons Why I Write

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Relatively recently, Bryan Hutchinson issued a challenge on his blog, Positive Writer – list 40 reasons why you write. You can see his answers here. When it came about, I was in the throws of Camp NaNoWriMo. As that is now complete, and I’m taking a small break from the novel so I can attack it again in July’s edition of Nano, I needed this challenge. It’s been difficult to stay motivated, because the hits just keep coming in both my personal and professional life. So, I’m going to take some time to remind myself why I write. I hope you find my answers either interesting or inspirational. Also, I am so incredibly late to this challenge.

  1. Writing keeps my brain busy. With my ADHD, my brain is always spinning anyway, so this gives it something to work on in the background.
  2. Stories haunt me, and I have to get them out.
  3. I have had a lot of trauma and strange events in my life, and I need an outlet.
  4. Sometimes, I like to live vicariously through my characters.
  5. Sometimes, I like to bury myself in my characters so I can forget life.
  6. My son looks up to me for creating whole stories all by myself, and there’s no beating that.
  7. Writing is a strong bond I share with my husband, as he is also an author.
  8. Writing is a strong bond I share with my sister-in-law. She is also an author.
  9. Writing has helped me make amazing friendships, some that are sure to be lifelong.
  10. I like how writing makes me feel, like I am weaving worlds from my imagination.
  11. The sense of accomplishment I feel when I finally get something right is amazing.
  12. Rewriting has taught me all about perseverance. Frustration, but perseverance.
  13. I like to read things I love over and over again, so this was probably a fitting career choice.
  14. I love to paint with words.
  15. I love to listen to music, and music always inspires me to paint with my words.
  16. Clever dialogue is all around me. What would I do if I didn’t jot some of it down and use it for my own benefit?
  17. My best friend has yoga. I have writing.
  18. The creative people on my journey with me are the best people.
  19. My characters tend to be stronger than I am. Or at least, than I was. These days, I seem to be taking a page from my own book. Writing has encouraged me to be stronger.
  20. I’ve had a lot of people tell me I won’t get anywhere in this business, or something is wrong with the core of a particular story, etc. I intend to prove them very wrong.
  21. When my anxiety disorder, my depression, my PTSD rears up, writing helps me cope.
  22. Because, as a woman, and as a woman with physical and mental health issues, my voice and my individual experiences deserve to be heard.
  23. I love reading so much, and I know how it feels to really connect with a character. I would love to be able to provide that for someone else.
  24. I’ve always loved playing with voice and word choice, seeing how different an outcome I can create just by finding a more exact bit of syntax.
  25. Writing often helps me to put feelings I’m dealing with into words, to tell truths through my characters that I can’t articulate properly in reality.
  26. I honestly don’t know what I would do with all the spare time I’d get if I didn’t write or plan to write.
  27. When I’m writing I can temporarily put off other, more important chores. But not the most important ones, of course. 😉
  28. I still believe in magic, and sometimes, writing feels like magic. Like when something inexplicably comes together, and it feels like destiny, that feels like magic. That is the rare moment where I become a believer.
  29. How else can I justify talking to the people who live in my brain?
  30. I’m stubborn and I’ve said I’m going to do it, so damn it, I’m going to do it.
  31. Some of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met write, so I hope some of that rubs off on me.
  32. Sometimes, I’m not all that adventurous, so I need an excuse to try new and interesting things. Research gives me that excuse.
  33. I was already a fact hoarder. This gives me a reason to hoard facts.
  34. I hate waste, and I feel like I have a lot of knowledge and random experiences that just kind of sit around in my brain and go to waste. I want to give them some use. Like my two years working at an ice cream shop. I’m using that in my latest book.
  35. There are tons of stories that I want to read, that I don’t find out there. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak. They say, if you want something done, do it yourself, right?
  36. I’m getting to a point where rejections mean almost nothing to me. I’m numb to rejection.
  37. Unless, they come with constructive criticism, at which point I am disappointed, but I have learned to love constructive criticism and view it as encouragement and help, rather than an insult. I think writing has helped to improve my personality in that way.
  38. I have also become able to tell the difference between constructive knowledgeable criticism and insults, being led astray, and jealous attacks designed to keep a person below them. That lesson has helped me in all areas of my life.
  39. I have a side gig as an editor, and I’ve always believed that, if you are going to manage people, you should be willing to get your hands dirty. If I won’t get my hands dirty with words, why should I tell other people to do so?
  40. I love to geek out. It’s my life’s mission to make other people geek out as much as I do.

So, there are my 40 reasons! Do you need to remind yourself why you love something? Share your reasons in the comments, and thank you for being one of the people I’ve encountered on this journey, the people I write for. Thank you for being one of my reasons. ❤

iTunes Shuffle Challenge, Part 2

Back in October, I did one version of the iTunes shuffle challenge, in which I listened to iTunes on shuffle and wrote a short blurb about what each song meant to me. This time around, I’m tackling the challenge differently. I’m going to shuffle the songs, and then, I’m going to write whatever it inspires in me, and only write for the length of the song.

I ended up using thirty songs. Ten of them triggered absolutely nothing. Ten of them came up with almost nothing, with a last minute nugget of an interesting line of dialogue. I haven’t included those. But ten of these, hopefully, have some substance to them. So, onto the challenge!


1) Place for My Head by Linkin Park, Album: Hybrid Theory

 

“I didn’t help you because I wanted to add another favor to my belt. Unlike you, I’ve never been keeping score,” I said.

“That’s only because you could never repay what you owe me.” He spoke through gritted teeth. “Besides, I don’t count forgiveness in bullets shot. You use your weapons carelessly. You’re bound to get everyone killed.”

2) Hollywood by the Cranberries, Album: To The Faithful Departed

I stared into the mirror and willed my reflection to change, my green eyes narrowing, accenting the recently developed indentations that would soon become crow’s feet. I huffed my frustration at the inanimate object, struggling to brush my wild auburn curls into submission and gather them with a coated rubber band that would probably survive one or two uses before it popped under the pressure of the battle. I smoothed makeup over my pale and freckled skin, tried to hide all redness. I accented my eyes and lips, my good features, my only ones. I tugged my clothes around my widened form, struggling to make them sit right, like they used to, but it was no use. I sucked in lumps, smoothed, yanked, and stretched fabric, but my body wasn’t what it used to be. My glory days were gone, or at least that was what every public image would like me to believe.

3) What I’ve Done by Linkin Park, Album: Minutes to Midnight

My eyes struggled to open, but I could hear things through the fog of my brain. A page turning. A bit of shuffling. I couldn’t understand it. I was asleep and there was someone there with me. I lived alone, but I couldn’t seem to peel my eyes open to see who it was. I was too weak. I drifted away again…

Finally, my eyes opened. I was looking around the room before I even realized I was awake. Sterile white surrounded me. I was covered in layers of stiff sheets, and I stared out at a white board with a smiley face and a few names written across it in red ink. And a sharps disposal container. A hospital room.

“Hey, you’re awake!”

I rolled over to see who had spoken and groaned in pain. My entire body ached.

4) Swallowed in the Sea by Coldplay, Album: X&Y

My heart stopped as she shimmered into existence, an ethereal presence from another world. Her face was so familiar, my heart hurt.

5) Mary Jane by Alanis Morissette, Album: Jagged Little Pill

I stared out at the street below my window, my eyes heavy-lidded from the hours of crying the night before. My eyes couldn’t seem to find the tears anymore, but my head felt heavy with them, and I could barely hold it up without resting it on my chin.

Out on the street, I saw our neighbors walking their dogs like they did every morning. The few children that lived on the city street headed off to school, shuffled along by harried professional parents with somewhere else they had to be after this, checking their watches and their cell phones as if they were ticking time bombs counting down to the end. As if being late to work were so important that they didn’t even notice the children in front of them.

I would have noticed.

I ran a hand over my stomach, already flattening, as my eyes found the tears they had been searching for.

6) Every Night by Imagine Dragons, Album: Night Visions

I trudged into the house, my bones aching from a night of battle and my soul drained from using my abilities so indiscriminately.

It was shockingly quiet. Quieter than I was expecting, with a new baby that was used to having her Mommy home with her. I made my way up the stairs and over to our room. The door was wide open, the light was on, and I found my brother standing in front of the door, a fond smile on his face.

“Did she give you guys any trouble?” I asked.

He didn’t say a word, just nodded toward the door.

7) I Will Buy You a New Life by Everclear, Album: So Much For The Afterglow

I stuffed the bills into my mother’s hand, roughly. “Pay the bills.” I pushed past her and made my way to where Marty lay, staring out the window into the sun, his eyes squinting slightly, as though they barely felt the burn.

I didn’t blame him anymore. At some point between my teenage years and now, I had grown to accept that something in my brother had snapped. He was not well. His brain had made him believe I was something I wasn’t, and he had acted out in violence against me.

Now, I blamed my mother. For not believing me, for blaming me, for refusing to get him help, for believing it would all just get better, like schizophrenia just disappears, like suddenly the world would get set right, and my little brother would wake up one morning with no voices, no paranoia, no hallucinations, no fear.

That day never came.

“Blink, Farty Marty. Your corneas will thank you.”

He looked away from the window and smiled.

8) In Between by Linkin Park, Album: Minutes to Midnight

The rain started slowly, but by the time she’d gotten out far enough into the woods, it pelted her, soaking into her jeans, beading on her jacket and filling her boots. Her feet slid in the mud as she moved, purposefully towards the only place she could go. Their spot.

When she got there, she almost couldn’t see through the deluge, her soaked hair hanging in her eyes, blocking her view. She squinted past raindrops to make sure she was truly seeing what was there.

He had destroyed it. It was gone.

“I wanted to tell you the other day,” he said, his voice suddenly over her shoulder, and she started.

Damn her for not paying attention. Damn him for following her out here so he could watch her find this.

9) Your Star by Evanescence, Album: The Open Door

His hands clenched and unclenched as he stood, facing the open land before him. I could practically hear his mind racing. I stepped forward, wrapping an arm around him and resting my chin on his shoulder. He leaned into the embrace, his head bumping mine.

“What if the world ends?” he asked. “What if my choices ruin everything? What if we can’t fix it?”

I tried for a smile. I was scared too, but I didn’t have the luxury of that right now. “Well, that would be unacceptable, my love. We’ll just have to rebuild it.”

10) Mr. Brightside by The Killers, Album:

“This is what I’ve been meant to do,” he explained to me, his eyes wide, his nervous energy practically leaping from him. “My purpose. I finally understand why I can do these things, what makes me special, and you want me to give that away?”

BONUS: Single by Natasha Bedingfield, Album: Unwritten

“What is the big deal about all of this anyway?” I asked, fed up with Val and all of her gushy love talk. Based on what I’d just been through, it was a struggle not to punch her in her smiling, glowing face. “You only get to be this happy for a limited time.”

Okay folks, that’s it. Leave feedback on these. What did you like? What didn’t you? Would you like to try this challenge? Definitely chat with me in the comments!

iTunes Shuffle Challenge, Part 1

Hi all,

Recently, I ran into two different iTunes Shuffle challenges that intrigued me. One was this one, in which you pick the first ten songs off your shuffle and write your first thoughts upon hearing it, but only for as long as it plays. Once it moves to the next song, so do you. I jumped into it full force, and I wanted to share the results with you, as I feel like it might give you a peek into my crazy mind. The second one will be the one I work on in my next blog post. We’ll talk more about that then.

Without further ado, here are the results of my iTunes Shuffle Challenge, Part 1.

Renegades by X Ambassadors, Album: VHS
Cover for X Ambassadors Album VHS

When I hear this song it makes me think of the artists in my life, of how odd we are, of how rare. When you’re young, it can be hard to see how happy your life can be, because odd means bad when you’re in school. You’re never allowed to explore that, unless you have a very special teacher, but even then, your peers are apt to shut you down. It isn’t until you get older that you can finally free yourself up to be comfortable in your own skin and to start being who you are. It took me until I was thirty to truly figure myself out, to openly embrace my geekiness, my artsiness, my open heart and different way of thinking from others, and just accept that as one of the things that make me who I am.

 

Slow me Down by Emmy Rossum, Album: Inside Out

Cover of Emmy Rossum's Album Inside OutThis song is so about me. My little sister, Megan, introduced me to it and I clung to it. “Sometimes I feel that I might disappear/in the blur of fast forward I falter again.” it never fails to remind me that sometimes I need to take a breath and stop racing through my life, trying to do more than I can handle.

 


Take On Me by A-Ha, Album: Hunting High and Low

Cover for A-Ha's Take on Me
This song has such odd memories associated with it. For one, I remember loving the video. Also, the bridal party of my best friend’s wedding did a whole semi-choreographed dance number to this song and it was a frickin’ blast. It didn’t even bother me that I was dancing while six months pregnant. I stand by the fact that the wedding was the best wedding I’d ever been to, even if the marriage didn’t end up working out. It was also one of the very few times I got my husband, Ismael, to dance with me. I think those times are: my wedding, my best friend’s engagement party, and that wedding. There may have been one or two others, but I can’t remember…

Counting Stars by OneRepublic, Album: Native

Album Cover for OneRepublic Native
This is one of the first songs I’ve ever heard where I never heard the song, bought the album because I love the band, and suddenly heard my favorite song from the album on the radio! It’s also one of my son, Logan’s, favorite songs, so we sing it often when we’re in the car.
“Hope is a four letter word,” might not be the best message for him, now that I think about it. But he loves the pace. It did give me the opportunity to explain metaphor to him. He didn’t understand why the singer says “everything that drowns me makes me want to fly”. So I explained that he actually means that everything that pulls him down makes him want to lift himself up. It was fun to discuss the idea that art isn’t literal and can be open to different interpretations. It was much earlier than he would learn it in school, and it was fun to give him that lesson.

The Entertainer by Billy Joel, Album: The Essential Billy Joel

Album Cover for The Essential Billy JoelThis is one of those songs that, for me, takes a minute to remember. I have this because I bought the album, and really barely remember it, which makes sense, since it came out in 1974, eight years before I was born. Still, after a longer listen, I did actually recognize it, and now I really love it, because the lyrics truly encompass what it’s like to work in the arts–any of them. I’ve been an actor and I’ve been an author, and really, it’s all a battle to stay relevant. Plus, it’s Billy Joel, and he’s just awesome.

Firework by Katy Perry, Album: Teenage Dream

Cover Art for Katy Perry's Firework
I love this song. Sure, it’s Katy Perry, and a little more pop than most of what I listen to, but I have a very eclectic taste in music, and pop is a part of that. Still, this song is a great inspirational song.
“After a hurricane, comes a rainbow/maybe the reason why all the doors are closed/so you could open one that leads you to a perfect road.” Man, I have listened to this so many times to remind me that I just need to keep going. Eventually, I’ll find my way, my perfect road.

The Energy Never Dies by The Script, Album: No Sound Without Silence

Album Cover for The Script's No Sound Without SilenceAnother great song. This one means a lot to me because it is an expression of my viewpoint on life. One, that we should live each day to our fullest, and two, that if we live our lives that way, we create lasting impressions on those around us that can serve as inspiration…what we leave behind never dies. Now, on a less serious note, this song starts and ends the same way. One time, I had it playing in the background while I was working and I didn’t realize that the approximately four minute long song had been stuck on repeat for the last fifteen minutes. In the back of my head, I just assumed it was a much longer song than I’d realized. Because I am ridiculous.

Animals by Maroon 5, Album: V

Cover Art for Maroon 5 Album VThis song is proof positive that there are some songs where I’m completely engaged with the lyrics, and others that I listen to without a single thought. It’s also proof positive that you don’t think about how dirty lyrics are until you hear a little child voice singing them. YIKES. He did manage to unwittingly change the lyrics in a way that made it sound like they were about an actual animal eating someone, and that helped a lot. I still avoid this song like the plague when I’m in front of him. Sooooooo disturbing. Still…I’m singing along. These lyrics are SO wrong.

Fighter by Christina Aguilera, Album: Stripped

Cover Art for Christina Aguilera's StrippedOh, you mean my theme song? It definitely gets me in the mood to do battle with my day, and reminds me how I’ve gotten as strong as I am. I have had a number of unfortunate encounters with toxic people who I’ve had to completely remove from my life. People who claimed love or friendship and held on just to pull me down. I love this song for reminding me why I’m smart to put people like that in my past. “After all of the fights and the lies, cause you’re wanting to haunt me, but that won’t work anymore.”

 

The Secret’s In The Telling by Dashboard Confessional, Album: Dusk & Summer

Album Cover for Dashboard Confessional's Dusk and Summer
For one, this song reminds me of my best friend’s Dashboard Confessional phase, which is how I have all of their songs. It’s also on my Keys and Guardians playlist, set for a very specific scene that I can’t really talk much about. But I love when a song channels a specific moment in a story, and everytime I hear it I am transported to the part of my imagination that dreamed that moment up.

 

That’s it for now! See you again next post, when I use songs from my shuffle as mini-writing prompts.

 

Alma Mater Hail to Thee…

photo3Christopher Columbus High School has closed its doors. My alma mater as it was will cease to exist, having been overtaken by several charter schools. This is surprisingly difficult for me. I’m not the girl who blossomed as a teenager and lived out my glory days in the four years within those walls. I tend towards the belief that I continue to blossom and re-blossom, or that I have only just blossomed. So why this difficulty? Oh…just because my entire life changed in the days I went to that school and in many ways because of that school, its staff and its students.

I entered Columbus in a complicated state. My previous school had been an awful disaster, rife with three years of varied and inventive bullying. My home life was…unreliable, and I was facing the beginning of the crushes/dating journey. By the end of freshman year, my life was a mess. I had zero confidence, my parents were in the midst of a divorce, and all of my existing relationships were on shaky ground.

In Sophomore year, I didn’t care. About anything. I didn’t know it then, but this was when my now diagnosed clinical depression first reared its head. I went to school with a chip on my shoulder when I bothered to show. I suffered through every class but one. Music History. I tried hard to act like I didn’t care. It should have been easy. The teacher was a neurotic bossy pain who told corny music jokes and snipped at you if you walked into the class a second after the late bell. Still, every lesson was met with grudging fascination. And that pain of a teacher KNEW it.

One day, he slapped a flyer down on the empty chair next to me before I could kick my feet up onto it (a habit I had developed for the sole purpose of annoying him), said “Audition”, then walked away. It was for the musical Bye Bye Birdie.

Having always enjoyed singing, I thought, what the hell? I auditioned and got a small part. OMenJoynHiram0855nce rehearsals began, I was swept away. I met the girl who is still my best friend while learning choreography for that show. She managed to drop change on my face while doing a difficult to explain piece of choreography. She apologized, then introduced herself with the words, “My name’s Leonore, but nobody calls me that.” Then she flitted off to some other call. It took days of talking to her to actually get the answer to the obvious question. (People call her Joy.)

I met other good friends in those remaining years and opened up to others who had been around in the year and a half before I’d found my way. Though many of the people I knew in those four years float in and out of the main stream of my life, they all hold special places in my heart.

There’s a reason I was able to feel that way. Music and performing opened me up, dragged me out of my depression and reminded me that life, no matter how dreary it can be, is beautiful, that people can create beautiful things. Working with the musical cast and crew, the Girl’s Ensemble group, and the Concert Choir, woke me up. I began to learn the principles of what it takes to be an artist.

I learned in room 301, where competition got fiercely intense between people who never should have competed with each other. It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good either. Where the Soprano v. Alto v. Tenor v. Bass wars were strong, and where I learned to sing notes so high I thought my brains were going to come out of my ears and still managed to nail them. Where we fiddled with the piano and randomly sang songs in between class periods. Where I learned to sing Jump Jive and Wail by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Anything You Can Do from Annie Get Your Gun, the majority of Handel’s Messiah, and Va Pensiero from Verdi’s Nabucco. And pretty much everything in between.

Cinderella Dress RehearsalI learned in the Auditorium, where I nearly broke my ankle (and at least sprained it) during our first performance of Zombie Prom and performed five more times over the next two weeks as a character that jumped up and down…a lot. Where I covered for Joy so she could sneak a kiss with the older boy from the lighting room. Later, she would run the stage crew with a patch over her eye after an accident while building a set (her eye recovered), and Doc (as we affectionately called Dr. Dzik) would panic over the fact that she couldn’t make it because she was hospitalized and then, after a Hail Mary run from the hospital, complain that she was there because he was worried about her. Where my husband used to pick me up at the end of a rehearsal day when he was just a boyfriend. Where Dr. Dzik dragged me to perform the “Star Spangled Banner” to open an assembly without warning because the person who was supposed to do it was out sick and I was in the hall cutting so I “wasn’t doing anything better anyway, was I?”

Columbus. Where I learned passion and drive and loyalty. Where I learned to think on my feet when JGrad'00props were forgotten, sound effect were ill timed, signs fell, and Cinderella’s glass slipper was accidentally flung out into the audience. Where I learned disappointment that was followed directly by getting back up and doing the damn thing again. And where I learned all of your basic subjects as well, because I walked out of that place with a 95 average and an actual work ethic.

Not bad for a High School with metal detectors, in Bronx, NY.

On Wednesday, July 18th, the many years worth of alumni of the Concert Choir gathered in the Columbus High School Auditorium to say goodbye. As I had a million times before, I walked in with Joy. The first thing she noticed was that they had walled over the lighting room. We were informed that area was now occupied by classrooms. The stage manager in Joy grumbled. Later while talking to our beloved Doc, he told us that room 301 was split into two classrooms, neither of which taught music. I rolled my eyes and said, “Of course.” He nodded and gave my shoulder a little squeeze. We sang the songs that the collection of 40 or so alumni, spanned over a couple of decades of graduating classes, all knew. The few songs that were staples in our repertoire. Throughout the process, Doc was as bossy and neurotic as ever, but a bit more emotional. When Doc told us to take five, Joy and I sat in the back of the auditorium, looking at the stage that was at once our salvation and our source of grief for years.

150091_10152084744868412_1487070890_n-1“You’re my son’s aunt, and we never would have met if it hadn’t been for this place and 301,” I said, looking out at the closed curtains we had once hid behind before the start of a show. We sat there hands clasped together for a minute before Doc yelled at us to go outside. Some things never change.

We sang the school’s alma mater on the stairs of the school, our voices reaching out into the neighborhood, reminding them that they were losing something precious, even if they didn’t realize it.

photo2And then, we said our goodbyes, and went back off into our regular lives, continuing to utilize the things we learned. I went back to writing. At Columbus I learned responsibility, drive, hard work, relentlessness and perseverance, created in a moment by a pain teacher who became someone I grew to care deeply about because he cared about what happened to my spirit.

The art may have changed, but the artist remained, and she was crafted in that building.

“Here’s a toast to Columbus High School, alma mater hail to thee.” ~ Christopher Columbus Alma Mater