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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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jjbrownwordslinger

So, around this time nine years ago……

……I was preparing to move out of my tiny studio in Long Beach, CA back to my artsy and somewhat trying hometown. [1]  I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the prospect (I mean, really, who is when moving back to a town where everybody knows your name?), but I was willing to be open to it and to accept any opportunities that came my way.

Well, long story short, a lot of shit happened to derail that sense of optimism. [2]

For the last few months, I’ve felt out of place and out of sorts, that I no longer belonged in my hometown for whatever reason.  But while I have no real reason to stay here, I have no real reason to relocate to someplace else.  All other locations I’d considered over the last few years sound and look just as good as any other place.

None of them stand out as being The Place.

As I mentioned to a close friend just a month ago, since I’m already here, I may as well embrace it and do what I need to do, to make myself happy, like pursue my writing and develop new skills for both personal and professional reasons.  Eventually, the reason for me to go (or to stay) will reveal itself to me and I can move forward.

Until then, que sera sera.

It was only recently that I realized I had circled back to where I was, nine years ago.  It seems like a lifetime ago and so much has happened since then.  I am not the person I was nine years ago – I’m a little wiser, a little more cautious in who I let in, a little more reserved.  If a door is shut, I’m content to let it remain so.

I’m also more willing to be open to new experiences and new environments, something I would generally shun, being more of an introvert than a social butterfly.  However, I recognized that growth comes with discomfort, and so I found opportunities to stretch my boundaries, find what was acceptable and what was not.  In the meantime, I was able to find my voice and speak up when my boundaries were not respected.  This did not always go down well and I eventually found out what was true and what was not.

And this is a good thing.

🙂

[1] If you grew up in a small town and find yourself living there again, you’ll understand what I mean.

[2] It’s really boring, if you want to know.  At least, it is now.  Suffice to say, shit happened and I managed to wash it off successfully.

Evening Thoughts (8)

1. I know exactly what I want for myself, both personally and professionally.

2. When you know what you want, settling for less is not an option.

3. Holding true to that seems both simple and easy to do.

4. It is simple, and no, it’s not easy.

5. There will be days when you feel worthless and insecure, unsure and hopeless.

6. You will probably over-think things and give yourself a really bad headache.

7. ^^^ Don’t beat yourself up about it; just breathe, get through it and get active.

8. The thing to remember is that you don’t have control over how things will unfold.

9. ^^^ I know, that’s really annoying.

10. Just have faith, patience and focus on what you can do, like rearranging your room or create a new work of art.

11. ^^^ I know, easier said than done.

12. The alternative is to compromise yourself and your values; in short, to settle for less.

13. Don’t settle. Hold out for better, even if at this moment, you don’t think you deserve it.

14. You deserve it.

So, I finished the first revision of my Ancient Greek Comedy….

…..and I feel pretty good about it.  There’s still some work left to be done on it, places that need polishing, and characters that need a little more development, but overall, I’m satisfied with what I’ve written.  My next step will be to send it to a local director for a clear eye and suggestions, and from there, that’s anyone’s guess.

But I’ve got some definite ideas.

Title and cast list of Hotel Mt. Olympus.

Should it go forward and find a stage, a cast and a choreographer [1], it will be the culmination of a dream – to see a work I wrote take on a new life in front of an audience.  Will I consider myself a playwright?  Only in the loosest sense of the word –  this is a fairly comprehensive list of playwrights that deserve the title.  Each of them have a body of work that will forever be in production.

I think this is my only work to be written specifically for the stage.  I won’t say that I’ll never try it again, but my specialty is writing in the narrative form.  This was a fun and, at times, a nerve-wracking challenge.  I’ve removed characters, added them back in, re-wrote dialogue and new scenes and then, when all seemed lost, a piece of music would send me back in with renewed vigor.

In the process, I realized that the story I wanted to tell (using LOTS of humor) required me to use the stories of the gods and goddesses I chose to be characters in my play.  Interestingly, their stories tied into many of today’s social issues and, while I was pleased, I wasn’t entirely surprised by this discovery.

After all, their stories have been around for centuries – they are very human concerns that transcend time and place.

[1] While this is not a musical, per se, it does have some song and dance numbers.

So, it’s a New Year and a New Start…..

…..where the dust of the last three hundred and sixty-five days can be shaken off and the next three hundred and sixty-five days have yet to be written.  I often find some kind of inspiring quotes and themes to use as a springboard for what’s to come.

Last night, I found this particular theme floating around.  I rather liked the challenge it presented, because, 1.) who doesn’t have a book lying around; 2.) sometimes there is a truth to be found; and 3.) it’s actually kind of fun and silly.

So I found the nearest book at hand (literally, not even a foot from me) and opened it to the named page.

“So say it.”

At first, I thought it was just a throwaway sentence in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, that nothing important to be found in just three words. I was tempted to slide past it to the third sentence, which also rang true and which I do anyway. [1]

But the more I looked at those three words, the more I realized what power they had in their simplicity.  People often dismiss simplicity as unimportant. But I’ve found that simplicity can be the most potent magic ever devised.  ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ are simple words and yet, they can open doors you never imagined were there.

“So say it.”

Speak your truth.  That’s what those words, in their utter simplicity, are charging me with for the year 2019.  This is not a new charge – in fact, speaking my truth had been a huge part of 2018 and the changes it wrought had a major impact in many positive ways.  So, I’m interpreting this as a sign that I’m on the right path, that by continuing to speak my truth, the way will become clearer.

So.  Grab the book nearest you and open it to page 119.  Find the second sentence.  Use that as your challenge and task for 2019.

You’ve got this.

 

[1]  If you want to know that third sentence I was tempted to use, find a hard back copy of Big Magic and turn to page 119. Those who know me will recognize its truth and that I live it every day.

So, I’m working aspects of my Asperger’s into my novel……

…….because it is a huge part of who I am and how I perceive the world.  And since Novel Now Finished is about a woman who ‘sees’ the world differently and is told from her Point of View, it seemed like the ideal place to incorporate this part of my personality.

Some see a graveyard, where the dead sleep.
I see the past, waiting to be heard.

Is the Narrator herself on the spectrum?  No, I didn’t write her to be Asperger’s, or even autistic, both of which were the furthest thing from my mind when I originally conceived the character and her story.  However, like me, she sees things that others don’t – I can see patterns and energy within events and people and make connections.  The Narrator works in a cemetery and sees and interacts with ghosts (which I think is far more fascinating than patterns and energy, but that’s just me).

It was only lately, in the last year or so, that I decided to make Asperger’s an unofficial part of the Narrator’s personality.  To do this, I try to find similarities between my abilities and the Narrator’s and what aspect of my Asperger’s might fit within that scope.  So far it’s been an interesting experiment and one that I hope to utilize more effectively in revision.

Which brings us to the question – how do I see the world?

Differently than the norm, would be one way to put it.

As described in other blog posts, I have had difficulty in reading body language and social cues or I have a tendency to be a little too open.  The best analogy I’ve been able to come up with that others can understand is that it’s like having a paint pallet, but only half or even a quarter of the colors available.  Sometimes it’s like walking around in an unfamiliar room in the pitch dark, with no idea of how to navigate around items that may or may not be there.

Like the Narrator, I’m also empathic – I’ll know by people’s energy if I want to be around them (if it’s a bad vibe, it’s like getting a stomach ache).  I can ‘feel’ if someone’s lying to me, which is like getting sucker-punched; I can ‘feel’ other emotions that people try to mask with behaviors that contradict what I’m sensing, which is extremely confusing.  When that happens, I have to sit back and observe for context.  Often, however, I get overwhelmed by other people’s energy and I’ll end up spending days at home, just to recuperate and recharge.

Because of this, I tend to sit back and observe people and my surroundings.  The details I pick up without even trying would astound you.  I don’t think twice about it.

The most interesting challenge about incorporating my Asperger’s into the Narrator isn’t so much giving her those traits.  The challenge is being able to observe my Asperger’s in such a way that I can identify what will work and what won’t.  In other words, I have to be far more analytical than I already am.

On myself.

As the Great Dane Scooby Doo would say, “Ruh, roh!”

Recommended Reading:
The Autistic Brain – Temple Grandin
Thinking In Pictures – Temple Grandin

So, it should come as no surprise that I dream about books…..

……because I love reading and have more books on my To Be Read shelf than I’ll ever be able to finish.  I dream mostly about books I’ve already read, but on some occasions, I’ll dream of titles I’d seen, but never really intrigued me enough to actually pick up.  When those books show up in my dream, I go out and get them – either from the library or the bookstore.

There is no such thing as too many books.

Case in point – years ago, I dreamt that I was driving along a highway that merged into another highway.  Underneath the overpass was a dry-docked tall ship – it was in perfect condition, but abandoned.  Somehow, I was able to park my car and climb inside the ship, which I took my own sweet time exploring (because, really, who wouldn’t?).  In the captain’s cabin, I found two books – Outlander and Voyager.  I recognized them immediately, since a friend worked in a bookstore and I’d seen them on the shelves.

I immediately picked up those two titles (first and third, respectively), as well as the other two titles that were available at the time.  I read them in about a month (yes, I know they’re bricks, but I read IT by Stephen King in three days, so…….) and was wiped out with the breadth and depth of the characters.  Although there have since been several more titles (and a TV series) released, I stopped at book four.

I guess I got what I needed out of them, although to this day, I’m still not sure what it was I’d been looking for in those books.

Most recently, I’d dreamt about Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz.  I’d read a number of Koontz’s books over the years, but I’ve always preferred Stephen King.  No disrespect intended – I just don’t mesh with Koontz’s style in the way I do with King’s.  That said, my subconscious chose that title to communicate with me about something in my waking life.

How I came upon the book in my dream was interesting – I was as I am in the Here and Now, in an antique store.  A friend whom I grew up with was also in the dream, only he resembled his high school age self, with some of his intellectual and emotional growth as an adult.  The shop did not carry books, not even used ones, but on one shelf was a row of books, all brand new and I pulled out Odd Thomas.  I remember thinking I could get it used at my local used book store, but it seemed imperative that I get the book immediately.

So I did.

And, in case you were wondering, I did indeed pick up the book a few days later.

Used.  From my local used book store.

And I’m pretty sure I know what my subconscious mind was telling me.

Dreams and books are like that.

So, I’m a wordslinger…..

…..and words are my business.  I’m highly attuned to how word choice can paint a picture entirely different than the one you might intend.  If you use the word ‘argue’ rather than ‘talk’ to describe how you’ll make a decision between Choice A and Choice B, it suggests that conflict is the driving force behind most of your conversations.  I’ve been told more than once that I often read too much into things that are said, and perhaps the speaker might not have been intending to say what they do, but it is revealing of their mindset or perspective of the world.

Words have power.  Make no mistake about it.  They can be used to uplift and unify or incite and split.  The words you choose can either have a positive impact on those around you, or they can have a negative impact.  I often bemoan the fact that I don’t have better words than ‘should’ or ‘let’ or ‘give’, because it implies that (A.) I have control; (B.) it’s my right; and (C.) I am entitled to the other person’s life or a specific outcome.

Nothing could be further than the truth and I feel very conflicted using those words to express my thoughts or feelings.  There are a few others, but those suffice to make my example work and get the point across.  This is why it’s always a good idea to reflect and take care in the words you use.  Often, however, we use words that seem to have a positive aspect to it, without stopping to really look and examine what it actually means.

This leads me to a word that is commonly associated with romance, whether it’s novels, films or even real life – desire.  On the surface, it seems like a positive word to describe the hero or the heroine or even the situation.  The sexual tension, the passion, the heightened senses – this could easily be under the label of ‘desire’.  But what does ‘desire’ really mean?  Take a look at the image above – that is the dictionary’s definition of desire (I included desirable, because it has a similar meaning).

“To wish or long for; crave; want.”

That sounds like the definition of need – needing something or someone outside of oneself to fill in the insatiable emptiness and hunger gnawing at one’s soul.  It does not sound in the least bit romantic or even a remotely healthy emotion to have in a relationship.  I do not wish to be ‘owned’ or even regard as a ‘possession’ in any relationship, let alone a romantic love relationship.

So, for me, the word ‘desire’ has a dark and negative connotation – it implies ownership of the desired object (or person).  In the context of love, it expresses the exact opposite of what the user may intend (who believes they’re being romantic) or it is what they subconsciously and genuinely feel about the person they’re in a relationship with.

Under the context of ‘desire’, there is no potential for growth, both as an individual and within the context of the relationship.  ‘Desire’ is stagnant and stale – it wants what is to remain as is for as long as possible, to put the object on a shelf and take it down as needed.  I can already feel myself edge towards panic as I recall a similar relationship – where I was desired, but only when it was convenient.

“So, exactly what is a description of positive, healthy love?” is a question I’m hearing pop up right….about….now.

In my experience, the best examples of what love – genuine, healthy, authentic love – is, are found in the absolute truths in the cliches.  Love will lift you up; it will inspire you; it will not make you compromise your inner truths or force you into a box; it will not ask you to be less than you are, it will encourage you to be the best version of yourself.  If it’s genuine and authentic love, then with the right person, you will feel free to be just as genuine and authentic.  You will be present in the moment, in yourself and within the context of the relationship.  This is conducive to growth – both for the individual self and for the relationship itself.

Definition of Love, Part One

In the interest of fair play, I’m adding in the definition of love from my trusty (if old) dictionary that has served me so well in the last few years.

 

Definition of Love, Part 2

Please take a moment to view both pictures for ‘love’ (which started at the bottom of the page and continued on the next column) and the one for ‘desire’.  Please take a moment and really read both definitions in this post.  Please note the differences in both emotions.

Notice, if you will, the words used to define both ‘Desire’ and ‘Love’.  In my mind, the words used to define ‘desire’ are hard, sharp, unyielding.  The words used to define ‘love’ are soft, warm and soothing.

Each one describes the intense, passionate and romantic emotions of Person A for Person B, but only one objectifies Person B.  Only one views Person B through the prism of ownership and possession.  Only one can actually be hurtful, either intentionally or with purpose.

Desire is not love.  Desire is dark, it possesses, it claims ownership, it does not allow for breath or growth or freedom.

Love is its exact opposite.  Love is freedom within and without to be your truest, most beautiful and strong self.  It encourages you to fly, to be wild, to explore and grow and then, when your wings are tired, Love provides a safe harbor for you to rest.

Desire is ego.  Love is selfless.

So, In Solitude, You Can Hear Yourself Think…….

…….and that’s not as easy or as fun as it sounds.  Trust me on this – I am the over-thinker extraordinaire and getting out of my head is a task unto itself.  Embracing solitude and being alone with your thoughts can be intimidating or even frightening – my observation has been that those who fear or are uncomfortable with their own thoughts tend towards unhealthy or toxic situations and habits.  For me, solitude, being solitary and alone with my thoughts is as natural as breathing.

Also, thinking is how I get my brilliant story ideas, so at least there’s a trade-off.

I’m a solitary introvert with the occasional social tendencies. This means that, while I tend to prefer the company of Me, Myself and I, there are times when I also want to be in the company of others and share in conversation or experiences.  I’m also an Asperger’s, which may be why I’m comfortable with being solitary, but it’s also high-functioning and I’ve got the tools to navigate the social world.  Somewhere, there is a post about the times I enjoy socializing and the pros and cons of such an effort, but this is not that post.  This post is about solitude, why I enjoy it and the frustrations of trying to communicate this bit of joy to those who thrive on social interaction.

So, here goes.

Being solitary is my nature.  It’s something I don’t put a lot of thought into and it certainly never had a negative impact on me.  I’m free to entertain my own schedule and alter course as I please.  I can be as excited and energized over something I enjoy as I want – likewise, I can also be as introspective and contemplative as I want.  In neither case do I have to worry about a person being uncomfortable in my presence. [1]  When I go on my mini-road trips, I have no responsibility to anyone but myself and I am therefore able to see the details around me that would otherwise go unnoticed.

In solitude, everything can be seen and felt.

Details like dragonflies and hummingbirds flitting by; a sea otter playing in the bay; the sounds of gulls and seals arguing over property rights; waves crashing over a jetty; silence wrapping itself around you while walking along a dirt path; the smell of wet earth and the canopy of trees shielding you from the sun.

In my world, being solitary is heavenly, energizing in a way that I can only compare to working on a  play – which involves people.  There’s a kind of synergistic high as an actor when you connect with the audience and your fellow actors. The fact that I have a literal script to follow is an absolute bonus – as someone with Asperger’s, this allowed me to see structure in social interaction. [2]  This is probably the reason I thrived in theater for so many years – I had a literal blueprint for something that confused the hell out of me off-stage.  As an Asperger’s, having a script that told me what to do, what to say and when was a HUGE relief and it was probably the most social thing I ever did.  I not only willingly chose to participate with other people, but I also felt comfortable enough to keep separate at times without drawing criticism. [3]

Mask created by Robert Lamarche.

Being social in other environments requires me to wear a mask, so that I can at least pass for ‘normal’ – whatever that means. [4]  The pressure I feel to be just the right amount of social and Self in order to go out and mingle with people is so stressful that I’m already exhausted before I set foot outside my bedroom, let alone my house.  It’s sensory overload, or the anticipation of it, anyway.

How can I describe this, so that you, the person reading this, understands?  Because language is very important when communicating, I make an effort to find the right words.  I have many friends who are extroverts and thrive on social events.  I have an equal number of friends who are introverts and thrive on their own company.

People who are extroverts, and are used to being stimulated by external influences, may find solitude depressing or even frightening.  An extrovert friend mentioned something along those lines to me and I suggested that perhaps it’s because when you’re alone, you’re faced with yourself – no distractions, no filters, no smoke and mirrors.  Just you, your Self and your thoughts.

And that can be frightening – what kind of person are we when we’re alone?  Are we really the person we think we are, hope we are?  Or are we less than we hope to be?

It’s something I’ve reflected on, consciously and unconsciously, my entire life.  I’ve never been uncomfortable being on my own or alone, because that’s my constant state.  It has always been that way.  Do I want to share my world with someone?  Of course, I do.  But I’d like it if people would stop automatically assuming it’s because I’m lonely (“You need to learn how to be alone”) or that I don’t have a life (news flash – just because my life doesn’t live up to what you think it should be, doesn’t mean I don’t have one) or some other lame-ass opinion.

If I’m inviting you into my world, it’s because I think you’d not only enjoy it, but that you’d add to it, just as my presence might add to yours. [5]

Being alone is my preferred state.  I am not forced to be in a box to make others comfortable, I am free to be as elemental as I want and, while occasionally frustrating, my thoughts are perfectly suited as company.  I lack for nothing in my life as a solitary person – I have my own beat, I have my art and stories to research, I have horses and cats and the occasional foray into social interactions.  I also have my adventures to plan.

And the best adventurers are usually loners……with the occasional side-kick.

[1] I’m aware that what other people think of me is A. none of my business and B. who gives a fuck.

[2] Real life needs to be scripted. It also needs to be accompanied with a music score, so that one could more easily recognize certain situations for what they are.  A bad situation in alley is easy to recognize – a bad situation surrounded by people whom you know, not so much.

[3] I was once cornered at a table by two people whom I’d known for at least three years in the same social setting.  They knew of my Asperger’s and the techniques I utilized to take care of myself when feeling overwhelmed in social settings, and yet chose to be critical of me and those techniques.  My crime?  Sitting by myself, writing in my journal about the day I’d had, the enjoyment I’d felt and the people I’d chosen to share it with.

[4] I’m aware of the fact that others may feel overwhelmed and stressed in social gatherings, but they can either tell their own stories or be quiet. Dismissing and/or talking over someone who is opening up and trying to articulate their discomfort, their feelings and experience as best they can is disrespectful, to say the least.

[5] Before you make assumptions about someone, it’s best to look at why you’re making those assumptions.

So, the amount of research I have to do…..

…….while in the throes of going over edits is why the process of writing a book takes so fricking long.

Working on edits.

In answer to so many questions that I’ve been getting when I mention that Novel Now Finished is in Round 7 of edits:

1. Each manuscript is different and requires a different amount of time and effort to get it to where it should be.

2. Each author/writer has a different method to their writing madness.

3. Each editor has their own questions and methods of communicating notes.

4. This is literally the second editor I’ve ever worked with – the first charged over a thousand ($1000-plus) for two hours (TWO!!!) worth of work. Had I known my current editor eight years ago, things would be different.

5. This is the first editor I’ve worked with on a consistent basis. She’s amazing and helpful and supportive and everything you’d want in an editor. In my own editing business, I hope to be just as amazing as she is.

6. If you think writing is so easy-peasy to get done and published, then please, by all means, get some paper and a pen and start writing.

7. Writing a book is a full-time commitment. It’s not for the faint of heart or for those who lack discipline.

8. The amount of research I have to do before, during and after writing the first draft would qualify me for at least three MAs/MFAs and/or a PhD.

9. There are days when I just want to quit and torch the lot of it. This is normal.

10. ^^^Then I give myself a shake and get over it. I’d rather be writing and working in my fictional worlds than anything else, so the frustrations are a small cross to bear.

11. Writing is not a hobby for me – a hobby is something you take joy in to escape the realities of life. While I love and enjoy writing, it’s often frustrating and annoying and I don’t escape the realities of life – it finds its way into my stories.

12. Art is political, it is angry, it is savage and ugly and hard to look at – but it also inspires, gives us joy and shows us the beauty in the human spirit.

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