The Best-Laid Plans

This morning was an excellent reminder of how our plans can be sidetracked. I went to my car to go to work, the usual morning routine, but when I opened the door I noticed that my dome light was a little dimmer than normal. Hmm. Okay. Turn the ignition, dash lights up with a weak glow, but the engine will not turn over. Two things go through my mind: one, I’m going to be late, two, how is this going to affect my bottom line, because I’m in an awkward transition stage with my job and money is tight at the moment.

Now, I have AAA thanks to my beautiful and loving fiancee, so the experience was nowhere near as bad as it could have been, but of course I was annoyed and lost a significant chunk of time and money. What it really reminded me of was how, no matter your plans or schedule, life can always pop up and surprise you.

Writing works the same way. How many of you have had a story all plotted out, with a nice neat outline, ready to go, and had a character just refuse to follow a certain path? Recently I’ve experienced this, several times, as the main character of my novel, Matty is a very strong-willed young woman who wants to break free, explore, and take the story in a different direction. It’s turned what was supposed to be a simple rewrite of my novel into a complete overhaul.

But it hasn’t been easy. You see, despite my ADD, I am a creature of routine. I’ve struggled most of my life to understand why I think that change is a great thing and am willing to embrace it on a macro scale but have so much of a problem accepting it when it pops up in my own life. Perhaps it’s part of being a writer – the regimen becomes so important that it can become a part of our lives. I don’t know, it’s been a difficult thing to puzzle out, but in the end I have just accepted it about myself and learned to work within my limitations.

With my writing, it’s certainly a matter of control; execution is easier when everything is accounted for and all questions are answered up front, but it can just as easily suck the life out of things. What is neatly planned is also often very dry, much like powdered milk. It’s becoming clearer that the excitement in a story comes from the excitement of life. The messiness, the chaotic nature, the unpredictability. Just as we need to be aware of opportunities around us and accept them when they come our way, no matter how far out of our comfort zone they may take us, so too do we need to be aware of storytelling opportunities, no matter how far afield they may take us. Often when I find that a story refuses to budge, freezing up like an old set of gears that needs to be oiled, it’s because I am not listening to the needs and wants of my characters. The same thing happens in human relationships – when we ignore the needs and wants of our friends and partners, things freeze up and become very cold and distant.

This is why writing is a spiritual exercise for me; because in a lot of ways it mirrors the connections that I make to others and the world around me. Like a fractal, the smaller portions of what is represented in my writing is the whole.  Which says a lot about why, during one of the darkest periods in my life, I abandoned my writing.

It’s easy to let things go, to just let the inertia of life (or the plot) bind up our controls and drag us along, but it’s more fulfilling to take control back. While we may open ourselves up to more errors, we also discover the joy of living (and writing) that’s hiding there all along. It’s as simple or as complicated as we make it.

Oh, on a side-note, I finally settled on a title for the overhauled version of the novel yesterday. While the original title was “Torat”, both a play on the Tarot and the Jewish mysticism of the story, I decided that was a little too plain and decided to buy in on the cheesiness of what I’m attempting with gusto. The novel will be called In the Corridors of the Dead, a nod to H.P. Lovecraft. The upside is that this makes naming the following novels much easier. I already have the title to the second novel in mind.

Today’s featured link represents something of a departure. I find the line between reviewer and writer to be a thin one (they’re all somewhere on the continuum of reader and writer), so I’ve decided to start including review sites on my featured links. Today’s link is E & K Family Book Reviews. I was just too damned charmed by the concept not to include them: a mother and daughter review books for kids to help families get a better grasp on what’s out there. Who can’t support that idea? Monsters, that’s who.

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  1. Pingback: Stealing a Minute | Shaggin the Muse

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