Head Smack: Live your writing


William Faulkner's Underwood Universal Portabl...
William Faulkner’s Underwood Universal Portable sits in his office at Rowan Oak, which is now maintained by the University of Mississippi in Oxford as a museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yep, another one of these.  I’m finding this holiday season theme is to be *head smack*.  Not of others, but of me.

I like to think of myself as being relatively intelligent, smart even.  A combination of book smart with common sense to get me through the day.  Some may even call it street smarts if you will.  Am I a genius, no, probably not, but I can hold my own in most conversations with a highly intelligent person.  If not with knowledge than at least with clever word repartee.  With that said, I also have made it known that I am interested in understanding why I do what I do.  Why I think or react in certain situations.  In short, to know myself.

Despite both factors, I am finding this year that my perceptions of myself are miniscule compared to the sudden flares of wisdom that seem to be hitting me upside the head.

I want to say a week ago, possibly two, I read an article in my Writer’s Digest magazine subscription that talked about branding and using examples from the masters to show that despite a limited technology back then Fitzgerald still accomplished the same goal.  Bully for him, but honestly I’m not wishing to be like him as a person.  Yet, the pieces of this article were informative.  Most of it, however, made sense and I could see how it can be shifted and adjusted to our technologically infused culture of today.

There was one piece that, at the time, caused me to chuckle.  Live your work.  Seeing those three words makes it seem like a no-brainer, right?  You don’t need any level of intelligence or category of smarts to figure it out, but looking a little deeper as a writer this can be harder for some than for others.

Take Writer A – let’s call him Hank (why?  Because Hank is a solid name) and he writes about finding your inner peace.  Hank is well-known for leading calming meditation circles and he’s a Buddhist Monk.  So Hank can live his writing.  Good for him.

Now, Writer B – we’ll call her Ariel (courtesy of my daughter) and she writes about crime in New York.  She lives in New York and is a police officer.  Ariel is living her writing, and good for her.

Writer C – we’ll call her… Jess (as in me) and she writes about Government Assassins, Monsters who take over the world, 10 immortals with one that gets put in jail for life without parole.  She’s a Web and Graphic Designer with 2 kids and a husband who works in the USAF.  How in the hell can she live her writing????

At least, this was my initial thought when I read the article.  First of all, most of what I write doesn’t exist and the parts that do, well, I think it’s frowned on being an assassin.  That, and I’m personally against the idea of killing for anything but the defense of self or the family and only if necessary.  As a follower of a nature religion that treasures all life, it’s a bit of a contradiction if you know what I mean.  As a result, I shook my head, had a nice chuckle then continued walking on the treadmill (minus the skip and the kick of joy).

So fast forward to two nights ago when the head smack moment occurred.  I was writing in my journal, waiting for the dishes to be done so I can start baking the next holiday treat and having my usual spiral of doubt and confidence building that liters my journal in relation to my writing.  It’s typical so nothing new, but the reason I indulge in this private moan and groan on those pages is because they will bring about startling revelations.

Apparently that one piece of advice stuck with me more than I realized.  Live your work, or to be more precise in this instance, live your writing I think is a better description.  In the reasons I’ve given, the obvious is clearly out of the question for me.  However, with that said, in thinking with retrospect, there are common threads in my characters that stand out as possibilities to this conundrum of advice.

English: A member of the Calgary Police Servic...
English: A member of the Calgary Police Service. This picture was taken at a rally by the Aryan Guard and a counter-protest to it in the Marlborough community of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most, if not all, the female main characters I write about are smart, capable, healthy, kick-ass, take-no-crap women.  Even female secondary characters are strong and passionate women.  I write these women because that is how I see women.  Now, minus the heavy layers of self-doubt, criticism of my writing and stuff, I see myself as being a smart, capable, take-no-crap woman.  I’ve been through the blender of life, got chewed up, spit out, and look at me I’m still walking and talking with a fair amount of sanity (relatively speaking).

However, take a look at my list of attributes for my characters compared to the list of myself.  I’m sure you’ve noticed (as have I) that two important qualities are missing.

Healthy and Kick-ass!

I’ll admit it here, in front of people around the world, I’m neither to a point, don’t worry though, I’ll get specific.

Healthy:  I’m a bit of a nutrition nut.  In this I mean that I like to eat healthy for a number of reasons.  First is that it tastes better overall than junk food.  Junk food actually doesn’t have much of a taste.  The second is due to health issues.  My migraines demands a certain type of diet (i.e. healthy foods) and also I don’t do well with greasy foods.  As a result, I eat healthy but my weight doesn’t provide evidence of this fact.  My problem is that I don’t eat enough food on a daily basis.  I’m lucky to eat 800 calories a day regularly.  I’m emphasizing regularly because there are days when I can eat 1200 or even 2000 calories (more than that and I feel sick).  I could go on and on about this topic because of how obsessed I am with how foods and the human body interact.

Being a nutrition nut, however, is only half of the process.  No matter how much I hate to admit this fact: you have to exercise.  Yeah, it makes me shudder too.  Not because I hate moving or doing things, but because I have a limit amount of time to do stuff and I see no point of walking on a treadmill going nowhere for 15 to 30 minutes a day.  Makes no sense to me.

On the other side of the coin is my husband who is a fitness nut.  He’s not obsessive in that he’s doing P90X and three different exercise programs all the time or lives in GNC so he can bulk up.  But he has a certain image of himself that he works hard to maintain.  To him, spending an hour at the gym seems like a good use of an hour.  It is a constant source of amusing debate between us.  Many think that with my nutrition and his fitness nuttiness we’d be one healthy family.  The truth is hubby and the kids are, but I am not.  I’d go into the long list of reasons (excuses) why but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

Kick-ass:  I know how to fight, I know how to defend myself and my family.  I can use knives fairly well, but I wouldn’t consider my skills in the same category as being kick-ass.  I don’t know how to throw knives very well with any accuracy (probably because I haven’t practiced), and honestly my knowledge is less style and more brawl.  Which is fine and serves the purpose of the average person.  If I was to make a list of capabilities I’d put my skills a bit above self-defense and quite a bit below standard training for a police officer.

I’m confident in those skills while hoping I’ll never have to need to use them.  Yet, the difference between myself and my characters is that most of them are above police officer to highly stylized, much like Jet Li you know.  Awesome and skilled.  I’ve always wanted to take a class in martial arts (I’m thinking MMA) and I definitely want to learn how to box.  Don’t ask why, I’m not completely sure myself.  So I’ve wanted to do these things but several factors limit this.  However, I’m thinking if I get my health to where it needs to be, half of those factors could disappear.

Hand Gun
Hand Gun (Photo credit: JoLi Studios AKA Leasepics)

There is one other… minor… detail that I should fix.  The only gun I’ve fired is a M16 in Basic Training in the military.  I’ve held a hand-gun, toy and real, but haven’t fired one.  This surprises most people because of what I write, but there is a reason I’ve avoided this small hurdle.  I liked the feel of the gun in my hand.  I can see myself holding, pointing, and pulling the trigger.  As a person who values all life, the concept of a gun is a direct violation of this belief.  Once you have a gun in proximity, the potential of using it against another living person is all that greater.  It increases.  With my knives, I know I can wound and not kill.  That’s how confident I am in my level of skill with them, but with a gun, even winging a person has a potential of killing them.

Got into a discussion with a person about this and they pointed out that if it comes to my life and the life of my family over that of someone attacking me, would it be that much of an issue?  My answer is yes because life is precious.  So I have avoided the guns to this point, but I’ve been thinking that you don’t have to buy and own a gun to shoot the gun right?  You can go to a shooting range and fire a few times so you know first hand what it is like, then call it good.

Right?

With these two categories on my mind, I realize the head smack here is that when it comes to being healthy and kick-ass, they go hand-in-hand because you can’t be the second without the first, but the skills to become the second can help make the first happen.  If I’m going to live my writing, I need to be both, to embrace how I see my characters – perhaps even mirror the best of them in myself.

Since, technically, they are factors of myself, it shouldn’t be that hard to do… right?

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10 thoughts on “Head Smack: Live your writing

  1. Hey Jess,
    Tom Nardone Here,

    I don’t ever write about anything I don’t know about. I have don’t many public speaking engagements, and I would never speak about anything i don’t know. Thee only time i talk of what i don’t know is most likely in the context of asking questions or trying to end the conversation.

    I don’t write to inform or help, I write to entertain and/or inspire. I consider myself an expert in these two areas. I feel were I to deviate from this i would be to preoccupied with my facts and my personality would not come through. I admire you writing about assassins, and i gather you aren’t going to go out on a hit to become a better writer.

    I wonder since you are unwilling to assassinate anybody you probably would jump at the chance to interview some one who has

    • Well, sure, but I’m limited in availability. Instead what I did was talk to many in the Special Forces with the military to discuss the emotional and mental toil they went through as that is mostly what Memory Lane focused on. The trials of being in that kind of job where you are asked to take a life for the sake of your country.

      They provided a lot of insight to me which helped me show the inner conflict, or at least that was my attempt.

      Why? Do you know somebody?? 😀

  2. This is a great piece Jess and not something that I have ever really thought about in any depth. I must admit that my characters do either have a part of me in them or are inspired by who I would like to be but some of the things that I write, I would not wish to live either. I love the fact that you are learning all of these nuggets and then sharing them with us. You inspire me. 🙂

    (Oh.. and you are up for the questions..??)

    • Well, I try 🙂 It’s not easy to put that much of myself out there, but in truth it’s how we write right? It’s what we have to do, expose parts of ourselves and learn from ourselves. At least that is the lesson I’ve learned over the years.

      As for the questions, yep, will tonight. The holidays nabbed me 😀

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