My (Creative) Writing Process

I have a book coming out soon. Well, it's being republished, if you want to know the specifics. But I have about a thousand other stories floating around in my brain, and some have even made it onto my computer screen. I figured that today, if it's alright with you, I would share my creative writing process.
My stories almost always come from an abstract, singular seed of an idea. It could be a character, such as Fina, with her bright copper hair and heart as wide as her eyes. Or it could be an event, an interaction, between characters that haven’t even come alive yet. Sometimes it’s just a room, such as Jackson’s apartment or Mellie’s bakery. Most often it’s just a string of words - dialogue or description or a confession of love.

“Do you have any idea how much I want to tell you that I love you right now?”

I didn’t answer her at first, instead just listened as her breathing began to even out. It was a rhetorical question; she was already half asleep when she said it. But more than that, it didn’t require an answer because she both knew and didn’t care at the same time. This wasn’t about me. She loved me, and she wasn’t afraid to tell me. My response wasn’t required. This was the thing about her.

So many people try to hide against a backdrop of indifference, waiting for the other person to say it first, without ever considering the possibility that we are just as terrified as they are. She wasn’t. Saying I love you didn’t hold the same weight to her as it did to others. They were just words, after all, but they were real. It wasn’t a whirlwind romance, of which love faded just as quickly as it ignited. It wasn’t all encompassing or obsessive or consuming. It was dull, nearly an ache at first, just as the real type of love usually is. She just felt it, and embraced it, long before most of us even realized we were starting to burn.

I answered her anyway, though long after she relaxed into my side and I could see the dreams dancing behind her eyelids.

“I think I do.”

I have a lot of these seeds - most of the time I don’t know what story they belong in, or if they deserve their own story altogether - but it’s up to me to figure out what garden to plant them in. Whatever it is that I think of, my first priority is to get it down on paper. I don’t care about eloquence or even grammar - I just get it out. I have an entire document dedicated to random thoughts and ideas and feelings that are just waiting to be used in a story. And they sit there, until they’re used up.

Once I have a semblance of a story, which often comes from sleepless nights thinking about the most unimportant of details, down to the type of shoes a character is wearing during a certain interaction, I outline it. My outlines include a variety of different things, depending on the type of story - characters and dates are obviously the most important, but also school schedules, mapped trips, and, in one case, descriptions of words that only I can define.

The Aurora is the most powerful being in the world (always a female). She appears once every millennium, and has the highest rank on the spectrum of vita. Her aura is solid, or without discrepancy, allowing her to project her aura onto nearly anything and manipulate the aura of others. It is tradition that the Aurora is united with the Lucifer upon reaching adulthood.

And then? Then I write. I write in sequential order, sometimes. Sometimes I write scenes as they come to me, or chapters that I am most excited about. The structure isn’t so important at this point. What is important is that I just get the words out. It just so happens that getting the words out is often the hardest part. For me, that’s my writing process.


A Fall Freebie

Because, well, why not? I suppose I should warn those of you who don't care for fall too much - I love fall. Probably TOO much. And I can't be sorry for it. Sorry.

This Fall

Warning - this may be one of the longest, and definitely most personal, posts that I've ever written. It also doesn't have any pictures. And I'm okay with that.

It's September first. It's also Labor Day. 

You know what that means? It's fall. For me, at least. 

I posted a fairly personal post yesterday, one that I post every year at the beginning of fall. It's important for me to post it, because, well, I like to reflect on that fall five years ago. I like evaluating how far I've come in five years. I like considering what fall means for me now. 

If you thought that story was personal, well...fair warning for today's post. 

Why am I sharing it? Well, for one thing, writing is my best form of therapy and putting it out into the world is almost as if I'm releasing it. I'm freeing myself.

And I don't want to be ashamed of my journey.

So, where am I, heading into fall, 2014? 

A few weeks ago, I posted something that was difficult for me to write and share. I got so many amazing comments and messages from friends and family and people that I never knew even read my blog. The response was incredible, and I am so thankful for the people in my life that care enough to let me know that they care. 

After that post, however, I was kind of...MIA.

On Wednesday, August 13, I had a therapy appointment. It was somewhat of an emergency appointment, if you will. I'm fairly sure I wore my hot pink lipstick to the appointment, because, well, lipstick.

I had no idea that I would be leaving in an ambulance. 

Part of me wonders what the paramedics thought, transporting the girl with the hair bow and the maxi skirt.

I could see the others through my tears, peering at the newcomer from behind the glass of a door they weren’t supposed to be near. It wasn’t long before one of the staff ordered them away. I don’t know that it had hit me yet - that I was about to become one of them too. Soon, I wouldn’t able to look through that window either. 

So this is what it was like - that dark, lonely place that everyone thinks couldn’t possibly happen to them.

This? This is rock bottom.

With every piece of jewelry I took off; with every bobby pin I took out of my hair, I felt a little bit of my dignity disappear. You know what took it’s place?

Humiliation. Anger. Frustration.

I think I expected those; or would have, at least, had I ever considered what being hospitalized for a mental illness would be like.

But as they checked the bottoms of my feet and stripped me down, their voices concerned and caring, I found sound something I never expected.

Peace. Comfort. Empathy.

It was out of my hands. They called the shots now. Even if I wanted to worry, they wouldn’t let me. It was no longer about clients or money or relationships.

It was about me. Stripped, broken, and bare.

I was overwhelmed at first. Being thrown into an abyss of mental illness would be panic inducing for nearly anyone.

There was the boy with the sad eyes and the neck brace.

The older woman, her bed sheet tied around her like a sarong. Schizophrenic.

The bipolar boy who so desperately wanted to be a man.

The sweet girl who wanted to help everyone else, but couldn’t help herself.

These were my peers now. But I couldn’t be one of them, could I?

They were screaming on the outside; sometimes, literally, yelling in the halls at midnight that they would kill us all.

Me? I was silent, save for the occasional sob that I couldn’t hold back. My screaming was all on the inside. Maybe I should have just joined them in their vocal cries for help. Instead, I cried into my pillow. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t shower.

But I wrote.

I just wanted out. It wasn’t my choice to be there. I didn’t want to be there, with the bathroom that smelled like urine and the stiff bed sheets, not to mention the questionable meals.

I wanted the cloud in my bedroom at home. I wanted my dog. I wanted my husband and my family.

But I think, somewhere deep inside of me, I knew it was what I needed. I needed the quiet; not the literal quiet, but the absence of the world outside. At least, while I tried to fix myself inside.

The best way I can describe it is as if I were a bone in a human body. Sometime in my past, I don’t know when, I broke. Maybe it was a stress fracture, as if pressure from an outside force caused damage slowly, over time. Or maybe it was quick and painless when it happened, perhaps traumatic, and I didn’t realize it until the break was old and festering, trying to fix itself incorrectly.

The only way to fix it now is to break it all over again. Snap it cleanly and reset it, so that it heals properly this time.

It’s harder at first. Painful, and deliberate. It’s making that choice to go through the excruciating pain, knowing that it will be better in the future, rather than be broken for the rest of my life.

And now? It's fall. I'm heading into that same season of change and discovery, and this year? Of healing. 

I have a lot to look forward to this fall. That book, the one that I never finished? It's being published next month. Taylor Swift is putting out a new album. 

I have life to look forward to. And I want to live. This fall.

A note on all the comments and sincere messages I've received from people, both from those I know and those I don't - I read and appreciate every single one of them. But you know what causes me anxiety? Knowing that I somehow need to answer and respond to each and every one, individually. I hope you understand how difficult that is for me, right now. I can put this post out there; it's almost as if I'm just talking to myself. But I have a problem when I respond to people, acting as if everything is great; acting as if I'm fixed and whole again, while trying to help others with their own problems. The whole me being fixed part? That, for now, isn't true. And I don't want to put on a happy face, just to make other people feel better. So, know that if you send me a message, even just to tell me that I'm not alone, that you care - know that I appreciate it, more than you know. I might just not be able to tell you right now. 


On Fall

I don't reuse content on this blog. Except for this story. I first posted it two years ago, and I'm posting it for the third year in a row today. The fall I'm talking about in this story was five years ago. It's amazing how one season can change you, but it's true. Stay tuned for an update on this fall tomorrow. It's important.

Originally posted on September 6, 2012 :: 

I'm sure you've read a lot of posts already about why people love fall {even though fall doesn't officially start for a few weeks}. For me, and for a lot of people, it starts unofficially the day after Labor Day and goes all the way until the weekend after Thanksgiving. I love this long season, for quite a few reasons, many of which I'm sure you haven't heard before. 

Three years ago, in May, I graduated from college. It was the middle of the recession and you can imagine how difficult it was to find a job. So, I moved back in with my parents. Summer was good. I finally found a job, and I was able to enjoy time with my fiancĂ© and my family. But the last week of August, Robert moved back to school, two hours away, to finish his senior year. 

It was fall, and I didn't have my fiancĂ© with me, I didn't get along with my parents, and I had no friends left at home. I was miserable. 

But then. 

It was fall, and that's when I discovered Taylor Swift, Twilight, and pumpkin spice lattes. These were the things that kept me going. 

It was fall, and I became best friends with the sweetest, most creative woman I've ever met. We started our first event planning business, and spent nearly every day together drinking Starbucks, eating McDonalds, and making wedding cakes. 

It was fall, and I got fired from that first job. I spent over a month racking up credit card debt while I desperately tried to find another one. 

It was fall, and I started writing my book. I would stay up all night long, listening to Taylor Swift and Muse and Owl City, my headphones all the way up and drinking red wine while typing away on the computer. 

It was fall, and I finally started to plan my own wedding. 

Most people talk about how they love the short days, cool weather, and warm clothes that come with fall. I love all of these things, but for a different reason. 

I love these things because it reminds of that time, that time when the leaves changed and I changed. I grew up that fall. I grew into the person I am today. This is why I love Taylor Swift so much, and why I have such stress over that still-unfinished book. It's not just a season of the year for me. It was a season of my life, probably the most difficult and most rewarding season of my life. I'll always be grateful for that time. 

I look forward to this time every year now. It's a time for scarves and hot drinks and comfort food. But it's also a time for me to look back and be proud of how far I've come since then. 

And this is why I love fall.