Pulling My Head Out of the Electric Oven

Top Left to Right: Adela Florence Nicolson, Alejandra Pizarnik, Alfonsina Storni, Amelia Rosselli, Ana Cristina César, Anne Sexton, Beatrice Hastings, Charlotte Mary Mew, Deborah Digges; 2nd Row Left To Right: Inge Müller, Ingrid Jonker, Gertrude Bell, Jane Aiken Hodge, Elise Cowen, Katherine Lawrence, Penelope Delta, Robin Hyde, Pamela Moore; Bottom Row Left to Right: Helene Migerka, Sara Teasdale, Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva, Sarah Kane, Rosario Castellanos, Sylvia Plath, Veronica Micle, Victoria Benedictsson, Virginia Woolf

Writing; Death As A Possible Side Effect

“Natasha, you’re a crybaby!”

My cousins would tease when I was little. Running to take refuge in the arms of my aunts, I cried until hiccupped sobs only remained and fat tears streaked down my face. I was rocked in the comfort of their arms, quietly being assured everything would be okay.

At the time, I was the only girl in my extended family. My cousins ensured I was subjected to the random taunts most little girls at the age of seven have the pleasure of bearing. I was teased for everything I did and couldn’t do; crying only made it worse but I couldn’t help myself.

In my young mind I couldn’t understand and always wanted to know “How could they be so mean to me?” After all, I hadn’t done anything to them but trip on my own shoelace or couldn’t draw as well as Daniel. But in one thing they were right—I was a crybaby. And 30-some-odd years later I still am, sort of.

Today, I am a combination of being innately sensitive and slightly insecure. Each trait is mixed with a certain ‘awareness’ of brutal truths life imparts. In some ways because of this I do not differ much from that tanned Puerto Rican girl of my past. Creatively speaking the petri dish of my life has, at times, created a crippling affect in my ability to cope with the disappointments most of us can face. But more than that it has helped me become an intuitive person to life and people.

This complicated mix has been a curse and a blessing, both in my writing and understanding of others. For so long I felt alone in this acute knowledge. I was the only one screaming in a room of silent spectators. However, in becoming the writer I strive to be I’ve come to comprehend (some) artists and writers swim within the same realm of sensitivity, awareness and creativity.

DEATH BECOMES HER

“Artists are so sensitive.”Perhaps. And while there are many deeply rewarding aspects of being creative and highly sensitive person, it seems to me, this way of being, way of perceiving life and people can take an emotional and mental toll on writers, fine artists, actors, singers and comedians.

Each of the women depicted in the image above are Pulitzer Prize Winning poets, authors, story tellers and creators of real and imaginary worlds. They took their own lives (violently and otherwise), and the stories that still lied within them to the grave..to be forever untold.

But what makes us so different? Are we more susceptible to Mental Illness like the doctors and scientist try to correlate? Why are some of us pushed enough through the threshold of hurt, pain and disappointment to want to end it all? We want to stop asking the questions of why or looking for hope, however small it may be?

Demons.

As a writer I will take a biased stance. It seems some artists such as painters and sculptors can utilize their medium to exorcise their internal demons. The monsters they wrestle with can be force outward on a painted canvas and given a physical so that the creator can be relieve of the their burden. Writers however, can grapple with their monsters internally and dwell within this chaotic world for long periods of time before they can expulse the heaviness away from themselves.

When I write, I am always asking the question why. Why is love often pushed away? Why do parents turn a blind eye to their children in need? Why do we fail even when we work our hardest?

At times I use portions of my life to help ask and answer these questions. This seemly simple act requires me to relive some of my most hurtful life moments again and again. I do it once as I outline and another hundred times as I write and then edit. Play, rewind and repeat. Play, rewind and repeat.

The constant sourcing of one’s own life becomes taxing. It can wreak havoc on any writer’s emotional state, especially if you are close to the work of which you are writing about. It’s an issue of reliving and revisiting the monsters that have been tormenting you either consciously or subconsciously.

This is not to say all writers and artists are tormented creatures seeking the answers and meaning to life. But one cannot deny the many instances where the pain of a writers life translates on the written page affects not only the reader but writer themselves.

Take Dorothy Allison, author of ‘Bastard Out of Carolina’. Writing late nights after working all day on legal pads, writing the story of her life, and the abuse she experienced. From it came the semi-autobiographical book that became pivotal to her life and work as a writer. This constant revisiting can be overwhelming for a writer. Even Stephen King wrote a large portion of his most infamous works, while high on cocaine and alcohol. Was ‘Cujo’ a written manifestation of his own internal monsters?

Awareness.

Certain gifted writers can have extraordinarily high standards for themselves; they have low tolerance for mediocrity and develop a strong level of frustration during the execution of their work. They can have acute awareness of life’s complexities and consequences while having a strong need for self-determination and self-actualization; each ideal applying a level of pressure on them. In some cases this weight is enough to push an artist to extreme measures of abuse and suicide.

I Am Woman, Hear me Roar.

What is it about the inherent demands on female writers that lead to so many deaths of women writers? Is it the clashing of who we are as caregivers, lovers and strong holds in the home front all the while grappling with our identity and self-worth, a convergence that leads to disaster? From Anne Sexton to Rosario Castellanos, each creative maverick taking their own lives while coping with loved lost, death, abandonment and abuse; each having an “acute awareness” leading to distress over their own personal and social conditions. Quite possibly an existential dread creating depression causing their own death.

Lady Lazarus herself, Sylvia Plath, not only tried once to end her life, but it was on the dreadful third attempt did she finally succeed. At approximately 4:30 am, Plath had sealed the rooms between herself and her sleeping children with wet towels and cloth, placed her head in the oven, and turned the gas on. They found Plath dead of carbon monoxide poisoning. She was 30.

Although not suicidal, there are many times I feel the world I live in is not meant for me. When I know the heart I have easily breaks when the hope I have fails. Sometimes my active awareness is good but many more times I wish I wasn’t so sensitive. There are days, weeks and months that go by where I don’t want to understand the unspoken actions and behaviors of people or the inevitability of our lives. At times having the distinct feeling of not belonging, of feeling too different.

By no means am I comparing myself to Woolf, Hemingway, Burgos or any of our past writer heroes, but even at my level, swimming within the waves of awareness, sensitivity and creativity, has not always been easy to navigate. It has caused me to see life with a sense of futility as well as hope. And instead of taking refuge in my writing I at times become stunted. I stop completely, letting the weight of my pain, personal setbacks or hurt take over.

It isn’t until I read the work of others or speak to a caring friend do I remember what I had forgotten, that there has been and will hopefully always be calm under the words and in the worlds I’ve created within my stories. Although trudging through the unpleasant actions of my characters, mulling through the muck of the repercussions is not easy, I try to push through, always seeking out the reasons why.

Now, far from the tender age of 7; my life and its hurts have become more complex and colored within many shades of gray. Yes, it often does lead to some tears shed. I also realize my willingness to give has left me opened and exposed. I’m exposed in my writing, exposed in this post and in my love for others. In the end all I can be is myself and use my openness to help me become a better writer while hopefully achieving some internal peace.

Virginia Woolf,  Died March 28th, 1941- Drowning

** Note: This particular post was inspired by my sense of feeling overwhelmed and pulled in by the tide of the story I’m creating. At times the need to source deep emotions and feelings from my own life makes it hard to stick to the narrative thread of my story and even my blog. It’s during these times I need to pull away and regroup. This is where I’ve been the last couple of months regrouping. I now find myself in a slightly better place. A space where I can push forward with research, writing and blogging. Fastening my seat belt and turning on the ignition I’m moving forward with my narrative for the next steps towards completion. It’s my hope that this post and my blog itself helps others not feel so alone as they may go through similar experiences, because you never are.

1:20 am -When Music Mirrors Your Story

Every once in a while a really great song will play from one of my Pandora stations, and when it does it triggers me to stop what I’m doing, close my eyes and listen. This doesn’t happen often. Most times the music I listen to becomes white noise as I write, but when a good one streams in, I ride the wave of the song and carefully listen  to the lyrics. Both the sound and words create a scene, a feeling and an emotion, a lot like a story.

Tonight, when this  particular song came up it reminded me of my protagonist and the internal struggle they are going through. Whenever this happens, music mirroring an aspect of my story, it feels really good. It reinforces that I just may be  capturing an idea, a feeling or an emotion in a way that is universal to a reader or group of readers that may also connect with the story I am creating…. at least that’s my hope.

Its a great song by funk and soul singer. It originally came out in 2001. I hope you enjoy  it.

‘Push & Pull’  -Nikka Costa

Mr. Nothing’s got a lot
He’s got a lot to say
He’s good at being what he’s not
Gives nothing away
Another day goes on by
And he never speaks his heart
He takes his chance with what he’s got
It’s too late now to stop

You push and you pull and struggle with the knot
It’s tying you up while you’re fadin’
You give and you take and take what you got
Round and round ’till it breaks and
You push and you pull and struggle with the knot
It’s tying you up while you’re fadin’ into your lie

Mr. Nothing is late
He’s running out of time
He questions whether chance or fate will ever show a sign
Looks to the sky above
For a glimpse of what it means
And never never never make
Make no sense to him

You push and you pull and struggle with the knot
It’s tying you up while you’re fadin’
You give and you take and take what you got
Round and round ’till it breaks and
You push and you pull and struggle with the knot
It’s tying you up while you’re fadin’ into your lie

You push and you pull it

Random Information About Me

Brought To You By: Versatile Blogger

I was nominated and given a new Versatile Blogger Award!!! A bit chain letter like but still very cool for a newbie like me :-)

Thank you Lillie McFerrin at Lillie McFerrin Writes, Jayrod at The First Original Garrett’s Writing Blog and Steven Watson at Stuck in My Own Mind for nominating me. You are awesome writers!!

MY (15) NOMINATIONS

OK- These are bloggers that I’ve come to respect their advice, love their sites, am grateful for the comradery. Honestly they are some of the best writing buddies to have.  Follow them on Twitter, they are really great people to connect with.

  1. Jayrod- The First Original Garrett’s Writing Blog
  2. Steven Watson- Stuck in My Own Mind
  3. Lillie McFerrin- Lillie McFerrin Writes
  4. Eden- Many Worlds From Many Minds
  5. Sarabeth- Confessions of a Thirty Something Teenager
  6. Melissa- The Undeveloped Story
  7. Gene Lempp- Gene Lempp Blog
  8. Jason Runnels- The Puzzling Mind of Jason Runnels
  9. Nubia- Unicorns Are Real
  10. Kate Spenser- Sordid Details
  11. Carl Brand- My Vogon Poetry
  12. Ian Carter- Fictian
  13. Dana- The Daily Dose
  14. Jeremy Kerr- Cur Made
  15. Megan McGibney

RANDOM INFORMATION ABOUT ME

  1. Although born in New York City, I was raised in the suburbs of Dutchess and Ulster County (Upstate New York). You know, its the kind of place where summers are filled with county fairs and teen flings. All the swimming was done within the cold mountain waters of Lake Minnewaska and Bear MountainIts the kind of place were high school rivalries against neighboring districts are taken very seriously only to be settled on the Basketball courts and Football fields (most times).   I was there during a time when most of my friends hung out at the local Poughkeepsie Galleria Mall, snuck into the movies and worked at The Gap & Express. Overall it was a great place to grow up in. Looking back now, had my family stood in NYC I think I would be a different person; not necessarily bad…. just different.
  1. My most favorite sound in the world is the sound of Cicadas singing during late summer nights in the country. The sound can instantly take me from an irritable or depressed mood to camping with my parents; to nighttime drives while coasting down the back roads of Route 32 with the windows down in my 84 Corolla; to being kissed by my teen love under the stars in Bowdoin Park. (Weird I know, but they said random information)
  1. I am a horrible, speller. I mean really bad. So much so that even when I tweet I try to make sure I am spelling everything correctly. And even then I miss a few and when I find out I go back and erase the Tweet praying no one noticed.
  1. I love to swim… or at least stay in the water for long periods of time. When I was younger I would swim at the local beaches and lakes until all my fingers and toes would wrinkle. Usually by that time I would be suffering from a leg cramp but still refusing to get out until my mom would yell at me. Even now as an adult I’m the same. My mother used to say I was a guppy in a previous life, I think she was right.
  1. I’ve come to dislike the City in a real way. The hustle, the overcrowding, the need to work in places where your salary anywhere else in the country would be enough to provide for a small family, but in New York City you barely get by. In Spanish they say “Nueva York es una bruja, cuando vives aqui no te suelta” Translation: New York is like a witch, she beckons you in with the allure of big city life but once you are here it will be hard for you to leave.
  1. I really do love music. It helps me get through really bad times, celebrate good ones and often makes me think of the people, places and experiences that at times hurts to relive, but also feels good to think about during a 4 min song
  1. I have rather large feet and tiny ears. Feet not that big, but big enough to match my 5′ 10 1/2″ height   LOL!!! Sorry, I couldn’t think of anything else in this moment.

She Had Given Him Her Entire Life In Those Final Moments…

(Snippet Of My Novel- A Work In Progress)

The game was running into overtime as his mind wandered. There were moments that seemed to blur. His thoughts, reality and not, all jumbled into one very real alternate universe. It was sometimes difficult to discern time.

“Look there, my son” he thought.

Seeing him now, a young man of fifteen. Fifteen? Juan shook his head as if to rewind back time. It was impossible to escape the ever lingering sensation he felt when looking at his son. It was the sense of accomplishment and one of awe. His son on the soccer field was the same 7 pound 5 ounce baby that once entered the world from his wife’s body to then be placed into his arms—both warm and small.

And now here was, his son gliding across the vast expanse of the green field and blue sky, confident and strong. Juan reminds himself how fortunate he is. He had finally brought something good into this world, uncorrupted and untainted.

Robbie had been born during a time when fathers had just been allowed into the delivery rooms. He could recall the mosaic of sounds that beeped from the many machines monitoring her and the baby’s heartbeat. The piercing smell of bleach and blood that seemed to linger in the air fueling the thought of life and death. Giving and taking, both intermingled together in one place.

It was their third try. It hadn’t been easy. She didn’t want this. He knew it. But he pushed just like he always did. They both believed they needed this to mend a marriage; to consummate something beautiful and permanent despite the obvious seams that had been fraying at the edges.

In some ways he knew it was over. The last battle for their love was won and lost by his wife Rosaline. Juan felt the moment during his son’s birth when she broke away from him. She was there, she was smiling, she was holding his son, but she had already left him.

She had given him her entire life in those final moments; each year passing with every push.

As she grasped his hand to bear down for the final time, out came the last string of love that lied between them both, now beating in the soul of his son.

Robbie was the last gift of her youth, her independence and her innocence, all given to him. Just as he had always received everything he had asked for, whether given freely or taken by demand.

Now, looking at the face of his son as he kicked the black and white paneled ball in mid-air, it didn’t matter anymore. It didn’t mean anything but what was in front of him in these moments.

Music & Writing

The Push Pull of Love

Within my novel I’ve been  attempting to show the universal experience of pain, regret, love and family. Suffice it to say, far too often  these topics tend to drudge up my own personal experience with these same issues.  Essentially, this is where I use my poetry as a cathartic process of releasing the things that weigh heavy on me.

So, in between my novel-writing I’ve been working on one particular poem that speaks of my own intimate experience with the push-pull of love, anger, longing and desire. Honestly, I’ve been having a lot of difficulty with it. My words have been feeling like a tangled web of hair, unable to comb through. This is where music often helps me…it puts me in the right mindset.

Pandora, my iTunes and CD collection are always on or within reach. I’ve even gone as far as using my Sound machineapp on my iPhone to use as I write. Depending on the particular scene I’m working on (hospital setting, outdoors in a park) I pick from the various sounds they offer. There I have a sampling of thunder storms, forest sounds, rain falling on a tin rooftop, traffic and distant train sounds. It may be a bit weird but for me it helps.

For my novel and this particular poem the song below is always looping in the foreground. I feel like the music embodies the idea of  leaving behind while moving ahead. You can almost sense the movement as you listen… well at least I do :-)

I hope you enjoy it.

“Untitled #4″ (a.k.a. “Njósnavélin”)  -By Sigur Rós
The song had a Hollywood debut in the movie ‘Vanilla Sky’ during the final scene.

The Quest Stands Upon the Edge of a Knife…

FINDING A FELLOWSHIP OF WRITERS

A New Year as I Identify My Goals


In my cramped New York City apartment the clock hit 12am. As the seconds ticked down, all the images and sounds, tastes and smells of 2011 fought for a space in my mind and heart- each taking refuge.

On the first chime I attempted to drive out the not so great memories of the year that past while on the second I savored in the good ones. By the twelfth chord my thoughts blended harmoniously on the people I wish to think of while recalling the ones I didn’t, often the same between the two.

Thankfully the war that was waging in my head and the tears that began to swell was interrupted by the sight of my self-absorbed Major kissing Lady Gaga, by the embrace of Dick Clark and his wife and finally in the vain of Alfred Eisenstaedt infamous V-J Day photograph, I watched as Jenny McCarthy made-out with a NYC Police Officer.

The last two years had been hard ones, plagued with a few of life’s hardships including the death of two family members and ending with a broken heart. Suffice it to say 2012 couldn’t have come any sooner.

I immediately began to wonder what the New Year would bring while seriously contemplating what I wanted to make of it. Above everything writing was and is going to be at the forefront of my goals. At the risk of sounding cliché my story…this story will be told and I’m going to kick ass at it.

So, during one of my many late night writing sessions I had the movie Lord of the Rings playing next to my Word document. I briefly glanced at the minimized screen just as Cate Blanchett spoke these words to her ‘Ring Bearer’

The Quest Stands Upon the Edge of a Knife. Stray but a little and it will fail.

– Galadriel

Almost instantly, I realized that I am the Ring Bearer in my own life. No, I’m not trying to defeat the Dark Lord and save Middle Earth. But in my own way (perhaps you as well) I am traveling and living within my own quest. Attempting to accomplish something I never thought I would.

But with that we sometimes need a little help. A fellowship perhaps. A fellowship of writers and artists alike.

More than anything, what has helped in my writing has been the connection with others. It started with creating my blogs and signing up for Twitter. Then National Novel Writing Month arrived and I participated fully. Each provided the push I needed each day to write.

Now that NANOWRIMO is over I went scouting for other challenges to connect with. In doing so I found A Round of Words in 80 Days. Unlike National Novel Writing Month you set your own writing goal for the 80-day stretch as you connect with other writers. You identify what you want to accomplish and post it. Fellow #ROW80 participants will connect on your blog and Twitter to see your progress and give a hand of encouragement. Sounded great to me so I started.

However, this had me thinking…how many other writing/ word count challenges are there? Quite a few (I’m sure many more that I’m missing)

  • National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO): Quoted from their site “Its a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.”
  • A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80): Run by Kait Nolan. Here you set your own writing goal for the 80 days. There are 4 rounds a year, each running 80 days. Thanks @JayrodPG for this one!!
  • 250, 500 or 1000 Words A Day: In this challenge you try to write 250, 500 or 1000 words a day (pick one of these goals), at least six days a week. Their website is also a great resource on Word Count meters to place on your blog no matter which challenge you participate in.
  • 100 Words: In this challenge you set out to write 100 words a day. A fellow blogger just informed me about this one. Since the word count is so small you have the time to really take a close look at what you are writing, how it is said and determine if what you have written is actually moving the story forward. In other words, does it have purpose. Thanks Nancy at http://wordsforgotten.com/ you rock!!!
  • May Novel Writing Month (MayNoWriMo) : The rules are simple: Name your word count goal for the month, begin writing at 12:00 AM on May 1st and reach your word count goal by 11:59:59 PM on May 31st to be called a winner.
  • Academic Book Writing Month (AcBoWriMo) Writing for an academic audience. Total word count goals you set – journals, book chapters, books, doctoral thesis, or academic reviews.
  • Six Sentence Sunday (SSS): BRILLIANT!! Its a way to share a tiny portion of your work with other writers, authors and readers as a means of gaining interest in your work or for feedback, support and encouragement! The idea of Six Sentence Sunday (SSS) began with Sara Brookes. Participating is easy. Pick any SIX sentences from your work from any genre, whether WIP or published (you don’t have to be published to participate) and post them on your blog on Sunday before 9 AM EST.

So, with my new writing schedule in one hand and a growing fellowship of writers in another I saddled up on my horse as I make my way to complete my ‘precious’…novel that is. ☺

A 9mm Stored In My Underwear Drawer

FOR THE LOVE OF RESEARCH…

OK, to better learn about my characters for my novel- being that my main character is a former Marine & now Police Officer, I’ve done the following:

Interviewed (2) Marine and know another

Visited a recruitment office

Read a crap load of materials on them

Studied countless Marine videos ( Discovery Channel stuff, personal blogs & journals)

Watched Marine themed movies including ‘Full Metal Jacket’ and I HATE war movies !!!

Facebooked I “Liked” the United States Marine Corp on Facebook including their Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego (Where my fictional character will be trained at)

Shooting I’m even going to go rifle and pistol shooting in the upcoming months

Spoken with Family- Even though he isn’t a Marine I sat down with my father and spoke to him about his experience in the Army and why he joined. When I asked him why the Army and not the Marines he said “I didn’t  join the military to go fight and kill someone!” CRACKED ME UP!! But it says a lot about the roll and perception of the Marines in our armed forces.

I’m about as liberal as they come. I used to be afraid of guns and I didn’t know or think about the difference between each of the armed forces. Outside of knowing why my own family, friends and community members join the military (ie. A way out of bad neighborhoods, career/school opportunities or a need for strong support and guidance) I never really understood why anyone would put themselves in harms way for our own government that has demonstrated time and time again how they ALWAYS need to be reminded to give back when our soldiers return from war and are in need.

With that in mind, my ongoing process of learning and listening to the experiences of others I’ve come to respect and admire the strength, courage and stamina found in each of these Marine men and women, truly amazing. For that I am grateful to everyone I have spoken to and what I have learned.

However, in the process of researching I think I’ve come to learn way too much about hair cut regulations, rankings, The Crucible, and even BCGs…… that would be ‘Birth Control Glasses’ (military issued glasses).  And now my friend (The Marine I interviewed) was so excited that I was writing a story about a Marine he went out and bought me a T-shirt, coffee mug and my favorite, a Marine fatigued mouse pad!

Now if I can only get all my NYC Police family members and friends to get me stuff. I will be well on my way to become a card carrying NRA member with a 9mm stored in my underwear drawer and shotgun in my imaginary pick-up!! :-P