Sunday, December 29, 2013

musings on goodness (or God, if you prefer)

Sometimes it’s far easier to believe that the world is an insidious place. There can be so much hurt and anger and outright bad that it’s difficult to see through it all. Like a murk or a fog that settles over the landscape, once you start seeing brokenness and oppression in all their various forms it’s very difficult to unsee them – not that you want to or should. It’s just that seeing the bad, hard things makes it difficult to see anything else.

And then there are times when the murk settles and the fog rolls away in the midst of very real goodness: A woman who’s lost her truest love smiles for the first time in a long time because her grandchildren are sitting at her kitchen table, drinking her tea. A man who spends half his life caring for his wife and after she’s gone that same wife’s picture sits on his girlfriend’s mantel because why on earth wouldn’t she? The generosity of a woman who has nothing to give and yet gives anyway – gladly and unapologetically. There is a blinding brightness to these things. They can show you the way through the fog. You just have to remember to look for them.

I often wonder if goodness (or God, if you prefer) isn’t neat and tidy. Maybe goodness doesn’t like clean lines, but instead prefers complexity and chaos and mess. Maybe it wants to sit in the hard places, wants the challenge of making something out of nothing (or less than nothing). It was YHWH who brought light out of the darkness, after all.

Friday, December 27, 2013

how I'm spending today

Listening to: Imogen Heap
Writing: character profiles
Eating: lots and lots of chocolate
Taking breaks with: WORN Journal

Sunday, December 15, 2013

killing your darlings

Every writer knows the phrase, “Kill your darlings,” because every writer knows exactly how necessary the act is. But up until very recently - like, just now – I never really understood why this sentiment carried so much weight, why so many writers vehemently shouted it from the rooftops. Up until very recently, these were my thoughts on the matter:

Kill my darlings? Pfft. Easy. Darlings, shmarlings. I can cut anything at anytime, no matter how perfect or wonderful I think it is. Nothing is sacred.*

Very often, I take this too far. Sometimes I get feedback on a manuscript and think, “That’s it! Everything must go. A total rewrite is in order.” (It’s times like these that my agent rolls her eyes and bites her tongue while I sleep on it and come to my senses. She is a wise, wise lady.) Sometimes total rewrites are what’s needed. But not always.

Anyways. I’ve been trucking along on these revisions for a while now, and then, out of the blue, I get to this scene that I really love that needs to be cut. But instead of deleting that darling, it stopped me dead.

Surely, not this scene, I thought to myself. But the reasons for cutting it were sound. No matter how hard I tried to sabotage those reasons, they blocked me at every turn. So I held my breath and closed my eyes and cut the scene. And then I kept on trucking.

And lo and behold, it happened again. Another scene that I adored needed to be cut for very sound reasons. Not this one, I thought. This one is special. And I clung. And I clung. And I clung.

Finally I had to take a step back and realize I’d been deluding myself all these years.

Killing your darlings is really, really hard.

There are some scenes that you will write that are perfect and poetic and insightful and whatever else it is that endears them to you. Sometimes, though, those scenes have the power to weaken the narrative. And when that happens, they must go. The needs of the narrative as a whole are always more important than your desire to coddle that one little scene you desperately love.

So steel yourself (wine helps) and then go kill those darlings.

*I do believe in the sacred, very much so. I just also believe in exaggeration.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


My grandfather passed away last Thursday after spending three agonizing weeks in the hospital. And while death isn't exactly a stranger to me, I've never quite felt a loss like this one.

Someone once told me that being broken up with is like someone close to you dying. I've found that's entirely, fundamentally untrue. Sure, break-ups hurt like hell. But they're nothing like death. Nothing at all. The sounds of your grandmother's sobs, of your mother's, of your aunts' - those are not things you can unhear. Death is irrevocable absence. It's perpetual silence. It's gone-ness. Where someone was, they are now no longer. And will never be again.

It's the strangest thing.

Last weekend, as my family and I gathered up the remnants of a good, rich life, I could see the passing of time. I could feel the ending of something vast. I know that nothing is permanent. I know that everything changes. I know that this too will end.

It's just that I've never been very good with endings.

Love you, Pa.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


At some point in life, the place that formed you and the people you once belonged to are no longer yours. Maybe those people or that place has changed, or maybe you’ve changed, or maybe death or distance or some other circumstance has separated you. Whatever the case, the seams that once held your world together have frayed and frayed and finally come undone and now here you are, with your needle and thread, and your unraveled world, alone.

You realize that all along your gods were mere mortals. All along you've thought death was the worst thing that could happen - but it's not.

It's not.

So now what are you going to do?