Silence

Finding my voice has been an odd kind of journey. Taking criticism is hard, but it’s an absolute must for any writer or artist, because it helps you grow and learn what kind of criticism is constructive and will help you grow, and what you can leave at the door for what it is.

I am not a perfect writer. I am not a great poet. But do I like writing? Hell, yes. Am I going to continue writing? Hell, yes, again! And, if one other person enjoys the ride, then I feel like it’s worth it. So I can say I don’t find it funny when I read diatribes directed at bloggers and Facebookers, the ones that pose as witty critiques but are really directed critiques of people struggling to find a way to express themselves through social media.

Communication is difficult. People use words and images in different ways. Will our language skills grow and evolve as we age and truly find not only ourselves, but our voices? Definitely. But haranguing, ridiculing (however subtly) or otherwise making people afraid to speak is not the way to do it. The only thing that promoting silence and staunching self-expression does is staunch creativity and fan the fires of fear and self-reproach.

We can’t become better writers, better artists, hell, better human beings if we do not hone our modes of self-expression.

So, with all this in mind, I wrote another poem this week. I hope you enjoy it!

   This photo is copyrighted by Cole Thompson. Permission to use the photo was granted by the artist – please visit Cole Thompson Photography and Cole Thompson Photography Blog to learn and see more of his creative work.  

Peace and a day with courage and love to you all.

-The Rambler

On Sorrow

So, I have already informed most of ya’ll that I was a pretty morbid, or even “emo” kid. Among the treasury of poems I memorized, in addition to “Too Late” which I already discussed in my post, A Grieving Love, was the following poem by Robert Browning Hamilton:

“I walked a mile with Pleasure;

She chatted all the way;

But left me none the wiser

For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.”

My young life felt full of sorrow, to be fair, and I felt my hardships made me wiser than my more joyful, carefree classmates. I read at an advanced level (although my fear of tests made me score poorly), I hated the nonsense most kids talked about, and I felt like I never fit in. So this poem spoke to me for many, many years. I often felt that joy was cheap and meaningless. That in order for something to actually carry substance, it had to be touched by grief, touched by sorrow. 
Recently, I have really been re-evaluating my worldview, something I will probably always do, and I’ve really been re-examining this poem. I believe grief has helped forge me into the sympathetic, forgiving, if flawed person I am today. I will always be grateful for that. There will be times I walk with sorrow later on, grief that will come and will show me how much more I have to learn from Her, but should I live walking constantly in Her shadow? Should I feel every person’s heartbreak, see the sadness in every person’s step, and live my life engulfed in a protective blanket of sorrow? Probably not. Have I lived like that for some time? No, but this thought has niggled at my mind whenever I feel myself laughing too loudly or reveling in just how blessed I am.
So, with those thoughts in mind, I wrote the following poem:
   This photo is copyrighted by Cole Thompson. Permission to use the photo was granted by the artist – please visit Cole Thompson Photography and Cole Thompson Photography Blog to learn and see more of his creative work.  
  
We all carry burdens, but joy is so precious when it is here – what is the harm in allowing it in? There’s nothing to fear from laughing with abandon, and there is no sense in worrying that you may seem foolish. What is a fool, anyway?
May happiness follow you all everywhere, on whatever journey you take.
-The Rambler

Quick-Slow

Here’s a little poem I wrote for my daughter, in one of those many moments where I was so happy, I was damned sure my heart was about to burst.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. I know I am!
-The Rambler

Musings on Expectations

I once was (and, in all honesty, still am to some degree) a creature of expectation. Perhaps it was part of being a dreamer – I spent so much of my time with my head in the clouds or in a wistful  future, I wove intricate little plans for myself of what may be, would be, and could be. I hoped and dreamed up a world of wonders for myself and my family, a world away from the hurt I had grown accustomed to, and I wove into that world a certain degree of expectations about who I am.

My name means “lamb” and my mom often called me her little lamb. She thought I was innocent, sweet, and pure – and I think I tried to be all those things for her. And for me, because more than anything I wanted to be good. I wanted to be nice, to treat people kindly, and to be the best person I could be.  Hell, I still want these things!

But then there’s the other side of expectation – you build yourself into what you expect (or believe others expect) and if you fall short of what you envisioned you would be, well, your world comes crashing down around you. The same goes of expectations of others – if they fall short, or even do something other than what you had expected or dreamed they might do, in your fairy tale version of the world, you feel crushed. You taste and feel disappointment. And what maybe should have been sweet, is bitter simply because it was not what you had expected.
I spent a lot of my childhood waiting – waiting for the promised camping trip, fishing trip, swimming pool visit that never happened. It broke my Mom’s heart to see her kids waiting on the porch for a father who never showed. He forgot, things came up and he simply forgot to tell us he couldn’t come, or he thought it was the next weekend – he would make it up to us with an even better trip – a trip that usually didn’t happen.
The excitement turns to disappointment, which turns to a feeling of sadness, to self-doubt. If Dad doesn’t want to see me, what does that say about me?  I saw other dads pick their children up from school, and I felt envious, because I didn’t really know what it was like. You know, to have a dad pick me up and lift me into the air with that look of joy and pride I saw in those other dad’s faces. You know, the look I see in my husband’s eyes when he spins my daughter around in a circle and they fall into a heap giggling.

So my hopes became tinged with an expectation for disappointment and sadness. An expectation that I would always be Rachael the Unloved. That when someone forgot something trivial, perhaps it meant I was still the Unloved. The Unimportant. 

Now, I’m old enough to know it doesn’t mean anything. Children are precious and a gift, and that Dad didn’t make time for us, well, that was and is his own baggage. There were other things going on – of course – a child can’t even begin to understand the worlds and relationships of adults. But I don’t need to make excuses for him, or judge him, or even waste a moment caring. It was what it was.
But, all that being said, I want to leave my expectations behind me. It’s obviously an ongoing battle, that I believe I am winning (some days are better than others), but progress is progress!

So, here’s my final version of my poem on Expectations. You may have seen earlier drafts, but I decided they sucked – er, um, what I mean to say, is – I decided that they were a little too rough around the edges. So, I may be deleting them. If you read and preferred a previous draft, feel free to let me know and I can send it to you.

Otherwise, here it is:

Okay, I should say that one might get the impression that I am emo or depressed from this blog.  But I should state – writing is cathartic for me. If I feel a moment of disappointment, or a worry of expectation, than writing about that pain, fear, or guilt – well, the mere act of writing it down, getting it on the page and out of my head – that is as good as a sigh of relief. It gets out and lets me get on to thinking about better things.
Like, how nice it is sit in this moment, with a happy heart, listening to my daughter’s breathing over the monitor and the keys clacking as my husband works next to me. Thinking about the run we just finished, the life we are leading, and the places we are going.
And in this moment, this moment without expectations? All I can think is that I have a truly wonderful and blessed life.

Ten Years and some change

So my husband and I just celebrated our tenth anniversary. It was the most fun we’ve had in quite some time. We ate, we drank, we walked by the beach and marveled at how far we’ve come.

All in all, the last ten years have been nothing short of amazing. My love for my husband has grown over the years – I have seen him emerge from his teenage years into a responsible, caring, silly man. And now, seeing him with our daughter and pursuing his dream to be a doctor? Well, that love has become even more intense. He can still make me laugh, even as he drives me insane.

Still Guilty of PDAs after 10 Years

On a completely different note, my own life seems to have gotten a bit off track.

I am not really a medievalist anymore. I like to say I am, but I don’t live, breathe, and eat the medieval world and literature any more. I am not reciting Old English to begrudging college students like I once imagined I would be doing at this stage in my life. My dreams of being a writer are, well, active, sure, but I am not being paid to write (not yet, at least).

What happened? Where did that spark, the love of all things old and medieval go? Nowhere. It’s still here. It all comes down to money – I don’t have it!

Then, these last few weeks, well, I’ve just been feeling tired. Not a type of tired that sleeping will cure. It’s been a bone-tired, stretched-too-thin exhaustion, that has made me feel close to breaking. Is it pushing myself to read and write, being a mom, and working full time, and just feeling like I’m not quite doing anything justice? Is it fear of what may come, what might not come, and the failure that now is so much closer?

Perhaps. Or, maybe it’s that I feel like I’m spending a lot of time on things that don’t really matter. I’m watching my daughter grow up and I feel like I’m missing it. I get back from work and I am too wiped out to write, recently, or do much of anything.

Maybe it’s just that I truly needed this vacation. Vacations are good for the soul after all, and this one certainly has been. It’s let me get back in touch with me, not the tired, frazzled, cranky person I felt I’ve become become. I feel like I need to let myself become more grounded and centered again. I need to find that focus on the positive in life, rather than how short I am falling from where I want to be. Or stressed by those things outside of my control.

All in all, I’m feeling a lot more at peace, thanks to a vacation and visiting family. I have a lot of self-discovery and struggling to do, but that’s okay. I’ll figure it out. Or I won’t. And that’ll be okay, too.

Family 

Queries, Synopses, and other forms of masochism

Wow. So, I have been thinking about the querying process for quite some time. I did my research and narrowed my list down to only those agents I think would consider my novel and its genre. And that was disheartening. Not many agents are accepting horror novels from first time authors. But I did not let that dishearten me! I am the Rambler! I am ever optimistic.

So, I carefully made my list, gathered from the 2012 Writer’s Market book (a must have, really). I then took my little list from the book and researched each of the names on each agent/agency’s respective website, and watched as the list narrowed. Agents were no longer accepting submissions. Or, they were no longer accepting submissions in my genre. Or, they just weren’t taking any new clients. Completely understandable, really. And my list shrank even more.

That was five months ago. I looked at my list, and I wasn’t disheartened! I am the Rambler, after all, and cheerful optimism in the face of adversity is my thing! So, I decided to write my first synopsis of Waking Dreams, even as I stared at my itty, bitty list of prospective agents.

And about five months ago, I decided to go through and finish my third edit of Waking Dreams instead of finalizing my queries – which was a good call. It really needed it, and I think I smoothed out some relatively rough areas. Once I finished that third edit, I approached the synopsis and querying process with renewed vigor. After one week, I was still staring at an empty page. Okay, that’s not entirely true. It had the following written, in beautiful typeface, the font painstakingly chosen after the course of hours:

Synopsis of Waking Dreams
a novel by R.R. Wolfgang

It looks really, pretty, right? As pretty as simple words on a page can be, when you’re not trying to shock or awe someone with your graphic aptitude (of which I have none). But I was pretty pleased with myself.
Anyway, I spent a lot of time researching how to write a synopsis, how to write a query letter, and finally, I did what I really needed to do – I just started writing. Then I deleted everything I had just written, turned to my husband and said: “This sucks. This really really sucks. Why does this suck so much?” (Note: there may have been a few expletives in the above bit of dialogue. Maybe. Okay, there were a lot of expletives.) 
After about ten minutes of groaning at my keyboard, hitting my head against the keyboard (quite literally, I’m afraid), I finally decided to poke around my files. Lo! I found a file dated from January entitled “Synopsis”! I was thrilled. I opened it eagerly, thinking I would be able to escape the pit of self-loathing I had somehow crawled into… Only to discover yet another blank, empty page staring back at me. This page didn’t even have a title.
Sighing, I went back to my real synopsis, deleted the gibberish brought about by my head-banging frustration, and set down to it. It took a while, and I had several breaks to run out and get the “This sucks! My synopsis sucks sucks sucks! What does that say about my novel? Gah! This sucks!” – but, eventually, I finished the first draft. 
And, after another week, I am happy to say that I did submit my very first query yesterday. I am relatively pleased with it – I say “relatively” because right after I hit send, I decided I should have kept the paragraph in about the background to Waking Dreams, but, c’est la vie. It’s done, baby! I am not expecting anything of this very first query, but it feels pretty good to have submitted it! 

Writing, Parenting, and the Struggle for Self Improvement

Well, I am feeling increasingly like a real writer, mostly because I spend most of my free time (when I’m not chasing Amara, cleaning house, doing laundry, running errands or just sleeping) writing.

While writing the story, “Under the Shadow of the Moon”, I went through my usual process:
1. Wrote the story, feeling absolutely brilliant and clever.
2. Edited immediately after, still impressed with my own cleverness and astounding writing acuity.
3. Waited the requisite minimum of three days (I call this the “Three Day Rule”) to let the story sit.
4.  After the minimum of three days passed, I began the real round of editing. At this stage, I usually question my sanity – I mean, how on earth could I possibly have thought myself incredibly clever having written the drivel and inanity that streamed across the page? 
5.  Waited the required time it takes me to remind myself that there must be some merit to the story, if I took the time to write it (and enjoyed the process).
6.  Final step? I rolled up my sleeves and finished editing it to the point I was happy with it again.
Even after the editing process is complete, I usually have a number of improvements to make, but that’s actually awesome. It means I’m improving, and really, isn’t that the goal of being a writer? Heck, being alive?
Part of my renewed vigor at writing is because I enjoy it and, even when I’m not writing, I feel like I am a writer. I owe it to myself to do something I love, to hone this skill, and to show Amara that it’s okay to follow your dreams, even if it takes you a long time to get where you’re trying to go, or maybe never get there at all.

Sometimes it’s just about the journey.

And that really cuts to the crux of it. The other driving force behind my renewed vigor has a lot to do with my goal as a mother. To show my daughter that it never hurts to put yourself out there, even if the criticism can be stinging. When it comes down to it, we do have some choice in how we respond to those negative voices outside of our head. We can grow from it, or choose to let it stop us from being who we want to be. 
We actually had a conversation about this a while back with Nick’s folks. Times change, and each parent tries to do their best raising their children. I know I will (and probably already have made) many mistakes, as all parents probably feel like they do.  My story as a parent is still being written, but I hope in the end I will succeed at my primary goals as a parent:
1. Love.  My primary goal is that Amara know she is fiercely loved.  I want that love to carry her and fill her with confidence, because in being loved and in loving, she can go anywhere and be anything, with a happy heart.

2. Confidence and Fearlessness. I want Amara to grow up unafraid. I don’t mean I want her to ignore danger or the wisdom being aware of your surroundings brings (see the Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker). I want her to have the courage to be herself, in spite of the many obstacles life may throw at her. I want her to know that fear should not be a driving factor in her life choices – whether it’s the fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of your own voice, or fear of breaking the mold. Fear shaped my childhood, and grappling with fear has shaped my adulthood. If I can give her the confidence to follow her dreams and the ability to recognize the inhibiting effects of fear, well, I’m on my way.

3. Compassion.  Compassion is a difficult one to teach, but it really starts with recognizing your own feelings in every equation, then adding empathy to the mix. Everyone is fighting their own battle. It’s easy to get caught up in our own day-to-day struggles, and to fall into the “This is so hard.. Why did x do y and hurt my feelings?” We live in our heads, experience our lives through “me-centered” lenses, and we have to acknowledge that our experiences factor into who we are and how we see things. But we also have to realize that we are just a small piece of the equation. To really experience empathy, you have to break out of your own head, and imagine what it’s like to shoulder someone else’s burden for a while, and see if we are still upright.  Everyone crashes. Everyone hurts. Everyone laughs. Everyone cries. Everyone has someone who loves them, and everyone loves someone so much it hurts. If I can help her see how connected we all are…
4.  Let her be her. I don’t want Amara to be some “better me.” Mostly, I want her to be her. I want to let her discover the world, enjoy it, feel the grass between her toes, and show the world who she wants to be. Does she want to dance? Then, by god, I will move the world so she can dance. Does she want to sing? I will do what I can to make that dream come alive. Does she want to do martial arts? Soccer? Write? Whatever path those two little feet take, you can bet I will do my best to clear the way – but not stand in the way. Nor will I turn into a “helicopter parent.” When it comes down to it, she’s the kid and I’m really along for the ride.

So, those are my four primary goals. Who knows what the future will bring. I just know I’m a pretty lucky mom.

-The Rambler