Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Life Unscripted

   
Channeling Cheech & Chong: Carrot Cake My Eye!
     It's Saturday morning, and I'm sitting here perusing our neighborhood doughnut shop's morning offerings on Facebook, hoping that Spartacus, who's just woken up, will fetch us a half dozen of Revolution's pillowy good Carrot Cake and chocolate-glazed, nut-crusted, coconut-custard-filled Almond Joy to savor over our long holiday weekend. Seeing as how I'm in a writing slump, I really have nothing better to do at the moment.

     This is going to sound crazy, but after finishing my last short story (Sun Jelly Pastures), I went through a strange sort of grieving process. Personally, I thought it was a pretty fantastically original story. For five weeks or so, I poured myself into creating characters, moods, imagery, feelings, and environments that were so meaningful and real to me, it was like having some sort of mystic experience. I became very close to a fellow blogger, Madilyn, who graciously assisted me in my research of Navajo culture. When it was all over, I felt bereft. Although I don't like to admit it, I've actually wondered if I'll ever be able to write anything that good again; that's how much I loved my story. I have no idea whether other writers can identify with such a feeling, but there it is. 

     Just for the hell of it, I've submitted Sun Jelly Pastures, as well as the first short story I wrote (The Appointment) to several different national fiction-writing competitions. I figure it can't hurt. I'm fully aware of just how competitive the writing market is, so I don't have much in the way of expectations. Maybe someone will like my stories and my style. Who knows? You never know until you try, right?

   
Me (center) as Dr. Frank N Furter, 1980
When my biological clock went off at age 26, I became someones' mom (no, "someones'" isn't a typo; I have twins). At 34, newly remarried with two young children, I started medical school. If I'd spent my life considering whether or not the odds were stacked against me, whether my children were "affordable" or if medical school was actually "doable" for someone as old as I was, I probably wouldn't be a mom or a physician right now. Playing it by ear is how I live life in general. Dr. Frank N Furter's advice in the closing scenes of The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always resonated with me: "Don't dream it, be it." I've never wanted to miss out on life because I was busy making other plans. It hasn't always been easy. Sometimes, it's gotten downright ugly. But, seriously, there's no better feeling in the world than to declare as triumphantly as Edith Piaf, "Non, je ne regrette rien." I couldn't imagine living my life any other way.
                                                                         
     I have absolutely no idea what I want to do with my writing. I guess my question is, do I have to do anything with it, other than what I'm already doing? I hate the idea of having to do anything. That's why I'm determined to make working part-time work for me. I like having the freedom to work as much or as little as I want, to be the one in charge of how I spend my time. The thought of being under somebody's thumb is objectionable to me. I really can't help it. I'm an unapologetic free spirit who has little regard for social conventions. I'm a writer because I write. I enjoy what I write, and I think that's probably good enough.

     Spartacus just came home from Revolution, and sadly, there were no Almond Nut Joys in the signature brown cardboard box. However, he did bring home a not-too-shabby assortment of Carrot Cake, Raspberry Sprinkle, Almond Cake, and Bacon & Salted Caramel. Somehow, I knew today's odds didn't favor the Almond Nut Joys, but, then again, getting the fancy-flavored doughnut you want exactly when you want it is a rainbow-sprinkled crapshoot, just like life. There are sooooo many uncontrolled variables, such as the availability of certain key ingredients. Or, like what happened last weekend, when Revolution's Hobart mixer broke down, and they had to mix and knead all of their doughnuts by hand. It's still worth taking that better-luck-next-time chance. Anyhow, Spartacus and I armed ourselves with mugs of coffee and munched on a couple of Almond Cakes before he went out to hit golf balls, leaving me all sugared up, but still bereft with nothing to write about. Woe is me; time for a Salted Caramel...

   
     It's an unseasonably cool and windy late spring day here in Atlanta, and in just a few moments, I'll be taking my dogs, Simon and Lilly, out into the front yard to enjoy the sunshine and squirrels. We have absolutely no plans whatsoever for the weekend, and that's exactly how I like it. Ah, the simple pleasures of a life unscripted. Like the mystery assortments Spartacus brings home from the doughnut shop, every moment's a sweet surprise.
A rainbow sprinkled crapshoot of sugary delight


     For those of you who didn't "get" the Cheech & Chong reference, here's "Earache My Eye."

43 comments:

  1. That was a captivating story you wrote, very original and detailed. Great to learn you submitted it to competitions.

    That said, path to 'getting published' is full of thorns. It seems one has to do much more than effective writing to be there.

    Enjoy the cool zephyrs of your uncharted life!

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    1. We'll see what happens, Uma. I will probably have forgotten all about those competitions by the time they render a judgment. Therein lies the real beauty of the uncharted life...a very short term memory!

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  2. Hi Kris! Just want you to know that I think your stories are wonderfully interesting and captivating. I am glad you submitted them. I wish you the best of luck. Now, as for those donuts, sign me up for carrot cake and caramel. Those are my two favorite food groups. lol.

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    1. Thanks, Kristina. So good to see you back on BC. I wish I could teleport these doughnuts to you; they are SO incredibly delicious!

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    2. Did I just read that you wish you could teleport doughnuts? Why not give it a try. I'll have 2 of each thanks :)

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  3. Oh boy, thanks for scripting "unscripted life" in "English"!

    I was wondering a while ago how you felt about the difference between painting and writing. For me, writing seems to cover a larger range of my mental activities, while painting only occurs to me with very special inspiration.

    I guess life would be just as perfect as this, without any plans. I also would feel sort of emptiness after I done some 'serious' work, but more and more, I got used to do nothing. Part of this would be credited to my "training" during chronic health problems.

    Good luck with your writing competition. I made my goal to read your stories as soon as my southern English knowledge improved some. :-)

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    1. Yun Yi, I feel similar to how you do about painting vs. writing. That reminds me, I have a large portrait that's about 1/2 finished...maybe I need to work on that while I'm in this writing slump. I am guessing it's normal to feel a little empty after you've poured yourself into creating something; it's like tending to a small child. Now, I understand why the little girl who I bought that yellow cat painting from refused to part with her blue dog...she must had a strong emotional connection to that painting. Tell you what, Yun Yi, I am going to make either a video or an mp3 of me reading Sun Jelly Pastures to you, slowly. I think that, as a resident of NC, you will be able to follow and understand it as spoken word without any problem. I'll let you know when I've done that!

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    2. Kris, I really appreciate you doing this for me!

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    3. No problem, YY. I will warn you that I absolutely hate hearing my own voice, so I will try not to cringe too much in the video :-D

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  4. Those are the most yummy doughnuts I've ever seen or heard of.
    I've written off and on in my life, and I really understand your dilemma. I really enjoyed the originality of Sun Jelly Pastures. I hope it gets the recognition it deserves. Bravo for entering it into competitions.

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    1. Charlene, even the yeast doughnuts are good the next day; all I have to do is microwave them for 10 seconds. Of course, after the Almond Cake yesterday, I had to do an 84 minute workout to burn a little of it off. I've just eaten a Salted Caramel, so today won't be any different. But, seriously, I figure it can't hurt to enter my work into a few competitions and see what happens. It's just for fun. In the end, I'm extremely pleased with my work, and that's always been good enough for me.

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  5. Kris,
    I think after any big project that you pour your heart into, there's always a bittersweet after-effect. The rush, joy and climax of completing it, and the sadness/emptiness of it being over. You do miss it. Hell, I miss those particular characters!

    I'm glad you submitted your work and wish you luck! And while you may feel "slumpy" now, I'm sure that wonderful, wandering spirit of yours will soon be filled with inspiration. Almond-encrusted or otherwise!

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    1. Yes, Gina, bittersweet is an apt word for how I've been feeling. I've tried not to let it bother me too much, but it's really made me aware of just how easy it is to become attached to our "creations." I'm sure that there will be more stories down the road.

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  6. Good luck in the competitions (not that you should need it, with your skill at writing)
    Now, if I could only get the thought of "bacon and salted caramel" out of my head.

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    1. Thanks, Dale. I think most of the competitions end sometime in the summer, so I'll do a follow up post then. And, the Bacon & Salted Caramel doughnut is really as good as it sounds! The bacon comes from our local charcuterie/butcher...they also make incredible fresh and dried sausages.

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  7. What an entertaining post, Kris. Oh, I want those donuts, all of them, lol! How wonderful to be able to have an unscripted life, I just love your free spirit.

    Sun Jelly Pastures was an awesome short story with beautiful imagery and vibrant characters. I really loved the entire story and the way the characters developed. So imaginative and magical it felt like a mystic experience. It’s my favorite of your stories so far. You put so much of your heart and soul into the writing and creating that I don’t doubt you felt bereft when it was over; I’ve heard this can happen to writers. Best of luck on the contest submissions! Whether or not you win, know that your story is a winner simply for the pleasure it brought to those reading it. And keep submitting those stories to others places too.

    Kris, I thoroughly enjoyed assisting you with my research on Navajo culture. Who knew that my dusty, old college paper would breathe new life. Must be kismet that I kept that paper. It’s truly been a joy becoming close friends.

    What a fabulous photo of you playing Dr. Frank N. Furter in a Rocky Horror Show production! Is that from a newspaper clipping? It is so “you”! “Don’t dream it, be it,” wise advice to live by. Excellent that you lived your life that way. I am also a fan of Edith Piaf.

    Channeling Cheech & Chong, “Carrot Cake My Eye,“ perfect! That photo with the donut image in your eye is priceless. Haven’t seen “Earache My Eye” in ages, hysterical lol! Love those guys and thanks for the laughs, I needed that.

    Writing because you enjoy it is really the only way to write, and you are good at it, too. Writing is my first love, but I have to fight around here for the freedom to be able to do it without complaint. Still, I am determined to carry on. Perhaps I need to divert my husband’s attention away from what he calls the unproductive time spent on blogging and writing by bringing home donuts, lots of donuts. Yeah, that’s it!

    Well, I don’t think you’re in a writing slump at all because you’ve just written a very entertaining post!

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    1. Madilyn, I have a feeling that one day, our paths will cross in person, and we'll celebrate with doughnuts, red wine, and dark chocolate! I think it is definitely kismet that you hung onto that old term paper...isn't it crazy to think about you writing it and then, almost 40 years later, sharing it with me? So cool. You're absolutely right about why I felt sad when SJP was finished; it really was like a magical mystery tour of my own psyche. I feel good about having submitted my stories to those competitions. It felt right, and even though I know there's little chance that anyone will pay me any attention, at least I tried. That's exactly how I felt about medical school when I first tried and didn't get accepted. The next year, I only applied to one school and had a totally "que sera, sera" attitude about it. "Earache My Eye" was very popular when I was in 7th grade, and I remember thinking it was SO risque every time it'd play on the radio station. I still find Cheech and Chong very entertaining. I think your "distraction by doughnuts" ploy just might work on Chuck! Especially "man-flavored" doughnuts, like those bacon and caramel ones. LOL. Thanks for the vote of confidence re: my slump. XOXO!

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    2. I hope to join in the party! I have the utmost respect for both of you :)

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  9. Hi Kris,
    Yes, I know that "what next...?" feeling. After I poured out 109,000 words for 'The Life Cycles Revolution' I felt as though I was losing a friend. My response over the last year or so has been to keep writing blog posts that will form the core of my next 2 books. That way it is a structure I designed that drives me. As I said before you are a natural writer. You are engaging, humorous, original and quirky. I live a bit far away, but I'd like to join you and Madilyn for that coffee. Of course, you guys could come to Sydney.......

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    1. Neil, wow, now THAT's a lot of words! I can imagine you had a hard time letting go. I had to do a word count for entering those competitions, and neither of mine was over 8000. Thank goodness for automated word counting! As for coffee, I am hoping to connect with Madilyn in person some day. Do you ever come to the States?

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    2. Kris, the answer to that question is yes. My son lives in Chicago and as a result I have made five trips in the last 5/6 years. Most recent was in April and my plans are to do a half-way catch up in Hawaii early next year, so unfortunately I won't be back in Chicago for a bit. My wife and I try to do a side trip as well and previously this has included NY and Washington. So, maybe one day??............PS. The jet lag is a killer and every person I speak to says....."Australia! Love to go one day."..........but, by and large, you guys don't and to be honest I understand why.

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  10. Yeah Kris,
    I suspect that `grieving process' may be normal after creating that world of yours. (Mmm...wonder if God went through that?) Anyway, so glad you entered your stories in some competitions. Why-ever not, after doing all the work?

    I'm not touching those suspenders, but don't believe you could have been chanelling Cheech & Chong...no cloud of smoke!

    Bloody Hell...those doughnuts...just had lunch, but am suddenly hungry.

    (btw, `Brad' definetly sounds more blokey than `Spartacus'.)
    Cheers, ic

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    1. That's exactly how I feel about these competitions, Ian, "why not?" As for the grieving, I really did feel emotionally exhausted in a way, but at the same time, so alive and fulfilled. It was like taking a trip but never leaving the farm, if you catch my drift. And Brad...yes, that's a good blokey name. Spartacus came to be his nickname because he is Spartan-lean and crazy fit, and it was less bothersome to family members than his old nickname, Oopsie. Dont' ask! :-D

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  11. I think that maybe because you worked so hard in the past few weeks with the short stories that it's taken a little out of you. You didn't just create simple characters, but each character had a real life personality of it's own. You made the reader feel as if each person or situation was right there in front of them. A bit like watching a film unfold. That's not an easy task, so to do this for weeks must have been exhausting work but enjoyable.

    Of course you will write that good again. In fact, you'll actually write even better than before as you grow. The more you do the better you become, if you know what I mean. Submitting your work to several competitions is a great idea. You'll get exposure, get noticed, get to see what others are doing, and no doubt, you could come home with the 1st prize. 'Nothing ventured, nothing gained'. Remember that Rowlings woman? The one who did the Harry Potter stories (her name escapes me right now as I think doughnuts).

    It's now 07.50am and I just wish I had a doughnut shop round here. What a pleasurable morning that would be for me. Yum. Loved the photos too.

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    1. Yep RPD, maybe "depleted" is a better choice of words than "bereft." After that story was finished, my brain was tired, mostly because I heard the characters' voices (and accents) in my head for all those weeks! I know you're right about writing, that it's bound to be enriched by time and experience. Writing definitely is a growth process. Glad you enjoyed the photos. I sent the one of my eye with the Carrot Cake doughnut inside it to the doughnut shop...good advertising for them, I think! (They've made it into several of my posts this year).

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  12. Bacon and salted caramel? What is this madness?

    Good luck with the stories you submitted and it does sound as though you have the life you want, rather than the life the rest of the world thinks you ought to live. I can respect that.

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    1. Big D, it is really is madness, isn't it? Actually, I've been dreaming up "manly" doughnut flavors to accompany the Bacon & Salted Caramel one...how about Bourbon Pecan Terminator or Peanut Buttered Chocolate Stout? I do feel very happy and free in life; hasn't always been that way in the past, so I'm taking it without question now.

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  13. Kris, I can commiserate with you in the grieving process. I am working on a book, and have no expectations on having it published (only that it will be published and touch people by it's greatness). Ha Ha Ha.... As I have been pouring my soul into it (loosely based upon my crazy life) I feel as if I have no energy for blogging. What I've got to learn is balance, and that has eluded me despite my efforts.

    I loved this post! Your personality (which I love) shines through and your honesty impresses me always. I, too have struggled with the "have to" when it comes to my writing. Just this morning, for example I thought "gee, I haven't written a blog post in a week, I have to come up with something". Undue pressure, self-imposed.

    You always inspire me, as you have this morning! I am grateful that I took some time to sit down to catch up on my favorite blogs, yours topped the list :) Thank you for making my day!

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    1. Michelle, good to hear from you! Sounds like you've been busy! I can imagine that it's very difficult to blog and write a book at the same time; the focus seems quite different. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and hope you're having a wonderful long holiday weekend!

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  14. P.S. Your short story was wonderful! No pressure, but I can't wait for the next one. Be gentle with yourself my friend!

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    1. Thanks, Michelle! That's very good advice :-)

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  15. I think its great that we can't get the doughnut we want all of the time, but sometime in the future we will again, it gives us the chance to sample some of the other doughnuts, and really appreciate our favorite once we have it again.

    Kris you are a wonderful writer, I hope you get some recognition for your skills and hard work, and I for one am glad you are just happy writing, because that means that I will once again be able to read you in the future, I happen to just love writing also.

    Enjoyed watching the Cheech and Chong once again, it's been years.

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    1. PBS, I agree! Although I was hoping for that Almond Nut Joy yesterday, I was just as happy with the assortment I ended up with. All six of those delectable morsels have disappeared into thin air! :-D Thanks for your kind words, Scott. I feel the same way about writing as you do. I think it's pretty brilliant how you've combined your love of writing with your online business. It adds such a personal touch that really stands out. As for Cheech and Chong, glad you enjoyed it. That's a video I just have to watch from time to time...rockin' good fun!

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  16. Kris, you always have something captivating to say. Whatever you write, it's always as if you're discovering the world for the first time. Your insights are so personal and unique, and you're an incredibly keen observer of people and life. I'm quite bowled over by the diversity of your knowledge and how effortlessly you manage to weave it all into your writing. I wonder sometimes if even you appreciate how intelligent you are. Personally, I've always managed to keep aloof from my writing, as if someone else were doing it. I don't want to be "hooked" on anything, least of all an internal and sedentary practice like writing. I want to be free.

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    1. Marty, I really appreciate your kind, supportive comments. They mean a lot to me. Re: aloofness, I think part of why I felt bothered last week was because I'd gotten myself hooked. and it was messing up my mojo. As with my paintings and other artwork, I am having to find a balance between the emotional side of my creativity and the free-spiritedness it takes to keep it alive and flowing.

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  17. First off, those donuts look delicious. ;) As for your writing, after I finish a book I always fall into a funk. I feel untethered and unsure where I'm going to go next. I should feel happy that I've accomplished something but, the truth is, it's the process that I enjoy the most.
    Getting embroiled in a story born of my own mind -- what a feeling! As for what you want to do with your writing, I'd just go with what feels right. You've got enough stress in your life. If writing stays your relief, you'll enjoy it more. Still, that doesn't mean you can pursue a bigger audience. I love sharing my work with others.

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    1. Janene, as you might have seen on FB, I snagged one of those Almond Joy Nut doughnuts today! It was incredible. I too enjoy the writing process, that creative flow that comes in surges, as well as sharing what I've written with others. Social media and networking have definitely streamlined the "getting your work out there" process.

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  18. I nominated you for a Liebster Award. Great blogging!

    http://coffeeandcrazy.blogspot.com/2013/05/i-received-liebster-award-nomination.html

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    1. Thanks so much, Barbara, that is very sweet of you.

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  19. The grief you experience at the completion of a large project is common with creatives. One becomes acquainted with the characters, and sometimes we know them better than any real person on earth. I am so happy that you are putting your work out there. Remember, however, that it's a process, and what might not fit in one competition will be just right for another.

    Who am I kidding? You'll be accepted by the first one.

    Darin

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    1. Darin, I think you're right about knowing our characters; I'd never really thought about it that way before. They become like old friends. Thanks for your vote of confidence. I'm definitely a "you'll never know if you don't try" kind of person, so it felt right to submit my work. Like I said, I don't have much in the way of expectations, but it's fun giving it a try.

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  20. I know exactly how you feel when you said you feel bereft after you had finished your story. In 2009 when I wrote my first poem I was so pleased with myself and amazed and I thought 'I can't do that again' but I still writing and still loving what I write :)

    Also I have just finished a big writing project (I co-wrote a play) which was part of daily life for months and now it's finished and I'm sat twiddling my thumbs and feeling a bit sad it's all over lol It's great that you have sent out your story to competitions, I submit my work too and it gives me a feeling of being a part of the writing community (if that makes sense!?) fingers crossed for you :)

    ... and now I want doughnuts

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