A Watched Pot BURNS!

Okay, that title is a little melodramatic, yes? Yes. But what in the name of Asgard am I talking about? Glad you asked…

I have mentioned that I hate waiting. I hate waiting for the mail-carrier to come in the afternoon or early morning or late evening or WHENEVER SHE FREAKING DECIDES TO SHOW UP WITH MY PRECIOUS…You get the point. I also hate waiting in lines, waiting for my mom to get home from work so we can spill details about the day’s events. And I hate waiting to share my books with the world.

Guys, this is bad news. First drafts SUCK. They’re supposed to. Anne Lemott (forgotten how to spell) said it well–or was it Hemingway? I don’t know, but it’s freakin’ genius ’cause it’s true: The first draft of everything is s..t.

To tone it down and censor it (as I do for my younger readers): The first draft of everything stinks. We don’t parade our body odor around proudly, do we? No, of course not. We shower, we put on deodorant, we spray on cologne. We don’t impatiently skip all that hygiene because we hate waiting to get out the door. Why? Because besides our stench offending those around us, WE DON’T WANT TO EMBARRASS OURSELVES.

A watched pot on a burner still boils. But if you touch it without proper safety equipment, you will get burned. Here’s how this translates into the writing life: If you share your ideas, your first draft, your first paragraph, your first sentence too soon (before polish and proper gestation–yes, I used that word. Sue me), you will most likely get burned or burnt out.

If the person you’re sharing your first draft of…stink with doesn’t appreciate it or have the reaction you wanted, that can sink your hopes and let your old enemy Doubt creep back in and drag you under the boiling water (because I hate wasting a good metaphor.) “Oh, they didn’t like it! That means it’s horrible! Oh noes. I am a terrible author! This is a terrible book. I quit! I quit this book and I quit writing. Period.” Melodramatic? Maybe. But I’ve been there.

That’s why I need to let my pot boil and watch it boil ALONE. When the time is right, I’ll add all the fixin’s that are missing from the first draft, stir it up, thicken it up, taste test, and then…

Dinner is served to the beta-readers!

Keep your pen on the page,
Beth

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Do you share your ideas and work too soon? Tell me I’m not alone in getting discouraged by lukewarm reactions.

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The City: A Slice of Life

In honor of this fairly bad day, I offer up this little vignette. Enjoy.

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The city, in all its infamy, loomed before Cindy, the one, the only, the fabulous…But it mattered no more. Cindy was a has-been, a washed-up star of the moving pictures before they became talking pictures.

Where there ought to have been wonder, Cindy looked around her with disdain. “Can’t they clean things up?” she thought, like she was still somebody. Someone. Something.

The buildings climbed heavenward, and the farther into the city she strutted, the taller they grew. It were as if someone, God maybe, had taken a giant watering and willed the dead concrete to sprout roots and reach for the stars.

Cindy had been a star, a bright, shining star. And now what was she? A black hole?

“Move it, a-hole!” a balding buffoon barked at Cindy, who had just stopped to light a cigarette.

So, Cindy was an a-hole. “And what does that make people who live in this city by choice?” she wondered.

She changed her mind about the cigarette, dropped it to the busy sidewalks and watched as some elderly slut in heels ground it down unwittingly. The ashes scattered beneath many quick-moving feet, and blew into oblivion, caught in a stray wind. It was a metaphor for her life: all hot one minute, withered to nothingness the next.

In her mind’s eye, she was back in her childhood home, all dressed from head to toe in satin. Cindy’s skirt was blue, the top white with a blue sash bow tied around her left arm. “You’re my little star,” Mother said as she nursed the youngest, Sarah, a golden-haired child with no sympathy for Cindy’s drama.

“I’m going to act on the stage when I’m big,” she told her older brother, James, who snatched the nosegay right out of her hands and held it aloft. “Jimmy, give it back. It’s mine, from my many adoring fans.”

“You’ll never make it on stage,” James laughed, passing the nosegay to their younger brother, Clark. “You’re too dim.”

Dim, Cindy thought as she now stared at the graffiti on a brick wall in a back alley. It reminded her of that moment in her childhood, the moment when she had decided once and for all that she would prove James and her father that they were both wrong. And now here she was, in a big, strange city with no money and no name and no star.

She thought of her father, James Senior. He had been bald for all of her existence, and maybe then some. A stern man, he had unsuccessfully forbidden her from pursuing a career in film. “It wouldn’t last, Cynthia,” he would tell Cindy. That was before they found the cancer in her throat.

He’d been right: it was all hopeless, cigarette ash in the wind. Maybe she’d take up writing song lyrics. “My career is dead.” In this day and age, it could be a hit, an anthem for a generation. My career is dead. Dead, mute career-woman walking. She slumped to the ground and wept.