One of my all time favorite sayings/threats: Don’t f*** with a writer, she will get the final word — in print. It’s a powerful statement and maybe an actual threat, but it’s a good reminder that the things you do and say do not stay in one moment. They, at the very least, will be pulled apart, analyzed and, likely, morphed within the minds of whomever took your words or actions in. And, beyond that, they could be used as inspiration for people’s art. Other writers have had similar, but perhaps less crude, sayings. Case in point Nora Ephron’s “Everything is copy.”
As writers, we pull inspiration from our every day lives perhaps taking little snippets or full-blown action sequences from reality and making it come alive in a whole new way on the page. It’s a beautiful transformation.
So beautiful, in fact, that in times of extreme emotion and turmoil — you know those moments, where you might ask yourself “Why is this happening?” — I might try to take a step back and simply appreciate the moment unfolding before me. I look to the details, the twitch in his arm, the rubbed look of her eyes, the grasping a hand or the re-assuring rub of a thumb. I take deep breaths to inhale the moment, breath it in and let it go. It’s a meditation almost, remaining unattached from the reality at hand. It’s likely a coping mechanism, but one that serves me well given my chosen art.
Here are a few moments that take inspiration from life, but have found their way into the writing. Note the detail and the appeal to several senses.
Girl fight, almost
I threw a surprise birthday party for one of my very good friends and graciously invited she-who-will-not-be-named and Lip. It’s not my party, after all, it was our friend’s and he still valued their friendship. Everything went swimmingly, although the birthday boy knew about his surprise party, parked a few blocks away and stripped down to his boxers, sneakers and hat to walk into said surprise. It could not have been more than an hour later when my poor goody-two-shoes girl friend, Rae, whom I was showing what high school life could be about, aka corrupting, and the birthday boy were both sharing a trashcan, and I monitoring them. I had grabbed a blanket out of my car and wrapped Rae in it, the poor thing was shivering after consuming a little too much alcohol. The blanket happened to be Lip’s. It would be noticeable for anyone who paid attention to such things, like his girlfriend. And while he was not yet in attendance at the party, she was. She came up to the trashcan to confront me. Asking me why I would bring it out, why I still had it, what was my problem. I did my best to keep a level head and tell her it was neither the time nor the place for such a conversation and I had my hands a little full. As you imagine, she did not let up, but instead hovered around me tending to the drunks.
The only thing left to do was throw her out.Excerpt from WIP The Phone Call
About 30 people were smoking, drinking, listening to alternative rock and genuinely having a good time in the basement of this suburban house and its back patio. After a while, the birthday boy caught a second wind and I took Rae to the bathroom to vomit, and, hopefully, collect herself in peace. She-who-will-not-be-named called to me as I climbed the wooden, unfinished steps and I remember some witty retort to the effect of “get a life” or “possession is nine tenths of the law” that came out of my mouth, though I don’t recall the actual words. She followed us into a small, half bath/powder room on a floor not occupied by the party, but instead, the dark and quiet, you’d expect from an evening in suburbia. She knocked on the door and, with the defiance of a teenager who will prove she is much stronger than you, I let her in. I don’t remember what she said, because being in such close proximity to her had me seeing red. And after she finished, and this I vividly remember, I said “My hands are literally shaking stopping myself from punching your lights out right now. This is Jay’s house and his party and I’m trying to be respectful, but I will not be able to control myself for much longer.” She turned and left, but like a dog with a bone was waiting outside the door, someone informed me. The only thing left to do was throw her out. I grabbed the incriminating blanket from Rae, who, at this point, pretty petrified to be in a small confined space where a fight may break out, stomped out of the bathroom, unlocked the front door, marched out to the lawn and threw it out there. “Take your fucking blanket and leave. It’s time for you to go.” I walked back into the house, locked the front door and dared her, in my head, to be back at the party after I my hands stopped shaking and I could no longer hear my heart beat in my ears. I took a deep breath before re-situating Rae. She was not there.
Mother of the defendant
How extremely fitting, Sarah thought, as she began to awaken from her fitful sleep on the day of her son’s court date. The thunder booming even over the rumbling of the window air conditioning unit, the lightning lighting up the bedroom, despite closed shades, indicating it’s not a passing storm, but one that has settled in and eliminated the sunlight.
She makes her way through her morning routine, washing, putting on lotion, brushing, plucking, blowing, taming, lining, until she looked liek a mother one would present in court.Excerpt from WIP Sons
“It was a dark and stormy night…” she thought of how the beginning of the story might go, hoping that the outcome of this day is a bit different than the night Shelly’s Frankenstein brought his monster to life.
She didn’t want to wake up to her sunlight-simulating alarm clock; didn’t want to leave the comfort of her bed for the unknown of the day; didn’t want the night to be over for whatever is happening today to be final. She buried her head into their voluminous white bed sheets and pillows for just another five minutes, before taking a deep breath to face the music.
Tom, of course, was already up. She wonders if he even sleeps anymore. Perhaps he does, just not with her…
She makes her way through her morning routine, washing, putting on lotion, brushing, plucking, blowing, taming, lining, until she looked like a mother one would present in court. “Mother of drug addict No. 4” her part might be named if this was a daytime drama on television.
Everything is copy
Some of the writing that comes out of these perhaps dark but definitely complicated times reverberates with feeling as it leaves the page — at least that’s my assessment. It inspires great copy, at the very least. On the day of writing this post I found myself angry at my reality and puzzling over the why before I stopped, remembered everything is copy and instead said, “Go ahead, add fuel to my fire.”
P.S. Five books before Labor Day update. At the time of this writing I have completed one book and am in the process of reading two others. (I really wanted a fiction today, so I pivoted.) To stay on pace, one of them needs to be finished by this evening. Wish me luck!