Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What do You Say to Your Children?

I watched, last night, as something truly frightening happened. I also watched as my news feed was flooded with people saying "what do I say to my children?" I've been thinking about that a lot. I'm not a political expert; I'm not an expert of parenting, but years of dealing with a hurtful, sexist, homophobic, selfish dictator of my own taught me some things. Raising a child who was rented out for medical students to practice on taught me some things. Helping my tender-hearted son and my autistic son navigate the world has taught me some things. I'm going to share those now. I hope they help.

First of all, if you told them that Hillary was definitley going to win, or even probably going to win, if  you made plans with them based on what you would do when Hillary won, your first step is to apologize to them. You had no way of backing up that promise or assurance, other than speculation from an admittedly slanted media. So if they are let down because this was in any chance broadcasted to them as a certainty, you are on the hook for that. So you apologize for making a promise you had no power to keep, you take responsibility for your part in their disappointment, and you try not to do that again.

Secondly, if  you are a person of faith, any faith, you lean on that. I don't care what faith it is. I'm pretty sure there is something in your texts or beliefs about balance, about caring for others, about finding peace. Find those things. Try to do them. Try to believe them. It's hard sometimes. But it helps.

Next, you remind them that you will protect them. That you will physically stand in the gap when you are able, That when you are not able to be there physically, you will make sure that there are support personnel there, a team, to keep them safe. Educate them on steps to take if they feel frightened or unsafe (as an aside, the need to do this is not new to this election; I've been doing it for years). Then give them the mental, emotional, and physical tools they need to protect themselves. Build an amazing foundation, take self-defense classes, spend time together talking, create family rules regarding respect. When my daughter had grown men making fun of her because of her disability, I taught her how to pretend to fall and use her canes to smack them between the legs. When we had racial slurs graffitoed on our playhouse, I painted over them and talked to my kids about why people would feel like they needed to do that. When it still wasn't safe, we moved. My son is having issues now that he is discovering, for the first time, that autism is considered by many to be a bad thing. We are working with a therapist, a counselor, a psychiatrist, and two teachers to solve this problem. That's what you do. You protect them.

Then, you remind them that we are all, individually, responsible for taking care of each other. So, if you're scared for your Muslim friends, join an interfaith community, keep tabs on events, and participate. Ask your LGBT friends how to be an ally. Feed the homeless. Stand at Standing Rock. Volunteer at a Domestic Violence shelter. Do your part to make sure the children you raise know to love and respect all people, to stand up for the least among us. Do it by showing them, by telling them, by living it not just with words in your family but in how you act.

Finally, you educate yourself on how this happened. I see so many people shaking their heads today and asking "how."  I remember doing that at the end of my first marriage. Wondering how I got there. So I did research. Really researched signs of emotional and mental abuse, how it started, how it advanced, how it affected people. I mean, the situation was textbook once I did my research, and this one is as well. Research how people act when they feel unheard and the pendulum effect. Research ogliarchy. Research what happens when the establishment has predetermined candidates. Research three party systems. Research voter turnout. Know what happened so in four years you can do your part to make sure it doesn't again. Because when you know those things, this really isn't that much of a surprise. Disheartening, sure, but not a surprise. Situations like this are all over history.

So, what do we do? We hold each other close.  We apologize, pray, protect, act, and educate. And know that this too, shall pass. It may pass like a gallstone, but it will pass. I've seen gloom and doom predicted from George Sr. to now and while bad things have happened, we are still standing. We will continue to stand. Let's stand together.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Inspiration Vs. Replication

It's NaNoWriMo, and that means that authors everywhere are flocking to their computers to. .. write blogs, to "research," to engage in social marketing. In other words, we are flocking to our computers to do anything other than write our wretched, soul-sucking novels. The novels that we would be overjoyed to write any other time but suddenly feel the weight, the pressure, of a deadline.

I am no exception.

But I figure in my attempt to escape my lagging word count, I can talk about some things that we, as writers, face.

When you're a writer, some people assume that everything in your books is about them. I've had more than one family member get angry with me about things that I have written. Sometimes they had been the inspiration. More often not. I realized long ago that I wouldn't convince them either way, so I smile in a way that is meant to be enigmatic but most likely just looks gassy. Ah well, you can't have everything. My point is, that while we aren't necessarily just waiting to paint you as a caricature in our next novel, we are always listening. We are making mental and sometimes physical notes. We are gaining inspiration however and whenever we can

And usually that's what it is. It is inspiration. We use it to further the plot, to add nuance to a character. We use it to create the feel that we want, to make YOU feel what we want you to. Sometimes, though, far more rarely, inspiration becomes replication. We forget, somehow, that what we are writing is fiction. We get too close. We are working through something or we really want you to feel how we felt in that moment.

I have been struggling with that, lately. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, writing the second book in my series, when another story started tugging like a fishhook in my brain. This story is that of the one and only lost girl to be in Neverland. This story incorporates Pan as he actually was. Sure, he was fun-loving. He was also manipulative, arrogant, and a murderer. Yes, you read that right. If the lost boys displeased him, he was not above "thinning them out." So, anyhow this lost girl somehow finds herself as the caretaker of a bunch of Pan's castaways. While Pan doesn't want the responsibility of taking care of these boys, he doesn't like that she is doing it and therein the conflict lies. It took me a solid month of writing this book to realize why it was bothering me, why it had to be written. Once I saw it (and recovered from the "duh" moment of why I didn't see this from the beginning) I knew why it was with me. From that moment, though, my inspiration keeps trying to edge over into replication. Every time that happens, I start to get lost, bogged down. That character, he needs to do a certain thing to advance the plot but he can't because my son wouldn't do that. That character must be defeated, but the scene is taking me a weeks to write because I keep getting really anxious whenever I write it. I can't hurt that character because he is based on my other son.

I know I'm not the only one who does this. I know of a writer who had based the main love interest in one of her novels on her boyfriend. When the relationship ended, she couldn't bring herself to finish the book for over a year. Another author started a book based on her five children. Then she had two more. She didn't know what to do, because adding more kids made the story unwieldy but she didn't want the younger two to feel left out.

I don't have an answer to this. I just know that we cannot fall into this trap. Our writing suffers, first and foremost because we get bogged down and it slows our writing. Our writing also suffers because we are too busy staying true to reality to stay true to the story. It makes for a worse story that takes too long to come out. But once it is in our mind, compartmentalizing becomes more difficult. So, tell me, what tricks do you use to separate the two?

And now, I feel like I've procrastinated long enough. I have three kids stuck on the top of a cliff. I'll look forward to reading your comments below.