It’s a good morning. I’m having a professional-sale short story published in Crossed Genres Magazine. I’m having another short story accepted in eFiction magazine. I’m walking around the house, barefoot, pantsless, making another cup of tea and putting on shorts while the water heats in the microwave. I have long since made my peace with microwaving water: it’s not as romantic as boiling it on the stove, but it’s a heck of a lot less screechy. And, for one cup of water…ugh, no, I don’t want to get a countertop water heater either, thanks. At any rate, my mind is wandering.
It’s going to be a hot day, 80 degrees already at 9 a.m. I’m sure in other areas this wouldn’t seem like such a threat, but in Colorado, which heats up and cools down quickly, it’s a pretty reliable heads’ up. I stayed up late last night playing Mah Jongg on my tablet, which I initially felt slightly guilty about but reminded myself that if I spend all day working it’s bound to spill over somehow. So I’m tired but I’ve got a cup of tea in me with another on the way. It’s Ceylon, good Ceylon but not the transcendental kind of Ceylon that makes you stare out into space and nod to yourself. Really good tea strikes me as the ideal drug, unless I’m having my period, in which case only coffee will do. I’m in the PMS phase of that swing of things, which might be considered TMI, but really what it means is that whatever emotions I have have a force multiplier on them. So when I’m feeling mellow I’m feeling really mellow.
I’ve recently worked out that all of my writing is about bullies. I knew this about my kids’ fiction, but for some reason, the connection to my adults’ fiction escaped me. I’m writing about power structures, I’m writing about things that happen because one group is stronger than another. I’m writing about bullies–it’s just that the bullies are bigger, institutional things a lot of the time in my adult stories. I’m writing about how everyone thinks they’re getting pushed around when really they’re doing a lot of pushing around themselves. I’m writing about why the war of the sexes sucks. I’m writing about the strains that drive people to lash out–to become the bullies they hate.
But I also know that’s not all I write about.
I want to know what it is that makes me write, what purpose I’m trying to accomplish. I want to try to figure out what I bring to the world–why it should pay me to write! Like a half-built robot who wakes up to find its master dead of a heart attack on the workbench, I want to find out what my purpose is in life–and to change it, if necessary. (Because I’m meta like that.) I want something that lets me know when I’m off course. I think I’m off course a lot of the time, but I’ve also recently learned that maybe being off course is part of my purpose. Maybe the things that make me go, “What the @#$% was I thinking?” are the things that most express what it is I am and do.
It would be nice to go into a dark place and write something personally horrifying and be able to go, “It disturbs me…and it should.”
And so I know now that I write about bullies, and when I write something horrific, after I’m done, I can go back and say, “Was this about bullies or power imbalances?” And if the answer’s yes, I know I have at least part of what I was meant to do.
But this morning, I’m walking around on the perpetual hunt to try to remember where I’ve left my cup-sized tea strainer, which I should probably clean because no doubt it’s so covered in tea stains that it’s starting to affect the taste–this is the world’s best tea strainer. It’s got this superfine gold mesh wire which is now several shades of dark brown. The tea’s been a little bitter tasting lately. I walk into the living room, and it smells like cat pee again. Great. I’ve got a cat with apparent Alzheimer’s and an attitude problem, and I love him but it’s a strain. I carry him over to his litterbox. I try to remember what I was doing. Oh, yeah, looking for the–
And it hits me: something else I write is about finding and accepting the secret self.
The Crossed Genres story? About an alien teacher who’s trapped on Earth and finds her calling here. The eFiction story? About a woman who haunts other people’s dreams, judging them mercilessly, only to find out that she’s judged herself, too–and who then faces her fear, liberating herself as she wakes.
I think back to other stories: a woman whose horrifying past has revealed to her the horror inside herself, which she decides to use (Dexter-like) against the kinds of people who hurt her. A Rapunzel who fears her hair until she finds out how easily it’s controlled. A geisha to aliens who becomes other than human, and more herself. A hundred others. A kids’ story about a girl who thinks she knows it all until an emergency happens, when she finds out that strength doesn’t look like what she expected, but that she has it.
The idea cascades. It rings like a bell.
I find the tea basket and make new tea and eat a cereal bar. While I write this, I pick honey-covered oats out of my teeth with my tongue. I’m not there yet. I don’t have the whole shape of what I am and what I do: but I have another piece of it, and it feels good.
*So here’s what got me thinking:
To Champion the Human Spirit
To Champion the Human Spirit, the Power of Joy, and the Wonder of Love
To Champion the Human Spirit,
To Celebrate the Power of Joy,
And to Revel in the Wonder of Love!
The simple version for me now embodies the full scope of what I’m intending.
The middle version is the one I initially came up with and expresses it in a form that doesn’t make others eyes glaze over.
The full version, I love the verbs celebrate and revel (my absolute favorite) and wanted to include those.
You can see I have a ways to go before I can be this clear on what I’m doing 🙂