A Good (Writing) Life: Blurring the Lines

I have an excuse for having been recently AWOL from “my rooom,” but, first, I’d like to share something a good friend just told me about being CEO’s of our own lives (which applies to every wage earner and hobbiest on the planet, not just writers!).  

The analogy (and another “nugget”) was supplied by a recent seminar this friend attended. The other nugget is that we’re also our own board of directors.

The rule of this “game” is that every 90 days you (the CEO) and you (the BOD) meet to discuss how you (and you) are doing with your life. The other caveat is that the only two questions y’all discuss at your 90-day meetings are these:

Where am I going? And how do I get there?

When I was twenty years old, my answer would’ve been shallow, considering I never looked at life past the next party.  

By thirty, I’d morphed into a worrier because I still was not challenging myself; only now I knew it. I was thirty, after all! But I didn’t know how to challenge myself in a healthy way. I didn’t trust myself enough, so I’d somehow convinced myself I wasn’t going beyond where I was—which actually wasn’t a bad place. I wasn’t massively discontent. I had many blessings: good health and good relationships.  

But I wasn’t stretching myself. And it wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to go after, because I did. I really wanted to write novels, but I had one large problem in this arena (actually, several, but first things first): I couldn’t accept that novels-in-process are largely ephemeral things, some never finding their endings (or, often, even their middles).

And that’s because their “architect” just isn’t ready or seasoned, or committed.

And then something happened. My mother got sick. And I stepped up the pace and began writing furiously—and before I knew it, writing was my healer. And then it became my habit, and when my mother died, it became my commitment—and then, surprisingly, it evolved and became my joy: I had evolved. My new life was that I could hardly wait to get to my desk in the morning and dive back into my story.

I didn’t know it yet, but I’d just begun blurring the lines between work and play.   

And the next before-I knew-it was I’d finally found a middle and an ending to a novel—my novel—and I became content with myself, even though this first novel wasn’t commercially viable (and I knew it).

But what that first finished story (the one every writer has at the bottom of her/his closet) gave me was the knowledge that I had the ability to find middles and endings.

I held a meeting with myself. Where was I going next?

The answer was I now wanted to try writing something commercially viable. How would I get there?

By taking another first step, my husband, DDF, reminded me.

This next first step was already growing from an idea I’d fallen in love with some time before this. It had come about while visiting a Revolutionary War battlefield. Wandering that old Pennsylvania battlefield, I imagined a woman looking back on her own life’s fight for autonomy, and I knew, at that moment, I had “something”—what, specifically, I’d no clue. As I said, novels are especially fragile at their beginnings.   

But I did know I wanted to incorporate suspense, mystery, a love story, and all sorts of other meaty things into my autonomy story—and I wanted to have fun “building” it.   

So I took that first next step and began writing, and at a subsequent “daily briefing” with myself, I suddenly came to another realization: I wanted more than a book.

I wanted the lines in life to blur further.     

Actually, I want to make living well an art form.  

DDF, who enjoyed life to the fullest, knew the value of play. My husband played his heart out at tennis, golf, skiing, skating, biking, table tennis; you name it, all the while never losing sight of his responsibilities. He became ill while I wrote what would turn out to be The Angry Woman Suite, a suspense/historical novel about a celebrity double murder in Pennsylvania and the fallout on three generations of two families.

His illness, which started with the occasional “lost” word, became a 6-year journey to the bed just a few feet away from me, where he lies peacefully as I write this. He’s near death. Has our 6-year journey been hard? You betcha. But did we still have fun along the way?

You betcha times ten. We did our best to blur the lines.

I had a 90-day corporate meeting with myself last night.

Where am I going next? I asked myself. What will life look like without my husband in it? How do I even get started going where I’m going? And do I really have to go there?

Yes, I really do.

Many times I haven’t had a clue about anything in life. I rise up to meet it, only to find again and again that life’s a lot like novels at their beginnings: ephemeral, variable, hard to pin down.

But a master in the art of living—and, trust me, I’m not there! I’m a wannabe—knows that the pursuit of something, anything, is undertaken with equal parts work and play, blurring the lines.

I’ve picked up my husband’s healthiest tools for living well and added them to my toolbox. I intend to use all mine and his where I’m going, which is on to the next novel outline, the next character sketch—in fact, one of my new characters is almost fully developed, looking something like this:  

“He was decent, no matter the stories whispered about him, which I’ve since concluded were due to the fact that he was relatively young and still good-looking by the time everyone got to calling him “the keeper of Broadway”—in short, that he was a conniver was assumption. What he was, after all was said and done, was still a boy from the sticks, the purest kind of Oklahoma boy, a charm that worked for him—and on me—every single time.”      

This character is looking a bit like the man I married—or at least he does now. But characters, like life, have a way of changing.

Still, this is where I’m starting, Baby Rae at my side, for now.  

The Angry Woman Suite is available from Amazon, and via the Barnes and Noble website.

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