Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thin Threads

Kiwi Publishing is hosting a Thin Threads Story Collection contest. The publisher defines a thin thread as "a moment that led to a positive change (not a thought through process or decision)." We make decisions on a daily basis. What to wear. What to eat for breakfast. Paper or plastic? Sometimes the decision is impulsive, and the result is life-altering.

Months ago, I made the decision to leave my bad marriage and move in with my dad who has dementia. Within twenty-four hours of making that decision, I packed whatever possessions I could fit into my VW. While I had had years of experience taking care of Alzheimer's and dementia patients, I was prepared for what I would face in trying to take care of my dad. It was a daily grieving process. I can't tell you the number of times I sat on the floor, crying on the phone to anyone who would listen, "I can't do this anymore." Somehow I managed, and meanwhile, I bounced through the five stages of grief, staying in some stages more than the others. I hate to admit, there were times I regretted my decision and was ready to go back to my marriage, as unstable and ugly as it was.

My life has changed for the better. I didn't have much help taking care of my father. The one person who did, was a childhood friend. Through the years, he became close to my dad, probably closer than I was able to be. Whenever I needed help, he was always right there. To use the cliche, one thing led to another, and now we're planning to get married someday.

Think about your own forks in the road. Were any of the decisions life-altering? Kiwi Publishing asks these questions to help you define your thin thread: Did you ever find yourself in a strange place or had any strange encounters? Did you ever make an impulsive decision that ended up changing your life for the better? What were you doing when you met your spouse or partner?

Set your timer for ten minutes and freewrite about "thin threads," "a fork in the road" or any similar theme. If you're interested in submitting your polished piece to Kiwi Publishing, the submission guidelines are here. Also, come join me in the discussion. See you there!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Creating Drama

I've been reading Julia Cameron's book, Finding Water. Today I read something that struck a deep, resounding chord within me. She wrote, "Artists love drama and when we do not create it on the page or on the stage, we often create it in our lives." While I've been avoiding being wrangled into other people's dramas, I've been using my own as excuses for not writing. My dad has dementia and I'm his primary caregiver, his nurse, his maid, his cook and personal shopper. My impending divorce is getting messy. I have to find a real job. I can't write because I'm too uspet, angry or busy. I can't write because Daddy doesn't let me.

Yesterday morning I allowed myself to get so stressed out that I accomplished nothing. I kept complaining about having too much to do. As soon as I started one task, I found ten others that were undone. I became angry with the world because I didn't have enough "me" time. Then I felt guilty for being so selfish. I had allowed myself to get caught up in my own vicious circle. Nothing was getting done.

"I want to write, but no one is letting me," I yelled at my cats who were really starting to work my last nerve because they were getting in my way.

My dad was safely at his adult day care, and I had several hours before I had to pick him up. He certainly wasn't keeping me from writing. I turned off the television and the vacuum cleaner and went to my desk. I started to write. Almost immediately, I felt better. After writing non-stop for two hours, I didn't feel so overwhelmed with the other aspects of my life. The drama I was creating on the page was much more interesting and satisfying that the drama I had created in my brain. I was more patient with Dad and his asking the same question over and over again. He became more pleasant, maybe because for once I felt relaxed. This morning as I drove through the rain to take my dad to day care, we laughed and joked. He didn't try to jump out of the car before we arrived at the facility. I knew I would be going home to write. I couldn't wait to fill up blank pages and to spend the day with my characters.

Cameron also writes, "We hear so often that the artist's temperament is restless, irritable, and discontented. All of that is very true--when we are not working." She suggests that we are "restless, irritable, and discontent because we are not cherishing the life we have." I especially like her line, "Any life--and I mean any--has some things in it that are well worth noticing and appreciating." For our writing exercise, I'm going to borrow Cameron's. Write a list of ten things that you cherish in your life. For instance, "I cherish another day with my dad," or "I cherish the smell of coffee as I get out of bed." Cameron says that the things you cherish may surprise you and you may not cherish the things you think you "should." If you have time, do a ten-minute freewrite on at least one from your list. Feel free to share your lists here.