Recomposing

I’m sure Lillian will also have something to say about welcoming 2017 in the next post, but I cannot wait for this year to end.

Technically I was scheduled for Sunday. But since the 25th was the Late December Day of Family and Feasting, that didn’t quite go as planned. And the 26th was the traditional Canadian Day of Buying Stuff at a Discount, so I hit all of the sales.

Today, however (well, yesterday, but as I write this it’s not yet midnight on the West Coast) was a day of reassembling my life in the aftermath of the year’s chaos. Cleaning. Organizing. Sorting and putting away laundry. Attending to important tasks such as making cuttings of my very prolific fig tree for friends and family. I gave my bed away on Monday to someone in need. (My present to myself this year was a new one.) Oh yeah, and this post.

This has been a pretty heavy year for me (hell, for a lot of people), and as I said in my last post, I pretty much have every reason to do nothing but curl into a fetal position and cry. But here’s a confession: I really hate the phrase, “It is what it is.” Quite often it’s used in a defeatist, fatalistic sense. As if nothing can be done. That’s not who I am. Something can always be done.

No, we can’t always control everything that happens. Maybe things won’t always turn out as one planned. Maybe one’s dear mother will finally succumb to the stage four cancer she’d been fighting for years. Maybe one’s father will have a quadruple bypass and need extra help as he recovers, regardless of one’s own problems. Maybe one’s ratbag husband will run off with one of one’s friends, and she turns out to be a lying, manipulative manic pixie dream girl sociopath, and they won’t think they’ve done anything wrong. Maybe folks one thought were one’s friends will show their true colours and abandon one because one’s pain makes them too uncomfortable, because they really preferred it when one just talked about things that entertained them, and they’re too shallow and selfish to be there when it matters. And maybe one will be reminded of the frailty and preciousness of life when a much-beloved friend unexpectedly passes.

All of this is purely hypothetical, of course. Honest. (I wish.)

But to say, “It is what it is” about anything and leave it at that is kinda like saying, “This sucks and I’m going to use it as an excuse to do nothing.” Yes, recovery time from any one bad life event, let alone multiple, may be slow. Yet if we don’t move forward and embrace the future, and find solutions when we do have even an iota of control over the situation, then we risk becoming stagnant.

We have to keep moving forward.

So what am I doing? Well, slowly but surely, I’m taking control of what I can. I’ve been learning a lot about what it means to be an adult, especially in the face of adversity (or as the verbed-nouns linguistic trend is these days, “learning how to adult”). I’ve been working out and slimming down. I’ve been growing out my hair that’s been pixie-cut short for over 14 years. And most importantly, I am continuing to chisel away at my revisions. Since there are some major fixes that need to be made before I send it off, this time I’m staying organized by creating a numbered list, assigning numbers to each scene and lowercase letters to highlight the major beats.

To an observer, it may seem like I’m just spinning my wheels, but this is actually quite useful. It’s one thing to have an outline before writing the novel, and another one to create a new outline to reflect what really happens. This is how I plan to spot errors in the story faster; and more importantly, highlight those beats and what happens to the characters (psychologically, emotionally, etc) so that I don’t repeat myself, and to make sure their character arcs make sense.

As of right now, I’m about half done. It’s taken longer to complete than I thought, though a big part of it is that I’ve been squeezing it into the nooks and crannies of what little free time I have. Once I’m done this, then I plan to get back to actual revisions. Already I’ve spotted and noted some important tweaks that should be made. Then, if I’m still revising on the weekend of January 7th, I’ll take these revisions to a small island just outside of Greater Vancouver and continue to work with great food and in relative peace at a writer’s retreat.

That’s what moving forward means to me. How about you?

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