Finishing Stuff

My current mantra

Mom would be proud

My theme of late has been “finishing what I start.”

It’s something my mother tried in vain to get me to do for as long as I can remember. I’m sure she’s turning cartwheels in heaven (after years of frustration and face-palming). (One thing I did get from her was being stubborn).

I’m very good at starting things. I also get bored easily and thus prefer to move on to other more interesting things once the newness has worn off.

I blame my father. He was a troubleshooting engineer – he loved to unravel a challenge, then move on to the next one. I’m the same way. Once I know I can do something I tend to lose interest and want to move on to the next thing that I don’t know yet if I can do. And since both parents convinced me that I could indeed do anything I set my mind to do, it’s been a long list.

My mother, God rest her soul, was very good at staying the course. She was the one who made me sit at the table when I was losing at whatever game we were playing on family night until everyone was finished (sometimes this would actually pay off, the tide would turn, and I would end up winning after all). She was impervious to my whining (and I was a Class A whiner). She was the one who stayed between me and the door to freedom when we were cleaning out my closet (to her credit, I keep my closet in order at all times so I don’t have to waste any more beautiful afternoons fooling with it).

My artist friends and I have been studying The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte since January. Part of that process is figuring out what we want (easy peasy – I’ve known that forever) and getting it (still working on that one).

Part of that process is figuring out one’s Core Desired Feelings. Danielle recommends four. My friends all have varying numbers of wonderful things they want to manifest in their lives.

I have one.

My Core Desired Feeling is Freedom. I want to make a living doing what I love. The fact that I’ve managed to keep doing what I love (theatre, writing, photography, art, music) at all in between raising a family and working a corporate job means at least some of what Mom tried to teach me did in fact stick. I have stayed the course on those things. But I’m meant to be a writer, a musician, an artist and my soul nags at me to fulfill those dreams.

I have sold things in the past, but on a one-time only rights basis. Control freak that I am, I want to do things the way I want to do them and giving up all of my rights to my work goes against my freedom-loving independent grain. I don’t want to give up all rights in perpetuity for whatever reason. To me that makes no sense. I want to keep them. I once worked for a publishing house. They were control freaks too. I recently heard Dolly Parton tell a story about Elvis Presley wanting to buy the rights to one of her songs. She replied she’d love for him to sing her song, but she didn’t give up her rights to her songs. Neither did he. They were at an impasse. But I realized I’m in good company. Dolly has done all right. Elvis knew a good song when he saw it.

The snobby ex-publishing house part of me wants to be famous the traditional way. If I can do that without selling my soul, fine. If not, I won’t.

Fortunately for me, publishing seems to be going more my way.

Part of my Desire Mapping has been figuring out how to make my desires happen. I did not realize just how much writing I’ve been doing over the years – during soccer and baseball practice (Son’s, not mine), while waiting for Daughter to get out of ballet and Girl Scouts, while in the car on trips back home, on airplanes, on camping trips (where many of my best ideas came from), at Mass (where most of my best ideas have come from), newspaper columns (still in the process of rounding those up – God bless my mother-in-law, she was better at keeping up with my writing than I was). Being an in-the-moment type, once I had done something, it was done. It’s only now occurring to me just how much I have to work with and how much could be gained by getting it out into the world.

I made a list the other day of all of my writing projects over the years – and have added to it since. And I have a feeling I’ll run across a lot more as I go on. If I only finish what I’ve started, I’ll have enough to keep me busy for the next century at least. (I can hear my mother saying “I told you so” all the way from heaven).

To my credit, I did at least submit the latest version of my favorite screenplay and a column to competitions not long ago. It was a start. Or a restart as the case may be.

I’m pondering an audio version of my blog as I used to do voiceover and radio work and miss it. Even though I’ve been told often how reading my work is like listening to me talk by those who know me in regular life, I still like to tell my own story out loud.

So here’s what I’ll be working on:

Civil War Trilogy – this has been in my head since I was 13 and Gone With the Wind was my beach book that summer. I finished it and said “I can do that” and proceeded to lay out my main character and my setting (back home in Alabama). Fortunately for me, years later I met someone who liked to do the boring research part (I no longer hate research – he made it fun). I sent it out to several agents and got back very nice letters from all of them praising my writing and asking me to send them something else. (Did I see that as the encouragement it should have been? No. I was an idiot.) One of them was Tom Clancy’s agent, who unbeknownst to me, sent it to Tom Clancy for his opinion. He liked it. I ran across him on a writer’s forum and he mentioned that he had read it and liked it and thought I should press on with it. I didn’t believe it was really him. Turns out it was. We had a mutual friend who was also his accountant and assured me it was in fact him. I will always be grateful to him for his encouragement of my writing. His agent sent me a very nice letter saying Civil War was not popular at the time, but he would love it if I’d write something about Scotland and send it to him (see The Scotland Book below).

I also have another trilogy, which started out as a play, which I intended to submit to a local contest but did the screenplay instead.

The Scotland Book – this one turned out to be a time travel romance. It also turned out to be sad and I prefer to write happy. As hard as I tried to turn it into a happy book, it refused to conform. Looking back, I think I was doing Romeo and Juliet at the time and it must have bled through. Am I kicking myself now for not finishing it and sending it back to the super successful agent who requested it? Oh yeah. It’s still sad. But in the years since I’ve learned to let things be what they are. And some things are sad. And I’ve also learned sad sells. So I may yet finish this one, particularly since we’re in touch with my husband’s Scottish clan and a lot of what I wrote then (intuitive writer that I am) actually turns out to apply to their Highland clan. So perhaps they were helping guide me all along. It is a good story, albeit a sad one, but those were not happy times. I may yet give it another go.

Time Travel Doc – this is another time travel inspired by a spirited discussion among the surgeons I used to work for, how surgery and the practice of medicine in general had changed through the years (for the better in the eyes of the younger doctors, going to hell in a handbasket in the view of the older surgeons – and both had valid points).

The Christmas Cat – my screenwriter friend in Los Angeles tells me this would make a fabulous animated feature and I concur. Need to bump this further up the to-do list.

A Lizard Tale – this was a long ago writing assignment which my writing teacher (a children’s book author) loved and encouraged me to send out as a picture book. Part of me wants to do the illustrations so I hadn’t sent it out since my illustrations are not up to my vision of what I want this book to be. It occurs to me I either need to get better at art or find someone who has the skill level I envision for this project.

Starlight Walks with Daddy – this won a writing contest years ago and would also be a fabulous picture book. I just need to remember what I did with it…

Jubilee – another picture book about fishing with my Dad and later with my brother during the jubilee phenomenon back home.

An NCIS episode (for the love of God will you please stop killing off people and adding new ones – it makes it very difficult to write for you).

I also have a few cozy mysteries, a couple more screenplays, and God only knows what else (though He and St. Anthony seem to be rounding them all up for me one way or another – stumbling across old files, scraps of paper tucked into books, random pieces of paper in random boxes, friends who say things like “Remember when you wrote so and so? You really need to get that published” – and I thank them).

It occurs to me I’ve been standing in my own Acre of Diamonds for quite a long time now. Perhaps it’s time I starting mining them.