Morning Ritual starts when you wake up. People who comment on my personal energy are sometimes amazed that I don’t “wake up” with it every day. No, I have to work that Chinese Puzzle Ball, find the thing I am most committed to in life, think of the most important thing I have to do TODAY to bring it into existence, and how accomplishing it with style and joy will benefit every aspect of my life.
ULTIMATE GOAL: JOY
ULTIMATE OUTCOMES: SUPERB FITNESS, RELATIONSHIPS, FINANCES, CONTRIBUTION AND GROWTH.
IMMEDIATE OUTCOME TODAY: Major progress on marketing plan, major progress on primary writing project, “Traveler.”
What can I do today to move the marketing of the “Morning Ritual for Writers” program? I can stay focused on who I was at the age of thirty: unsuccessful writer, unsuccessful martial artist, no relationship. And…what “message in a bottle” can I send back to him to get him on track in just five minutes a day, and what would I have to say in an ad to attract his attention?
What can I do today to move “Traveler” forward? I need to align the thematics from the different major chunks of the book. A major theme will have to be relationships. If you handle survival, sex, power, and emotion with grace and balance the rest grows naturally.
What is the primary relationship I can look at today? That would be Gus, the ex-cop hero of the story, a good man who has ruined his life and marriage…and has one last chance at redemption. And his wife Athena, UCLA lecturer in Abnormal Sociology, a woman who was the light to his darkness, and finally left him to save herself. Gus’ redemption arc is external (catch the time traveler) and internal (become a better man who can deserve a woman like Athena). Along the way he will have to learn, grow, win, lose, survive despair, heal, and become the hero she always saw in him. Athena will have her own journey, and her insights into the human mind and the psychology of mass destruction will be central to the story.
“Love is not two people looking at each other. It is two people looking in the same direction.” If true…then I’m saying that they love each other, but were heading in opposite directions. To “save” the marriage one or both of them must change. Gus needs the most change: it is his story, his arc. Athena will have her own journey, but let’s drill down here.
Any writing expresses what you think about human beings (“who am I?”) and the ethical structure of the universe (what is true?”). Where can I find a speck of truth about relationships, people, the world that I can insert into this book? Use as a reference point in their relationship? How about the scene where Athena tells him goodbye? That she’s had enough?
To get to that moment, I have to ask how we fall in love. Some combination of hormones, visual anchors, matching of values beliefs and outcomes, smell, touch, and taste. At some point something goes “BANG” and you realize something is happening.
With Tananarive I thought she was cute and perky, then I thought she was very intelligent and talented. The emotions triggered were protectiveness, not romantic interest or lust. Acknowledgement of her attractiveness was certainly there: when I watched her dance, she moved like a healthy animal, and her body was fit, sinewy and quite…lively. Ahem.
But I really, really didn’t “trigger”. My only thought was: “here is a young lady with a future. She has a destiny. I think I could share what I know with her, and be a mensch. She could use a big brother.” The first night at the conference, we watched SEINFELD in her room, sitting on different beds. I was VERY careful with my body language: I wanted her to feel totally comfortable.
It wasn’t until the last day of the conference that something “clicked”. It happened when she described how she got Stephen King to give her a cover blurb. I saw ambition, tactical and strategic thinking, the ability to think laterally, high-level skills in an apparently disassociated arena applied to a new purpose (using musical skills to get into King’s rock band) and more.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I saw someone who had about every human quality I hold most dear, who was moving in my direction, revving up to take the world by the throat, unafraid of risk or rejection, with the self-love and emotional permission to care for her physical body in a way that made me feel “my tribe.”
NOTE: Remove any one of those major pieces and that devastating reaction doesn’t happen. Now…which of those things are necessary for the CONTINUATION and elevation of those emotions? Well, the things that relate to the basic nature of the person. In other words, if T got hit by a car, even though she can’t take care of her body the same way, she is still the same person. If she changed her values and stopped wanting to write…as long as she had that same intensity about, say, teaching, she is also the same person.
But what if you extracted those qualities and began to reverse them, like re-setting dip switches? How many of them could shift without deeply affecting my feeling of connection?
Everyone has limits. Sweetness into meanness? Ambition into “laziness”? Activity into sloth? Discipline into excess?
How many? When I look around at relationships that have gone sour, I’ve seen the following causes:
- Infidelity. Especially serial infidelity. Different intensities and meanings at different times in the relationship, and interpreted differently by males and females.
- Financial instability. Huge. More devastating than cheating.
- Lack of sexual compatibility
- Lying and manipulating
- Lack of emotional compatibility and empathy
- The sexual power polarities can change, creating tension…or boredom. Seen this happen in “House Husband” relationships, and it wasn’t pretty.
The relationship can run out of gas, can become too explosive, or too painful. I don’t think I want boredom to be a factor in this case. More likely too much excitement and “drammer.” Better to have Athena feel that Gus is becoming something dangerous to her psyche and sense of well being.
But what? I have a very good sense of the cluster of negative behaviors and attitudes that Gus could have, that mirror real-world break-ups in a “useful” way. Why useful? Because they have to be capable of being resolved with a story arc.
Ah…in what way? Well…the perfect character is a window into a situation. It is through their attitudes, perceptions, and actions that the situation becomes known. Why did I choose THIS character to deal with THIS situation?
Ideally…because the arc of external action (resolution of the plot) mirrors the arc of internal change (how they must grow or heal to move to the next level of their lives.)
“Die Hard” is about a group of terrorists taking over a building…but it is also about a cop who is losing his wife, and how he comes to realize how much he adores her. And a woman seeking professional self-expression, and how she comes to value the very things that drove her crazy about her husband.
Two people who were about to be torn apart by their egos, who come together when the shit gets real. Defeating the terrorists is healing their marriage! THAT is a terrific story, one often imitated but never excelled in the genre. “Traveler” is in that vein, but different in that Gus is more at fault than John McClaine ever was, and he needs to “come correct” in a variety of ways that will require ego death.
HIS SELF IMAGE IS SIMPLY…WRONG. And as long as he clings to it, his marriage, his career, his life is in peril. So the story has to be set up so that his inner and outer journeys reflect and amplify each other.
So…the scene where Athena tells him she’s leaving has to encapsulate the themes of the entire book, such that on one level the readers will think: “you think you can live without this man? Just wait. You think you can live without this woman? Just wait!” but on another level, they will thrill to wonder just what will happen before that hopeful reunion. They want the experience of closing the book thinking “Wow! What a story! I never saw THAT coming!” but also a sense that, on second reading, all the pieces of the puzzle were there…and that it all makes perfect, human sense.
So…what is the most important thing I can do today? I can look at the structure of the three parts. Think of the external journey. And make major progress to make the inner and outer connect.
How long will that take? Well…here’s a secret: REALIZING I NEEDED TO DO THAT WAS THE MAJOR PROGRESS I NEEDED.
I’ve already won, don’t you understand? Today is already a success. All I need do is write ONE SENTENCE in the script, a line of dialogue or description or summation that states what is needed.
Get it out of my head. Onto paper. No, writing it here on my blog, or on Facebook, isn’t enough…unless I drag and drop a relevant sentence into the actual Traveler document (currently at 245 pages on WRITERDUET). Do that…and I win the game today.
Most important thing with Jason? Just tell him I love him and am proud of his very good week. He did GREAT with his Algebra yesterday, and was rewarded with a theater party with friends to see “Jurassic World.” Blue is so damned cute!
Most important thing with T? Pick her up at the airport tonight. Fetch sushi.
Most important thing with my finances? Check my Mint account.
Most important thing with my body? Yoga and Tai Chi/Morning ritual.
Bim, Bam, Boom. I know what, and why, and the “Morning Ritual” is “how.”
Time to get to work!