R-e-s-p-e-c-t

Draft one: done. Once I got to a certain point in the script, it just went. Have begun reading it through for errors and typos. Changed up a few things; found I’d gotten two of my characters muddled in the middle of an argument. And, despite my sticking to my outline and often feeling like I was writing a term paper, this script has given me some surprises. I was going to set up one character for stealing, then realized that I had another, shadier character to actually take the fall. My attempts to add subtlety into the dialogue led me to ambiguous statements (as it WILL do), and by the end of Act 2 I found a couple of my ideas modified without me even realizing it. Hm, now it sounds like maybe this person did that in secret because of her earlier statement… It’s added color and a refreshing slap to a story I worried was getting too predictable.

Now it’s dead-head time. Stop thinking, start editing. Not looking forward to the hours needed to get it into the formatting software. Sure, I can upload the text – but nothing else sticks, and I must go through it all, line by line, marking each character, each line of dialogue, each production note, again. Ugh.

Good news is that without pushing myself, I’ll be able to format and print the script for final inspection before my language lessons begin again.

I want to say it’s good. I think it is. Been very persnickety on military details (which often go lacking, or are incorrect in many portrayals) – but I’m not focusing on them. They are not the story. Nor is the war itself; there is only one scene with the women in battle. In fact, as I read through my work for errors and corrections, there was only one word that surfaced in my brain. The reason for the entire story: respect (and yes, Aretha is singing it in my head). Respect for these women – or the lack of it – is central to this piece. It comes up, again and again: the male commander shouting that women shouldn’t be soldiers, the male soldiers’ flirtations…Even amongst the women themselves, the question of respect comes into play. The characters’ alliances shift, in response to action both on and off the stage. Everything funnels down to the end, to the most combative roles in the play, and a final handshake – a sign of respect.

And I have settled on a name. ‘The Night Witches’ (or some form of that) is damned tempting. Kind of hooks you into it right away, doesn’t it? But it’s been used. Like, a million times. For articles and books, videos and films. Despite how much I want to use it, I won’t. Thought about calling it ‘588’ for the regiment number, but then it should really be ‘588th’, not ‘588’, and I felt the ‘th’ at the end was something that might trip people up. It tips you off this is a story about the military (at least, for me it does). Besides, the regiment was renamed after receiving recognition. So using a number is just confusing. …The script is called ‘Taman’. It’s set on the Taman Peninsula, in 1943. I know ‘Taman’ is a bit misleading as well – it should be ‘The Taman Peninsula’ or ‘The Taman Offensive’…but I don’t like either of those. And something about just calling it ‘Taman’… Although it’s not an English word, it’s not something that would frighten most people. It’s not Tzuychrswski or some similar foreign word with that string of consonants that always trips up English speakers. And it’s neutral. What is Taman? A person? A place? Immediately you ask questions, want answers. I’m hoping that curiosity will transfer into audience members. Plus, this is where the women made history. This is battle front that earned them their honors.

…Since it be about respect, y’all…I figure I be allowed a little of that there ‘artistic license’.

Keeping up on exercise, tho skipping my 30 minutes on the bikes. Pushing myself on the mental front right now. If I do it mentally and physically, I’ll run myself into the ground. So I’m being a little easy on myself until I feel the push is really over.

And it is a push. I’ve put so much into this…including a rape scene and the aftermath – accusations, shame, humiliation, fear… I’m tearing up every time I read it. The battle scene, when two of the characters are shot down and die, is also difficult to read: full of emotion, raw and ripe.

I sure hope other people are as moved by it as I am.

For myself, I feel I can put another notch in my belt. Didn’t know if I could write something military. Certainly doubted my ability to write something historical. Yet, here I am. I won’t lay claim to having written some fresh, new perspective. Don’t know that I’ll ever be that arrogant. But I think I’ve written well. I think the story is engaging, the characters believable.

…Maybe underneath all my writing, there’s another message: respect for myself. I rarely give it.

Today, I will.

Amen

After an intensive writing session yesterday, my rough combined outline is complete. Seven filled pages, single spaced. Three acts, four scenes each. The acts I already knew; the scenes were simple once I combined all the individual outlines. I’ve a few notes to insert, mostly to remind myself of someone’s motivation or to add in some wartime/pilot dialogue here and there. Still have to find some last names; even I’m not concentrating on those, and I certainly don’t expect the audience to. I need to bone up on a bit of mechanics on the planes, military etiquette, and I want to find and pull instructions for a correct salute for the Red Army.

Skipped out on gym exercise. By the time I was done writing, I was dead tired.

Today I hit the housework – dishes, garbage, recycling, hoovering, dusting, mirrors, sinks, toilet. Feels good, at the end of the week, to know I’ve completed all this work.

More than on schedule. That feels good, too.

Looking ahead. Been thinking of another thriller. Hate to say that a lot will depend on what theatres want rather than my creative impulses, but it’s true. I’ll write to fit their requirements, so if no one wants a thriller it’ll just sit in my subconscious…at least for now.

Wishing I had a different reward system in place. My falls backs are food and smoking – both of which I’m trying to avoid. It’s hard to find something to fill that gap.

Need to do some shopping. Take a hundred euro, and go to the stores. Find at least one other pair of shorts (I’ve only one pair I feel comfortable in), and something other than my endless run of T-shirts (which range from old white T’s with sweat stains under the arms to solid color T’s with burn holes in them; perfect for the gym but nothing else). And my underwear! Good Goddess, my mother will return from the dead just to DIE again if I ever get in an accident and someone sees them (the proverbial threat of my childhood about stained underwear).

My feet are healing slowly. The long, hot spell we had really did a number on them. The psoriasis I suffer from (thank you, RA!) flared up, as did a nasty case of athlete’s foot. I’m so embarrassed about how they look I won’t even consider wearing sandals right now, so I’m doubly thankful for the cooler temps we’ve been having.

I miss having a female friend. Someone to hang out with, go shopping with. Someone who’ll help me with my really poor taste in clothing. You know – the kind of friend you can spend hours talking to about nothing much at all. Or everything. Haven’t had that for a long, long time.

Goddess, and I miss having a job! Somewhere to go to during the week. Some manner of making money on a regular basis. Thinking I’ll do some volunteer work over the summer, if I can. Just to get me out and involved with people.

Saw a Buddha in someone’s window today as I was taking out the garbage, which got me thinking about prayer and supplication. I guess we all send out a little prayer to the Universe from time to time; please, let this happen or please help me. I don’t know if I actually can claim to have any faith. I lose it so often in the face of life’s obstacles. I feel so weak.

I doubt so much.

And there’s always that caveat – be careful what you ask for. Yeah, that haunts me….

But if I were to pray – and today being Sunday I can’t help but think about praying – I’d hope someone would hear me, and pity me, and grant me the following:

Grant me sustaining faith. Help me remember the good times. Give me the courage to make friends, to be understanding and kind. And guide me, somehow, to a place where I can take care of myself.

Amen.

Amazing

imgres.jpg

Been sticking with the exercise, tho I’ve dialed it back to only an hour at the gym. Figure I’ve got to be able to do stuff post work-out, and with a two hour work-out I’ve got nothing left in me. Still feel it everywhere, still that deep bone tired. It’s good.

Went to my one on one language lesson yesterday. Lo and behold, my co-student showed up after being absent for at least six weeks. While I didn’t get the concentrated work of a one on one session, I did get something I wasn’t expecting: an unexpected boost to my ego. After so long of an absence, the other student was hesitant on speaking, poor with pronunciation, and used enough wrong verb tenses to make me feel like I’ve surpassed her language ability. When I started, I was the poor speaker. Now our positions are flipped.

Pulled info on radio scripts. Oh, my. Of course they are a thing in and of themselves. Nothing else like ’em. Unique rules, unique layout. Bugger. Stuffing my head full of examples. I’ve got 6 weeks to master the form and write a drama. Six weeks. And I’m gonna make that deadline. Already pulling apart one of my short stories for it, thinking about how I want to present the work. Do I think I’ll win that competition? No. That’s not the point. The point is to write under a deadline, and learn a new format. The BBC has continual requests out for radio scripts. All I’ve got to do is write well, and sell it.

Planning on heading to a learning hair salon. You know: you pay less for services but that’s because you’re putting your hair into the hands of a student. I figure there’s not much to fuck up on my hair. Dye the roots brown, as close a matching color as you can find. Trim the ends. That’s it. My bro goes there, and claims I can walk in without an appointment. We’ll see what happens on Monday. Defo want my hair done before the theatre group meets. If it’s awful, I’ve got a wig.

Taking care of myself and keeping the house reasonably clean is a flipping full time thing. Don’t know how other people can manage a job as well. Those two tasks ARE my job. Between a decent night’s sleep, working out, showering, brushing my teeth and hair and all that jazz, doing dishes, emptying ashtrays and garbage cans, hoovering, dusting, doing shopping or other errands, my days are spent. Throw in some language lessons and a bit of telly and you’ve got a full life.

In fact, I’m amazed I’ve done as much writing as I have. Keep up with all that, deal with this decrepit body, plus write wonderful stories. Wow.

I. am. amazing.

Give me a chance

images-1.jpg

Small bites: what can I do right now? Break it down.

This mentality has led me to (1) pay for my gym membership, (2) do the run downtown for household smoke, (3) do dishes, (4) make up a batch of my famous blueberry muffins using the last of my frozen berries, (5) begin pulling, reading, and prepping another contract for my brother, and (6) prep for grocery shopping once the muffins are done and dinner is in the oven.

Well done!

In addition: currently smoking my 2nd of the day, which is 2 less than I faced yesterday at the same time.

I am ignoring my continued hearing (and dizziness) problem, just the same as I’m continuing to ignore all the Dutch I read that I don’t fully comprehend. See the positive rather than the negative. I have accomplished things. I am getting thru my current book in Dutch. Have to teach myself to say ‘yea!’ rather than ‘nay!’.

Speaking of reading – currently making my way thru Bridgette Jones’ Diary in Dutch (Anna Karenina in English, but that’s not relevant here). There’s an awful lot I don’t understand, but I did once read it in English (plus saw the films; who didn’t?) so I’m able to keep up with the gist of the story. Thing is, each section begins with a daily total on weight, alcohol, and cigarettes. I find myself relating to it (wonder why – ha) and for once, not feeling shamed as my eyes run over the numbers…20 cigarettes, 2472 calories…it puts my consumption rate in perspective for me. Thank you, Helen Fielding!

Mmm. I’m about to make it rain warm blueberry muffins with cinnamon topping. You really don’t know what you’re missing.

Wowie-zowie! 

Back to Earth: Was encouraged by my bro to ‘stop and take a look’ at a shopping center. Really? When you’re making me sweat the cost of my dental visits? I scoff at the idea. I’ve no reason to walk thru a cake shop when I’m trying to lose weight, either. Gimme a break.

No word from the theatre group. No email, no Facebook notification…for a group that claims to be using all these new fangled gadgets (every single one has a smart phone, tablet, and probably computer as well), they sure don’t seem to communicate much. My bro has called it: amateur. Oh, I accepted I wasn’t walking into a professional deal here, but I didn’t realize it was a group designed to serve the members of the group first and foremost. You know the kind – the group developed as a cover to promote themselves. They were never really interested in new members; not as far as I can tell. If one was interested in new members, one would do things differently. Bloody hell! My mind is made up: I’m not asking, I’m doing. Standing up and asking the people there for help. Not the theatre group; the people there. If the theatre group doesn’t like that – well, I don’t really need to finish that last part, do I?

Feels like all these things I’m doing are little prayers. Supplications at the foot of the Goddess: look how much I can do here! Give me a chance! 

Oh, please. Give me a chance.

Wrapped and Sealed with a Bow

images-4.jpg

Act one, 6000 words. The writing is done. Now it’s just formatting – or as I like to put it, let’s play ‘tab, tab, tab’.

*groan* And you know, I don’t even feel I can properly bitch about the formatting I’m facing because I’m old enough (uh-oh, here she goes) to remember those black and white typewriters with keys two inches off the board. I spent the beginning of my work career on one of the very first electric typewriters that had a small memory chip; I think I could input one page first and then it would type it all out at once. It didn’t have a big screen, only a very small one about 2-3 inches across. I could read half a sentence at a time. And no preview, no spell check, no auto correction whatsoever – so when that page finally came out, I just had to HOPE I’d made no huge errors in spelling or formatting. If I did (and I often did), it was back to square one.

My computer is so much easier! Yes, I’ll sit today and hit the tab button unimaginable amounts of times. Yes, I’ll do all my formatting by hand. And yes, I’ll be happy about it, thank you, oh computer gurus of the world.

Anyway. The fun part of writing is done with, for now. I had one of my not-so-secret manic wishes to get the first act done before break is over – which was far more about me being able to say (with feigned innocence) ‘Oh, that. I wrote that over the break, in a couple of days’ than anything else. I’m guessing from my inner need to have my ego stroked that I’m feeling like the little goody-two-shoes who hasn’t got a gold star in a while. Pat me on my head. Tell me I’m a good girl. Christ, you’d think by now I would have grown out of that! But that’s my ego. In the meantime (thankfully) my brain hasn’t been concentrating on that too much. I am too far gone.

Pulled my head out of my computer at 2 in the afternoon yesterday with a gasp. An audible gasp. I was working on the final lines of the act, knowing I’d read that a standard playscript generally runs about 18,000 words so my head said ‘Oooo! 18,000 words divided by 3 acts! That’s 6000 words an act’. Down, down, down the page my words crept. Up, up, up came the word total. And just like writing on this blog, I managed to wrap up the act in a natural place within 2 words of my word goal. Even got a final joke in as the curtain closes. But my brain wouldn’t stop. I had a headache – still don’t know if those are coming on due to caffeine withdrawal or WHAT; feels like I’ve just thought too much and my brain is swelling against my cranium. And I’m stuck in that world right now. Stuck in the living room with the Clarkson family as their world tears apart. Can’t shut it off. Even when my bro talks to me it goes something like this: ‘Hey, I was thinking about [Judy’s going to announce she’s pregnant…yeah, that’ll work in the second act] so I thought I’d [what do I write for the characters? I mean, saying Charlie is a middle aged man just doesn’t convey enough to the actors] and then we can have dinner. How’s that sound?’ I just kind of nod my head and agree, tho I really don’t know what I’m nodding my head and agreeing to.

Really got to get myself back on schedule in the next few days. I’m sleeping in, not exercising, and without a doubt smoking too much. I’m also writing something that might be really good, so I’m not beating myself up too much about all the rest. Just noting it. Today I’ll put my shoes on and head out for a long walk in the fresh autumn air. Stop at the gym and sign up. Buy my lotto card. Try a bit of Dutch again (oh man! do I even remember anything?).

Stop freaking, Beeps. It’s only been a day – ONE day – not a couple of months!

Really?

Oh. Shit. I guess when you immerse yourself in some other world time moves differently.

The local forecast has changed from rain, possible rain, and more rain, to sun, sun, and more sun. So I’ll get out. Remember how to be human again. Not exactly sure what I turn into when I write, but it’s far from human. Doesn’t like the light at all. Smokes incessantly. Wants a dark room, with just the computer screen acting as illumination. And don’t disturb it! Gods, it’ll take your head off!

It takes a long time to come back from that.

Small goals. Breathing fresh air. Listening to what people say to me. Finding out what’s going on with everyone else. If I’m honest, it feels a bit like coming down off an acid trip. A little strung out and out of it. You KNOW you’ve been off in orbit and completely oblivious of everything for at least 8 hours. You’ve had loads of fun, but now you see stuff like the dust bunnies on the floor which are no longer cool, nor hold any answers to the universe, but are just bits of hair and old skin cells that you haven’t picked up yet. Your perception shifts back to the prosaic, and it’s a jolt. Always takes a day for me to readjust.

So I’ll do my chores. Take a shower. Try to wrap my head around some Dutch verbs. Ugh. It’s like putting myself back on a diet after indulging in a night of cake eating. This morning, tho, I’m clear. I’ve done well. I can let act one go. It may still need formatting, it’s sure to have typos I need to fix, but the story is done. I’ve wrapped it up and sealed it with a bow.

I Can Ask No More

Naturally and organically meant yesterday by noon I was standing with my coat and boots on, looking at the door and asking myself if I was really going to go outside and do stuff. Outside was not too intimidating. Cold, but not intimidating. It was my list I found intimidating. It asked me to visit four completely different places. Everywhere I went included a bit of walking and dealing with a bit of Dutch. Nothing too heavy anywhere, just that general continuous pressure. Was I up to it? I gave myself permission to slough off. Do the most necessary of errands first, then finish things IF I felt up to it.

George was first on the list, and in many ways the most important. Poor guys! The temp dropped this week, and even the DUCKS are staying out of the water at the moment. I was mobbed at the canal – don’t know the proper term for a group of ducks, but ‘mob’ works for what I experienced. I might pony up for a full loaf of bread today because everyone was so hungry. Even the seagulls came within an arm’s length of me. George stayed right by my side. He could have crawled up on my foot, he was that close. I wanted to crouch down and gather them all in a warm hug. Or bring out a blanket for them. It’s that cold.

Off to buy my lotto ticket. My first kindness to myself: knowing I had walking ahead of me at every junction, I jumped on the metro to take me two stops down to where I buy my ticket. I had a warm flash of personal victory; I was carrying two letters that were addressed to a previous tenant that I needed to drop off, and across the top of the envelopes I’d written ‘retour afzender’, which is the proper thing to do here (it translates to ‘return to sender’). My pride came from the fact that I’d written a note to my teacher to ask him what phrase to write – I tried ‘geen hier’ (not here) before but had this instinct that wasn’t correct – and for the first time I got a reply back from him WITH NO CORRECTIONS, meaning I wrote my sentences clearly and perfectly well – including verb tenses. !!! Victory. If my feet didn’t ache I’d do a little dance. I couldn’t just hand the letters to the woman behind the counter. I had to point out ‘retour afzender’ on the envelopes, with a smile she probably didn’t understand.

Onto the metro as my song ‘Metro’ played on my iPod. That happens a lot. And the song works for me; I put in this bass line that perfectly captures the rhythm of the metros here. Chug, chug, chug away. The sun was shining and I felt good.

Down to the coffeeshop to take responsibility for my smoking. I’d completely spaced the day, of course, so the crowded market that greeted me in the square threw me for a loop. Immediately I felt myself cringe within my jacket and cold weather gear. Thus, I committed the second kindness to myself and bypassed the entire area en masse. I was so thankful to myself for doing that that I was able to stroll through a few aisles on the way back home. Give a little, get a little. There was nothing I was tempted to buy; the whole market was geared to Valentine’s Day and I’m so not into that. But I thought Look at me, here I am walking around just like a normal person. I’m not angry or pushing out negativity. I’m just here. And that was good.

My final stop was the most challenging. My new rheumatologist has given me a referral for a pair of custom made orthopedic shoes. So I wanted to find the shop and talk to them, find out how much this might cost, and see if I needed an appointment. That meant I needed to get out at a metro stop I’ve never been at, find my way on streets I didn’t know, and try to deal with any and all Dutch coming my way.

I kept my cool getting off the metro, and took the time to look around me and notice the buildings, the stores, and the setting so I could easily find it on the way back. At every juncture I had to make a choice: left or right? and for once, at every juncture I made the correct choice. A banner hanging outside marked the store clearly. The front was small, with several people waiting. Three dozen or so of their custom made shoe designs were on display, and several caught my eye. When approached by a woman from the store, I was able to tell her in Dutch I had RA and a referral letter from my doctor before I got too excited and broke into English. She kept up with me, switching fluently between the two languages. Here’s the skinny: if my insurance pays for part of the cost, I’ll end up spending about €140. If, however, my insurance does NOT pay for part of the cost, I’m looking at (take a deep breath) – €1200. Yeah. Ow. The twelve hundred sure makes that 140 look small. I’ll also need an appointment, so they can fuss and measure my feet a thousand different ways. I managed to sidestep the saleswoman’s pressure to set up an appointment then and there (saying ‘no’ is getting easier). Monday I’ll call my insurance company to see if my policy will cover this. I sure hope so. My brother is determined to get me a pair, even if we have to pay for all of it. Damn! If we do have to shoulder the entire cost, these shoes better do the walking for me, make my morning coffee, and take my shits for me at €1200.

Just look at that. Look at what I accomplished, and how calm I managed to stay even in the face of a future €1200 debt we can barely afford. Good for me. I can ask no more of myself.