Sunday, March 16, 2014

Leaving

One year, ten months, one week.

That's the countdown to my official retirement from what will be a 21-year-plus career in military support. I joke with my coworkers that I gave them my two-year notice, but truth be told I've been counting down the days since early 2010. On a spreadsheet. With formulas. 'Cause that's how I roll.

My workbook tells me as I reach each major milestone--4 years, 3 years, 1000 days, 2 years to go. My next biggie is 700 days remaining.

T-minus 700 and counting. Freedom looms.

I've been thinking of it as my own personal Independence Day. No more clawing my way out of bed at Oh Dark Thirty. No more chugging coffee and spooning breakfast on the run. No more 42 mile commutes dealing with snow, ice, rain, fog, windstorms and maddeningly slow tourists. No more frantic juggling of deadlines and due-outs. Yahoo! Free, free, freeeeeee!

And then I had this dream...

My retirement had finally arrived and I was--not ecstatic, not happy-dancing on my desk, not beaming like a fool--but sad. Filled with a deep, aching sadness. I walked out the glass doors of the lobby for the final time and looked out at the vista of mountains and thought, "I'll never do that again as Laurie Green, employee." As a visitor, maybe, but turning in my credentials and passcards and exiting the building will be a point of no return in my life. My career and professional persona with the government will morph into history. Poof! Gone. No more. The end.

And in my dream, that made me cry.

I think my subconscious was giving me a little wake-up call: "Hellooo. Leaving is not going to be as emancipating as you've been thinking. Leaving is hard on the soul!"

Oh sure, it does have its highlights. It will mean tons more time to pursue my second career as a writer, to work on my online presence, attend trainings and workshops and conferences, and generally grow and (hopefully) blossom in those new endeavors. But for the first time I felt that punch-in-the-gut sense of what it will be like to "close one door and open another."

There's a segment of the Lonesome Dove miniseries entitled Leaving. If you're not familiar with it, it deals with the characters setting out from the tiny town in southern Texas that they have called home for many years. They embark on a great cattle drive to establish one of the first cattle ranches in Montana...2,500 miles to the north. Big dreams.

The chapter explores the characters' roots in the town of Lonesome Dove, the role it's played in their lives, the people and places they're leaving behind, and what has lured them away from the comfort--but stagnancy--of these familiar surroundings. The phrase "You can never go back" is in the subtext of every scene and in the minds of the characters. They sense in their bones that should they ever return to Lonesome Dove, it will not be the same place they are setting out from. (And for at least one character, that premonition rings true.)

While I was still deep in the mulling phase all of this, I saw an interview with one of the potential candidates for the one-way Mars mission. He's now in his 20s and will be in his 40s when it comes time for Leaving. He talked about how he'll never be able to take a walk in the fresh air again, and how he's taken a long time to consider the impact of things he'll never be able to do again once he leaves Earth. He may have the hardest job of Leaving in the history of mankind. But does he still want to go? Yes.

So this overload of Leaving topics got me brainstorming about my work. All characters must face a form of Leaving or there is no story. They may be Leaving a place, another person/s, or even an identity. It may be a deliberate, planned act by the character, an action imposed on them by someone else, or one that happens because of a sudden change or emergency that requires they "Drop what you're doing and leave now!" (to quote Jurassic Park). But at some point--maybe as they are watching their former home (or lover or planet or belief system) fade into memory, they really should be experiencing that gut punch of Leaving.

Have I really dealt with the emotions of Leaving in my stories? Hmmm. I realized it's something I need to take a closer look at during each editing phase. Real people do not pass from one chapter of life to another without carrying some degree of mental baggage along with them. I want my characters to think and act like real people. I want to be sure their emotions are fully explored.

Do you have anything you'd like to add? For writers, have you ever made a special effort to capture a character's feelings about Leaving? As a reader, do you have any favorite stories where you think a character's reaction to Leaving was especially well done? Anyone care to name any titles that delve into the deep subject of Leaving?

LAURIE'S JOURNAL

It's been quite awhile since I've done any real updates on my writer's journey, so this seemed like an opportune time to log a new entry.

PUBLISH OR BUST
Our tax expert tells me that 2014 would be *ahem* a very good time to debut as a published author, so I now have a firm goal to get at least one short story indie-pubbed by the end of the year. I know it's going to be one huge learning curve, but I'm very enthusiastic about taking it on. My recent decision to become a hybrid author plays nicely into the plan.

NEWS!
My agent just let me know we've had a bit of a nibble on my first novel from a big publisher. It's always encouraging to find out there's another iron in the fire that's started to glow. Now to keep blowing on those coals and not holding my breath. :) 

SAN ANTONE, HERE I COME!
This weekend I [finally!] registered for the RWA National Conference in San Antonio and booked my room (and for those of you who haven't yet marked this off your To Do list, suggest you get to it ASAP! Rooms for Tuesday were already SOLD OUT! Yikes!) And the stampede will begin for reelz next week, after the...

GOLDEN HEART/RITA ANNOUNCEMENTS
No horse in the GH race for me again this year--though I was initially planning to enter, life had other ideas--but I can't wait to hear what peers will make the cut. The big day is coming on March 26th, and also marks the fourth SFR Brigade anniversary. It was founded on GHAD (Golden Heart Announcement Day) 2010.

PING PONG
Pippa: So glad to see how 2014 is turning around for you and excited to see the many positive things in the works for your writerly life.

Donna: Fabulous recap on the SF/R shows, and I'm especially jazzed about Cosmos. Seeing more and more SF/R on the event horizon has to be a very good thing, right?

Sharon: So excited about the upcoming release of your second novel--The Ophelia Prophecy--and getting a peek at the revised version of #3--Echo 8. I've been getting goosebumps about both!

3 comments:

  1. I remember coming up to leaving work for maternity leave, counting down the days. I expected a tearful farewell. What I actually got was a sudden and early departure that should have just been a routine checkup. Instead I got sent home and told not to return to work due to a serious medical condition. It was a shock! And going from full time work to a stay at home mum was a huge transition. But you adapt. After a few months, especially with your writing career opening up before you, you'll soon wonder where all the time goes!
    And I do feature that 'no going back' aspect of life in my stories. My character Quin has faced it big time. Her home world was destroyed. Despite being a time traveller, she can never go back and change anything. It's a permanent scar of guilt and regret that she carries with her, and a reflection of my own early life. But she admits herself it makes her the person she is now and affects her every decision.
    Good luck with the nibble! And we should plan an event for the Brigade's fifth anniversary next year - can't let a landmark like that pass by.

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  2. Yes, I believe every hero/heroine's journey involves Leaving in some sense, that is, leaving his or her old self behind for a better, more mature self at the end. That person has grown, found love (in a romance), made discoveries, had adventures, whatever. But it was necessary FIRST to leave Hobbiton, escape Earth's gravity, forget the old boyfriend/dead wife, heal from the wounds of the past. If the H/H are the same at the end as at the beginning, there is no story.

    In real life, though, "retirement" is seldom as you imagine it. I've never worked harder than since I "retired" from public life (a full-time job at Peace Corps HQ)years ago. And my father-in-law, age 88, has "failed" retirement a number of times.

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  3. Leaving is a huge part of my first SFR. My hero isn't just leaving his old life behind, he's being dragged into his new one kicking and screaming and wondering how the hell he's going to survive.

    He mirrors where I was when I started writing it. I was dragged kicking and screaming out of my old life and into one I wasn't sure I wanted. Seeing A'yen's journey unfold and watching him embrace his new life helped me heal from what happened to me and embrace my new life.

    Now, like A'yen, the life I have is so much better than what I left behind.

    One of my friends quit her day job last year to write full-time, and she's having the time of her life. She's hybrid too, and money-wise the most successful hybrid author in the Christian marketing. In fact, she's one of your agency mates, Laurie, with Chip.

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