Two Steps Forward Six Steps Back


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Did you ever have a week or a day even when you thought “My life is going pretty good maybe now that I solved the problem, I can have some breathing room?” But instead you soon find that what you thought was put away nicely in a box wrapped with a bow has popped open leaving you clinging to the ribbon as you are hurled six steps back?  (If you grew up in the Eighties you may remember a song with the line “2 steps forward 2 steps back” I didn’t use that because I have found that in my life the steps backward are never equal and are usually at least three times worse. )

This has been one of those weeks when I realize no matter how much I can research, ( note to self for hundredth time OCD researching is not always the answer-I have found studies that prove this), no matter what I have planned– events take a turn, people let you down. It is as if I am in the Monopoly™ game (as the little dog of course-did you ever wonder who ever chose the flat-iron?)  But back to being in the Monopoly™ game –I don’t get to pass GO and I must go directly to jail. In the game, jail was a respite if I was down to $20 and couldn’t afford to land on a hotel property.  I would be safe for a few turns.  But it doesn’t work that way in life. So instead of seeking respite, I panicked.  Yup, and by that I mean either I was screaming in my car, taking it out on others, or paralyzed by fear.  This week I pulled a panic trifecta!

As a child, I had always thought, well actually I was told that I could restore certain situations. I could fight for a certain person and once he/she was safe they would see all I had done to help.  He/she would be grateful and never make the same mistake. Yet this was not the recent turn of events. So, I am left feeling like a failure and so worn that I have nothing left to give.

Interestingly enough, when writing a manuscript, this is precisely what we must give our main character. We need to induce fear in our characters either physically or emotionally. The more they stand to lose, the better. Characters need obstacles in order to have readers keep turning pages.

So, I am trying to look at my six steps back and use the gamut of emotions I have spewed to push my main character two steps forward.  This just might be a win-win process. The character discovers something new about themselves and it is cathartic for me, sort-of like a spiritual journal. When I am able to use my experience and emotions to broaden the scope of my main character I usually find this to be a source of comfort, at least for the time I am writing.  When I was writing The Last Cherry Blossom, I discovered that a turning point for my main character happened when she finally realized it was NOT all about her. She did not move forward on her own (not completely anyway) and she did not take 6 steps backward alone either.

At the end of the day or in this case my blog, I have to remember it is not about me. I had read in a dotMagis blog post that instead of asking “Why me?” ask “What will I do with this situation?”  Sometimes my answer is going back to bed, pull the covers up comfy cozy (with marshmallow crispy treats and chocolate on the nightstand at the ready) and call it a day. Other times asking that question gives me pause and I remember that I can do this with God, with family, and with my friends.  For a character in my rough draft it may take more time for soul-searching and many tries to get it right.

Just as there will be times when I can help someone.  But when I can’t, my feeling of guilt at some point needs to be displaced by love and acceptance of the people or situation I was desperately trying to fix. Once I come to that realization, which by the way is never immediate– usually many days in a panic trifecta stage.  But eventually I hope to realize that I did my best, I acted out of love, and now must find a new way to handle the way things are now.

Though frustration and doubt pave the path for anyone’s six steps backward, there will eventually be opportunity for a main character and yes, for us to leap two steps forward once again.  But, I suggest having marshmallow crispy treats or chocolate on hand, ’cause it may take a while…

What helps you deal with the time you take six steps backward?

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9 thoughts on “Two Steps Forward Six Steps Back

  1. Kathleen –
    One would think that, as writers (creators) we, especially, could understand the phrase: “The more they stand to lose, the better” and that alone would make the creating of character easier. And yet, the key is what you discovered in the dotMagis blog post – “What will I do with this situation?” I love that you can pull these characters from your soul (I think that a lot of us do that) and pace them through the valley (the struggle). Thanks for sharing this. And BTW, I always have treats by my bedside – for Jesse (my cat) and me! 🙂

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  2. Dear Kathleen,
    Thanks for sharing about your dance steps backwards and then forward. I like how you compared it to writing experiences for you main character. Good job. It’s good the way you changed the fear into something positive and creative! Go, Kathleen, go.

    Love, Joan

    Like

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