I really enjoyed answering these questions. But when I talk about books I tend to gush. As I read the interview, this became very apparent. http://kaistrand.blogspot.com/2015/02/three-times-charm-with-alyson-larrabee.html
The title of filmmaker Werner Herzog’s book A Guide For the Perplexed could also be the title of my autobiography, except I’m not brilliant and often quoted by the literati. I do, however, reside in the state of Confusion (CI because CO was taken by the state of Colorado) where all of the citizens feel perplexed all of the time. E.B. White called it “chronic perplexity”. I love it here. We have both mountains of discombobulation and oceans of befuddlement. The view’s always spectacular although often foggy. And when you come out of a store, into the parking lot and you can’t find your car, no one else can either. Everyone’s holding out their key fobs, pointing them in random directions and clicking. We’re all smiling at each other’s forgetfulness. We’re not mad, only a little bit frustrated but we’ll get over it.
During life’s dynamic journey, you’ll be holding hands with a big, frightening giant called The Unknown. Make him your best friend. It’s all about failure and resilience. As you’re creating and experimenting, anxiety is your fiercest enemy, your most formidable barrier, your highest wall to climb over, the treacherous rapids, the deepest, darkest, coldest part of the ocean. Don’t let your worries win because then you’ve lost. Fall in love with fear.
Herzog calls his life and career “a never-ending educational experience, a way of discovering in which direction you need to take your own work and ideas”. Vygotsky called it “the zone of proximal development”. If your true state of mind is befuddlement, confusion and flabbergasted-ness, and you’re excited to be there, in that state, then you’ve achieved the status of STUDENT. (I like all caps almost as much as e. e. cummings liked all lower case.) (I also like parentheses.) The learner, the studier, the STUDENT is a seeker who pursues not only knowledge but also truth. They are definitely related, if not the same. This seeker, this student-person, constantly strives to become a better thinker, an improved citizen of our planet.
If you’re not confused, then you’re not learning anything new. You’re stagnating, merely showing off what you already know. Being the smartest person in the room is not only boring; it’s impossible. Each human in that room possesses insights you’ve never thought of before. Your job is to find those insights. Root them out. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. Don’t respond with a statement or a judgment. Respond with another question; a related question, one that proves you’ve been listening. Vygotsky believed that true learning was “socially co-constructed between people as they interact”. Listen to the person next to you, observe, remember what you see and hear, process it and make it your own.
Although it’s not a substitute for real-time real-life experience and face-to-face interaction, the internet is here to stay. Celebrate it and use it. Don’t let it use you. Google has taught us that we don’t know everything (And wouldn’t life be boring if we did? It wouldn’t be life at all; it would be death.), but all knowledge, all secrets, all esoteric facts and theories are accessible to us with the click of a mouse. Exciting but also frightening. If you’re not scared, you’re not living. You’re not learning anything. Your journey isn’t even a journey at all; it’s a nice comfortable rest someplace boring. Get up and get going. Free fall into a state of confusion. Climb your way out. And then dive into a mystified state of befogged-ness. You won’t be too scared if you’ve fallen in love with fear.
Usually the realization that it’s Saturday morning fills me with joy. I roll over and go back to sleep for another half hour. I make a pot of coffee and an extra piece of toast. I play Words With Friends in one of the ongoing games I struggle through with a friend who always beats me. But it’s a huge thrill when I actually win one against her because it’s only about five percent of the time. The rarity of my victories makes them all the sweeter. Also on Saturdays, I write. If my husband tries to talk to me I put in my earbuds and I visit another world. A world I love where everything’s less stressful because it’s not real. I made it up.
Except now this world is real to me. And, more important, the people are real to me, too. They’re no longer characters. They’re walking, talking, kissing, running, breathing, fighting, struggling human beings. And the best ones deserve to win their battles. I finished the first two books in the series. The first one comes out this August. I sent the second one in to my publisher a couple of weeks ago. I’m working on the third. Hence, the stress. It’s killing me.
I don’t have writer’s block. I know where the book is going. I’m about 3,000 words in and feeling pumped to write the next 70,000. The research will be fascinating: Native North American legends, spirits and lore; falconry and fencing. An epic battle of Good versus Evil, as every third book in a series should be. The characters from books one and two are all in their places, like chess pieces arranged on the board. The new characters are about to enter the story. A mixed bag of quirky and romantic, fascinating and unpredictable people. There’s only one giant, elephant-in-the-room type quandary.
This is the third book, and, even if I never become a Suzanne Collins or a Veronica Roth, someone has to die. Someone important. Someone I love. I’m not anywhere near writing the pages where this character breathes his (or her) last. But the stress, the anxiety, is killing me. I haven’t even decided who, yet. But I promise it will never be the dog. I’m thinking of putting all of their names in a hat and just picking one. Then whacking him, as the mob says. Or her. I might have to sacrifice more than one person. HELP!
I saw an online joke where a bunch of famous authors are playing cards and the loser has to kill off a character, chosen by the winner. But I’m not a famous author and I don’t play cards with any famous authors. Probably because I don’t know any. Oh, wait… T. Jefferson Parker once commented on something I posted on his Facebook page. I don’t think that counts as a friendship, though, and I don’t think there are any card games in our future. I don’t even play cards, not since Crazy Eights, with my kids when they were little. I do like cards, however, and if card games didn’t involve staying up way too late, I probably would play. But I’m digressing, because I don’t even like writing about the possibility of killing someone I love, never mind actually wielding the knife, or the gun, or concocting the freakish accident.
So instead of deciding who to kill off, right now, I’m going to do something I’m really good at…procrastinate. I’ll do some research, write a few thousand more words and worry about death another day. Ugh. Damn. This could ruin my whole summer.